Frank Barsalona, Remembered

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Paul said: “Trying to get U2 signed to Premier Talent was the reason for my
trip when I flew to New York for the very first time in 1980. I was a
baby manager but I knew that Premier were the agency that had
driven the British Invasion for the Who, Zeppelin and all the great
bands. U2 were recording their first album, “Boy,” in Dublin, with
Steve Lillywhite producing, for Island Records. When I arrived in
New York, I phoned Frank Barsalona’s office for an appointment. They
took my number, maybe they would have called back.  The next day my
father died suddenly back in Dublin. I phoned Premier to say I
wouldn’t be able to see Frank that week because I would be at the
funeral  but I would be back soon. He had to see me when I returned,
I was the guy in Ireland whose father had died …

“When I met Frank a week or two later he listened to the U2
tape, looked at a video clip I had made,  and (with some
encouragement from Chris Blackwell, who had once bailed out his
agency) agreed to represent the band. It was the most important
alliance we had made up to then.

“Through the 1980s in North America, Barbara Skydel
and Frank guided U2 to becoming one the great live act they are
now. Over many late nights sitting in his office as he told me his
stories, after everyone had gone home, he gave me my education in
the business. Sometimes we went to watch a Yankees game, but mostly
we sat and he talked, often till midnight.

taught U2 and myself something that has stood us in good stead ever
since — that an artist has two parallel careers: one on record and
one live. The fact that record success came later for U2 was
compensated for by their much quicker rise to fame as one of the
great live attractions.

“He and his network of
regional promoters gave us so much of their skill and wisdom. In
1991/1992 we did the ambitious, expensive, and deservedly legendary,
ZooTV tour. We kept the ticket price low and only broke even.

“In 1997 when costs were even higher, we were planning the
PopMart tour and we changed the business model, and decided to
invite bids from interested parties who would underwrite the whole
world tour, and shoulder the financial risk that the band had
hitherto taken. This meant working without an agent and I had the
painful task of informing Frank and Barbara that U2 were no longer
Premier clients. The business was changing. I had to say the same to
Ian Flooks of Wasted Talent, who had been our brilliant agent in
the rest of the world.

“We then started working
worldwide with Michael Cohl and Arthur Fogel, then working under the
name TNA. Though Michael is no longer part of the organization, TNA
became SFX, that became Clear Channel and the current Live Nation
concert organization, which is in many ways the successor to Frank
Barsalona’s network.  We are still working with Arthur Fogel, who
first played U2 in the El Mocambo in Toronto in 1980, a date
booked by Premier.

“Frank was a great man and we
will not see his like again. My sympathies and condolences go to his
wife June and daughter Nicole.”