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"For every mad idea of Bono's, he drags us somewhere interesting. And he benefits when we hold him back from where the ice is thin." — Adam

Gay Byrne and U2


gay byrne

Image by Jonathan Ryan - Jonathan Ryan, CC BY 3.0

Famous Irish TV show host Gabriel Mary ‘Gay’ Byrne died on November 4 at the age of 85, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was best known for presenting The Late Late Show from 1962 to 1999, a talk show covering current issues, including controversial ones at the time in Ireland like abortion and LGBTQ issues. U2 and individual members of the band were on the show several times between 1980 and 1999.

Bono phoned in to the special Remembrance edition of The Late Late Show on Wednesday to share some of his memories of ‘Gaybo,’ as Byrne was often called. “I really loved what Graham said about allowing people to exist, people who didn’t exist before. But the other side of that was if you didn’t get on the show, you didn’t feel you existed. And I remember this because when U2 got dropped from what would have been our first appearance, I was irate and I got the bus all the way out to Howth to explain to Gay Byrne that The Late Late Show were making a big mistake.”

(In typical Bono fashion, the ending of the version he told the audience, namely that Byrne wasn’t home when he got to his house, is different from his account in this article published when Byrne retired in 1999.)

Thankfully for the band, they managed to get another spot a few years later when they made their first appearance on the show in January 1980, playing “Stories For Boys.”

After their debut, both the band and individual band members were guests on the show over the years. In 1983, Bono talked about the video for “New Year’s Day,” U2 as a business, and Ali.

In 1987, the whole band performed on the show for the 25th anniversary of the Dubliners, playing “The Ballad Of Springhill” and “The Auld Triangle.”

The following year, Byrne did a long interview with the entire band. They didn’t just take questions from the host, but also from the audience. After that they performed an acoustic version of “Happy Christmas (War Is Over).”

Adam joined Bryne in 1992 for a special edition of The Late Late Show  ̶  a tribute to traditional Irish musician Sharon Shannon. Adam joined Liam O'Maonlai, Philip King and Sharon Shannon herself for a performance of her song “The Marguerita Suite.” In the previous year, Adam had performed on the studio version of the song on Shannon’s self-titled 1991 solo album.

A few years later, the whole band returned to the show for another special edition, but for a much sadder occasion: to pay tribute to the victims of the Omagh bombing on August 15 of that year with beautiful versions of “North And South Of The River” and “All I Want Is You.”

After a run of 37 years presenting The Late Late Show, it was time for Byrne to say goodbye, though not before getting a very special gift from U2: a Harley-Davidson. At first, he didn’t believe the bike was really his to keep, until Larry emphasized: “No no, we’re actually serious.” Byrne was humbled and delighted with the gift; his wife Kathleen apparently less so. When Bono met Byrne sometime after the show, Byrne told him that Kathleen had talked him down from riding the bike because she felt her husband would be “a danger to himself and others."

After Byrne stopped presenting The Late Late Show, he did several other TV shows, including The Meaning Of Life, on which he interviewed famous guests about their lives and their views on religion, life and death. Besides people like Stephen Fry, Maeve Binchy and Rev. Ian Paisley, Byrne also interviewed Bono in 2013.

During this interview, Bono and Byrne talked about Bono's parents and early life, his relationship with his father, activism and of course, Bono’s faith. Byrne himself said about his interview with Bono, “Bono believes the intention of God for all of us is to realize our potential, and he’s done that in my opinion to an extraordinary extent.”

U2 paid their own tribute to Byrne with a tweet on November 8. In it, the band quoted Graham Norton: “He allowed people to exist - people who hadn't existed before. He put them on the TV. And you went, 'Oh, right. They're alive. They're in the world. They have an opinion. They have thoughts'. And as a young person growing up it was incredibly influential.”

© @U2/Meijer, 2019