Measuring the Inches

On U2, Kíla and publicity stunts.

‘Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.’– Andy Warhol

And where did I hear that old yarn before? U2’s new album ready to be released and a version of it gets stolen. The Edge’s fault this time. Apparently it got stolen in the South of France where the band members were doing a photo-shoot for the album. The new sounds were being played in the background, to create an atmosphere during their posing, and at the end of the afternoon under the watchful eye of the camera the Edge noticed that the CD (his copy) was missing. The camera, needless to say, missed all the shenanigans.

Suddenly the band’s gigantic publicity machine cranked up and got moving – the story was splashed onto the cover of magazines, newspapers, on the six and nine o’clock news, on the hour every hour twenty-four-hours a day. Headlines saying that the French Gendarme were treating the matter very seriously and articles suggesting that the band were concerned that the CD’s contents might find their way on to a web-site and that it could have an adverse affect on the band and their record company’s planned – believe it or not – publicity campaign! And there I was sitting in the office, on my weary, languid, cynical, sarcastic rear, nattering about publicity to Sha (our co-conspirator).

‘The Horslips, for example,’ said I animated, ‘their first gig was cancelled because the local priest didn’t like the look of them on the poster and didn’t want no rock’n’roll music played in his parish hall – punky looking hoors! As three of the lads were working in the advertising game they contacted a few journalists and the following afternoon the story was given the front page of the Evening Herald’. Publicity with nothing done or with nothing having happened – free publicity!

We were looking for ideas for the launch of our latest album – Kíla – Live in Dublin – stories, angles, free publicity, associations. We thought of Hello magazine, tried hard to think of a scandalous, lurid sex story, even wondered how we would get any day-time FM radio play when, bingo! What if the album got stolen? What if a copy of it was stolen just as it was going to print? What if a courier carrying the CD across town was knocked off his bike and only the CD was robbed from all his packages? Hmm… mysterious but also highly unlikely.
And for a moment we conjured up the headlines – ‘Kíla’s New Album Stolen After Break-In in Percussionist’s Flat’ – a little bit too long, we felt. Or ‘Kíla Kourier KO’d by Kriminals’.

Around that time Sha’s flat in Rathmines had been broken into. Windows smashed, place thrashed, and all they took was forty euro, a couple of pairs of jeans and left the place in a worse state then normal. No CDs were stolen – Jason Donovan’s Greatest Hits anyone? At the same time my girlfriend’s car was broken into in London and whatever CDs that were in the dash were taken (a couple of Kíla CDs among them). I was dead proud for a second, dreaming of the CD buyer in a second-hand shop in Berwick Street viewing the stolen stock with a cynical eye.

‘Kíla – yeh I know ‘em. Cult band. Hard to get over ‘ere. Tenner each I’ll give yeh. The other stuff? Nah, don’t want ‘em. I got too much of ‘em already.’

And my daydreaming morphed into Eoin our piper’s story, about how his first car – a dirty grey-white Toyota with rusty trimmings – was stolen, thrashed and then dumped in the Dún Ard estate off the North Circular Road, and how the robbers took pretty much everything in the car – thankfully he had his pipes with him. And when the Gardaí asked if he had noticed anything unusual here’s what he said.

‘Well, whoever broke in was interested in traditional music, a discerning listener I’d say. Someone who doesn’t like tunes very much because he took the Planxty tape with him and left Kevin Burke’s album of fiddle tunes behind on the passenger seat’.

Now, publicity – where was I?

Post-script: We launched our CD on an amazing evening in Vicar St – a late October night full of dancing, colour, celebration and beautiful music. U2 released their own a few weeks later, How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. They sold 27,000 copies in their first week in Ireland and were, not surprisingly, in at number one. The Horslips released their first album for almost twenty years, an acoustic affair called Roll Back, sold 1820 copies in their first week and were in at number 20.

And us? We sold 270 copies and reached number 65. Maybe someone had stolen it and it was freely available on the web before we released it – Jesus, yeh, maybe that’s the story…

Published on 1 March 2005

Colm Ó Snodaigh plays flute and sings with Kíla. Visit www.kila.ie 

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