The Boomtown Rats (1975-1986) was a punk rock/New Wave group led by Bob Geldof.
All six members were originally from Dún Laoghaire (Dunleary), Ireland. The name Boomtown Rats comes from a gang in Woody Guthrie's autobiography, Bound for Glory. They became known as a notable band whose record is overshadowed by the charity work of their lead singer. Bob Geldof was originally the tambourine player, but became singer because he had such terrible rhythm. Read more on Last.fm
The Boomtown Rats (1975-1986) was a punk rock/New Wave group led by Bob Geldof.
All six members were originally from Dún Laoghaire (Dunleary), Ireland. The name Boomtown Rats comes from a gang in Woody Guthrie's autobiography, Bound for Glory. They became known as a notable band whose record is overshadowed by the charity work of their lead singer. Bob Geldof was originally the tambourine player, but became singer because he had such terrible rhythm.
The Boomtown Rats released their first single, "Looking After Number One", in 1977, and it went straight into the UK singles chart.
The song was a raw, youthful punk rock song that spoke of pure self-interest:
'I'll step on your face
'On your mother's grave
'Never underestimate me, I'm nobody's fool'
Their debut album, The Boomtown Rats, featured another single, "Mary of the Fourth Form", and the first part of the so-called Dublin Trilogy, "Joey's on the Street Again".
The Rats' second album, A Tonic for the Troops, was their most commercially successful. It stayed on the UK albums chart for over a year, leading many music critics to dub 1978 as 'The Year of the Rat' in England. It featured their next hit single, "Rat Trap", the second part of the Dublin Trilogy, which became the first ever song by an Irish band to reach #1 in the UK, as well as the first 'New Wave' song to do likewise. In addition to this historic single, the band also released "Like Clockwork", a song popular as an opener to their live performances, and "She's So Modern".
The Fine Art of Surfacing, the band's third album, described the Rats' foray into the U.S., and featured their most famous song, "I Don't Like Mondays", which was written in response to a school shooting in California by Brenda Ann Spencer, and also reached #1 in the UK.
The most famous performance of this song came at Live Aid in 1985, when the theme of shattered innocence seemed to blend so perfectly with the theme of death and devastation in Africa:
'And all the playing's stopped in the playground now
'She wants to play with her toys awhile
'And school's out early and soon we'll be learning
'That the lesson today is how to die'
After that line, Geldof paused and raised his hand in the air; the performance was then interrupted by a long roaring ovation by the crowd in Wembley Stadium. A similar event occurred at Live 8 in London in 2005. "I Don't Like Mondays" has also been performed at the Brits music festivals, and is a staple at Geldof's solo live concerts.
In addition to "I Don't Like Mondays", the album also featured the singles "Diamond Smiles" (about the suicide of a debutante) and "Someone's Looking At You" (a song about fame and paranoia). Both charted in the UK Top 20.
"When the Night Comes", the final song in the Dublin Trilogy, was also released on the album.
This, however, would be the peak for the band; the next six years would see their gradual decline. "Banana republic", the 1980 single off of their next studio album Mondo Bongo, was to be their last Top 10 hit, written in response to the band not being allowed to play in Ireland for fear of riots in the audience. After going places where no Irish band had ever gone before, the Rats were stunned by this homecoming, and became very disillusioned with Irish politics:
'Glad to see the place again
'It's a pity nothing's changed.'
Also notable about "Banana Republic" was the song's shift to a reggae-based sound. The Rats began experimenting musically in Mondo Bongo; the album's other songs featured a heavy dose of drum- and keyboard-based music, a far cry from the guitar-driven pub rock of the band's early days.
This disillusioned lead guitarist Gerry Cott, who left the band prior to the recording of the band's fifth album, V Deep, which was a major shift in the Rats' music; each song featured experimentation, and heavily relied on synthesized sounds. Its singles were the moody "Never in a Million Years" and the perky "House on Fire", which was designed to have a jungle-type vibe to it.
The band's final album, In the Long Grass, failed to produce any Top 40 singles. It continued the Rats' experimentation from Mondo Bongo and V Deep, but also had a return to story-based songs such as Johnny Fingers' "Another Sad Story". Its singles were all flops; the most notable were "Drag Me Down", a song performed at Live Aid, whose addictive chorus pushed it only up to #50 on the singles chart; and "A Hold of Me", which was the Rats' last ever recorded song.
After Live Aid, CBS re-released In The Long Grass, but despite Geldof's increased popularity and visibility, the album failed to chart.
The band's final performance came at Self Aid, a 1986 concert featuring many Irish rock superstars, to raise awareness of rampant unemployment in Ireland. Their penultimate performance, "Joey's On the Street Again", was a 12-minute long extravaganza with an extended bridge, during which time Geldof ran amongst the crowd. During the bridge section, Geldof, borrowing from a feature of Bono of U2's live performances, broke into the lyrics from another song - a Woody Guthrie folk song:
'I'm not asking for your Rolls Royce mister
'I'm not asking for your pleasure yacht
'All I want is the right to live, mister
'Can't you give me back that job I lost?
'Oh, that job I lost.'
The reference to this song had a twofold purpose; it fit the theme of the Self-Aid concert, and also was an ironic statement by Geldof about the band's own future unemployment. Following this performance, Geldof addressed the crowd, saying, 'It's been a great ten years; so long, and rest in peace'.
The band then performed "Looking After Number One", which was seen as another ironic touch by Geldof; the song harkened back to the band's youthful days of self-interest and featured the lines:-
'Don't give me love thy neighbor
'Don't give me charity'
This was a far cry from Geldof's future charitable efforts. With that performance, the career of the Boomtown Rats was over. They never became a huge, legendary band, but for a time, they were the biggest band in England.
"I Don't Like Mondays" is still heavily played on the radio all over the world. In fact, it is the only Rats song played on mainstream radio in the United States, which has interestingly led to the perception in America that the Rats were a one-hit wonder.
This is ironic for two reasons: firstly, the song only reached #77 in the Billboard charts, due to lawsuits by the Spencer family and public sensitivity to the issue of gun violence, which limited its airplay (so it was never truly a 'hit' there by definition); and secondly, the band had many hits in the UK and Europe. However, that American perception remains as a part of the band's legacy.
In addition, by becoming the first Irish rock band to score a UK #1 hit, they paved the way for such bands as U2 and The Pogues to score international success.
Following the band's breakup, Geldof launched a solo career. Briquette played bass in Geldof's new band, The Happy Club. Cott also had a short-lived solo career, releasing two records, "The Ballad of the Lone Ranger" and "Pioneers" and the 1984 single "Alphabet Town".
Fingers and Crowe founded the band Gung~Ho in the late 1980s, with limited success. Fingers is currently with the Japanese band, Greengate, whilst Simon Crowe is in the moderately successful Celtic instrumental band Jiggerypipery.
In 2005, the band's albums were all remastered and re-released, a 'Best Of' compilation was released, and two live DVDs were put on sale, fuelling some minor speculation that the band was planning a reunion, perhaps to be timed with Live 8. These rumours were shattered, however, when Cott, Roberts, Crowe and Fingers all sued Geldof, claiming that he had withheld money owed to them from the sale of the Boomtown Rats records. The matter is expected to be settled in court in 2006.
In 2007, some cover versions and re-mixes of The Boomtown Rats songs are due to be released by The Boomtown Rats webmaster Chris Graham fueling reports that The Boomtown Rats will reform once their court case with Geldof is settled with Chris Graham becoming the new lead singer.
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