One of the first new wave acts to emerge during the musical shake-ups of 1977, the Boomtown Rats were also significant for spearheading an interest in young Irish rock. Originally formed in Dún Laoghaire in 1975 as the Nightlife Thugs, the Dublin-based band comprised part-time music journalist Bob Geldof (vocals), Garry Roberts (vocals), Gerry Cott (guitar), Johnnie Fingers (keyboards), Pete Briquette (bass), and Simon Crowe (drums). They named themselves after Woody Guthrie's term for oilfield workers in his autobiography, Bound For Glory. Before moving to London, they signed to the recently established Ensign Records, which saw commercial possibilities in their highly energetic yet melodic work. Their 1977 self-titled debut album was a UK chart success and included two memorable singles, 'Lookin' After No. 1' and 'Mary Of The 4th Form', which both reached the UK Top 20. The following summer, A Tonic For The Troops was released to critical acclaim. Among its attendant hit singles were the biting 'She's So Modern' and quirky 'Like Clockwork'. By November 1978, a third hit from the album, the acerbic urban protest 'Rat Trap', secured them their first UK number 1.
In spite of their R&B leanings, the band was initially considered in some quarters as part of the punk upsurge and banned in their home country. They received considerable press thanks to the irrepressible loquaciousness of their lead singer, who made the press regard him as an individual, and certainly not a punk. A third album, The Fine Art Of Surfacing, coincided with their finest moment, 'I Don't Like Mondays', the harrowing true-life story of an American teenage girl who, on 29 January 1979 in San Carlos, California, wounded eight children and killed her school janitor and headmaster. The weirdest aspect of the tale was her explanation on being confronted with the deed: 'I don't like Mondays, this livens up the day.' Geldof adapted those words to produce one of pop's most dramatic moments in years, with some startlingly effective piano-work from the appropriately named Johnnie Fingers. A massive UK number 1, the single proved almost impossible to match, as the energetic but average follow-up, 'Someone's Looking At You', proved. Nevertheless, the Rats were still hitting the Top 5 in the UK and even released an understated but effective comment on Northern Ireland in 'Banana Republic'. By 1982, however, the band had fallen from critical and commercial grace and their subsequent recordings seemed passé. The same year's V Deep was recorded as a quintet following the departure of Cott. For Geldof, more important work lay ahead with the founding of Band Aid and much-needed world publicity on the devastating famine in Ethiopia. The Rats performed at the Live Aid concert on 13 July 1985 before bowing out the following year at Dublin's Self Aid benefit.
Copyright © 2017 Omnibus Press