Monday, January 29, 2007

The Boomtown Rats

I Don’t Like Mondays – Live Aid
The Boomtown Rats were a punk rock new wave band lead by Bob Geldof.
All six members were originally from Dún Laoghaire, 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.
The Boomtown Rats released their first single, "Looking After Number One", in 1977. 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 is shown above and 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. 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. "I Don't Like Mondays" has also been performed at Live 8 and 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.

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.

"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.

"Looking After No. 1" (1977) UK #11
"Mary Of The Fourth Form" (1977) UK #15
"She's So Modern" (1978) UK #12
"Like Clockwork" (1978) UK #6
"Rat Trap" (1978) UK #1
"I Don't Like Mondays" (1979) UK #1
"Diamond Smiles" (1979) UK #13
"Someone's Looking At You" (1980) UK #4
"Banana Republic" (1980) UK #3
"The Elephant's Graveyard (Guilty)" (1981) UK #26
"Never In A Million Years" (1981) UK #62
"House On Fire" (1982) UK #24
"Charmed Lives" (1982)
"Tonight" (1984) UK #73
"Drag Me Down" (1984) UK #50
"Dave" (1984) UK #81
"A Hold Of Me" (1985) UK #78
"I Don't Like Mondays" (re-release) (1994) UK #38

The Boomtown Rats (1977) UK #18
A Tonic For The Troops (1978) UK #8
The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979) UK #7
Mondo Bongo (1981) UK #6
V Deep (1982) UK #64
In The Long Grass (1984)

Rat Tracks EP (US only - 1981)
The Boomtown Rats' Greatest Hits (1987)
Loudmouth (1994) UK #10
The Best of the Boomtown Rats (2003) UK #43

External links
Boomtown Rats official website

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