The Boomtown Rats
|The Boomtown Rats|
The Boomtown Rats at Knott's Berry Farm in 1981
|Origin||County Dublin, Ireland|
|Genres||New Wave, punk rock, post-punk|
|Years active||1975–1986, 2013–present|
|Labels||Mulligan, Ensign, Mercury|
|Associated acts||Band Aid, Live Aid, Live 8|
|Past members||Johnnie Fingers
The Boomtown Rats are an Irish New Wave band that had a series of Irish and UK hits between 1977 and 1985. The group is led by vocalist Bob Geldof. The other members of the original line-up were Garry Roberts (lead guitar), Johnnie Fingers (keyboard), Pete Briquette (bass), Gerry Cott (guitar) and Simon Crowe (drums). The Boomtown Rats broke-up in 1986, but reformed in 2013, without Johnnie Fingers or Gerry Cott.
All six members originate from Dún Laoghaire, Ireland. Having been booked for their first gig under the name "The Nightlife Thugs," the group agreed on the name change, when Garry Roberts threatened to resign if they were called that, to the "Boomtown Rats" after a gang of children that Geldof had read about in Woody Guthrie's autobiography, Bound for Glory . They became a notable band, but one whose accomplishments were overshadowed by the charity work of frontman Bob Geldof, a former journalist with the NME magazine.
The group moved to London in October 1976, and became associated with the punk rock movement. Signing a recording contract with Ensign Records, they released their debut single, "Lookin' After No. 1", in August 1977. It was the first of nine straight singles to make the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart. Their debut album, The Boomtown Rats, was released in September 1977, on Ensign in the UK and on Mercury Records in the United States, and featured another single, "Mary of the 4th Form". Music journalist Martin C. Strong commented, "Geldof's moody charisma helped to give the band a distinct identity".
The second album, A Tonic for the Troops, appeared in June 1978 in the UK. It featured three hit singles, "Like Clockwork", "She's So Modern" and "Rat Trap". A Tonic for the Troops was released in the U.S. on Columbia in February 1979, with two tracks from The Boomtown Rats substituted for tracks on the UK version. Mutt Lange produced "Rat Trap", which became the first rock song by an Irish band to reach No. 1 in the UK, and the first of any description by an Irish band to top the official chart used by the BBC. (The Bachelors had topped the Record Retailer chart in 1964 with "Diane", but only reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart). In addition, "Rat Trap" was also the first new wave song to claim the number one spot.
In 1979, "I Don't Like Mondays", was released. This was written in response to a school shooting in California carried out by Brenda Ann Spencer, and also reached No. 1 in the UK. It was a worldwide hit, with the exception being the United States. Fears of lawsuits and charges of bad taste allegedly kept radio stations there from playing the record. The supposed boycott was front page news in Variety Magazine, (which liked to create false controversies for sales purposes), the only time the Boomtown Rats earned such prominent coverage. However, it actually got significant airplay throughout the 80's by U.S. stations with low musical standards. It was included in The Fine Art of Surfacing, the band's third album, and subsequently became the band's only U.S. Billboard Hot 100 entry. The album also contained "Diamond Smiles" and their next Top 10 hit in the UK, "Someone's Looking at You". Geldof and Fingers became the visual and musical focus of the group: Geldof with his articulate, caustic wit – which made him the delight of television talk show presenters and the bitter enemy of music journalists – and Fingers with the striped pyjamas he wore onstage.
In 1980 "Banana Republic" was released, which was their last Top 10 hit, and in the following year the Boomtown Rats' next studio album Mondo Bongo was issued. "Banana Republic" savaged their native Ireland, the "septic isle screaming in the suffering sea".
At this point, guitarist Gerry Cott left the group. According to Bob Geldof's autobiography, Is That It?, Cott had grown disillusioned with what he saw as the band's growing laziness in the studio and their apparent relinquishing of their early R'n'B influences for "cod-reggae". Throughout his time with the band, Cott had maintained a distance between himself and the other members and he resigned the day before the end of their 1981 world tour, only hours after the rest of the band had decided to confront him for refusing to join them and the road crew for a drink to celebrate Simon Crowe's birthday.
Cott had a short-lived solo career, releasing two UK singles, "The Ballad of the Lone Ranger" and "Pioneers" and the 1984 Canadian single "Alphabet Town".
They continued as a quintet with the band's fifth album, V Deep, being released in February 1982. The first single was "Never In A Million Years" which did not sell well, whilst the follow-up "House on Fire" made number 24 in the UK Singles Chart.
By 1984, they were touring universities after becoming unable to fund the "guarantee" required to book mainstream concert halls.
In January 1985, the band's sixth and final album In the Long Grass was released, although delayed by the band's involvement with Band Aid (on which they all played); and, the band performed at Live Aid's charity performance. Two singles, "Tonight" and "Drag Me Down" reached the lower rungs of the UK Singles Chart, whilst "A Hold Of Me" failed to chart.
"Dave" became "Rain" in the U.S.
"Dave," a single from the original release of In the Long Grass was re-recorded as "Rain" for the U.S. market. The song was about the band's saxophone player and schooldays friend David MacHale (died 2009), who had suffered a breakdown after his girlfriend was found dead in a public toilet next to an empty heroin bag. The 'Rain' metaphor in the altered lyrics name-checked Duran Duran's earlier song "Hold Back The Rain", where Geldof's friend Simon Le Bon pleaded with an unnamed band member to cease dabbling with narcotics.
After this, the band was mothballed whilst Geldof wound up his affairs with the Band Aid Trust, during which time he succeeded in getting them a one-album deal with Vertigo Records. However, both Crowe and Fingers refused to rejoin the Boomtown Rats full time, preferring to pursue their own band, Gung Ho.
The band's final performance came at Self Aid, a 1986 concert featuring many Irish rock stars, to raise awareness of unemployment in Ireland. Their penultimate performance, "Joey's On the Street Again", was 12 minutes long with an extended bridge, during which time Geldof ran amongst the crowd. Following this performance, Geldof addressed the crowd, saying, "It's been a great ten years; rest in peace". The band then performed "Looking After No.1".
Following the band's break-up, Geldof launched a solo career with Pete Briquette continuing to work alongside him.
Garry Roberts co-wrote songs for Kirsty MacColl before leaving the music business and going on to become a successful salesman of financial services. Roberts now presents his Guitar Workshop to schools, encouraging pupils to play the instrument and emphasising the contribution of The Blues to modern Rock and Pop music.
After Gung Ho split, Fingers became a highly successful music producer in Japan, as well as being part of the Japanese band Greengate. Simon Crowe is in the West Country-based Celtic instrumental band Jiggerypipery and has also run a clock making business.
In 2005 the band's albums were all remastered and re-released and a 'Best Of' compilation was released, along with two DVDs. Briquette mixed the live DVD and Francesco Cameli mixed the extra tracks for the re-release of the Boomtown Rats albums at Sphere Studios in London.
In 2008, Garry Roberts and Simon Crowe, who had continued playing together in The Fab Four, with Alan Perman (ex Herman's Hermits) and Bob Doyle (who once auditioned unsuccessfully for E.L.O.), and The Velcro Flies, with Steve (Dusty) Hill and Gavin Petrie, got together as "The Rats", playing their favourite Boomtown Rats songs, with the classic line-up of two guitars, bass and drums. The band was initially fronted by Peter Barton, who has a long history, going back to the early 1980s, of playing with resurrected famous acts, including The Animals, The Hollies and Lieutenant Pigeon. Barton was replaced on lead vocals and bass by Bob Bradbury, who was the founder and main songwriter in Hello. Darren Beale, formerly of The Caves, played lead guitar. Saxophone player Andy Hamilton, who toured and recorded with The Boomtown Rats, including at Live Aid, played as a guest at some gigs.
Gerry Cott and Johnnie Fingers were invited to join the band when circumstances allow. Cott attended the Boomtown Rats' second gig (at The 100 Club on Oxford Street, London). Fingers, meanwhile, works for the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, but plans to join the band on stage when he is in the UK.
On 21 June 2009, Geldof, Roberts, and Briquette got together in Dublin to play "Dave", at a party to celebrate the life of Boomtown Rats' close friend and saxophone player, "Doctor" Dave MacHale, who had died of cancer in Frankfurt. "Dave" was a song Geldof wrote for MacHale in 1983, after MacHale's girlfriend died from a heroin overdose.
On 20 September 2011, Gerry Cott guested with Geldof, Briquette and the rest of Geldof's band at The Cadogan Hall, London. They played three Boomtown Rats songs together prior to the encores. Cott returned to the stage for the final encore playing on two Geldof solo songs.
The Boomtown Rats reform
The Boomtown Rats reformed in 2013. Bob Geldof said, "Playing again with the Rats and doing those great songs again will be exciting afresh. We were an amazing band and I just feel it's the right time to re-Rat, to go back to Boomtown for a visit." In June 2013, it was announced that the band would be embarking on a UK and Ireland tour supported by a new "Best of" album called Back to Boomtown: Classic Rats Hits.
- The Boomtown Rats (1977)
- A Tonic for the Troops (1978)
- The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979)
- Mondo Bongo (1980)
- V Deep (1982)
- In the Long Grass (1984)
UK Top 40 singles
- "Lookin' After No. 1" (1977) No. 11
- "Mary of the 4th Form" (1977) No. 15
- "She's So Modern" (1978) No. 12
- "Like Clockwork" (1978) No. 6
- "Rat Trap" (1978) No. 1
- "I Don't Like Mondays" (1979) No. 1
- "Diamond Smiles" (1979) No. 13
- "Someone's Looking at You" (1980) No. 4
- "Banana Republic" (1980) No. 3
- "The Elephant's Graveyard (Guilty)" (1981) No. 26
- "House on Fire" (1982) No. 24
- "I Don't Like Mondays" (CD single re-issue) (1994) No. 38
- "Biography by William Ruhlmann". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 105–106. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 71. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 193. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 198. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- Roberts, David (1998). Guinness Rockopedia (1st ed.). London: Guinness Publishing Ltd. p. 55. ISBN 0-85112-072-5.
- Bob Geldof – Is That It? (1985) ISBN 0-330-44292-9
- "Geldof Reunites With Fellow Rats in Blackrock". Hotpress.com. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
- "Bob Geldof, Cadogan Hall - review". thisislondon.co.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
- Jonze, Tim (28 January 2013). "Boomtown Rats re-form for Isle of Wight festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- Eames, Tom (17 June 2013). "Boomtown Rats announce new 'Classic' album, UK and Ireland tour". Digital Spy. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Liner Notes to The Boomtown Rats' Greatest Hits