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The Boomtown Rats
Origin County Dublin, Ireland
Genres Rock, pop, New Wave
Years active 1975 - 1986
Labels Mulligan, Ensign, Mercury, Columbia
Website Boomtownrats.co.uk
Former members
Pete Briquette
Gerry Cott
Johnny Fingers
Bob Geldof
Garry Roberts
Simon Crowe

The Boomtown Rats were an Irish rock band that scored a series of UK hits between 1977 and 1980 and were led by vocalist Bob Geldof, who organized the Ethiopian relief efforts, Band Aid and Live Aid.[1]

Contents

Biography

All six members were originally from Dún Laoghaire, Ireland.[1] Formed under the name "The Nightlife Thugs," the group agreed on the name change to the "Boomtown Rats" after a gang that Geldof read about in Woody Guthrie's autobiography, Bound for Glory.[1] 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.[2 ]

The group moved to London in October 1976, and became associated with the punk rock movement.[1] Signing a recording contract with Ensign Records, they released their debut single, "Looking After No.1", in August 1977.[1] It was the first of nine straight singles to make the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart.[1][3 ] 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".[1] As music journalist, Martin C. Strong noted, "Geldof's moody charisma helped to give the band a distinct identity".[2 ]

The Rats' second album, A Tonic for the Troops, appeared in June 1978 in the UK.[1] 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.[1] Mutt Lange produced[3 ] "Rat Trap", which became the first rock song by an Irish band to reach #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 #2 on the UK Singles Chart). In addition, "Rat Trap" was also the first new wave song to claim the number one spot.[3 ][4]

In 1979, "I Don't Like Mondays", was released.[1] This was written in response to a school shooting in California by Brenda Ann Spencer, and also reached #1 in the UK.[3 ] It was a worldwide hit, with the glaring exception being the United States.[5] Fears of lawsuits and charges of bad taste kept radio stations there from playing the record.[5] The unofficial boycott was frontpage news in Variety Magazine, the only time the Boomtown Rats earned such prominent coverage.[5] However, 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.[1] The album also contained "Diamond Smiles" and their next Top 10 hit in the UK, "Someone's Looking at You".[1] 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.[6]

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.[1] "Banana Republic" savaged their native Ireland, the "septic isle screaming in a suffering sea", according to the Guinness Rockopedia[6]

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Cott's departure

At this point, guitarist Gerry Cott left the group. According to Bob Geldof's autobiography, Is That It?, Cott had grown disillusioned with the band's growing laziness in the studio and their greater reggae emphasis, in addition to being bullied by the rest of the band for his dissention.

He resigned the day before the end of their 1981 world tour, only hours after the rest of the band had decided to sack him for refusing to join the rest of the band and 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".

V Deep

They continued as a quintet with the band's fifth album, V Deep, being released in February 1982.[1] The first single Never In A Million Years being sold in a blank sleeve without the band's name on it with the result many did not know of the single's release - but also they'd alienated a large part of their early punk/new wave fan base by their switch to a more reggae and funk orientated sound (a fate befalling many punk/new wave bands that dabbled in the same way, such as The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers). 'House on Fire' made number 24 in the UK singles charts.

By 1984 they were touring universities after becoming unable to fund the "guarantee" required to book mainstream concert halls, having fallen victim to a demand from the British Inland Revenue for unpaid taxes thanks to the mismanagement of their manager Fachtna O'Kelly (who was subsequently fired).

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.[1] Two singles, "Tonight" and "Drag Me Down" reached the lower rungs of the UK Singles Charts, whilst "A Hold Of Me" failed to chart.

Dave became Rain in the U.S.

"Dave" was re-recorded as "Rain" for the U.S. market, due to complaints from their record label about the lyrics being misconstrued as homoerotic.. In fact, the song was about the band's saxophone player and schooldays friend Dr David McHale (died 2009), who had suffered a breakdown after his girlfriend was found dead in a public toilet next to an empty heroin bag.[7]

The Rain metaphor in the altered lyrics namechecks Duran Duran's earlier song "Hold Back The Rain", where Geldof's old friend Simon Le Bon pleads with an unnamed band member to cease dabbling with narcotics.

Boomtown Rats split

After this, the band was mothballed whilst Geldof wound up his affairs with the Band Aid Trust, during which time Geldof succeeded in getting the band 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.[6] 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 McColl before going to work first in insurance, and then in boiler maintenance.

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 also ran 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.

The Rats

In 2008 Roberts and Crowe re-formed as 'The Rats', playing their favourite Boomtown Rats songs. The band was fronted by Peter Barton, who has a long history stretching from the 1980s, of latterly fronting former famous acts, including The Animals, The Hollies and Lieutenant Pigeon.[8] Darren Beale played lead guitar, whilst saxophone player, Andy Hamilton, who had toured and recorded with The Boomtown Rats, including at Live Aid, played as a guest at some gigs.

Both Cott and Fingers were invited to rejoin 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 the wake for the Boomtown Rats backing saxophonist, Dave McHale, who had died of cancer. "Dave" was a song Geldof wrote for McHale in 1983, after the latter's girlfriend died from a heroin overdose.[9]

Discography

Singles

Year Song UK Singles[3 ] Ireland [10] Australia
Kent Report [11]
Canada
RPM
U.S.
Hot 100[12]
1977 "Looking After No.1"
11
2
-
-
-
"Mary of the 4th Form"
15
12
-
-
-
1978 "She's So Modern"
12
10
-
-
-
"Like Clockwork"
6
5
-
-
-
"Rat Trap"
1
2
94
-
-
1979 "I Don't Like Mondays"
1
1
1
4
73
"Diamond Smiles"
13
3
42
-
-
1980 "Someone's Looking at You"
4
2
-
86
-
"Banana Republic"
3
3
18
47
-
1981 "Up All Night"
-
-
-
-
-
"The Elephant's Graveyard (Guilty)"
26
7
-
-
-
"Never in a Million Years"
62
-
-
-
-
1982 "House on Fire"
24
19
-
-
-
"Charmed Lives"
-
-
-
-
-
1984 "Tonight"
73
-
-
-
-
"Drag Me Down"
50
-
-
-
-
"Dave"
-
-
-
-
-
1985 "A Hold of Me"
-
-
-
-
-
1994 "I Don't Like Mondays"<re-issue>
38
-
-
-
-

Albums

Year Album UK Albums Chart[3 ] Canada U.S. Album Chart[13]
1977 The Boomtown Rats 18 - -
1978 A Tonic for the Troops 8 - 112
1979 The Fine Art of Surfacing 7 6 103
1981 Mondo Bongo 6 22 116
1982 V Deep 64 37 -
1984 In the Long Grass - 80 188

Compilation albums

[3 ]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Biography by William Ruhlmann". Allmusic.com. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:jifrxqw5ldde~T1. Retrieved 8 March 2009.  
  2. ^ a b Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 105–106. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 71. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.  
  4. ^ 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.  
  5. ^ a b c 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.  
  6. ^ a b c Roberts, David (1998). Guinness Rockopedia (1st ed.). London: Guinness Publishing Ltd.. p. 55. ISBN 0-85112-072-5.  
  7. ^ Bob Geldof - "Is That It?" (1985) ISBN: 0330442929, 1555841155, 0670814644, 0283993626, 014009363X
  8. ^ http://www.myspace.com/peterbartonram
  9. ^ Hotpress.com - accesssed July 2009
  10. ^ Irishcharts.ie and succeeding pages
  11. ^ Australian-charts.com
  12. ^ Allmusic.com - Charts & Awards (singles)
  13. ^ Allmusic.com - Charts & Awards (albums)
  • Liner Notes to The Boomtown Rats' Greatest Hits

External links


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