Bob Geldof Is Back "Leaping Around Like a Twat" With Boomtown Rats

Boomtown Rats 2014
Boomtown Rats 2014

It's been more than 25 years since Bob Geldof, Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, performed with his lil punk/new wave band the Boomtown Rats in the United States. And more than 30 since that band's first (and most prominent) American radio entrée, "I Don't Like Mondays," featuring a sadly prescient lyrical storyline about the nation's first high-profile school shooting.

Of course, in the last decades Geldof's been busy feeding the world, becoming a household name less for music than for activism including Live Aid, anti-poverty efforts in Africa and father's rights.

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So why 2014 for a reunion and the band's Stateside return? "Ummm...." There's a pause on the line, as 3,500 miles away in the UK Geldof gathers his thoughts. "I suppose because I'd done OK with my solo stuff--six albums--not in the States, but they'd sold almost as well as the Rats stuff [in the UK]. But then out of the blue came this offer to play the [2013] Isle of Wight festival. In my youth I'd seen the Doors, the Who and Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Cohen there, so suddenly the chance to be on that stage...."

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With the frankness that generally serves him equally well both on stage and in board rooms, Geldof, 62, notes, "The money was decent. We're not suddenly going to all have Bel Air mansions, but it was good money." Then he had to wonder: "Obviously, you don't listen to your own records, and enough time had passed to make me wonder: 'This random group of kids who'd come together, playing in back of the garden in a shed, a bunch of guys in the neighborhood, pissing about...was there anything different about it?' I said I'd do it--but not if it's about nostalgia. If it was going to be smarmy and feel-good and, 'Hey guys, isn't it good to be working again?' Forget it."

That said, the first rehearsal was shite. "It sounded awful," admits Geldof. "Then after about an hour, I suppose our hesitancy or embarrassment suddenly went, and you're back into this completely understood thing that I suppose only happens over many, many years of being with the same group of people."

The Rats--led by Geldof's pointed, devilish, Dublin-accented vocals--were reunited and reignited, minus original members Johnnie Fingers and Gerry Cott. "I began singing those words again, and bizarrely, a different character from the guy who plays in the solo bands suddenly leapt out. This sort of snotty, pain in the ass dude"--here he chortles--"came back. Boomtown Bobby was intact, dusting off the cobwebs."

He found, both to his joy and distress, that the socio-political leanings were still valid. "It was, 'Well, hold on, here we are back in the midst of the worst economic conditions since the 30s. I wrote a lot of those songs waiting on a dole queue or working in an abattoir. And two weeks before some idiot had shot up his school, so when I did 'I Don't Like Mondays,' it sounded completely right. We just read about Obama and the NSA taking our mail and logging our calls...and I'd written 'Someone's Looking At You" in 1980 about paranoia. That anger was there."

And it spewed out at the Isle of Wight. "I was really excited, properly," he admits. "I said, 'I'm not going to jump around like I used to, that's just undignified.' But fuck me, as soon as it started, there I was, leaping around like a twat."

Twat or not, he's honored to be back in the US with his Rats, if just for two shows so far. "There's no rear-view mirror in this car," says Geldof, "but when I sing Rats songs, they're still as true and vital and real to me today and I'm fucking glad I wrote them. And," he concludes, "I'm ever gladder that I get to play them on a stage in front of festivals for hundreds of thousands....or the four people who show up in New York or Boston."

The Boomtown Rats play Smithwick's Presents The Big Session at Terminal 5, Thurs., Sept. 26, 7:30, 18+

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