I Quite Like Wednesdays, Actually

Former Boomtown Rat and current saint, Bob Geldof, celebrates his 60th birthday today. These days he’s best known as the organiser of Live Aid and its successor, Live 8, but there was a time when he helped to pave the way for Irish success on the international music stage. Geldof formed The Boomtown Rats in Dublin just as punk was kicking off on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1977, the band’s first single finished just outside the top spot in Ireland and also the top ten in England. Lookin’ After Number One, musically and lyrically, had much in common with the ethos of punk rock. It opens with pounding drums and is followed by some thrashy guitar before Geldof’s sneering vocals enter. The narrator is out of work and angry with society, but is adamant that he’ll do his own thing. This ideology would also appear to be the singer’s and it wasn’t too long before he could be heard railing against the status quo on TV. The band continued to have hits, though their sound could be described as new wave on subsequent releases. In 1978, their second album produced the band’s first UK number one, though it stalled at number two in their own country. Rat Trap replaced the prominent guitars with saxophone and piano and the song was more influenced by Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen than punk. It’s basically a song The Boss might have written if he’d grown up in Dublin instead of Asbury Park

A year later, the band’s next single became their first chart topper in Ireland and also made it to the top in the UK and Australia. In I Don’t Like Mondays, Geldof changed the location from Ireland to the USA and wrote a topical song about a 16-year-old girl who carried out a school shooting in California. Its controversial subject matter meant it was only a minor hit in the States, though it remains the band’s most well-known song there. It was covered by Tori Amos on her 2001 Strange Little Girls album and also by Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith. The Rats had a few more hits in 1980, but they started to dry up after that. By 1984, Geldof had gotten into charity work and was now on the side of the Status Quo, as illustrated to humorous effect in the comedy sketch below by Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. Sir Bob released a few solo albums in between saving the world, though the quality of the songs rarely approached his best work with the Rats. I’ve included a fine version of Kris Kristofferson’s For the Good Times that he did with Jools Holland a few years back, while his take on Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks follows in the tradition of other inferior covers of that song. Anyway, I hope that Bob has an enjoyable Wednesday and that he keeps looking after number one

Lookin’ After No. 1 – The Boomtown Rats

For the Good Times (Kris Kristofferson cover) – Bob Geldof

Sunny Afternoon (Kinks cover) – Bob Geldof

I Don’t Like Mondays (Boomtown Rats cover) – Ron Sexsmith

Bob Geldof – Smith & Jones