The Boomtown Rats in concert this weekend. The Boomtown Rats are an Irish rock 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 (rhythm guitar) and Simon Crowe (drums). The Boomtown Rats broke up in 1986, but reformed in 2013, without Johnnie Fingers or Gerry Cott.
Most of the six members originate from Dún Laoghaire, Ireland with Pete Briquette originally from Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan, 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 New Musical Express.
In the summer of 1976, the group played their first U.K. gig in London followed by gigs in the Netherlands (Groningen and The Milky Way Club in Amsterdam) before moving to London where they signed with Ensign Records later that year. Their first single, “Lookin’ After No. 1”, came out in August 1977. It reached the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart, the first of a long string of successes. The album The Boomtown Rats was released the next month. it included 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”.
Their next album, A Tonic for the Troops (1978), featured three hit singles, “Like Clockwork”, “She’s So Modern” and “Rat Trap”. The US version of the album (with a slightly different selection of tracks) came out the next year on Columbia Records. 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. It was the band’s only song to reach the US Billboard Hot 100 and was included in the band’s third album, The Fine Art of Surfacing. The album also contained “Diamond Smiles” and their next Top 10 hit in the UK, “Someone’s Looking at You”.
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.
This concert, part of BBC’s Rock Goes To College Series, is from relatively early in their career. Lots of high energy and about a year before their breakthrough single “I Don’t Like Mondays”. The rest, as they say, is history.