Don’t Belive What You Read: The Boomtown Rats

One of Bob Geldof’s catchiest lines (and he had many) was ‘Don’t Believe What You Read’. It fitted in well with punk’s ‘no heroes’ and ‘Do It Yourself’ philosophy. And with that in mind it is worth taking a look how the Boomtown Rats fared in print this week.

Ireland’s own Hot Press features that band on the cover…how many bands from 1976-1980 would be placed on a cover in 2015?

The headline reads ‘The Band that Changed Ireland’ and the interview with Geldof (with a little piece from Pete Briquette too) is fascinating in that it focuses on the early days of the band…struggling for attention in Dublin, where the rock scene was very under-developed, and how they made alliances that led to massive chart success in Britian and beyond.

The interview is done by Stuart Clarke who interviewed Joe Strummer shortly before his death. I really like his appraoch, he knows his stuff, and is able to mine the minds of pop stars to get interesting recollections and opinions. The 5 page piece is well worth reading. Highly recommended if you want to understand just how hard it was to make noise in Ireland in the late 1970s.

A choice quote from Geldof…in case anyone thinks he has mellowed with age:

“All that stuff on ‘Banana Republic’ – the church, Haughey’s government, the murderers in the North – it was all fucking true. I can’t stress to you how awful it was; we were kept in this purile infantalism by the church, the government and big business. Someone had to start talking about this claustrophobia of silence, this suppression.”

That sounds pretty consistent with the punk rock attitude of the time…and having seen The Rats at the Blackpool Rebellion festival a few weeks ago, I was naturally curious about how they fit in with the people who are active in the current punk scene.

Vive Le Rock is one of my favoriute magazines to rad these days. I love their in-depth articles of some of the really interesting acts from the punk and post-punk era. The new issue had The Damned on the cover, reflecting on 35 years since they released their ‘Black Album’.

The review of Rebellion is really positive, they appreciate the acts and the energy, and no magazine seems to cover the Rebellion-type bands more comprehenisvely that Vive Le Rock.

There is one notable exception to their enthusiastic reviews: Bob and the Boomtown Rats. The magazine rips their performance apart, although Geldof would probably be happy that their show was described as the ‘the main talking point and ‘water-cooler’ moment of the festival’…which they describe as ‘Geldof-gate’. The review of the Rats ends with a very rude phrase that contains the word ‘off’.

What is most interesting is how the Rats are celebrated in Ireland as a progressive force, a band who drew attention to hypocracy, who challanged authority. Yet, elsewhere, particularly in Britain, they are represented as outside the acceptable boundaries of punk…which may suit Geldof.

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