Sunday, December 12, 2021


Have you guys had Line of Duty yet? Any UK readers will, of course, be well aware the long running and entertaining police procedural, extolling the exploits of AC-12, the anti-corruption unit of London's Metropolitan Police, but I am uncertain whether it has yet been picked up, stateside. One of the enduring characters is that of Ted Hastings, played by the extravagantly hootered Adrian Dunbar, at his N'Orn best. (N'Orn? Northern Irish.) Much prone to idiosyncratic expostulations and ejaculations, often of a religious bent, perhaps his most celebrated was when he, annoyed and irritated by his team, came out with the wonderful "Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey", ahead of explaining his ire.

Mary of the 4th Form

No room here for Jesus or donkeys, or even, this post anyway, for Joseph, but there is one Mary who should demand our attention. She is also Irish, but south of the border, in the Republic, and made famous from the 2nd single of Dublin punk-rockers, the Boomtown Rats. But they weren't really punks, were they, having far more in common with, say, Thin Lizzy. However, back then, whatever 1977 wanted, 1977 got. So Geldof and chums discarded their flares, cut their hair (a little) and put on skinny ties. The attitude wasn't a problem, they, Geldof especially, had it in spades, even if he preens more like Mick Jagger than Johnny Rotten in the video. The song isn't even all that punky, but is probably their punkiest, being really little more than a bit of speeded up rock, with the characteristic man falling downstairs drum style of the day. I confess that, after their debut, I didn't particularly take to it, it seeming neither fish nor fowl. But it did well enough to keep their foot in the door until they had hosed down their influences and become defiantly new wave.

I Don't Like Mondays

The Boomtown Rats, named, incidentally, after the urchin gang described in Woody Guthrie's Bound For Glory, were a much bigger act in the British Isles and Europe than ever in America. One hit wonders, if that, in the US; 73 or 84, depending on which chart you read, with I Don't Like Mondays, inspired and about school shootings, particularly the one on Jan 29 1979, in San Diego. When Brenda Ann Spencer was apprehended for shooting eight of her fellow schoolmates, as well as two adults, she is said to have said it was because she didn't like Mondays, and that her actions "livened up the day." A top ten in nearly every other territory, was it, I wonder, to close to home for the American audience? The version I post above is from the UK leg of Live Aid, for which Geldof is largely better known for than his singing, having come up with the idea and exhorted his music biz colleagues to deliver. Arguably past their 15 minutes of fame, the Rats were there more by default their frontman than their then rankings, but they put on a great show, the extended gap between the last line of the last verse and the chorus stretched to breaking point. Magnificently.

Rat Trap

But enough of that, what else did they do? At home and in the UK they had a solid run of 11 top 30 singles between 1977 and 1982, good by anyone's standards. Mondays wasn't even their sole exposure to the number one slot, Rat Trap having held the same place for a fortnight at the end of 1978. Thereafter their fortunes began to wane, the tunes disappearing , even if the lyrical bite remained. Their last single of any grit note was Banana Republic, a damning indictment of their home nation. I recall seeing them play live around this time, finding it a disappointing performance, any new material in a similarly reggae-lite vein, the hits trotted out somewhat limply.

Banana Republic

The band began to splinter and Geldof went in search of a solo career, embracing more of a raggle taggle celtic roustabout image, which failed to relight his flame anything much above a slow smoulder. Bowing to the inevitable, with having also to deal with his very public cuckolding by his wife, Paula Yates, her death and, later still, the death of his daughter, mindful of the adage that there is no such thing as retired band, only a resting one, the Boomtown Rats reformed, or most of them, for a further tread of the boards. Starting again in 2013, they even got as far as a new record, Citizens of Boomtown, in 2020, with it's lead single being Trash Glam Baby. No, me neither, but, in the interests of this piece, I think we should be prompted:

Trash Glam Baby

I think the moment has gone. It didn't chart. I am realising that this is beginning to read as a tale of riches to rags and, to some extent, that might be true, but, in their heyday, for a while, 1977 and 8, they were a force to be reckoned with. That fuse burnt swiftly but, whilst alight, was a delight. Geldof? Well, he will be remembered for his integral part in drawing the attention of the world to Ethiopia, and for swearing on primetime live TV.  Some will remember him also for his songs. I am one.

Let's finish as we started, with Mary, with a live performance from Geldof's solo years. Not the best of recordings, it's true, but it looks fun and, do you know, personally I prefer it this way, as a chugging rockabilly with added fiddle.

Mary of the 4th Form (live)