We ‘do like’ The Story of the Boomtown Rats

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats

By The Newsroom
Friday, 22nd May 2020, 5:00 pm
Bob Geldof pictured at the Barbican, London in 2019
Bob Geldof pictured at the Barbican, London in 2019

(BBC2, 9.20pm)

Even though it was way back in 1985, many people probably still associate Bob Geldof with Live Aid, the charity rock concert he organised to build on the success of his Band Aid single the previous Christmas.

It’s certainly not a bad thing to have at the top of your CV. The concerts did, after all, end up raising $127million for famine-stricken Africa. It even won him an honorary knighthood from the Queen. But Bob Geldof is known as a man not to mince his words and as he would no doubt be keen to tell anyone and everyone, he does have a day job too – as lead singer of punk/new wave band the Boomtown Rats.

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The Boomtown Rats pictured on an early record cover still in 1976

In the year that the band released a new album, Citizens of Boomtown – their first since 1984’s In the Long Grass – this documentary looks back at the story of Geldof, guitarist Garry Roberts, bassist Pete Briquette, drummer Simon Crowe, pianist Johnny Fingers and rhythm guitarist Gerry Cott, from their early days in Ireland to their chart successes and how the rest of the band felt overshadowed by Geldof’s charity achievements.

Formed in Dublin in the mid-1970s, the Boomtown Rats (the name came from a gang of children in Woody Guthrie’s autobiography) were inspired by a London gig to make a permanent move to the capital, where they soon won a record contract.

Debut single Looking After No 1 charted the following month, followed by their first, self-named, album. But it was their second LP, A Tonic for the Troops, with which they were to find real success, carrying three hit singles.

These included their first number one, 1978’s anthemic Rat Trap, which included a killer saxophone solo (Top of the Pops viewers may remember Geldof miming to the sax part by pretending to blow through a candelabra that he grabbed off the top of the piano.) That was followed in 1979 by a second chart-topper, I Don’t Like Mondays, infamously based on a real-life school shooting in California.

The Boomtown Rats in 2019

The band broke up a year after Live Aid at another charity concert in their native Dublin. But in 2013 the Rats answered a call from the iconic Isle of Wight Festival to reform, and ended up playing a triumphant set. They have been back together ever since, performing live all over the world.

The film features all four remaining members, Bob Geldof, Garry Roberts, Pete Briquette and Simon Crowe, looking back at the highs and lows of life as a Boomtown Rat, and there are insights from fellow musicians Bono, Sting, Sinead O’Connor, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, Jools Holland (who co-presented music show The Tube with Bob’s wife Paula Yates) and Steve Conte of the New York Dolls.

There are also contributions from author Joseph O’Connor, Creation Records boss Alan McGee, New York photographer Bob Gruen, broadcasters Paul Gambaccini and Dave Fanning, and music critics Charles Shaar Murray, Neil McCormick, Niall Stokes and David Fricke.

Citizens of Boomtown was directed by award-winning producer Billy McGrath, who once shared a house with Bob Geldof. Or should that be Sir Bob? After all these years, probably not…

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