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Boomtown Rats were a New Wave group led by Bob Geldof.
All six members were originally from Dún Laoghaire, Republic of Ireland. The name "Boomtown Rats" comes from a gang in Woody Guthrie's autobiography, Bound for Glory. They became a notable band, but one whose accomplishments were overshadowed by the charity work of lead singer Bob Geldof.
The Boomtown Rats released their first single, "Looking After Number One", in 1977, and it went straight into the UK Singles Chart. The song was a raw, youthful punk rock song that spoke of pure self-interest.
Their debut album, The Boomtown Rats, featured another single, "Mary of the Fourth Form"; along with "Joey's on the Street Again".
The Rats' second album, A Tonic for the Troops, was their most commercially successful. It featured three hit singles, "Like Clockwork", "She's So Modern" and "Rat Trap", which became the first ever rock song by an Irish band to reach #1 in the UK, and the first of any description by an Irish band to top the chart used by the BBC (The Bachelors had topped the Record Retailer chart in 1964 with "Diane", but only reached number 2 on the Pick of the Pops chart), and 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 by Brenda Ann Spencer, and also reached #1 in the UK.
The Fine Art of Surfacing, the band's third album, followed and featured the singles "Diamond Smiles" (about the suicide of a debutante) and "Someone's Looking At You" (a song about fame and paranoia).
In 1980 "Banana Republic" was released. This was their last Top 10 hit. It was written in response to the band not being allowed to play in Ireland for fear of riots in the audience. After going places where no Irish band had ever gone before, the Rats were stunned by this homecoming, and became very disillusioned with Irish politics.
In 1981 their next studio album Mondo Bongo was released. The Rats began experimenting musically in Mondo Bongo; the album's other songs featured a heavy dose of drum- and keyboard-based music, a far cry from the guitar-driven pub rock of the band's early days.
In 1982, Gerry Cott left the band prior to the recording of the band's fifth album, V Deep, which was a major shift in the Rats' music heavily reliant on synthesized sounds.
In 1985 the band's sixth and final album In the Long Grass was released and the band performed at Live Aid.
The band's final performance came at Self Aid, a 1986 concert featuring many Irish rock superstars, to raise awareness of rampant unemployment in Ireland. Their penultimate performance, "Joey's On the Street Again", was a 12-minute long extravaganza with an extended bridge, during which time Geldof ran amongst the crowd. During the bridge section, Geldof broke into the lyrics from another song - a Woody Guthrie folk song:
'I'm not asking for your Rolls Royce mister
'I'm not asking for your pleasure yacht
'All I want is the right to live, mister
'Can't you give me back that job I lost?
'Oh, that job I lost.'
The reference to this song had a twofold purpose; it fit the theme of the Self-Aid concert, and also was an ironic statement by Geldof about the band's own future unemployment. Following this performance, Geldof addressed the crowd, saying, 'It's been a great ten years; so long, and rest in peace'. The band then performed "Looking After Number One", which was seen as another ironic touch by Geldof; the song harkened back to the band's youthful days of self-interest.
With that performance, the career of the Boomtown Rats was over. They never became a legendary band, but for a time in the late seventies, they were the biggest band in England.
Following the band's breakup, Geldof launched a solo career with Pete Briquette continuing to work alongside him. Gerry Cott had a short-lived solo career, releasing two UK singles, "The Ballad of the Lone Ranger" and "Pioneers" and the 1984 Canadian single "Alphabet Town". Fingers and Crowe founded the band Gung~Ho in the late 1980s. Fingers is currently with the Japanese band, Greengate, whilst Simon Crowe is in the moderately successful Celtic instrumental band Jiggerypipery.
In 2005 the band's albums were all remastered and re-released and a 'Best Of' compilation was released, along with two DVDs.