It’s been a while since I’ve been the youngest on a night out. And it’s been even longer since I’ve looked admiringly at the antics of a sextegenarian wearing a pretend snakeskin suit, fussin’ with his hair like a model on a windswept beach. But it all came together on Saturday night in Vicar Street when, for the first time in 27 years, the collective known as the Boomtown Rats played a live gig under the direction of Sir Bob Geldof.
Truth be told, while I’m a huge fan of Sir Bob (and still remember a crazy phone conversation I had with him in 2002), my familiarity with the Rats’ music is limited. Very limited. I’d gone to hear the three songs that I know I could sing along to, but my reticence on the other numbers was obliterated by the gangs of men who were so obviously on a mission to recapture their youth. I’m all for a little gyration, but lads, when you’re jumping up and down like maniacs, clutching pints of porter, tuck the shirts in so the bellies don’t flop out. Thank God for stage lights.
Bouncing bellies aside, the gig was brilliant. Everyone was on top form. The fellah behind me had appointed himself as Bob’s personal cheerleader and my night was punctured by roars of ‘c’mon ya boy ya’, all of which I’m sure the man heard as, instead of fading, he went from strength to strength.
I’d forgotten how political their songs are and when Bob made reference to how relevant some of them still are today, he got me searching for more.
I don’t like Mondays was written about Brenda Spencer, a 16-year-old San Diego high school student. On Monday, 29 January 1979, she killed two adults and injured nine kids when she opened fire with a rifle on the primary school across the road from her house. After a seven-hour standoff, she gave herself up. When asked why she did it, she said: ‘I just started shooting, that’s it. I just did it for the fun of it. I just don’t like Mondays. I just did it because it’s a way to cheer the day up. Nobody likes Mondays.’ That was 1979 – and kids are still shooting each randomly for reasons as inane as Brenda’s. The message according to Sir Bob? Sometimes searching for a reason is futile … there simply isn’t one.
Mary of the Fourth Form is another favourite – but then I have a thing for songs about Marys. It deals with a teacher’s sexual attraction to a pubescent girl – a timeless story that never seems to wane.
Rat trap – the first No. 1 of the New Wave genre in the UK charts which nudged John Travolta and Olivia Newton John and Summer Nights from the top spot – was written by Bob in 1973 when he was working in an abattoir. The futility he sings of is just as evident today.
Perhaps the most relevant of all though is the hit Someone’s looking at you. A stark reminder that the recent NSA/PRISM affair isn’t a new phenomenon: There’s a spy in the sky / There’s a noise on the wire
Another timeless classic Lookin’ after No. 1 was billed as a ‘paean to rugged individualism’ and interestingly, particularly given Geldof’s later work with Live Aid, the line ‘Don’t give me charity’ is probably more a reflection of his view of the Church and its teaching than on any miserliness on his part. On a number of occasions throughout the night, Bob aired his political views and it was refreshing to see that he’s still as ornery as ever.
Lookin’ good, Sir Bob, you’re lookin’ good.
In a week that was loaded with memories of times past, reconnecting with old friends has played an important part in rediscovering the old ‘me’. I’m grateful that circumstances have contrived to reopen closed doors and even more grateful for those who’ve chosen to walk through them.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52