First thing's first: in order to unzip the file of Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats I am including here, you will need to download WinRAR, which can be done here: http://download.cnet.com/WinRAR/3000-2250_4-10745708.html. If you have a MAC you can use UnRarX: http://www.unrarx.com/.
Secondly, here is the link for the file download: Geldof/Rats Top 50 Songs
Sir Bob Geldof, a Knight of the Order of the British Empire, is an extremely polarizing figure in both musical and political arenas. Known by many more for his political activism than any song he has ever written, Geldof runs the risk of being forgotten as a musician by the younger generation of today. Part of me thinks that outcome wouldn't irk Geldof as much as one might believe, as Sir Bob has always been a controversial figure whose political views and rants have often overshadowed his music and complicated his personal and public relationships. In fact, I always thought Bob was a giant douche and knew of him as a political personality before I recognized him as a musician. Part of me never even wanted to listen to his music; I simply was not interested in anything he had to offer after watching him plead for money during Live Aid. He gave off this aura of pretentious bullshit and haughtiness that I wanted nothing to do with, and I honestly avoided him the same way I did Bono (I finally came to my senses on that one too, though I still think he's a fucktard - also, they're both Irish).
I don't remember what spurred me on to pick up The Best of The Boomtown Rats CD one summer during college, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with "I Don't Like Mondays." Hell, I probably picked it up after watching Bob's performance during Live 8 in 2005, which seems about right considering I remember experiencing this CD with Heather a few times and we met later that year. I knew very little about Geldof both musically and personally (other than my earlier disdain), but I loved the song I had heard at Live 8 and that was good enough for me to give his music a chance. My personal philosophy is to keep politics and personal enmity out of music. I am annoyed by Bono and I disagree politically with the Boss, Petty and Jackson Browne; but I have absolutely no problem throwing on The Joshua Tree, Nebraska, The Pretender or Wildflowers. I think it's important that we as both fans and people set aside personal politics and agendas and allow ourselves to enjoy art, no matter the medium. Anyway, mini rant aside, I picked up the CD and gave it a bit of a spin. I wasn't overly impressed at first; the music was punkish and not at all like "I Don't Like Mondays." I've never been a huge fan of punk and was initially somewhat turned off. I remember finding a few songs I could groove to during a patchwork listen and I would occasionally rock those over the next year or so.
After the CD had disappeared in my dad's car for a number of months, we were finally reunited sometime in late 2006 (probably...) and I decided to throw it in and give it another go. This time I was completely blown away by the band's early punk work and stuck around to see the evolution of the group over the six albums represented on the compilation. Over the next few years I would pick up the albums when I could find them, and eventually I turned my sights to Geldof's solo career. Geldof was the chief songwriter and unqestioned star of the group. I figured if I loved the Rats there's no reason I wouldn't love Geldof. After searching for quite a while I stumbled upon Geldof's anthology, which includes all four solo albums and bonus tracks. I don't know what I was expecting when I began to explore his solo work (probably a continuation of the Rats sound), but Geldof exceeded all of my expectations and I have come to enjoy his solo work as much or more than the Rats.
I won't bore you with any more personal recollection - at least not until we get into the songs themselves. This list will differ from the others because I really don't have a ton of information on the songs themselves, nor do I have many videos that I can reference, though I will when the resources are available. Hell, three of Bob's four solo albums don't even have Wikipedia pages, let alone any other inside information. And while I plan to get Bob's autobiography in the future, I don't have it at this point and thus cannot draw any song musings from its pages. My plan here is to let the music do the talking, and I am confident that the music will suffice in this case.
Quick note: Bob Geldof's solo music is very different from The Boomtown Rats, so expect a slightly disjointed list. A lot Geldof stuff is slower and moodier as opposed to the new wavy, punkish reggae of the Rats. This is me warning you of the many mellow songs on the list. Oh well.
|Geldof is the tool in the back with the sunglasses|
Mondo Bongo, The Boomtown Rats' fourth album, was released in 1981 and was quite a sonic departure for the boys from Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. While their third album was a creative and critical success, Mondo Bongo was less successful and alienated some of the band's long-time fans as well as one of the band members. The album was largely experimental and saw the group dabbling in reggae, re-imagined covers and national blasphemy. With all of that out of the way, it's also a fantastic album that shows a band in transition, and the rough patches would lead to triumph two albums later. Mondo Bongo features some of the Rats' most beautiful and scathing work of all time. It's not their greatest album, but what works here really works and what fails tends to fail hard.
"Go Man Go" is one of the best songs on this album. The unique drum intro seems very out of place on a Rats record, but moments later the keyboards kick in and ease your worries. It's keyboards like this that I have come to inherently define as "Boomtown" keyboards. It's just this sound that I can't seem to disassociate with the Rats in my head, and I think that's a great quality. Johnny Fingers, the band's keyboardist, just has this sound and style that's all his own (and includes striped pajamas). Despite that sound, the song is still very uncharacteristic for the Rats at this time, though it does feature a saxophone much like earlier Rats tunes. This is just an awesome tune and a great place to start this list. I especially like Geldof's Japanese impression...
49. "Deep in the Heart of Nowhere" - Bob Geldof, Deep in the Heart of Nowhere. Written by: Bob Geldof
Deep in the Heart of Nowhere was Bob Geldof's first solo album, released in 1986, the same year the Rats disbanded for good. The album definitely feels like an artist struggling to find his own identity and separate himself from the band he left behind. In that way, this album really reminds me of Peter Gabriel's first solo album (though the two sound nothing alike). The Boomtown Rats had been spiraling downward for years with Geldof at the helm. After guitarist Gerry Cott's departure in 1981, the band continued on as a five piece for two more albums until finally shutting down completely. During the waning years, Geldof found himself sinking further and further into depression as he watched his band crumbling around him. It was at this point that he saw a BBC documentary on famine in Ethiopia which would lead him to develop Band Aid and Live Aid. The Boomtown Rats finally disbanded after playing Self Aid, a concert for unemployment awareness in Ireland. Geldof recorded his first solo album on the heels of the break-up and it is a fine record. Spotty in places and at times unable to retreat out of the Boomtown shadow, the album contains a lot of great ideas with a few flaws in the execution. Having said that, this album is stronger than the last three Boomtown Rats albums (with the possible exception of In The Long Grass) and if one looks closely enough one will see the path Bob is cutting for his musical future.
"Deep in the Heart of Nowhere" is the final track on Bob's album of the same name. The song is a beautiful little acoustic ditty and is the bookend to "Truly, True Blue", an earlier song on the album. It's a very short song, but you can see already how different Bob's solo music will be from his output with the Rats. I'm a big fan of this song, and the title alone had me won over before I even listened to it. Here's the song for those who want to check it out:
48. "A Hold of Me" Boomtown Rats, In The Long Grass. Written by: Bob Geldof
1984's In The Long Grass would be the end of the Boomtown Rats. While the music world was largely indifferent to the Rats' departure, something important was lost after this album. The Rats set out to make the record that Mondo Bongo and V Deep were building towards and their hard work paid off in the form of a fantastic album. Overall, this is easily the Rats most complete album since The Fine Art Of Surfacing and for a moment it appeared the band was beginning a resurrection of sorts. This album has some of the band's finest songs (two made my top ten) and had a large impact on me musically. Unfortunately, the band had been falling apart for years and the singles just didn't make any headway on the charts. Though this album could not resuscitate the dying band's career, it is easily worth a listen, and I suspect many music fans would truly enjoy all that it has to offer.
"A Hold of Me" is a great song; it's catchy, upbeat, rhythmic and fun. This song is the culmination of earlier titles such as "Never In A Million Years" that seemed to lack something essential in their sonic DNA. Geldof's voice is heard clearly here as he promotes the idea of this selfless crusader, which he of course tried to emulate. While Geldof is nowhere near selfless, he is a powerful man with a pen in his hand and his lyrics here prove that.
47. "Life is the Hardest Thing" - Bob Geldof, B-side. Written by: Bob Geldof
A very simple and repetitive song, "Life Is The Hardest Thing" nevertheless finds a way to endear itself to listeners. The song is strangely comforting. It's like the musical version of that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams repeats to Matt Damon that "it's not [his] fault." At first listen you might think this is silly, but the more Geldof insists that life is hard and to live through it is human, the more the song breaks you down and builds you back up. That's a unique quality in a song.
46. "I Cry Too" Bob Geldof, Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere. Written by: Bob Geldof
This is an interesting song. The verse and music are somewhat par for the course, but the song really opens up with the bridge and chorus, leading somewhere I didn't see the song going at the beginning. The chorus is explosive, emotional, and sentimental. This is one of the songs on that first solo record that foreshadow Geldof's eclectic musical future. Though it holds onto that vague Rats feeling, it's so much more. It was material like this that led to his musical peak a few years later.
45. "Living in an Island" - Boomtown Rats, A Tonic For The Troops. Written by: Bob Geldof
A Tonic For The Troops, released in June 1978, was the Rats second album. After the mild success of their eponymous album, this was the album that thrust the boys from Dun Laoghaire into the spotlight. The album itself is very upbeat, somewhat punk, and the epitome of positivity with the Rats. While the music was danceable, the subject material was another matter entirely. Dealing with fascism (Nazis, particularly), euthanasia, and suicide, the songs were thematic nightmares. But that's what the Rats were good at - juxtaposing compelling, adult themes with brash, youthful music.
"Living In An Island" is the Rats' ode to suicide. The song is unabashedly upbeat and positive about finding ways to kill yourself. The song kicks off with Geldof's trademark quick vocals and has a surprisingly good middle eight section. Another signature Rats move comes in the form of sing-back vocals in the chorus, something the Rats did better than almost anybody. I know this song is extremely goofy, but it's catchy and the subject material is great.
44. "I Can Make It If You Can" Boomtown Rats, The Boomtown Rats. Written by: Bob Geldof
The Boomtown Rats (1977) is the Rats' first album and it's a hell of an announcement to the music world. With Geldof penning every tune, the Rats come out with guns blazing in a punk/new wave style that was not uncommon in Ireland in those days. Originally called the Nitelife Thugs, the Rats retain a lot of that image on this first album. The band sounds hungry, but at the same time there is a reserved menace holding back on this first album that is barely noticeable upon first listen but becomes more evident upon listening to its successors. If you look closely you'll find the attitude that led to "Rat Trap," the pop sensibility showcased in "Drag Me Down," and the sardonic wit of "Diamond Smiles" in these early songs. That's a very impressive feat for six punks from Dun Laoghaire.
"I Can Make It If You Can" is a really powerful song from that first album, perhaps the most emotional track it contains. The song is a tragic look at love by Geldof. Though the lyric assures us that Geldof can make it if his partner can, there's no doubt this relationship is falling apart and neither will make it. It speaks to the stubbornness of love and the reluctance of lovers to admit that what once was is no more. I can relate to that idea greatly, and I think most people can. We've all held onto something that no longer exists, and we often make that deal that as long as we both hang on we can make it work. That's not always the case, and while Geldof croons all the right words, the music here betrays the lyric and gives the feeling of impending doom.
43. "Up All Night" - Boomtown Rats, V Deep. Written by: Bob Geldof
After the release of Mondo Bongo, original guitar player Gerry Cott was fed up with the rest of the Rats. Cott was apparently disinterested in the bands growing studio laziness as well as their expanding musical tastes, including reggae. After much infighting, Cott left, which led to the band's first album as a five-piece, V Deep (pronounced "Vee Deep"). The title is a play on Eastern sexual methods, so have fun exploring that... Anyway, the album is my least favorite Rats album and it's definitely lacking something, most notably good songs. That's really all I have to say about V Deep.
"Up All Night" is by no means a musical masterpiece. I'll be the first to admit that by artistic standards and probably a lot of other standards, this song's position on this list is somewhat unwarranted. The lyrics are sparse and relatively meaningless, other than some cool piano work and a groovy bass line the music seems pretty uninspired, and the subject matter isn't particularly mind-blowing. With all of that said, I wanted to include this song because it's something that you don't find a lot of in the Rats' catalogue - a mindless pop song. While I tend to enjoy more sophisticated popular music as opposed to flash-in-the-pan pop, there's no denying a good pop song, even when the lyrics are bubblegummy and the production overshadows the talent. Sometimes a song just grooves you the right way, and that's how I feel about this particular track. A song like "Pale White Girls" might break my heart, and my heart needs crushed on a regular basis, but "Up All Night" makes me want to dance, and there's really no greater feeling in the world than that.
42. "A Sex Thing" - Bob Geldof, The Happy Club. Written by: Bob Geldof
1992's The Happy Club, Geldof's third solo album, was a continuation of the musical styling of its predecessor, The Vegetarians Of Love. Geldof put together a group of musicians, rented out a studio for a few weeks, and went in with some ideas and basic strong structures and encouraged spontaneity during the recordings. In fact, Geldof and the band (called the "Happy Clubsters") rarely did more than three takes of any particular track so as not to get bogged down by one song. This approach fits the songs and you can really hear this philosophy coming through on each track. The Happy Club is a great pop record by Geldof, who said at the time that while the album may sound "trite and banal...the truth is that pop music is what [he does], it's what [he does] best, and it's what [he gets] satisfaction from."
"A Sex Thing" is a moody piece, somewhat folksy in nature, about sex and love. Geldof certainly focuses on sex from time to time, and this song is one of his most blatant offenders. The rhythm is great here and I like the addition of the violin to this song as I think it adds a lot of atmosphere to the track. And while Geldof assures us in the song that it's "just a sex thing," he also notes that he can't help it if he "fall[s] in love." There's good old sentimental Bob popping his head up to remind us he's still there.
41. "The Happy Club" - Bob Geldof, The Happy Club. Written by: Bob Geldof, Karl Wallinger
"The Happy Club" is a great dance number from Bob's solo days. The vocal mimics the guitar and the message sent is one of cult-like optimism. There's not much to this song, but it's lightheartedness is admirable and something you rarely see from Geldof. Here's a great chance for all of you to dance and sing along!
40. "A Rose At Night" - Bob Geldof, The Vegetarians Of Love. Written by: Bob Geldof
In 1990, Bob Geldof released his greatest work as far as I am concerned (including Boomtown Rats). The Vegetarians Of Love, aside from being a ridiculously awesome album title, is one of those albums that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I remember listening to Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere and thinking that Geldof was onto something, but he wouldn't find that magical mix of Irish irreverence, militant musicianship, and lyrical lucidity until this album. The Vegetarians Of Love is an aural assault the likes of which I never expected from Sir Bob. The sound is inherently Irish, the lyrics are poignant, and the atmosphere is entirely encompassing. Every song evokes a plethora of emotions and by the end of the album the listener is mentally drained. I cannot say enough about this album, and I hope this encourages some of you to check it out.
"A Rose At Night" is a very elegant song from Geldof, though it still retains a touch of darkness. Geldof's talking vocals are present here as they are in many of his compositions, and they are just as effective as ever. The array of instruments on this album and this song is impressive and helps build a comfortable atmosphere for this tune. The song itself is a sad story draped in a pretty soundscape, which isn't anything new for Geldof. With that being said, I really like this song and the idea of a rose that blooms at night. There are some spectacular lyrics in this song:
"I went down to the pub and stocked up for the long night by myself
Well, that's one way out of this cold and lonely world
And yes, I'll be a rose that blooms tonight"
I like that lyric because I can relate to it, as simple as it is. I've spent a sad amount of my time the last few years stocking up for long nights by myself, and there's never been anything remotely rosy about it. Maybe Bob knows something that I don't, but I doubt it after listening to his last album, Sex Age & Death. More on that later.
39. "This Is The World Calling" - Bob Geldof, Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere. Written by: Bob Geldof, Raymond Doom
This song seems like it was written about the same time or at least in the same vein as "Do They Know It's Christmas?" By the way, you are all welcome for not including that song in my list. Geldof was in his crusader mode and I think for that reason this song suffers. I still think it's an excellent song, I just think Bob easily could have taken this song to another level entirely. "This Is The World Calling" is extremely soothing and contains some of the best backing vocals on any Geldof solo track (Annie Lennox from the Eurythmics sings backing vocals, among others). Lyrically the song is weak as there's just not a lot there. It's like a lullaby to the world, but it really could have been so much more. What's there is excellent - I love this lyric:
"I'm on a train now
I'm moving through the yellow fields of rape
There's so much beauty
I wish that I believed enough to pray"
Those are some strong words from Bob, especially that last line. That's a sentiment I think a lot of people can identify with but few can articulate, and that's what makes Bob's writing so special.
38. "Pale White Girls" - Bob Geldof, Sex, Age & Death. Written by: Bob Geldof
Sex, Age & Death, released in 2001, is the last Bob Geldof album to date. Hauntingly stark, this stripped-down album leaves only the bare bones of Bob's musical soul to be devoured by the shrinking masses. Gone is the feeling of spontaneity and enthusiasm of the last two albums, replaced instead with a sharp attention to detail and the glaring absence of anything remotely fun; the sound is different, mood is different, and the man is different. This album comes a few years after the tragic death of Michael Hutchence, the man his wife left him for. Hutchence was the lead singer of the group INXS and the dissolution of Geldof's marriage played out in the media for the world to see. Eventually Hutchence would die in a hotel room from auto-erotic asphyxiation (the coroner officially ruled Hutchence's death a suicide), while Yates would die three years later of an accidental heroin overdose. All of this happened between Geldof's third and fourth solo albums. Here are a few quotes about the album from Bob (the third and final quote is my favorite):
"I can only ever write about that which happens to me, or my response to situations, so this is the latest installment in my diary [talking about Sex, Age & Death]. I don't discuss these things, literally because I can't. I can't show you my soul. Some things are unsayable, but maybe you try to articulate the unspeakable in music. So I have made an unspeakable album."
"Musically it couldn't have sounded anything but exhausted and weary because that's the place I was in. I remember saying to Pete Briquette, the album's co-producer (and fellow Boomtown Rat), the whole thing sounds like someone on their own, late at night when strange sounds drift in and out of your head and semi-formed thoughts flicker through your mind. I wanted to get to that point between sub- and fore-consciousness."
"It's very sparse and stripped down, so it's probably not a Saturday night going out album. I'd say, stick it on at two in the morning and revel in my world of unrelenting misery."
"Pale White Girls" is a song that speaks to me in a number of ways. It's vulnerability is melancholic, and at its heart it reminds me so much of one of my favorite songwriters, Leonard Cohen. I love the line "my permission to bleed has been guaranteed / by the one whose approval I need." Here's the song for anyone who wants to check it out:
37. "10:15" - Bob Geldof, Sex, Age & Death. Written by: Bob Geldof
"10:15" is on of those songs that grips you from the moment it begins and doesn't let go until the very end. the song relies more on emotion than hooks, which is an area in which Geldof excels. I'm a sucker for a brooding, low-key tune, and this is one of the better ones I've ever heard. It reminds me of a more bleak "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)."
36. "The Roads of Germany (After B.D)" - Bob Geldof, The Happy Club. Written by: Bob Geldof
This is the first of two Geldof compositions on this list that deal with Hitler, this track being the more somber of the pair. This song is a nice little folksy trip through history (sort of...) for the first half of the track, but the second half takes a bit of a turn and really contains some of my favorite imagery in all of Geldof's lyrics. The song is surprisingly intense and the vivid lyrical depictions really take the song to another level. Also, I really enjoy the line "this is the place where history stopped to shit." Very nice, Bob!
35. "Sleep (Fingers' Lullaby)" - Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art Of Surfacing. Written by: Johnnie Fingers
The Fine Art of Surfacing is the greatest album the Boomtowners ever made. While the album contains some of the unrestrained energy and punkish influence of the first two records, the band branches out into more appreciable genres in this effort, particularly new wave. The album contains a number of Geldof's finest compositions, including four here in the top twenty and a few that could have made the list. The Fine Art Of Surfacing shows a band in its musical peak and continuing to expand its musical horizons. If you're going to purchase one Boomtown record, make it this one.
As noted earlier, the band's keyboard player is Johnnie Fingers. Fingers gets his chance to shine (and a title credit) on this track and he does a fine job. The lyrics here are nothing special - a tale of not being able to sleep - but it's the music that tells the real story. This is just a fun, rock lullaby with musical personality.
34. "When I Was Young" - Bob Geldof, Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere. Written by: Bob Geldof
While I mentioned earlier that a few of the songs on Geldof's debut album were missing something I couldn't define to push them to another level, "When I Was Young" is an example of a track that has that undefinable, intangible quality that makes a song extremely special. It makes sense that this song came about at this point in Geldof's career as he had just written his autobiography. This track focuses primarily on the thoughts of young Geldof, thoughts which are very relatable and even bring me back to my childhood and the grandiose dreams I had. It's hard to fathom such things nowadays after having reality strip away one's soul, but it's important to remember that the ability to dream and challenge life's inevitability is something that is inside all of us. All we need to do is, "in one mad moment...make [the world] stand in awe."
33. "The Elephant's Graveyard" - Boomtown Rats, Mondo Bongo. Written by: Bob Geldof
For those unaware of the term, "Elephant's Graveyard" is a metaphor for a resting place of some sort of collective based on the idea that elephants, when dying, would wander off and die on their own away from the
herd. Geldof uses the term in this song about Miami riots to describe pensioners, or retired folk.While the lyrics are goofy, the song is very funky and contains some great drums and superb keyboards. This is some of Johnnie Fingers' best work with the Rats. Also, this song has one of the great Rats choruses with the "guilty 'til proven guilty" line. This is really an overlooked masterpiece from an album of questionable quality.
32. "Attitude Chicken" - Bob Geldof, The Happy Club. Written by: Bob Geldof
This song is both ridiculous and amazing. A scathing-but-fun romp full of attitude with a breathless vocal, "Attitude Chicken" pokes fun at the lifestyle of the upper class. Geldof's lyrics are always interesting, but this track takes the lyrical cake. The story of Rene, the waiter mentioned in the first verse, is pretty strange and sets the tone for the song, but it's when Bob starts in on the narrator's girlfriend that things really pick up. this song contains some of my favorite Geldof lines, including "she wears designer jewels and she's got designer clothes, which go with her designer mouth, eyes, ass, tits and nose;" and I love the Simon and Garfunkel reference at the end.
The song is musically intense and complements the impressive vocal performance. Everything clicks at the right time and makes this one of Bob's most entertaining songs.
31. "A Gospel Song" - Bob Geldof, The Vegetarians Of Love. Written by: Bob Geldof
"A Gospel Song" is, in my opinion, the most important song of Bob Geldof's career. Most critics/musicians/listeners, Bob included, would probably scoff at that statement, and with good reason. After all, Bob has accomplished so much as a musician both with the Rats and in his solo career. what sets this song apart from the hits and ever-important Live Aid era is its timing and tone. As the opening track on Geldof's sophomore solo effort, "A Gospel Song" set the tone for two albums and a new musical direction for Bob. The grandeur and pomposity that defined Geldof's first album (and even late Rats tunes) was shelved in favor of a more spontaneous musical approach that livened and enriched The Vegetarians of Love and breathed new life into the man's career. Bob sounds like he is legitimately having fun for the first time in a long time, and the feelling permeates both this album and The Happy Club. The spontaneity and looseness of the recording sessions is no more apparent than it is on this track. Also, who doesn't love accordions?
30. "$6,000,000 Loser" - Bob Geldof, Sex, Age & Death. Written by: Bob Geldof
This song is a great example of the stark contrast between Geldof's first three solo efforts and his fourth album. An exercise in eccentricity, "$6,000,000 Loser" is one of the stranger songs in Bob's long career. With a repeating string of lyrics and an entrancing vocal chant, this track builds into an eclectic powerhouse worty of its position amongst Bob's greatest work.
29. "Pulled Apart By Horses" - Bob Geldof, Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere. Written by: Bob Geldof
This track is one of my favorite Geldof songs, but it falls short of reaching its true potential. Like many of Geldof's songs from Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere, the song is built on a solid, atmospheric foundation. Unfortunately, also like most of those songs on the aforementioned album, this track feels under-developed and it sort of feels like we are left with a great "partial song." It just feels somewhat incomplete to me, which is a damn shame because what is there makes for a fantastic groove. Geldof's passion shines through in his vocal and the chorus is mesmerizing. There just seems to be something missing.
28. "This Heartless Heart" - Bob Geldof, Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere. Written by: Bob Geldof
Another song from Geldof's first album, "Heartless Heart" is one of those songs a listener can truly feel, a quality present in a number of the album's cuts. Bob makes excellent use of female backing vocalists here, which is really the key to unlocking my musical heart. The vocal melody is strongest element of the song and rides a sometimes funky groove straight to a listener's head where it will inevitable stay for hours.
27. "House At the Top of the World" - Bob Geldof, The Happy Club. Written by: Bob Geldof
This is one of two songs on this list that feature talking vocals as opposed to singing. For the most part, I'm not a huge fan of this approach in general, but if used correctly the effect can be quite powerful. While the technique has been successfully applied in rock and roll (Petty's "Here Comes My Girl" and Velvet Underground's "The Gift" come to mind), Geldof takes a different approach with his spoken-word pieces, maintaining his own unique style.
This song hearkens back to Bob's younger days in Ireland and is very reminiscent of the earlier "No Small Wonder." The music is oddly soothing and really gives the listener a sense of security and place us in the setting. It's easy to get lost in the music and indulge in the vividness of the song's ethereal atmosphere.
The lyrics weave a tale of young Bob braving the dangers of his youth's Ireland in the spirit of love. The imagery accompanying the journey is great, but it's the depiction of the time spent with a young lady that truly stands out. Bob's poignant words endear us to him as he softly speaks his way into listeners' hearts and minds. I love this song, and I hope you all enjoy it :)
26. "Me and Howard Hughes" - Boomtown Rats, A Tonic For The Troops. Written by: Bob Geldof
"Me and Howard Hughes" is a straightforward pop song from Bob and the Rats based on the legendary Mr. Hughes. For those unaware of the Hughes legend, the man was a highly successful film director and producer who expanded his empire into many industries, most notably aviation. In fact, the Scorcese film The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is based on that era of Hughes' life. Long story short, Hughes retreated from the public eye and began purchasing hotels, which he then rented out to himself and his posse Perhaps the most famous recluse in history, Hughes was also the subject of a hoax in the early 70s when author Clifford irving claimed he was writing an authorized autobiography of the infamous hermit. Hughes finally came forward in a telephone interview broadcast on network television to dismiss the story as false, but the whole ordeal made waves across the nation and was eventually turned into a kind of shitty movie starring Richard Gere.
On to the actual song, "Me and Howard Hughes" is another prime example of Geldof's ability to craft a catchy, hand-clapping, sing-a-long pop tune. While it's not his greatest musical achievement, the song is too damn catch to be ignored and the subject matter is interesting.
25. "Harvest Moon" - Bob Geldof, B-Side. Written by: Bob Geldof
This is possibly the latest Geldof composition on this list, but it is one of the best. As I write this, this song is sitting at #43. It started lower, and I will not be surprised to see it end up in the top twenty when all is said is done (this list is going to require a ridiculous amount of shifting from its current state). Every time I hear this song I fall in love with it a little bit more. It starts with a riveting guitar melody and quietly transforms into a country western love song. I don't know whether this song lifts me up or tears me down, and that makes it really hard for me to place this song in its rightful position amongst Geldof's masterpieces. The song is so simple yet so effective. I love the line that opens each verse: "You've got the love and, baby, I've got the heart that needs it." That's such a strong lyric and it hits me every time. The only thing that truly holds this song back for me is the chorus. I like it, but I don't love it.
I think my fascination with this song speaks to my love for all things "Harvest Moon." I am a huge fan of the video game series, love the Neil Young album, and actually enjoy the beauty of an actual harvest moon. I even enjoy the Blue Moon fall seasonal beer.
24. "Inside Your Head" - Bob Geldof, Sex, Age & Death. Written by: Bob Geldof
As mentioned earlier, the time between Bob's third and fourth solo albums was marred by personal tragedy. This song addresses the aforementioned death of former INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence. In a somewhat vicious lyrical attack, Geldof wonders "what the fuck" Hutchence was thinking when he committed suicide in an Australian hotel room in '97. Listeners get a glimpse of the lingering animosity in lines such as these:
"You got a life, you left me for dead
What the fuck`s going on
Inside your head
So why put a noose around your neck
What the fuck`s going on
Inside your head"
Knowing the story behind the song adds to the listening experience, but it's also somewhat disturbing.
23. "Sweat for You" - Bob Geldof, B-Side. Written by: Bob Geldof
I know absolutely nothing about this song. It isn't on any album nor is it included in the box set, so your guess is as good as mine as to its origins and recording date/period (though I suspect around Sex, Age & Death). All I know is that I love this song. "Sweat For You" once again brings out sentimental Bob and shows just how good he is at simple love songs - even if they aren't your typical love songs. I really love the two lines about losing religion ("I kept the faith / But I lost the religion" and "I kept the guilt / But I lost the religion") because I somewhat agree with the point he is trying to make. This song knocked me flat on my ass the first time I heard it, and it still has a large effect on me.
22. "Mary of the 4th Form" - Boomtown Rats, The Boomtown Rats. Written by: Bob Geldof
This is the Boomtown rats that exploded onto the scene in the late 70s - a rocking, in-your-face group firing on all cylinders. the raw talent and energy displayed here is something the Rats would move away from over the years and Geldof would never embrace in his solo work. Even then, hidden under the punk attitude, Geldof's gift for pop music was obvious. This is a great track for those who are interested in the early, less polished days of the Boomtowners.
21. "Like Clockwork" - Boomtown Rats, A Tonic For The Troops. Written by: Bob Geldof, Pete Briquette, Simon Crowe
Here's a good example of the Rats' eccentricity. The music here is creepy, the vocal is shaky but strong, and the atmosphere is eerie. These elements combine to create a uniquely rocking groove that sets the song apart from other songs in the Geldof songbook. It's really a cool song.
20. "(I Never Loved) Eva Braun" - Boomtown Rats, A Tonic For The Troops. Written by: Bob Geldof
The second song on this list concerning Nazi Germany is actually told through the Fuhrer's eyes. Geldof's tells the story of Hitler's political triumphs from a skewed perspective, assuring us that Eva's role in his life has been significantly trumped up. This is a great pop song with a militaristic breakdown near the end that suits the song and subject matter perfectly.
I've always been fascinated with Hitler politically, but it's interesting to hear Geldof muse on his personal relationship with Eva. I really can't imagine anyone else tackling this subject, and certainly not in such a catchy way. Perhaps that's why this song has always stuck out to me as a classic Rats song.
19. "Someone's Lookin' At You"- Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art Of Surfacing. Written by: Bob Geldof
This is a fun rocker and a great opener to the Rats' finest album. The keyboards are spot on and Geldof's vocal, one of my favorites in the Rats catalogue, is very strong. The verse is rather mellow with some interspersed keyboard work from Fingers, but Geldof and the boys kick it into another gear for the chorus. This song immediately shows the growth from A Tonic For The Troops to The Fine Art Of Surfacing. The sound is much more refined and restrained, and the band has learned how to unleash their fury in a more controlled way. The winds of change were blowing for the Rats, and while they would never recapture that uncontrollable rock sound, the results were some of the bands greatest songs, starting with "Someone's Lookin' At You."
18. "She's So Modern" - Boomtown Rats, A Tonic For The Troops. Written by: Bob Geldof, Johnnie Fingers
"She's So Modern" has the dubious distinction of being the first song on the Rats compilation I bought, so when I first began exploring the Rats' music this was the first thing that came out of my malibu's speakers, kicking me directly in the eardrums. For the first stretch of my Rats fandom, before I fully gave in and embraced their greatness, this was on of the few songs I would always rock. The song is somewhat aurally offensive, or so I thought at the time, and is a showcase of the early Rats sound. As rocking as the song is, it's a fine achievement in pop with some clever lyrics. If listeners were weary of the Rats' ability to persevere through the punk phase of the late 70s, this album and this song put their worries to bed, as anyone listening here can see there is much more to this band.
The guitars and drums on this track are strong and Geldof's vocal is impressive, but my favorite part is the great background vocals. The Rats always excel in this area, and it started with early titles such as this. This song also sports the titular lyric for the album and is one of the earliest mention from Geldof of Nazis. What a strange fascination this man has with tyranny!
17. "Lookin' After Number One" - Boomtown Rats, The Boomtown Rats. Written by: Bob Geldof
Besides "Joey's On The Street Again," this track is probably the signature Boomtown Rocker. Closing most shows, "Lookin' After Number One" is an ass-kicking rocker with a fair bit of pop sensibility splashed in to create an iconic track. The song is basically as the title depicts, a selfish rant over a rocking guitar and some of the band's hardest hitting drums. The lyrics, though they may seem facetious, may be some of the most honest of Sir Bob's career. The man has been characterized as a dick-and-a-half, mostly because he seems to encompass ideas such as those expressed in this song. Bob's an asshole, which may be why I like him so much, and he's lived these lyrics to a tee in his life:
"If I want something I get it
Don't matter what if I have to do
I'll step on your face, on my mother's grave
Never underestimate me, I'm nobody's fool"
16. "Love Like a Rocket" - Bob Geldof, Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere. Written by: Bob Geldof, Raymond Doom
The first thing I need to point out here is that Raymond Doom is actually a false name. The man who co-wrote and produced this song and album is none other than Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics. Dave will most likely be remembered as the guy who used to stand next to Annie Lennox, but hopefully he'll be known for his role as the co-writer of "Don't Come Around Here No More" by Petty (he also played the caterpillar dude in the video). Geldof's first solo adventure may be nothing more than a sidenote in Stewart's career, but I feel it's a noteworthy one. Also of interest - Clapton plays guitar here.
"Love Like A Rocket" is a rarity in that it is actually a rock-and-roll update on a classic Kinks song, "Waterloo Sunset." The kinks song tells a story of Terry and Julie, a couple who meet at Waterloo Station every Friday night. Ray Davies notes that as long as Terry and Julie gaze on Waterloo sunsets, they are in paradise:
Geldof stands this notion on its head in an extremely catchy number entitled "Love Like A Rocket." Gone are the lovey-dovey days and in their place a tired, heart-wrenching reminder of broken dreams. Listeners get a glimpse of the aftermath of a love song and find out that it's not always rainbows and butterflies; instead, Terry and Julie face a tearful realization that whatever they once had is gone. Julie spends her days weeping and trying to hide her despair from her children while the two of them are forced to deal with the fact the the "Waterloo sunset" doesn't work for them anymore. It's devastating, and led me to think about the conclusion to some of rock's other great love songs with a depressing slant.
15. "Joey's On the Street Again" - Boomtown Rats, The Boomtown Rats. Written by: Bob Geldof
This song is an interesting one for a few reasons. First, this song helps explain the band's initial name, "The Nitelife Thugs." This song is about as "Nitelife" as the Rats get, and I cannot express how happy I am that they changed their name to The Boomtown Rats, a gang Geldof read about in Woody Guthrie's autobiography. Secondly, this song is one of two "Springsteen-esque" tracks the Rats put out in the late 70s, and perhaps that part of the reason I love it. Much like Springsteen, Geldof uses rocking guitars, sharp keyboards and a sexy saxophone to paint a sonic portrait of "Joey," a local street legend. This song reminds me a lot of Jungleland for some reason, and I think anyone who listens to both can see the similarity. The screaming saxophone outro is pretty great on this track. Here's an example of the young Rats live:
14. "Fall Down" - Boomtown Rats, Mondo Bongo. Written by: bob Geldof, Pete Briquette
"Fall Down" has the distinction of being the only song on this list not sung by Bob Geldof. Though Geldof penned the beautiful tune, drummer Simon dusts off his pipes and croon's a beautifully emotional vocal. This is probably the most moving and simply pretty song of Bob's career. Bob often strips down his music to the bare essentials, and here Bob relies solely on the fingers of, well, Johnnie Fingers, and Crowe's child-like voice to create a uniquely vulnerable love song, somewhat of a prelude to Bob's solo years.
This song has often been criminally underrated as far as Boomtown songs go; the song was actually left off the US edition of Mondo Bongo, a veritable tragedy. The version included here is not the full version from the original UK version of the album. This is the Best Of... version, which is about 30 seconds shorter and apparently has a clarinet solo. I have so far been unsuccessful in tracking down a copy of this version, but a UK version of the album is on its way from England as we speak, so I'll try to update this once I get it.
Anyway, this is a great song and one that steals my heart every time I hear it. One of my favorite Geldof lines comes from this song - "not only cripples have a need for crutches." I know exactly what you mean, Bob.
13. "Love or Something" - Bob Geldof, The Vegetarians Of Love. Written by: Bob Geldof
"Love or Something" is an extremely catchy, danceable tune with a trademark Geldof vocal that's hard to not fall in love with. All of Geldof's special touches are here - fast, breathless vocals; clever lyrics; talk-back backing vocals; and a smooth groove. This song has been a particularly inspirational one for me, as every time I hit the dance floor I attempt to do such classic moves as the Family Stone frug, the twist and dip and the flip-flop slide. Unfortunately, I fail more often than not...
12. "The Great Song of Indifference" - Bob Geldof, The Vegetarians Of Love. Written by: Bob Geldof
"The Great Song of Indifference" is an interesting song. We all know Geldof cares; hell, I knew Geldof first as a political activist rather than a musician. Anyone who has seen the man pleading for money to aid in increasing African welfare can tell that the man is anything but indifferent. In fact, Geldof might the most arrogant, opinionated son-of-a-bitch I've ever seen. One might believe that a song about indifference from Geldof would be a tripe piece of bullshit, but it's actually one of his most poignant songs. This song points to something I touched on earlier - Bob's change in musical mindset from his first solo album to is second. Whereas Bob had thrust himself and his music into the political arena with Band-Aid, Live-Aid and Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere, this song signaled a change in direction, at least musically, for the former Rats frontman. While the song doesn't begin to define the man, it helped to redefine his music, and that's what makes it so special.
11. "When the Night Comes" - Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art Of Surfacing. Written by: Bob Geldof
"When the Night Comes" is a criminally catchy pop song from Geldof with a few words of wisdom in the chorus: "when the night comes, forget about the day that brought you here." I often repeat these words to myself on particularly bad days and it seems to help ease the worldly burden I occasionally feel. The song tells the story of Frank, a nine-to-fiver stuck in an endless cycle of work and alcohol. Again, Geldof teams a bleak outlook with unnaturally bright music, and the combination is dynamite. This track has probably the best bass line out of all of Geldof's compositions, most notable in the breakdown in the middle eighth section, which really is the high point of the entire song.
10. "No Small Wonder" - Bob Geldof, The Vegetarians Of Love. Written by: Bob Geldof
Rounding out the top ten is perhaps my favorite Geldof song, though I doubt many would ever agree with or understand me on this selection. The song is a spoken-word piece set to peaceful music. I'll try to explain why I love the song and why it's had such a huge impact on me.
The first verse strikes a particular chord with me because I have been to the Battersea area in London. While I never went to the park, I walked around the river and up to the gates of the Battersea Power Station, featured on the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals. The area is beautiful and I really enjoyed the time I spent wandering around there. I would have liked to have seen the Peace Pagoda in the park, so I'll have to do that the next time I get out to the UK. For those interested in Battersea, check this out. Also, I love the lyrics here, particularly the line "you can have a personal religious experience and get healthy at the same time." I know the feeling Bob's talking about all too well.
The second verse also strikes a personal chord, but I'll leave that one alone. It's more a general feeling than any specific encounter. Geldof just seems so subdued here, which is such a different vibe from most of his other work. It makes this song special, much like "The House at the Top of the World," which appeared earlier on the list.
09. "Banana Republic" - Boomtown Rats, Mondo Bongo. Written by: Bob Geldof, Pete Briquette
After being banned from playing in Ireland (perhaps just Dublin) due to national criticism, Bob and Pete wrote a hateful lyric set to a combination of ska and reggae music condemning their homeland. Calling it a "septic isle," the boys lambasted both law and religion, even taking shots at the IRA. Though the boys were eventually welcomed back to Ireland, their words will echo for generations: "glad to see the place again; it's a pity nothing's changed."
08. "Thinking Voyager 2 Type Things" - Bob Geldof, The Vegetarians Of Love. Written by: Bob Geldof, Pete Briquette
For those unfamiliar with the Voyager 2 spacecraft, do your research here. This song is a slow-moving classic with some fantastic lyrics. Geldof captures the essence of the Voyager 2 space probe, and touches on humanity and mortality as well, tying the Voyager 2's journey into mankind's. What makes this song great is its music; Geldof rants and preaches over a spacial, atmospheric, even celestial instrumental track. If you like this song, I would recommend you go to my youtube channel and listen to "The Soft Soil," which is crafted very much in the same vein. As mentioned earlier, the lyrics here are amazing; here's a sample:
"Never bring me down to earth again
Let me blaze a trail of glory across the sky
Let me traipse across it's golden high
Let me marvel wonder and unfettered gaze
At the bigness and implausibility of being"
You can check out this track here:
07. "Room 19 (Sha-la-la-lee)" - Bob Geldof, The Happy Club. Written by: Bob Geldof
Here we have another great pop song written by Geldof about a morbidly interesting subject: brain research in the former Soviet Union. The song places Geldof in the Moscow Brain Research Institute. The story goes something like this: beginning with the brain of Lenin, Oskar Vogt launched the Moscow Brain Research Institute in the mid-to-late 1920s. The goal was to study the brains of high-ranking party members and famous artists/politicians/musicians/scientists in order to find out what made them so special. The institute was closed after only a few months, perhaps due to Stalin's consolidation of power, but the pantheon of brains continued to be studied and added to over the years in secret. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, bits of video were released showing the infamous Room 19 of the brain institute, where the most elite brains are stored. It's one of the more interesting things I've ever heard of in my life, and I can't imagine anyone but Geldof turning it into a song, let alone an upbeat pop song.
Notable characters named in the song are Lenin, Stalin, Sakharov, Tchaikovsky, and Pasternak. Combining history and pop music (two things I absolutely love), this song is definitely a winner.
06. "Drag Me Down" - Boomtown Rats, In The Long Grass. Written by: Bob Geldof
"Drag Me Down," the second single from the Rats' swansong, is probably the bands strongest pop offering. The dueling vocals between Geldof and Crowe are mind-blowing, the keys are on fire, and it features a hook that's been said "could have raised the Titanic." Add in some great guitar work from Garry Roberts and some cool horns to complete one of the greatest pop songs I've ever heard. Bob and the boys performed the song at Live Aid and it kicked all kinds of ass:
05. "A Hole To Fill" - Bob Geldof, The Happy Club. Written by: Bob Geldof
Another great sing-a-long opportunity, "A Hole To Fill" is a really neat song with one of my favorite lyrics. The US version sucks, so let's throw that out with other US versions of Geldof songs, most notably "Rain" (the bullshit US version of "Dave"). You all will of course be getting the wonderful UK version with a much superior first verse. This song is also the victim of one of the most ridiculously awesome musical analyses of all-time:
"Next -'Hole to Fill'- Not 100% what this songs about, I assume it's about being gay, nevertheless another fantastic song, and very sing along. "
While whomever wrote that is obviously a dimwit, he's write when says it's 'very sing along.' "A Hole To Fill" is pretty much a simple song structured around an elementary chord sequence that nevertheless evokes emotion from listeners. You need to just go listen to this song and enjoy the great second verse:
"I left the pub last night
And I was just in time
To see them break my windows
And slash my tyres
I'm a liberal I thought
As I felt my anger rise
I was desperately searching
For my feminine side
But my feminine side
Was on her morning coffee break
I beat the shit out of one
And then I felt great
'Hey Bob,' he said, 'don't get annoyed
We all find different ways
To fill up the void.'"
04. "Dave" - Boomtown Rats, In The Long Grass. Written by: Bob Geldof
Here's another song that got the US treatment and it's fucking terrible. I'm going to rant a bit here, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph. "Dave" was retitled and re-written as "Rain" for release in the US due to concerns from the record company that the song might be considered 'too gay.' The song is not about homosexuality, and that should be blatantly obvious to anyone who listens to it. Fuck, record companies are retarded. Also, "Rain" blows compared to "Dave," and I submit the following videos as proof:
"Dave" is an emotionally raw powerhouse of a ballad written for the now-late David McHale, the band's saxophone player and long-time friend. McHale's girlfriend had been found dead in a public bathroom after a heroin overdose. Understandably, Dave went through somewhat of a breakdown and the band's concern seeped over into their music. This song has always helped me out when I'm feeling down, and it's brought me to tears a time or two.
Sometimes I think about how artists feel about their songs. In this case, I am fairly certain Bob likes this song. In a concert in 1985 in Glastonbury, a member of the crowd shouted out, "Looking After Number One!" In response, Bob coolly commented, "It's not 'Looking After Number One,' but it's something equally brilliant. It's a song called 'Dave.'" Amen to that, Bob.
03. "Rat Trap" - Boomtown Rats, A Tonic For The Troops. Written by: Bob Geldof
"Rat Trap" sounds like it belongs on Born To Run rather than A Tonic For The Troops. This song holds the prestigious honor of being the first-ever Irish song to make it to number one on the UK charts as well as the first ever new wave song to go number one, dethroning "Summer Nights" from Grease. In celebration, Geldof appeared on Top of the Pops, held up a picture of Travolta and Newton-John, then ripped it to shreds. Back to the Springsteen comparison, it's easy to see why the sound was compared to the Boss. This song was "Joey" on speed - more menacing, more feeling, and more saxophone. While the sound isn't as blatantly Boss as, say, John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band's "On the Dark Side," it's still pretty damn Springsteen-y. In fact, at a show in New York in 1979, Geldof announced to the crowd that "Rat Trap" was the only Rats song on American Radio because it sounded like Springsteen. "But I want you to know," Bob added, "Bruce Springsteen couldn't write a song half as good as this if he tried." A nice joke from Bob, but this really is a classic song.
02. "Diamond Smiles" - Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art of Surfacing. Written by: Bob Geldof
"Diamond Smiles" is a hauntingly brilliant song about a debutante who commits suicide. The song gained a new level of meaning after the heroin overdose Paula Yates suffered, but it's always been a satirical ballad strengthened by quirky keyboards pounding drums. Diamond's story is sad, but the music propels it forward as we watch the dame's demise. In an eerie sense of art preceding life, Diamond hangs herself with her belt, much like Michael Hutchence would eighteen years later. Here's Bob's description of the act:
"She went up the stairs
Stood up on the vanity chair
Tied her lamee belt around the chandelier
And went out kicking at the perfumed air"
Such a vivid and disturbing image - something Geldof has always done well. Here's a video from 1980 of Bob and the guys performing this song live with an intro straight out of this lists #50 song, "Go Man Go:"
01. "I Don't Like Mondays" - Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art Of Surfacing. Written by: Bob Geldof
In a rare moment of serendipity, the first Boomtown Rats song I ever heard happened to be the greatest song they ever released. The story behind "I Don't Like Mondays" is an interesting one, chronicling the shooting spree of 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer in San Diego in 1979. In January of that year, from the cover of her home, Spencer grabbed a rifle and opened fire on children at the Grover Cleveland Elementary School across the street. Eight students and one police officer were injured in the shooting. Two men were killed, including the principal. When asked why she opened fire, Spencer said, "I just did it for the fun of it. I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." Spencer was tried as an adult and sentenced to prison for 25 years to life. She has become eligible for parole and as been denied four times; she will be eligible again in 2019.
Geldof happened to be in America at the time and read the news as it came through the telex machine. The song was released a mere six months after the incident and, though it reached number one on the UK charts, it failed to make waves on the US charts, partially due to the controversy.
The song seems to portray the feelings of people after that day, and it's certainly a song that carries a lot of weight. There's a heaviness that comes with it, though it's more of an emotional weight than a musical one. The keyboards are beautiful, the hand claps are spot on, and Geldof's vocal is beyond passionate. This is the greatest song of Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, and it's just as moving today as it was in 1979: