The great man once said in an interview not long before he died:-

“I get a lot of credit for the 42 bands I put on television for the first time – but, to my real credit, only I know the 533 bands I didn’t put on television. I was right about every single one of them, including The Boomtown Rats.”

It is true to say that The Boomtown Rats were a band who struck lucky when punk/new wave came to the fore for they found some fame and the fortune on the back of the movement despite not really ever being accepted by the cognoscenti as being a part of such scenes. Some of their early singles did however, have a new wave feel thanks to them being raw, fast and a bit shouty. But then again how could it really be new wave if there was a big reliance on a saxophone?

The tail end of 78 and early 79 was when the band went really big thanks to consecutive #1 singles with Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays, both of which (particularly the latter) you will still hear on many retro radio stations the world over. I’ll admit to quite liking the band and they were one of the first acts I saw when I started going to gigs in 1979, although in this case it was as much to do with going along to the Glasgow Apollo as a favour to a mate.

It was however, one of the more memorable of my early concert-going experiences  in as far that 35 years on much  I can recall more detail from it than most – mainly because the Boomtown Rats had the idea that a gig should be more than just taking to the stage and playing the songs….there was a decent set built to accommodate the band, the stage was well-lit and the sound, surprisingly for a new wave band, was exceptionally good.

You can look up wiki if you want to know more in terms of the discography, the break-up and the 21st century comeback of sorts with a knight of the realm now on lead vocals. I’ll just leave you with two of the early rawer singles that I pogoed to in the crowd when I was just 16 years old:-

mp3 : The Boomtown Rats – Lookin After No.1
mp3 : The Boomtown Rats – She’s So Modern



  1. Only ever liked two songs. My brother thought they were great but then again he also liked Chris de Burgh and had a Boysown record as his first dance so his taste shit anyway.

  2. Some of the Rats early stuff still sounds great, especially Mary of the Fourth Form.

    Re. Your comments about the saxaphone, what about X-Ray Spex? I always thought it was the sax that made them so unique and why they still sound so good today.

  3. Fair point Rooney Tunes…..but I never really got X Ray Spex at the time. Funny thing though, it was late 79/early 80s that I really picked up on Magazine who of course heavily relied on a sax. The fickleness of the (germ free) adolescent….

  4. The Boomtown Rats were definitely New Wave pedigree with Johnny Finger’s keyboards being really accomplished. I love how their first album was so-so pub rock but the second was as New Wave as “This Year’s Model,” if you count a redux of 60’s beat pop [heavy on the screaming organ] re-modelled with late 70s technology, as New Wave… and I do. They plateaued commercially with “The Fine Arto Of Surfacing,” but the story started to get really interesting for me when they moved on to proto Post-Punk influences afterward.

    The three albums that came afterward may have stalled their rising commercial star, but I love the disparate influences that came home to bear. Was not such eclecticism a hallmark of New Wave? The Bowie influence that erupted with “Mondo Bongo” [where they got Visconti to produce] was amazing. “This Is My Room” was an incredible “Low” pastiche that I often mis-remember as an actual track from that album! The reggae and ska influences were also of their time and wholly part of the New Wave scene. They might have gotten lucky with timing [ala The Stranglers] but they delivered the goods, as far as I was concerned. In 1978, they were seriously New Wave for American radio airwaves, though I remembered the previous year’s “Rat Trap,” which was almost Springsteen done right, if there can be such a thing.

  5. Wow!! I’d forgotten all about this post…and a cracking bit of commentary.

    I have a copy of Mondo Bongo but I haven’t listened to it in years. Must dig it out. And as foe the Springsteen comparisons on Rat Trap….I’d never ever thought of that way before but you’re so on the money. I think there’s a post going to develop from this. Thanks PPM.

  6. JC – I need to leave my Record Cell more often! That was fun. I think the liner notes to one of their CD remasters actually referred to the Springsteen fallout after the band made allusions to “Springsteen done right” or some such at a US record/radio/industry event that was not a wise move. You don’t call attention to the Pontiff’s lack of trousers while visiting the Basilica. Geldof puts the band’s stalled US momentum down to that gaffe. I remember hearing “Rat Trap” on “FM Rock” radio when the debut album was released in America, or it might have been in 1978, since by then the band had signed with Columbia records, who salted “Tonic For The Troops” with two cuts [“Rat Trap” and “Mary Of The Fourth Form” 7″ version] from their Mercury Records debut.

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