Friday, November 23, 2007

Not Cool

Friday night and I'm 13 years of age - rushing my tea down (Mum's fish and chips), begging the old man for a lift: off to 2-3 Club and the school disco... and this.

I thought it thrillingly original when I first heard it - the tense little guitar and piano intro, the big-riff saxophone rush to the West Side Story finger snaps and groovy bass line, the lyrics about a world we actually lived in ('little Judy's trying to watch Top Of The Pops') the dramatic shifts in tempo and melody - and it used to go down a storm in the lights-out school hall as the Class Outsider flailed his scrawny limbs and twisted his four-foot-nothing frame into weird shapes to narrate the whole thing from the centre of the dance floor like the manic lead of some avant garde ballet troupe.

We loved it. It was an epic. It was our epic - big and dramatic and clever but (cake-and-eat it!) apparently New Wave too! Johnny Fingers wore pyjamas in the street! WILD!


Then we heard early Springsteen and Thin Lizzy and we started to realise that Geldof was really not much more than the sum of his influences. And seriously pre-punk (oh! the shame of it!).

And within a year or so, he was definitely uncool and Rats singles were commonly to be found in the 'reduced to 30p' box in Woolies...

Ah, the fickle fingers of fate 'n' youth.

The Boomtown Rats - 'Rat Trap' (1978)


  1. At least Rat Trap sounded epic. My first flirtation with them (oh the shame) was 'She's So Modern'. I thought it was a punk record when it came out for chrissakes!!!

  2. Ripping up a photo of OLIVIA AND JOHN on TOTP! I was conflicted as I LOVED this record, but Summer Lovin' was the first single I ever bought (75p - WH Smiths, Guildford)

  3. Do you remember when Boots sold LPs? Seems bizarre now doesn't? Like Celia Johnson borrowing a book there in 'Brief Encounter'...

  4. Still think it's brilliant though.

    Small world, I posted a Rats tune today as well.

  5. Here’s one of those stories you like: My wife went to see them when she was at school and a small group of them hung around after and got to meet the band. The drummer looked at a badge she was wearing and said something like “I like your badge, want to swap” and gave her a silver rat badge in exchange.

  6. And d'you remember copying Guy Buckland's dance floor moves? He thought we were taking the piss and stormed off. I didn't even know what taking the piss meant...



  7. I remember getting a copy of Smash Hits to learn the lyrics because I thought 'mumbles in coffee' was really 'rumbled in his cock' and wanted to check. shameful really.

  8. What would 'rumbled in his cock' involve for a person I wonder?

  9. Couldn't agree more.
    Perfect timing too I believe, as it was this time of year 29 years ago that they were the biggest band in Britain - albeit for 15 minutes.

    This song meant the world to me - in a damp dark Autumn in a damp dark country - and it's impact as the clocks went back on Grease was simply enormous.

    I would love to find out how it sounds to a youngster today? Perhaps someone with a teenage son or daughter could let us know?

  10. Astonishingly I think DVD is right. They probably were the biggest band for a while. Of course, they blew it with their total lack of creativity and talent. After Rat Trap you had the even more epic ‘Mondays’, then ‘Diamond Smiles’ with Geldoff’s crap Bowie mannerisms, the dodgy ‘Someone’s Looking At You’, then the totally shite ‘Banana Republic’. After that everything they/he did was crap! Still quite like ‘Looking After No1’ though.

  11. Thanks to that 30p bin and a total lack of shame, I had 'em all. And oh my! 'Banana Republic' was poopoo.

    Spookily, my missus saw them live too. She said they did 'Mondays' about four times. She didn't get a silver rat badge though.

  12. Just ignore me. I had a few beers and turned into Mr Grumpy. I do remember hearing 'Banana' and thinking wtf? though. I actually paid full price for 'Like Clockwork'.

  13. I'm pretty sure I haven't got a single Rats, er, single in my collection (oh god I better go check now). I had them rumbled from the beginning. But then I am a few years older than you - with age comes wisdom, or was I just a punk snob?

  14. It's like a power pop Bat Out Of Hell - 'Rat Out Of Hell' perhaps.

    Think it was on the tip top comp Action Fever - When K - Tel were having a golden run Disco Fever (had the Rah Band - Crunch and Space - Magic Fly on it)

    Disco Stars (had the Meco - Star and Giorgio Moroder - From Here to Enternity on it)

  15. I bought parallel lines in boots, I was always sure of this and you've kindly reassured me that I'm right.

    Wasn't it a photo of Paul McCartney?

    It's interesting that it does generally kick off a bit when the Rats get played on the blogs. I really like Rat Trap but I like 'Someone's Looking At You' even more, I have to admit. I slightly shamefully have a 12" single of 'House on Fire' and it really is a perfect example of how bad a format 12" singles could be.

    And, your reverence, I bet that was just an excuse and really you wanted the cover art of Olivia getting Physical.

  16. The copy they played at MY youth club was one of the early pressings with 'pus and blood ooze from the scab-crusted sores' in the lyrics. Worth a bit now, isn't it?

  17. Don't they all have that lyric then?

  18. I did some research and can't find any mention of the 'altered' version. Apparently the original pressing had a silver label (from what I can remember) and the re-release was in green...or was it the other way round? At any rate, TOTP didn't like the line so, just as with 'Peaches' by the Stranglers, it had to be changed to something nondescript that i can't remember.
    What I did find out was that Geldof wanted to play the saxophone on the video, but the Performing Rights Society wouldn't have it, so he had to play a candelabra instead...memories of Danny De Vito and the same thing happening on 'Going Gets Tough'....I'll get my coat.

  19. I have the silver labelled one, and now you mention it all the rest of the Rats' singles I have are on green labels. Although given it was a bit number 1 single back when that meant something I can't believe it's all that scarce.

  20. Mondo - I remember 'Disco Fever' big time...'Magic Fly' by Space! Ha!

    I associate it with playing that black and white computer tennis game ('PING'?) at a mate's house after school.

    We was poor but we was 'appy.


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