The Boomtown Rats have reformed with Bob Geldof back on the vocals.

and have been announced for the Isle Of White Festival main stage on Sunday June 16th

After a 26-year hiatus, Bob Geldof will be fronting The Boomtown Rats for a UK festival exclusive, playing the Main Stage on Sunday 16th June.

The Dublin band were always given short shrift by the hipsters but for a period of time made a pretty convincing stab at the poppier, Springsteen fringe of punk rock and Geldof was a great frontman and Johnny Fingers looked like a cuddly Sid Vicious in pyjamas. Their early catalogue is dotted with some great singles and for many younger punk rock kids they were a big deal.

Their unashamed commerciality was probably what grated with the punk inner circle, who, to be honest were doing the same thing but less obviously. A listen back to their early records now shows a surprisngly good, tough sounding band and maybe it’s time that history had another look at them and acknowledged this and their size- they were, for a period, the biggest of the punk/new wave bands.

I’d like to be hip and cool about these things but have to admit there were some really good and pretty exciting songs in their early catalogue and some interesting, quirky moments like on ‘Like Clockwork’. Whether they were punk or not is a moot point but as a tough pop band they certainly had their moments.

Post band Bob Geldof stopped lots of people from starving and has become far more famous than his former band…

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. BBC4’s recent run of 1978 nostalgia has been fascinating for me, as this was the year when I became aware of pop music. I would have been six years old by then, but with no older siblings and parents whose interest in pop music appeared to have dried up completely by their early thirties, it was simply something which did not exist in my life. This changed when my mum started teaching nightschool on Thursdays, and my dad (who I suspect really missed being into music; he’d been to loads of gigs when he was younger) introduced me to Top Of The Pops.

    I have little recollection of much of what I saw, and certainly watching the BBC4 re-runs these past couple of weekends you can see exactly why groups such as Baccara and Yellow Dog have been all but erased from history (and if I have to spend another week with Terry Wogan’s fucking Floral Dance stuck in my head I may have to consider legal action). But somehow in all this, a lifelong music fan was developing, and “Rat Trap” was one of the first songs I remember liking. I don’t know why, I think because it had a proper story – even if I didn’t fully understand it – and the band’s brightly coloured New Wave clothes and slightly cartoonish image probably made them kind of appealing. I carried a torch for them right up until I was twelve or thirteen, even if by then I kind of knew they were a bit shit; at 12 when I got my own record player their first three albums (by then in affordable “mid-price” versions despite being only five or six years old) and the then-current “In The Long Grass” were among my earlier purchases.

    Within a year or so I had moved on to The Stranglers and bits of contemporary indie; those albums are probably the last parts of my developing music taste I never listen to any more. I’m not even sure why this is – there are certainly a few other decent songs besides “Rat Trap” (even if some of the filler was pretty bad – heard “She’s So Modern” recently and wondered how anyone could have considered that worthy of release at all, never mind as a single) and I’ve never been the sort of person to hide from liking something because it’s not cool. There’s just some slight tackiness about it all, a kind of squeakiness, hard to put a finger on it really, they would have sounded a whole lot better with rougher, dirtier, more rock’n’roll production I think.

    On the other hand I love the way their very existence puts the wind up certain sorts of musical purist, even 35 years on… and who knows, had my completely open and unprejudiced six-year-old ears preferred Brotherhood Of Man back on those Thursday evenings in 1978 I might have spent my teens listening to chart pop and grown out of music young like my parents did. No, they weren’t punk. But I remember about ten years ago when a boy-band called Busted was popular, their gimmick being they played guitars and drums, a colleague lamenting his daughter (then five) liking them and me telling him it’s OK, at least she’s learning that musicians play instruments rather than just singing and dancing. She’s got purple and blue hair now and is into metal bands neither her dad nor I have heard of. Maybe the Rats did the same for my generation.

    Unlikely I’ll go and see them though as I suspect they’ll be charging nostalgia-band rip-off prices and it could all be a bit of a car-crash anyway…

  2. good on john robb for being honest about the Rats, yeah, he’s quite right about the ‘taste makers’ and ‘hipsters’ always dissing them but the fact remains, as i remember vividly, to us young teenagers in the late 70’s suburbs the Rats were very much a ‘punk’ band. Back in those days punk was just about exciting, teenage music and clothes, all this modern day analysis and conjecture obviously didn’t exist in the same way . I’m no fan of Geldof but that doesn’t altar the fact that history has given his band a raw deal and i’d always defend his band against the trendy, know it alls, many of whom are too young to really appreciate the zeitgeist of the time. All this nonsense about what is punk grates with me as well, what is punk, in terms of the 77 era? were the Stranglers punk, what about the Jam, where do bands like Squeeze, The Motors, Blondie stand in this ‘debate’? The fact is, back then, as teenage ‘punks’ all the above bands were part of it and we loved them all. Life was so simple then and i must confess, as i get deeper and deeper into middle age i become nostalgic for the whole era, i like Abba, The Dooleys and Baccara and really couldn’t care less what people think of that. I used to be a militant punk 30 years ago but now i’m a middle aged, nostalgic chap in a Ronnie Corbett jumper and i love those far off days and the Boomtown Rats are very much a part of all that. The Rats made some cracking singles, easily the equal of anything their peers put out with the exception of the Pistols, Clash, Damned and Stranglers. That’s just my opinion and i realise it is probably greatly at odds with most LTW readers but there you go !

    • thanks Simon, the history of punk has been rewritten but for a teenager at the time it was far more broad than it’s become

      • i’d love to reply but for some reason the comments don’t show up, none of the replies are on the page, whats wrong with it?


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