BOOMTOWN RATS REVISITED

The Boomtown Rats: 2013 Photo: www.boomtownrats.com

The Boomtown Rats: 2013 Photo: http://www.boomtownrats.com

Tonight’s appearance by The BOOMTOWN RATS on the Late Late Show on RTE gives me a chance to reprint my story from seven months ago relating to the reformation of the band after 27 years for a tour of Ireland and Britain.  Bob Geldof on vocals, Pete Briquette on bass, Simon Crowe on drums and Garry Roberts on guitar. They will be at the Ulster Hall in Belfast on October 18th. It also allows me to boast about my first broadcasting scoop.

Boomtown Rats

Boomtown Rats

It was 1977 and no-one had ever heard of this pop group with the strange-sounding name. I interviewed the band (except Bob Geldof) for radio and ensured their first ever broadcast on the BBC. At that stage their single “Looking after No 1” had just appeared on a New Wave LP (first track on the “B” side) along with songs from The Ramones (“Judy is a Punk”; “Suzy is a Headbanger”) and various others of the punk rock variety. John Peel gave it an outing.

I was able to go one better, thanks to my sister in Dublin who knew this up and coming band from the Dún Laoghaire area. The group had completed an Irish tour in 1975 and the following year moved to London. I was working at Pebble Mill as a News Producer (reporter/presenter/producer) with BBC Radio Birmingham at the time. Being a local radio station, it meant that I could contribute to the sports programmes at the weekend. Nuneaton v Wimbledon was my first sports report. But I was also able to do interviews for various music programmes including Norman Wheatley’s “Gentlefolk”. I got to meet The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Frank Patterson and Eily O’Grady and Horslips when they came to the heart of England.

Malcolm Jay presented a Tuesday night rock show, “Heavy Pressure”. When I mentioned that this new rock band from Ireland who had appeared a month earlier at Birmingham town hall with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was coming to Wolverhampton and I might be able to get an interview with them, he sounded interested. So on July 20th 1977 my sister came over from Dublin and we drove to the La Fayette night club near the centre of Wolverhampton.

We arrived early and there was no sign of anyone. Eventually a van arrived with five of the Boomtown Rats and their gear. Lead singer Bob Geldof travelled separately. So while the band waited in an empty club, I sat down with the group, having been introduced to them by Carolyn. I had brought my UHER reel-to-reel tape recorder that we used for interviews. I spoke to each in turn, including the man with the funny name. Pete Briquette. Bob Geldof eventually turned up and said hello. The group performed that night to a crowd of less than 100. A few days later the interview (which I still have a copy of) was broadcast, along with Looking after no.1 and another track as well (possibly Mary of the fourth form).

cropped_the%20boomtown%20rats

I am glad I spotted the potential of the band at an early stage and followed their progress over the years. Then this morning courtesy of the John Murray show on RTÉ Radio 1 I listened to Pete Briquette explain the plans by the band (or at least himself, Geldof, Simon Crowe and Garry Roberts) to get back together again in time for the Isle of Wight festival from 13th-16th June at Seaclose Park. The Rats will join a line-up also featuring The Killers and Bon Jovi, who have already been announced as headliners for the first major festival of the summer.

A Tonic for the Troops

A Tonic for the Troops

The BBC reports that Bob Geldof said: “I’ve always fancied playing the Isle of Wight Festival ever since I hitched there in the good/bad days when I was a kid.” The band have been playing live in recent years without Geldof. The Boomtown Rats were the first Irish band to have a UK number one hit with Rat Trap. They followed that up with another number one with I Don’t Like Mondays, which was a hit around the world. They recorded six albums, three of which made the UK top 10, before splitting up in 1986.

The band’s last major live performance was at the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley, organised by Sir Bob Geldof.

EASTER SUNDAY

St Macartan's Cathedral, Monaghan

St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan

A day for reflection and enjoyment in the company of family, so I will not venture into any lengthy diatribe today. It was my mother’s 93rd birthday, which she celebrated at home in Dublin. Meanwhile I was attending a birthday celebration in Monaghan for my first daughter, who had invited around her cousins, aunts and uncles. We were also fortunate to have our second daughter return home from London on an Easter break.

I attended Easter Sunday Mass at Saint Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan and there was a large attendance at the lunchtime service. I reflected on how my grandparents (on my mother’s side) would have attended the major liturgical events here sixty years ago and more. Since they lived at Tirkeenan beside the entrance to the Cathedral, they were frequent attenders at Mass, as my grandfather’s diaries from the time recorded.

I then took the opportunity to visit the graveyard at Latlurcan, where I had attended two funerals earlier this month. My aunt Marie and her husband and my uncle Finbarr Smyth are buried there. Finbarr died in an air crash in the Isle of Wight when I was five and living in London in November 1957. He had been flying out to Madeira on a holiday with Cosmo Meldrum, a friend from Sligo, where he was manager of the Yeats Country Hotel at Rosses Point. The Aquila Airways Short Solent flying boat G-AKNU (pictured here at Funchal Bay) crashed shortly after take-off at Southampton docks.

Short Solent G-AKNU taking off from Funchal Original Photo © J Arthur Dixon, via Wikipedia

Short Solent G-AKNU taking off from Funchal
Original Photo © J Arthur Dixon, via Wikipedia

During a holiday in Madeira in 2011 I discovered more details about the airline and the planes it used since 1949 to bring holidaymakers to the island, as it developed a tourist industry. There was a small exhibition about the flying boats beside the shop at the Madeira Story Centre museum in Funchal. Upstairs there was also a display that included a mock-up of part of the aircraft’s cabin, including the roof racks used to store luggage. Black-and-white archive film played on small monitors showing the planes taking off. It was an emotional experience. I notice that there is now a plaque at St Mary’s church in Brook, close to Chessel Down, containing the names of all those who died in the crash. At some stage I will go to visit it.

Short Solent Cabin Reconstruction, Madeira

Short Solent Cabin Reconstruction, Madeira

45 people died in the crash, seven of them members of the crew. May they rest in peace. Thirteen people managed to survive, among them a former British Army officer Major PW Colan, from Cloyne in County Cork. British commercial flying-boat operations ceased ten months later on 30th September 1958 when Aquila Airways withdrew its Madeira service. The flying boats for passenger traffic were a variation of the Sunderlands which provided important service from Lough Erne and other RAF bases in the Second World War. They were built by Short Brothers and Harland in Belfast.

THE BOOMTOWN RATS

Boomtown Rats

Boomtown Rats

The reformation of The Boomtown Rats gives me a chance to boast about my first broadcasting scoop. It was 1977 and no-one had ever heard of this pop group with the strange-sounding name. I interviewed the band (except Bob Geldof) for radio and ensured their first ever broadcast on the BBC. At that stage their single “Looking after No 1” had just appeared on a New Wave LP (first track on the “B” side) along with songs from The Ramones (“Judy is a Punk”; “Suzy is a Headbanger”) and various others of the punk rock variety. John Peel gave it an outing.

I was able to go one better, thanks to my sister in Dublin who knew this up and coming band from the Dún Laoghaire area. The group had completed an Irish tour in 1975 and the following year moved to London. I was working at Pebble Mill as a News Producer (reporter/presenter/producer) with BBC Radio Birmingham at the time. Being a local radio station, it meant that I could contribute to the sports programmes at the weekend. Nuneaton v Wimbledon was my first sports report. But I was also able to do interviews for various music programmes including Norman Wheatley’s “Gentlefolk”. I got to meet The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Frank Patterson and Eily O’Grady and Horslips when they came to the heart of England.

Malcolm Jay presented a Tuesday night rock show, “Heavy Pressure”. When I mentioned that this new rock band from Ireland who had appeared a month earlier at Birmingham town hall with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was coming to Wolverhampton and I might be able to get an interview with them, he sounded interested. So on July 20th 1977 my sister came over from Dublin and we drove to the La Fayette night club near the centre of Wolverhampton.

We arrived early and there was no sign of anyone. Eventually a van arrived with five of the Boomtown Rats and their gear. Lead singer Bob Geldof travelled separately. So while the band waited in an empty club, I sat down with the group, having been introduced to them by Carolyn. I had brought my UHER reel-to-reel tape recorder that we used for interviews. I spoke to each in turn, including the man with the funny name. Pete Briquette. Bob Geldof eventually turned up and said hello. The group performed that night to a crowd of less than 100. A few days later the interview (which I still have a copy of) was broadcast, along with Looking after no.1 and another track as well (possibly Mary of the fourth form).

cropped_the%20boomtown%20rats

I am glad I spotted the potential of the band at an early stage and followed their progress over the years. Then this morning courtesy of the John Murray show on RTÉ Radio 1 I listened to Pete Briquette explain the plans by the band (or at least himself, Geldof, Simon Crowe and Garry Roberts) to get back together again in time for the Isle of Wight festival from 13th-16th June at Seaclose Park. The Rats will join a line-up also featuring The Killers and Bon Jovi, who have already been announced as headliners for the first major festival of the summer.

A Tonic for the Troops

A Tonic for the Troops

The BBC reports that Bob Geldof said: “I’ve always fancied playing the Isle of Wight Festival ever since I hitched there in the good/bad days when I was a kid.” The band have been playing live in recent years without Geldof. The Boomtown Rats were  the first Irish band to have a UK number one hit with Rat Trap. They followed that up with another number one with I Don’t Like Mondays, which was a hit around the world. They recorded six albums, three of which made the UK top 10, before splitting up in 1986.

The band’s last major live performance was at the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley, organised by Sir Bob Geldof.