Boomtown Rats' Garry Roberts

Today is the 44th birthday of Garry Roberts, guitarist for the Irish

rock band the Boomtown Rats, best known as the group fronted by

Band Aid and Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof.

The Rats came together

during 1975 in Roberts' kitchen in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. Initially called the

Nightlife Thugs, they decided on the Boomtown Rats moniker

after hearing it as the name of a gang in the Woody Guthrie film "Bound

for Glory." The Rats moved from Ireland to a communal house in London

in 1976 and began attracting attention largely because their keyboardist,

Johnny

Fingers, wore pajamas onstage. Singer Geldof, a former writer for the

British music magazine New Musical Express, was often compared to

Mick Jagger and David Bowie, though he never really established himself as

a top-rank frontman.

The Boomtown Rats, a new-wave pop band, signed with Ensign

Records. Their debut single, 1977's "Lookin' After No. 1," was the

first of nine consecutive singles to enter the top 15 in the U.K. In

the same year, the band opened for Tom Petty on his 1977 U.K. tour and

released its eponymous debut album in both the

U.K. and the U.S.

The Boomtown Rats followed up with 1978's Tonic for the

Troops, which contained the band's first top-10 U.K. hit, "Like

Clockwork," and its first #1, "Rat Trap." This chart-topper was followed

in mid-1979 with another U.K. #1, "I Don't Like Mondays,"

inspired by a California killer who cited her dislike of that particular

day of the week as her reason for murder. The song, from the 1979 album

The Fine Art of Surfacing, was also a minor hit in the States.

The Rats had their last top-10 hit with 1980's "Banana Republic," which was

followed by the 1981 album Mondo Bon.

At this point, the hits

stopped coming and the group began to splinter. Guitarist Gerry Cott departed,

and the

next album, V Deep (1982), was initially released only in the

U.K. When it surfaced in the U.S. later that year, it was a commercial

disaster. After Geldof starred in the 1982 film "Pink Floyd: The Wall,"

the Rats' sixth album, In the Long Grass, was released by Ensign

in the U.K., but Columbia, the band's American record company, refused to

issue it.

Despite these career snags, Geldof teamed with Midge Ure to write "Do They

Know It's

Christmas," a song that was used as the basis for the 1984 Band Aid charity

project for Ethiopian famine relief. Geldof organized a group of

England's most popular musicians, including David Bowie and

Phil Collins, to record the song; it was highly publicized and became one of

the biggest-selling singles in U.K. history. Geldof's now large public

profile, increased further by his spearheading of the two Live Aid

concerts for the same cause, finally compelled the U.S. release of In the

Long Grass, but the album failed anyway and Columbia dropped the

band. This led to the breakup of the Rats in 1986.

While Geldof has

had a career as a solo artist, Roberts has not been active on the music

scene.

Other birthdays: Eddie Levert (O'Jays), 56, and Ian Matthews, 52.