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,
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,
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
Despite these career snags, Geldof teamed with Midge Ure to write "Do They
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
Other birthdays: Eddie Levert (O'Jays), 56, and Ian Matthews, 52.