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Another Side Of Bob Geldof
With his upcoming concert in Poulaphouca marking his solo Irish debut, it's been all too easy in the recent past to overlook Bob Geldof's standing as a musical and lyrical artist. The lines connecting the youthful Dun Laoghaire blues and Dylan aficionado with the creator of The Vegetarians Of Love are rarely traced in media-bytes that prefer to concentrate on Modest Bob, Live Aid Bob and Saint Bob. Here, Bill Graham, who knew the schoolboy, takes musician Bob on a freewheeling trip from then to now.
Bill Graham, 26 Aug 1990
In the Princess Grace suite of the Shelbourne Hotel, a lanky man in black plucks at a guitar and explains how it all began in secondary school over twenty years ago when he borrowed a friend's acoustic.
"The first song I played on Justin Fawsitt's guitar, I was trying to work out chords and he wouldn't let me change the strings around because I was left-handed, so I did this (strums) and then I did that (strums) and it was a Who song."
"So," continues Bob Geldof, for of course it is he, "there's not much difference between that person, someone who wrote 'Looking After No. 1' a year before Tom Wolfe's 'The Me Decade', someone who wrote 'Do They Know It's Christmas' and someone who wrote 'The Great Song Of Indifference'."
The point of this trawl through his past is that Bob Geldof would like it known that he now wishes to be seen as a working musician. Not Boomtown Bob, Modest Bob, Sir Bob, Saint Bob or any other of the host of personae the media have projected on him. Just Bob Geldof, a middling successful Mercury recording artist.
I m at one with his wish, I'm not in his hotel suite to adjudicate on world politics or sustain the discontinuities between the original punk/pop iconoclast, the later rock philanthropist and the solo artist before me. Instead I want to trace the continuities.
I have one advantage. I know who Justin Fawsitt is because I was in that same Blackrock school year. Nine years before the mast when this B.G. followed that B.G. in the school roll. Not that we were ever intimate. While Geldof disrupted - and his autobiography Is That It? is an entirely accurate account of those years - this boarder hid his own growing pains, conformed and survived, till I passed my Leaving Certificate and could taste the freedom of University.
So I conformed to the code of a school which made an absurd and unhealthy fetish out of sport and especially rugby - unlike Geldof who was always knees and elbows, the most manically, physically unco-ordinated adolescent ever. In the compulsory schoolyard seven-a-side soccer tournaments which even that confirmed sports-hater couldn't always escape, Bob Geldof was always the last of the last to be picked, to be then immediately exiled to the opponents' penalty area where he could cause the least damage to his own team.