not a member? click here to sign up
How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell
Love Is In The Air For Former Rats Frontman
Olaf Tyaransen, 11 Feb 2011
While Bob Geldof is undoubtedly being ironic and self-deprecating with the title How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell, it’s not as if the fellow doesn’t have pedigree. As the fiery frontman with The Boomtown Rats, he composed some of the most memorable Irish rock songs of the last century: what’s more, ‘Rat Trap’, ‘Banana Republic’ and ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ to name just three of that band’s finest moments, all became huge hits.
Of course, that was about thirty-odd years ago, and a lot of high profile stuff has happened in his life in the meantime, much of it little to do with music – at least not in an obvious way. Post-Live Aid, most people saw Bob Geldof primarily as a foul-mouthed celebrity campaigner for Africa, irritating and inspiring in unequal measure depending on your perspective. Then there was the excruciating personal turmoil that rained down on him, as his marriage to Paula Yates fell apart, followed by the bizarre death of Yates’ new partner, the INXS singer Michael Hutchence, and subsequently by the death of Paula Yates herself as a result of a drugs overdose. The erstwhile rock ‘n’ roll star in Geldof was buried under a veritable rainforest’s worth of ghastly headlines not of his own making.
Not that Geldof ever gave up on the rock ‘n’ roll version of himself. For all of his commendable extracurricular activities and energy-sapping personal problems, he has still continued to write songs, banging out the occasional album into the bargain. The Vegetarians Of Love project in the early 1990s yielded two releases and some fascinating moments, while his last solo record, 2001’s anguished and introspective Sex, Age and Death (which produces the appropriate acronym SAD), was almost too heartfelt to bear. It didn’t sell in significant volume in the UK or Ireland, but the songs were evidence of the enduring alertness of his lyrical and musical touch.
Now nearing 60 – as he reminds us here on the sexually charged ‘Systematic 6-Pack’ (“Still I wanna shag, get hard, too hard/ You’re 58 and a half/ Oh man!”) – Geldof certainly isn’t short of life experiences, both positive and negative, to draw on in his songwriting. Thankfully, on this new album, produced by old Rats’ bassist and long term musical stalwart Pete Briquette, he sounds like he’s finally starting to leave his myriad problems behind, and is happily in love, both with life and his long-term girlfriend, the French actress Jeanne Marine.