Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – A Chat With A Rat

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This week we rewind to the spring of 1979.

I sat down at a seedy hotel on the west side of Jarvis just south of the infamous “Hooker Harvey’s” as various Boomtown Rats scurried about the room. Little did I know it at the time, but many of the principals involved with the band would one day play a big part in my career.

Sinead O’ConnorThe band was managed by Fachtna O Ceallaigh and our paths would cross again when he started managing Sinead O’Connor at the beginning of her career (and once again back in 2011). I’m pretty sure he was around for the interview and the show later that night at The El Mocambo. Mike Bone was a radio promotion rep for Mercury Records in Cleveland and he thought it would be a good idea to mail dead rats to radio to promote the single “Rat Trap”. Mike and I went on to work together when he became the President of Chrysalis Records in the U.S. and I was their marketing manager here in Canada. The band were signed by Nigel Grainge and Nigel and I worked together when I helped out his label Ensign, working with Sinead O’Connor amongst others. I am pleased to report that 35 years later I am still in touch with all three of these fine gentlemen.


The one thing I most remember about this interview is that it was very rushed as the band had to get over to the El Mo for soundcheck and one of the band members was running late as he was coming back from a local clinic due to the case of crabs he had inherited. The show that night, for the pricey sum of $3.00, also included up and coming Toronto band Blue Peter, who I would work with at Ready Records.


According to the official Blue Peter website;

Opening two shows for the Boomtown Rats at Toronto’s El Mocambo was one of the first major breakthroughs for Blue Peter. “We really liked the band,” remembers Wardman, “but the thing that really sticks in my memory is that one of the songs they did at soundcheck was a new one called `I Don’t Like Mondays’… this was before they had even recorded it. So considering that it turned out to be such a career song for them, in retrospect it kind of felt like we were privy to history in the making.”

This piece first appeared in the May 1979 issue of The New Music Magazine.

 boomtown rats

“A Chat With A Rat. The Boomtown Rats close the gap between pop and punk.”

‘There was an awful lot of rocking going on that night,

Cruising time for the young bright lights.

Just down past the gasworks, by the meat factory door,

The five lamp boys were coming on strong.

The Saturday night city-beat had already started,

The pulse of the corner boys sprang into action.

And young Billy watched it all under the yellow street light

And said “Tonight of all nights, there’s gonna be a fight” ‘


“Like most songs, Rat Trap (the song above) is just a personal observation that doesn’t try to draw a moral at all. We don’t feel patronizing enough to geldolfteach or preach to anyone”, said Boomtown Rats lead vocalist Bob Geldof. “In fact, we don’t feel we have anything to teach or preach. A lot of bands make the mistake that when you pick up a guitar you automatically have a monopoly on truth. That’s not necessarily so. All I’m saying is essentially what Dylan said before; don’t follow leaders. Even in a song like Don’t Believe What You Read, which is dogmatic and literal, therefore boring, I say on stage ‘Don’t believe The Boomtown Rats either’ which is much more important than the song itself.”


It’s pretty hard not to believe the Boomtown Rats. In the last two years The Rats have had five hit singles on the British charts. Rat Trap is owned either as a single or as part of an album by close to two million people in the U.K. alone.

rats geldolfThe Boomtown Rats are a six-piece band out of Ireland that recently completed an American tour that brought them to the El Mocambo for two nights. Their live show was one of the best ever seen under the neon palms.

The band came together a few years back in Dublin when six guys decided they wanted to form a rock’n’roll band. None of them had any previous band experience but they decided to give it a go anyways. They found that they had nowhere to go after playing every available, and unavailable, pub in Ireland so they packed their bags and moved to London, where they arrived during the height of the initial punk movement. Soon they were in the studio recording their debut album, The Boomtown Rats.

boomtown rats album

“The first album was the experience of six guys in their first year hanging out three times a week to rehearse. I was writing all the stuff and this led to simple arrangements and little complexity,” says chief Rat Geldof. None the less, this “simple” album spawned three British hit singles and proved the Rats to be one of the most dynamic, and talented, of the New-Wave bands.

Tonic for the troops

When it came time to record their second album, the Rats had developed their own genre (for all you French Canadians, as Bob Geldof would say). A Tonic For The Troops is much more pop-oriented, has more compelling arrangements, and is more representative of the Boomtown Rats than their first LP. Geldof continues, “The second record is about six guys who hung out constantly for a year whether it was touring, recording, rehearsing, or ratswhatever. This made the album tighter and more complex.”

Complex is a good word to describe the Boomtown Rats. The Rats have taken the best of Sixties rock and rhythm and blues and mixed it with a Seventies pop-punk attitude. They have been compared to the early Stones, Bruce Springsteen and even 10 CC. None of these comparisons is really accurate as each song is completely different from the one before. The Rats are unique, and with any luck they will find the success in North America that they have found in the U.K.

Have a pint and hear cool tunes every Wednesday night beginning at 5 PM at The Kensington Lodge

PS – Nice to see Bill Henderson comment on my column last week. It is gratifying for all of us to know that anyone is reading our tales. Thanks. Ok, Sir Bob, your turn!


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

Contact us at:

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music


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