Everybody hates Bob Geldof

The world seems on fire with hate at the moment. Obviously I don’t go out in the real world to check this assertion. It’s far safer to stay at home with the internet. I should have learned my lesson by now just by clicking on the comments sections I can be transported from a woodland glade, dappled in sunlight to a fried chicken outlet on the wrong side of town. I ought to have learned by now that looking at comments rarely makes me feel better but I can’t always resist it, it’s like slowing down to look at a traffic accident.

On the internet ,of course, we are all equal, the views of stupid people are given the same weight as people who might know what they are talking about. In Britain we now have Brexit to polarise every debate, there’s not much middle ground just angry people making themselves angrier by trotting out clichés, it’s not going to end well!

A few months ago a came across a typically outspoken about Brexit by Bob Geldof, he was anti but to be honest Geldof’s opinions go off like a proverbial loose cannon, he has an opinion on every subject and they could go off in any direction.

Then, help me God, I clicked on comments, I don’t know why perhaps I thought there might be a sparky discussion of maybe my life was just an empty void at that moment. Anyway, all of a sudden I was in a den of hate. Never mind Brexit, Geldof was being blamed in no uncertain terms for the death of his ex wife, the death of his daughter and even the death of Michael Hutchence, literally everybody hated Bob Geldof.

I’ve said it before, but context is everything. Geldof seemed to explode out of Ireland in 1977 as lead singer with the Boomtown Rats but before that he had long been frustrated with the conservatism of Ireland and had already worked in England and Canada in such careers as factory work, a slaughterhouse and as a photographer and journalist. The rats under Geldof did everything they could to make an impression. Although by fortune they got lumped in with Punk they were initially an R&B band, an early photograph shows them posing in flares and flat caps, but they soon developed into a skilled pop band.

The biggest thing for me personally about the Boomtown Rats were they  were my sisters only favourite band and as such a became familiar of pop star pin ups of the band , well mainly Geldof, and also got to listen to their albums which became virtually the only records my sister has ever bought.

In their early days the Rats specialised in punky bluesy pop as evidence by their first hit ‘Looking after Number 1’ but there was also a trend towards slightly overwrought  dramas reminiscent of the stuff Springsteen was peddling in those days, ‘Rat Trap’ being the biggest hit of the genre.

Geldof was an engaging personality managing to charm NME journalist Charles Shar Murray which would guarantee some good reviews, and appearing about town with Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy at the time on a career high. On the other hand, his very appearance seemed to upset, he was confident and seemed to wind people up in the same way Jagger had over a decade earlier. Geldoff had a kind of simian swagger and a big mouth, we weren’t ready for an Irish Liam Gallagher in 76.He was punched out at an early gig by one of the oi crowd who had formed around the (subsequently) racist band Screwdriver. There were plenty of people who found him irritating but there were others who found him intriguing, it wasn’t just my sister.

Inevitably the band became more adventurous ‘I don’t like Mondays’ being the point where invention and popularity intersected. As well as music the band were experimenting with the new opportunities offered by video. Arguably the band were mastering the art of the new pop, in retrospect Geldof overshadowed the musical side of the band which kind of inhibits any real appreciation of their achievements.  ‘Banana Republic’ the band’s last significant single was a stinging criticism of the conservatism from religion and politics that had led to the band leaving their home country. I actually caught the band live in the early 80’s. They were on the way down and reduced to playing the University of East Anglia. I was only there as I had agreed to take my sister but from what I remember it was a pretty good gig and the band seemed to have some interesting songs.

By 1984 Geldof’s career was at a low ebb. The new kids at the NME all hated the band, no one was interested in a new release by the Boomtown Rats and it looked like they never would be.

And then Live Aid happened, and Geldof was the most popular person in the world, so popular in fact we even tried to forget he was Irish and wanted to give him a knighthood (we managed to fudge that somehow).

Nearly 35 years on its’s easy to be sceptical about Live Aid but it was a huge deal, partly because we just weren’t anticipating its eventual significance. I certainly didn’t, I only got out of bed because my housemates were blasting out Status Quo (the first band on) while I was trying to sleep. I then went out to buy a pair of shoes and missed Queen but that was the nature of the day, it was only after a few years had passed that I realised it’s importance. Post event we couldn’t believe what had happened, it was the 80’s Woodstock!

After that Geldof retreated to write his autobiography and hopefully make some money. ‘Is that It?’ was an honest and very readable account of his life to date and sustained our interest in the man the media was calling ‘Saint’ Bob. We even managed to be sufficiently interested in a solo career for a while.

But, context is everything, although he was becoming increasingly laden with honorary doctorates (Including one from the UEA) peace prizes and various awards, not even the Live 8 concerts managed to return him to our affections in the same way.

Just Live Aid overshadowed a musical career, his personal tragedies overshadowed Live aid. He came out of speaking openly about his pain and depression and inevitably made a fairly bare bones album dealing with these issues.

But perhaps the real issue with Geldof today is that an angry young man is just so much more appealing than a grumpy old one (believe me I know), he’s also reformed the Boomtown Rats which was a reunion that not even my sister wanted (probably).

Geldof was on TV a while back stating something along the lines of ‘every time a ‘paddy’ musician gets a platform they want to spout about everything apart from music’. There are notable exceptions to this but if we add Bono and Sinead O’Connor to the mix it makes some sense. It probably boils down to the face that it took an exceptional personality to carve out a significant career outside Ireland and those sorts of personalities wouldn’t be content just talking about their next album. And so they have big ideas and say things that might be contradictory or stupid or insightful, often in the same few sentences, and they piss of the sort of people who have never had an original idea in their lives but have unlimited access to the internet where all views are equal.

And that’s why everybody hates Bob Geldof

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2 Responses to Everybody hates Bob Geldof

  1. greenpete58 says:

    Interesting article. I’m a Yank, so I don’t fully understand all that English-Irish-Scottish stuff. (My daughter just moved to Glasgow, so I’m hoping she can get a good feel for the UK.) You may have a point that certain Irish musicians (Geldof, Bono, O’Connor, etc.) feel a need to “spout off” about issues, more than the English. Maybe there’s a subconscious inferiority complex? (I’m just guessing.) John Lennon wasn’t Irish, but he had an attitude of “I’m gonna tell off all these bloody bastards.” I’m sure much of this had to do with his personality, plus his traumas as a kid, but some of it may also have been that he was a Liverpudlian. (Again, just guessing!)

    Anyway, I admire Geldof for what he did with Live Aid, but beyond that I was never a fan.


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