Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


1 Comment

On being a fan of Bob Geldof’s music

Apparently it’s quite weird that I want to go see Bob Geldof in concert. (For the third time, no less.) People seem to find it as strange as if I said–I don’t know–that I had tickets to see Bill Clinton. Play saxophone.

In that, it’s not as if Bob Geldof isn’t famous. He’s the Live Aid guy; the one who gets interviewed about African issues; who is an occasional guest editor of national newspapers; who won the knighthood decades before Paul McCartney, Elton John, Bono, and Mick Jagger did; and who is the father of all those girls with weird names (Pixie, Fifi, Tigerlilly, Peaches…).

It’s just that he’s no longer thought of as a musician.

A friend of mine kind of summed up what the world thinks: “Really interesting guy. But I don’t like his music.”

To which I say, Oh, really?

Because it appears to me that most North Americans know exactly two Bob Geldof songs:

  1. I Don’t Like Mondays
  2. Do They Know It’s Christmas?

And that they love both of them. One is the prototypical 1980s song; the other one the prototypical pop Christmas song. When Electric Thursdays does 80s music; “Mondays” is the big encore everybody is thrilled about. At their Christmas concert? Yes, the Band Aid song gains the standing ovation at the end.

I heard this song first via this video–on TV Ontario, of all things

But people have no idea what else Bob Geldof has done (musically).

So this is how I became a fan.

I stuck with The Boomtown Rats longer than most

This seems largely forgotten now, but everywhere except the US (where, thanks to “Mondays” getting banned, the Rats weren’t even a one-hit wonder), the Boomtown Rats were a very popular band in their time. They spent 123 weeks on the UK charts, including two songs at number one (the other being “Rat Trap”). In Canada, they played hockey arenas, and appeared on SCTV.

I became a fan of the Rats the same way everyone else did—after I heard “I Don’t Like Mondays”. It’s just that I stuck with them longer than most. I was not deterred by the “world music” sounds of Mondo Bongo (the album after the “Mondays” one), nor the dark themes permeating the amazing V Deep, VI Shallow. Judging by sales figures, others were a little put off by this. But I remained a fan to the end (that being the sixth and last album, In the Long Grass.)

One of my favorite songs from V Deep VI Shallow: Talking in Code, live

I saw Bob Geldof live

Bob’s first solo album, Deep in the Heart of Nowhere, in wake of Live Aid and all, was something of a success, with the hit single, “This Is the World Calling”. I got that at the time (my favorite song was “Pulled Apart by Horses”), but honestly, like most people, I then lost track of his musical career. “The Great Song of Indifference” was a big hit most places, but Canada followed the States in ignoring it.

A live version of The Great Song of Indifference

So when I went see him in concert in 2002, it was mostly due to Boomtown Rats nostalgia. And he did a reasonable sampling of those tunes, but also quite a few from the solos albums I had missed, and therefore didn’t know: the Irish jig-infused Vegetarians of Love and The Happy Club.

The fun My Hippie Angel, from The Happy Club

But no matter: I loved the show. As I wrote at the time, it was–and remains–one the best I’ve ever seen.

I bought all his solo albums

After that show, I picked up the two albums I’d missed, and I listened more to the one I’d picked up shortly before the show: Sex, Age, and Death. It would prove to become one of my favorite albums by anyone, ever.

One for Me by Bob Geldof, clearly inspired by now late but then merely former Mrs. Geldof, Paula Yates

And when his new one, the hilariously titled How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell came out last year, I bought that. It’s quite varied in style, but consistent in high quality.

Why I’m fan

It’s pretty simple, really. I’m a fan of music of Bob Geldof’s music because I listen to it.

You are not a fan only because you do not listen to it. It is not played on radio, it is no longer a big hit, you have seek it out.

If more people listened to it,  more would like it. Not everyone, obviously, but more. His tunes are catchy. They have intelligent lyrics. His band is fantastic. There’s plenty to like. (And Ontarians, please note: You have an exceedingly rare opportunity this week and next week to see him play live, in Hamilton, St. Catharines, Oshawa, Ottawa, and Brockville. They’re small venues, not expensive, and if it’s anything like the two shows of his I’ve seen, you won’t regret it.)

Closing out with Bob’s life in song, in the amusing hidden track from his latest album, Young and Sober. “In the year of 75, that’s when I sang myself alive.”


5 Comments

White Wine in the Sun

Today was “our” Christmas celebration, in advance of events with the extended family on the actual days.

As a result, it seemed apropos to play the “Christmas” playlist. (Particularly as I received a new iPod dock I had to try out.) But though all 82 songs are self-selected and heavy on the non-traditional, I gotta say that it’s just not my favorite type of music.

However, there are a few stand-outs.

* Sting’s “Gabriel’s Message”, a simply gorgeous song proving that not all rock star Christmas songs for charity have to suck.
* The Kink’s ”Father Christmas”, a somewhat dark yet catchy tune, that unfortunately seems timely: A poor kid just wants cash for Christmas, or “give my Dad a job ’cause he needs one.” All those toys? Gives them to the little rich boys.
* Adam Sandler’s Hanukuah Song which, OK, isn’t about Christmas at all. But though I’ve heard all the jokes in it many times before, it still makes me laugh. “OJ Simpson… Not a Jew!”
Do They Know it’s Christmas? Truly the weirdest set of lyrics ever penned by an atheist, and ones I’m sure Geldof, now an expert on Africa (as he wasn’t then), must wince over. Still, too many good memories around this song. And I love its jingly-jangly sound.
* Last year’s YouTube discovery, Spiraling’s mash-up of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” with The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, producing the most awesome guitar riff in a Christmas song ever.

And this year’s YouTube discovery, courtesy of @eoutwater of the KW Symphony: Tim Michen’s “White Wine in the Sun”. Lovely, funny, and true, Minchen’s explains his fondness for Christmas despite his reservations about “the commercialization of an ancient religion, the Westernization of a dead Palestinian”. But you get to be with your family in a relaxed state, and that’s what it’s all about. 5 stars.


Leave a comment

How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell

No, I can’t tell you how to do that. Trust me, if I could compose popular songs that would sell, I wouldn’t be toiling away in the tech industry. Just like Hugh Grant in About a Boy, I’d be living a life of leisure paid for by my song royalties, all cool toys and artfully tousled hair.

Another person who doesn’t feel he really knows how to compose popular songs that will sell is Bob Geldof, who therefore mockingly uses that as the title of his new album. Now much better known for his ongoing humanitarian work with Africa (Live Aid and all all that), as a musician he’s mostly remembered for one song: 1980s “I Don’t Like Mondays.” (Mind, if you’re only going to be remembered for one song, that’s a really excellent one to be associated with.)

It’s not entirely correct that’s been his only success. Particularly in the UK, the Boomtown Rats had numerous top 40 (and other number 1) hits, and even as a solo artist, “This Is the World Calling” and “The Great Song of Indifference” were pretty big hits. Not to mention his being the cowriter of everyone’s favorite rock Christmas song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?

He is a rich man, but the fact is, that’s more from his TV productions (did you know he created Survivor?) and other business holdings than from song royalties. He loves making music but, he says, doesn’t feel comfortable trying to sell it.

So the title is amusing, and apt, and layered in meaning. But is it any good? Well I think so. I’d say it’s better than any of his other solo albums, other than Sex, Age, and Death. Geldof calls this new album the companion to that one. That one, written as he emerged from a deep depression brought on by his marriage ending, was very dark, deeply personal, and hauntingly intense. This one, written as he amazes in the restorative power of love in second marriage, is much brighter, still fairly personal, and incredibly varied in musical styles (including a couple hauntingly intense numbers).

A lot of the songs are pretty catchy. There aren’t any I don’t like. I already love “She’s a Lover” and the hidden track at the end, “Young and Sober”, which synopsizes his entire life in an amusing three minutes. So will it sell? Unlikely, given the decline of album sales in the music industry as a whole. But the mighty few who find their way to this record won’t be disappointed, I don’t think.

PS Excellent 15-minute documentary about Bob Geldof, the musician, then and now: http://vimeo.com/20829390


2 Comments

Bob Geldof (‘s people) tweeted about “my” video

I have a Twitter account now, but this is no request for followers, as I have yet to “tweet” a darn thing.

I have, however, been following a few people, like the recently launched @BobGeldofFans. It’s not Bob (who, I learned on Twitter, apparently doesn’t even email, let alone tweet), but it is sanctioned by him.

And 23 hours ago, they posted this:

BobGeldofFans Bob Geldof

MEMORY LANE Take a look at this video — Bob Geldof – Too Late God – Tribute to Freddie Mercury concert youtube.com/watch?v=h6zSlO… via @youtube

Which links to a video on my YouTube account! So that was sort of cool. (Though one has to say this was hardly Bob’s best live performance…)