Bob Geldof was recently, totally aptly, referred to as the Dumbledore of Pop in the Sydney Morning Herald. The frisson of this pithy characterisation reminded me of Johnny Rotten’s remark that the reason Geldof was so skinny was that he had been dining out on “I Don’t Like Mondays” for thirty years.
The intensity of “I Don’t Like Mondays” is its key, the sense of horror aroused by the song’s dissection of a murderous aftermath grows and grows with real drama. Though the Boomtown Rats had their moments “I Don’t Like Mondays” was the best and by quite some way.
The other Bob Geldof track that gets even vaguely close is “The Great Song of Indifference” on his late eighties album Vegetarians of Love. It is a great track full of humour and apathy and regret. It grows the intensity like a vegetable: slowly, and with the gentle aggregation of constituent minerals toward something really fresh and wholesome.
The sheer joyousness of the lines “I don’t care if the Third World fries/It’s hotter there I’m not surprised/Baby I can watch whole nations die/And I don’t care at all” is produced through the jig bouncing along behind, upright bass and the usual selection of Irish folky instruments. It is a great track.
Herman Hesse wrote that making music depended on “making music as well and as much as possible and with all the intensity which one is capable.” The reason Bob Geldof is still something special is because when he actually casts a spell they are big, powerful and as intense as possible.
Rather like Dumbledore he spends a lot of time messing around with not too much but then the moment comes and he can pull it off. I have always had the feeling that Bob Geldof has held himself in check for almost all of his whole life. But sometimes he doesn’t.