Saturday, November 03, 1979
UK Highest Chart Position: 7
Total number of weeks on chart : 26
Entry (ENVY3/ENCAS3): 3rd November 1979
Run: 7-9-14-22-28-27-28-32-32-35-30-28-35-34-28-22-26-24-30-38-50-70-62-66-68-66 (26 weeks)
US Highest Chart Position: 103
Total number of weeks on US chart : 16
Entry : 1st December 1979
Run: 132-124-113-113-113-108-130-126-124-130-110-103-103-104-162-177 (16 wks)
- Someone's Looking At You
- Diamond Smiles
- Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero)
- Having My Picture
- Sleep (Fingers Lullaby)
- I Don't Like Mondays
- Nothing Happened Today
- Keep It Up
- Nice 'n' Neat
- When The Night Comes
- Episode #3
- Real Different
- How Do You Do?
- Late Last Night
- Nothing Happened Today (Live In Cardiff)
Prior to the release of the Fine Art of Surfacing, The Boomtown Rats were arguably the biggest band in Britain. In the wake of the chart-topping Rat Trap and I Don't Like Mondays, only The Police and Blondie were close in terms of stature, but The Rats were seemingly on top. The Fine Art of Surfacing was very eagerly awaited.
I Don't Like Mondays is the best known Boomtown Rats song. With Fingers' piano taking centre stage, it sounded nothing like the Rats had ever done before. This was produced by Phil Wainman of Sweet fame unlike all the other tracks produced by Mutt Lange. A heightened sense of drama pervades the song, rising to the "Tell me why?" chorus and the come down when the playing stops in the playground as the lesson today is how to die. No other band of the punk/new wave era could have made a song like this. Brilliant.
The second single off the album was Diamond Smiles. The song is about a débutante killing herself and only being remembered for her smile. Like I Don't Like Mondays another story about death (suicide this time), it’s more repetitive, and takes a while to get to its short chorus. Lots of quirky keyboards and the never ending la la las evoke memories of Hot Love and Hey Jude. It wasn’t the song to consolidate the Rats domination of the singles chart, but a good track nonetheless.
In contrast, Someone's Looking at You was a great single, and a pretty personal statement for Geldof on fame. The song starts with a gentle rhythmic acoustic guitar, built on by organ keyboard sounds, then breaking into a crash of electric guitars. The keyboard and guitar solos rock, and there is a great climatic build to the last uh-oh-oh-ohs. The song fades to a chorus of someone’s looking with Geldof ad-libbing before the final pay off of Geldof deserving to get kissed once or twice!
A train whistle and a crash of drums introduce Nothing Happened Today. For the Rats, this is familiar territory, with its singing and sing backs throughout. Keyboards and guitars duel with each other vying to set the tone. Watching TV news and looking out the windows in the wake of a hangover there is a urgency to discover what is happening on March 28th , not that there is any significance in the date at all. In the midst of this, there’s the greatly inventive and seamless vaudeville-style break where Harry Hooper’s toupee is discussed at length. The break could be said to be akin to Mr. Kite, of Sgt. Pepper fame.
How about a song on impotency? Keep it Up! Geldof looks to Elvis Costello for lyrical influence, with some nice couplets. The joint song writing effort with Gerry Cott showcases another great guitar solo, The song resurrects the ghost of Howard Hughes in many ways, with the repetition of the ‘Does it Feel Right?..." throughout. Just as the song ends, with an exhausted organ, it burst back into life with some blistering drums, and again Geldof ad-libs all over the Rats chorus of Keep It Up!
Geldof gets personal in Wind Chill Factor, returning to the paranoia hinted at in Can't Stop & So Strange. With a shrill of keyboards, Simon Crowe’s drums break it up and create a stark atmosphere. Then some oh-ho-hos before the now familiar reggae drum break has Geldof coming in after a night of coping. The chorus is almost sinister, and with its whoops and hollers, a disturbing mood prevails. The song revs up into its question and answer session, before Geldof crawls into a corner looking for relief. At the end, the song gives the impression of wind howling beneath high-rise blocks before the drums bring it to an abrupt finish.
After that the mood lightens, with Having My Picture Taken. Essentially the song is a trivial look at the world of celebrity and stardom. Reggae drum breaks punctuate the song and it all jaunts along to the "so fantastic!" middle eight. This song was always marked in its live performance by a thousand instamatics clicking as the band posed for pictures. The song echoes Don’t Believe What You Read from Tonic, this time focusing on the photographers rather than the journalists.
Written by Johnnie Fingers, Sleep (Finger's Lullaby) explores insomnia, and replicates the confused state of mind that ensues. The song is almost epic, with Supertramp pianos in the middle eight, and lots of differing vocal effects. However nothing works, not only wired and tired, and with lights and noise all around. no amount of pills or sheep counting seems to work, but finally the songs drifts off. ....but then comes the nightmarish reprise, with ghostly voices chanting ‘that’s not funny, I’m not laughing, that’s not funny…’. Considering the quality for song writing either via partial or full credits, it is a shame that the other Rats did not contribute more.
In Nice 'n' Neat, it’s Geldof vs. God, and Geldof wins! A really great track inspired by a clerical friend. From the moment the guitar bursts in through to the "final truth is there is no truth", it is a blistering attack on belief. It also hosts one of the greatest guitar solos heard on a Rats song, almost as if Gerry Cott was signing off. However, the unnecessary bop-shoo-wop fade out detracts from such a cutting song. Strange that a song that finishes with "that's all" should be followed by another!
When The Night Comes is another mini-Dublin epic. Frankie instead of Joey or Billy time, but office boys ain’t rock ‘n’ roll and the lyrics lack the flow of Joey or Rat Trap. The flamenco guitar throughout is absolutely wonderful and makes this track well worth listening to.
The un-credited Episode #3 is tacked onto the track after it fades out, to sum it up voice says “That concludes Episode 3, we will return shortly", door slams and washer woman sings. That’s all. (well, it used to be).
The Fine Art of Surfacing though a great album does not quite have the magic of the first two albums. It was another well-produced album; there are no bad tracks, but possibly not enough great tracks. I Don’t like Mondays did overpower the rest of the album being revolutionary as far as the Boomtown Rats were concerned, whilst the rest of the album much more of an evolution of what had take place on Tonic for the Troops.
The Fine Art of Surfacing did not top the charts (unlike its rivals Eat To The Beat or Regatta de Blanc), and was, as far as the UK was concerned, done with in a matter of weeks, whereas Tonic for the Troops spent a year in the charts. At the time there was also a backlash to Geldof in the music press and, to an lesser extent, the popular press. No doubt this affected the album's popularity. Nevertheless The Fine Art of Surfacing is an album that more than matched much of what was happening back in 1979.
In retrospect, this album completed a trilogy of albums all marked by predominately guitar led story telling songs. With later albums bringing the rhythm section to the fore, the Boomtown Rats would never sound the same again or, in my opinion, as consistently good.
The CD re-release contains three B-sides and a live track. It is arguable that the b-sides truly relate to the same period. One is from Clockwork, whilst the other is from Elephant’s Graveyard. And It’s All The Rage which was the b-side from Mondays is omitted entirely.
Late Last Night which is the only track from the era and would have easily fitted onto Surfacing, and enhanced the album. It's a shame LPs only lasted for 40 minutes! The B-side of Diamond Smiles, it starts off with a clockwork introduction, and sounds like a troubled night for Geldof, possibly caused by something he ate. The song is very typical of the Rats of that era with the lyrical guitar solo.
Real Different appears to draw inspiration from Elvis Costello, even down to the Oliver’s Army style piano. It may have been a Surfacing leftover, appearing of the B-side of Elephant’s graveyard. It does sound as if it pre-dates Mondo Bongo and belongs more with this disc. It’s interesting that of all his peers, Geldof seemed to look to Costello more than most, obviously recognising his cleverness, but never quite satisfactorily matching it with the Rats.
From the flip side of Like Clockwork, How Do You Do? appears to have started as a tirade on the record industry, but ultimately descends into Bon Jovi territory saying as long as the band play well on a Saturday night it'll all be OK! Musically the song is good with a great guitar solo, and a crescendo of an ending. Maybe with better developed lyrics this would have been a great song, instead of been merely good to listen to.
The live version of Nothing Happened Today gives a good insight on why the Boomtown Rats were a great live band. Geldof milks the pauses, and the drums are more manic than the recording. The vaudeville break doesn’t sound as good, but remember this is live, and that sort of thing is always easier to mix in the studio.
Beware Episode #3 isn’t what you expect! Now I expected "That conclude Episode #3, we will return shortly", door slams and washer woman sings. END.But no! That's not the end suddenly there is some cackling, and some voices saying "that's not funny, I'm not laughing, that's not funny".... For some unknown reason, the spooky reprise on Sleep has transferred itself to the end of episode #3!!!! This means that despite the running order being as the original album you are required to splice episode #3 and burn it to get the album back as it should be. Grrrrr!!!!
This CD is less essential than either of the first two albums as a re-release as a CD version did previously exist with the correct running order. The album finds the Boomtown Rats at their commercial-peak, with an album that sold right across the world and put itself into more homes than any of its predecessors or successors. To many people, this album epitomises the Boomtown Rats.
Personally, I prefer the first two albums, but I would wholeheartedly recommend this as essential listening as far as the Boomtown Rats are concerned.
Sunday, October 28, 1979
Sunday, October 21, 1979
Friday, May 25, 1979
Saturday, April 07, 1979
Wednesday, February 28, 1979
Tuesday, February 27, 1979
- Blind Date
- (I Never Loved) Eva Brown (sic)
- Neon Heart
- Me And Howard Hughes
- Like Clockwork
- Medley: Rat Trap / Kicks / Joey
- Living On An Island
- (She's Gonna) Do You In
- She's So Modern
- Lookin' After No. 1
- Mary Of The 4th Form
- Do The Rat
- I Don't Like Mondays
- Never Bite The Hand That Feeds
Bob Geldof - lead vocals
Pete Briquette - bass, vocals
Gerry Cott - guitar
Simon Crowe - drums, vocals
Johnnie fingers - keyboards
Garry Roberts - guitar, vocals
“Space” Jenner - sax
from the Wolfgang's Vaults
Despite hitting the top of the charts several times in their native UK, the Boomtown Rats never really caught on in America. Their label, Columbia Records, had hyped them as the next big punk band saying they would be in the same league as the Clash and the Pretenders. It didn’t happen. This was mostly because they never had the material to win over radio programmers, despite having a hit with “I Don’t Like Mondays.” Also an early promotion by the label involved sending actual dead rats in plastic bags (purchased from the New York City Sewer Department) to DJs across the country. The publicity stunt backfired and caused the media to react with such disgust that many of these radio personalities, programmers and journalists wrote off the band forever.Led by the charismatic lead vocalist, Bob Geldof, the group certainly had a great showman as their front man on stage. The band, assisted by former Graham Parker reed man, Space Jenner, was certainly comprised of strong musicians. Their two studio albums produced by the future Mr. Shaina Twain, Robert John Mutt Lange (who also produced some of the best records ever made by Foreigner, Huey Lewis, and AC/DC) should have propelled them into stardom, but didn’t.So, why didn’t they take off? Who knows, but some rock historians feel the material simply wasn’t strong enough to cross over from the UK to American play lists.
Some comments from the Wolfgang's Vaults forum
There is a real gem in the Boomtown Rats San Diego concert that was just added: Their piano-and- vocal-only rendition of "I Don't Like Mondays," which was inspired by the tragic school shooting that occurred in San Diego just a month before the show. Here's hoping you can find a Boomtown Rats concert from their subsequent U.S. tour (there was a great one at Santa Monica Civic in 1981 or 82) that includes the finished version of that song along with other songs from their "Fine Art of Surfacing" album. The Rats may not have made it big in the U.S., but those few of us who saw their shows and bought their records knew we were onto something that a lot of other people would regret missing if only they had discovered it.
I was reading the information regarding the Rats on the Concerts page and was surprised at the poor quality of the information. 1. The Boomtown Rats are not a UK band, They come from Ireland, Yes it is a small place, however as most peple know it is not the UK. 2. The problems with the US DJ's did not really have anything to do with their marketing plan or their lack of quality songs, but had more to do with the US DJ's not wanting to play anything that was vaguely controversial.(for more evidence I dont believe that the Pistols were a huge hit either). 3. Rat trap and I dont like mondays are 2 songs that will be around long after many of the US hits from the same era(Air Supply etc)are well and truly consigned to who cares basket?
Monday, February 19, 1979
This entry is pieced together from the available information from a few sources, page 183/184 of the first edition of Is That It? (which wrongly places it four years after his Late Late Show appearance, and is just another glaring inconsistency in the autobiography) and my memory of watching the show broadcast on Thames Televison in the UK. This article in the Daily Express, Sat 24 Feb 1979 Page 22 gives the date By JUDITH SIMONS Last Monday Bob was airing his views on the Eamonn Andrews television show
Anyway that night the Rats performed Me and Howard Hughes, well they at least mimed to it, before Geldof joined Eamonn Andrews along with Vidal Sassoon and his then wife Beverly. Geldof sat down to set Eamonn Andrews straight about Dublin, much to the host's discomfort. Geldof then proceeded to engage Sassoon on their exercise regimes (Geldof not doing any) and their sleeping habits (Geldof waking up in the late afternoon). There were two other guests, namely Jilly Cooper and Patrick Campbell. Geldof alleges that Campbell, who had a stammer, asked him is Sassoon was a p-p-poofter. Geldof told Campbell he thought he was.
I remember watching with my father who thought Geldof was great for speaking his mind. Maybe not quite as controversial as his Late Late Show appearance, but nonetheless great entertainment from the gob!