In 1979, The Boomtown Rats were working hard on two fronts. In the UK, they needed to follow up the chart-topping success of Rat Trap. But they also wanted to break America.
For that all-important follow-on single, the band toyed with releasing a reworked version of Joey’s on the Street Again, which they recorded during a session with the producer Gus Dudgeon (Elton John, David Bowie). As well as the new version of Joey, they also laid down a couple of other tracks that they saw as possible B-sides for the single. Although Joey never made it as a single in the UK, the Gudgeon sessions were important for The Boomtown Rats because, one of those B-sides was a guitar-focussed, reggae tinged song called I Don’t like Mondays.
I’m guessing that most Citizens of Boomtown know the story behind this monumental song. On 29th January 1979, a 16 year old US schoolgirl opened fire on a school playground in San Diego, killing two adults and wounding eight children and a police officer. Deep into a gruelling promo tour of US radio stations, Bob Geldof and Jonnie Fingers were in Atlanta when news broke of the shooting but it wasn't just the horror of the unfolding events that grabbed Bob’s attention. When asked why she’d shot her classmates, all the shooter could offer was the seemingly throwaway “I Don’t Like Mondays”. Gripped by the sheer mindlessness of what had occurred, Geldof had written the words to the song by the end of that day.
Returning to the UK for a few weeks, before kicking off the long-planned 1979 US tour, the moguls that ran Ensign Records reckoned Mondays was a hit. But somehow the reggae version didn’t feel right. Geldof and Fingers went back to the drawing board and re-imagined the song as the piano-led epic that we are now all so familiar with.
It can only have been a coincidence that The Rats kicked off the US tour in San Diego, where the shooting had occurred less than a month earlier. Although the band were still working on Mondays, they played it at the San Diego gig because they wanted to reach out to people in the crowd that might have been at the school or maybe had known people that had died. The concert was recorded for posterity, and you can hear the first live performance of I Don't Like Mondays here (scroll down to track 14):
Returning home after the US tour, the song was recorded with Phil Wainman as producer and was released in July 1979. It reached No.1 in the UK on 28th July - 43 years ago this week - and became a global hit .... everywhere it seems except the US where it only got to #73.
The song is one of those all-time classics that has reached such an exalted position, almost everybody knows it. Mention The Boomtown Rats and people will immediately think of I Don't Like Mondays.
So, Lazun gemun, I give you I Don’t Like Mondays, one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded:
Can you remember where you were when you first heard it?