Peaking at No 81 in the UK charts on the first week of its release in November 1984, The Boomtown Rats’ penultimate single (before they reformed of course!) was simply called Dave.
Described by Pete Townshend as the best single of the year, this incredible song completely by-passed the world’s music lovers. It’s possible that all the activity around Band Aid meant the record got overlooked, but that only seems to be part of the story. By this stage in their career, The Rats’ had had an amazing ten years, but it seems that by the time Dave was released, the musical tastes of the record-buying public had moved on.
Like many of Bob Geldof’s best lyrics, this song is based on a true story – a bloke Bob had known during his school days in Ireland, who’s paths had crossed again much later in life. Dave became a saxophone player with the band, until one night he returned home after a gig and found his girlfriend dead – she’d OD’d on drugs she’d bought for a fiver – hence the line in the song “So what's a fiver? Why so mean?”
Dave had rung Bob at 3am – his world totally destroyed – and the song contains the words that Geldof wished he’d been able to say over the phone….how many of us have been in that position? Wanting to say something to help but only finding the right words when we fear it’s too late?
The song is beautifully written, with lines like “The view from on your knees deceives” and “Time heals, believe”.
In the US, the music execs couldn’t stomach a bloke singing an emotional song about another bloke and it seems, couldn’t be arsed to try to understand the message behind the words. So, it was remixed and changed around for the US and Canada markets as Rain. The revised words were equally emotional “The rain keeps falling in steady streams, of holy water in times of grief, the flooded moments the sea of peace, that cools the pain and wipes you clean.”
This song should have been another global hit for The Boomtown Rats and although I’ve said it before, I wish they’d include it in their live set.