In typical Boomtown fashion, we’ve actually picked the wrong month for this but our new Mayor announced a few weeks ago that throughout September, we’d celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the release of The Rats’ landmark album – The Fine Art of Surfacing.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting a cornucopia of TFAOS-related posts and inviting all Citizens of Boomtown to share your memories, souvenirs and recollections of this brilliant album.
Released on 9th October 1979, The Fine Art of Surfacing was The Boomtown Rat’s masterpiece, reaching number 7 in the UK charts and staying there for two weeks. The first single off the album was the globally successful classic I Don't Like Mondays, which reached Number 1 in the UK, Ireland, Australia and South Africa and was a solid top-ten hit in many other countries, becoming the sixth best-selling single of 1979. The backstory to the song is well known – when a US school-girl was asked why she’d gone on a shooting spree, she answered “I Don’t Like Mondays”. According to Bob Geldof in his autobiography Is that it?, he hadn’t wanted the song to be about the school-girl, but about psychosis. He wanted her to be seen as a victim not a heroine.
Most of the album was produced by Mutt Lange who had worked with The Rats on their earlier albums, but Mondays had been produced by Phil Wainman. Initially, the song had been given the Rats’ trademark New Wave guitar treatment but was to emerge from the recording sessions as the incredible piano and strings-laced ‘psycho-drama’ that’s still recognised the world over.
The Fine Art of Surfacing is arguably the Rats at their finest, an album that when played from start to finish, remains as strong today as it did when I first heard it back in the day. It’s high on energy and with the usual brand of sharply insightful lyrics from Bob, together with song-writing contributions from bassist Pete Briquette, guitarist Gerry Cott and keyboard maestro, Jonnie Fingers. Mondays was followed up with the hit singles Diamond Smiles, which reached number 13 in the UK and Someone’s Looking at You, which reached number 4. As well as the singles, the album is packed with a succession of powerful songs including Windchill Factor (Minus Zero) and what is possibly the finest combination of words and music that The Rats ever produced, the glorious When the Night Comes.
When the Night Comes was released as the B-side of Someone’s Looking at You but would have been a hit in its own right. The other B-sides were It’s All the Rage, the B-side of Mondays and an early track that the band had been playing live in 1978 and Late Last Night, a scary hallucinogenic song about nightmares and our darkest fears.
As Bob wrote in Is that it?, most of the songs for The Fine Art of Surfacing had been written in a newly purchased house in Clapham, “the first place which ever seemed like home to me”, but despite being more content than he’d ever been, “..most of the songs on the album were brutally honest about myself and my preoccupations and touched on the bleaker side of life”. The album’s title was taken from an article in New Scientist on psychology, “It seemed apt to someone who had for most of his life felt like he was slowly sinking.”
The Fine Art of Surfacing was a massive global hit, awarded a gold disc in the UK, and went platinum in Canada. The world tour was a huge success. Opening the tour in Liverpool, Bob “…looked at the kids wearing pyjamas in imitation of Fingers and black-and-white check jackets in imitation of me” and thought “This may never happen to you again”. When introducing the words to Wind Chill Factor in Tales of Boomtown Glory, Bob describes the success of the album: “We were at ‘the top’. We were. We were actually at the toppest of the tops of Mount Pop. It’s what we wanted. What we’d worked for….” With music like this, that success was well-deserved.
When did you last play The Fine Art of Surfacing all the way through….go on, you know you want to….!
If you went to the gigs, bought the record or remember listening to those hit singles, post on Citizens of Boomtown and share your memories, recollections and anecdotes of what you were doing in 1979 and 1980. Share photos of your treasured tickets stubs from the tour or photos of the gig or with the band. What are your favourite tracks from the album? We want to know what you think about this brilliant record.