Wednesday, March 4, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Music that Shaped Me (part 3)

The Boomtown Rats - The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979)

Continuing my look at twenty albums that had a major impact on my life, we come to 1979's "The Fine Art of Surfacing" by The Boomtown Rats. Everybody and their dog had heard of the Rats by this time, being famous for dethroning John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's Grease song from the top of the charts with Rat Trap years before. By the time I Don't Like Mondays hit the charts, the schoolyards were filled with kids talking about what the song was really about. It's a sad state of affairs that these incidents have become more and more commonplace... but let's not get into that.

I was introduced to the album by my uncle (I think that's right) Ian. He was a couple of years older than me and we only really saw each other once or twice a year. He lived with my maternal grandfather, and "aunt" (who was actually my step-grandmother?) in east London. Ian introduced me to some great music that influenced me as a kid - one being Frankie Goes to Hollywood (we'll come to that later) and the other was this album. He bought it on cassette while visiting my parents "up north" and we listened to it when he first got it. On first listen it was cool, but I distinctly remember the weirdness of some of the tracks - Having My Picture Taken is really quirky, and not the usual topic of music at the time, and both Nothing Happened Today and When The Night Comes are about mundane life, being bored with work, and not the standard love songs that really dominated.

"Frankie, you're no different from any of the rest,
They've nailed you to your table and they've chained you to your desk."

And then the album had weird secret tracks at the end of each side that I'd not experienced before. The end of side one finishes with a repeating laugh track with "Stop laughing, that's not funny" repeated over it (very creepy)... and side two ends with a sign off for the Rats leaving the Ensign Record label - "That concludes episode 3..."

Months went by and a friend at school in my class was obsessed with Adam and the Ants and asked if ever I saw any magazine articles about the Ants I should save them for her, which I did. She asked what music I was into, and I knew the sort of magazines she read wouldn't cover the weird synth-instrumental stuff I was listening to (Oldfield, Jarre, etc.) so I thought back to that album  and said The Boomtown Rats are alright...  She surprised me with a mass of clippings from music press about them.

When my birthday was approaching, I was asked what I wanted and I asked for the newest Rats album - Mondo Bongo - which one of my sisters kindly bought for me and proceeded to make me play in front of my parents. Luckily they weren't listening too hard (first record I owned that had "shit" as a lyric), and I quickly progressed on to buying The Fine Art of Surfacing on vinyl.

I bought Surfacing, Mondo Bongo, and V Deep again a few years ago on CD and they still hold up really well. Great albums, all of them.

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