Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"(I Never Loved) Eva Braun"

Do we like Geldof?

It seems a million years ago Bob Geldof was a new wave singer, another snotty streak of piss with an attitude, a mouth and a truckload of ambition. All of that seems to have been overrun by his involvement with famine relief, third world development, peace, butter mountains, and for a while by his personal life.
These days, the Geldof brand is being marketed by his daughters, who certainly seem a chip off the old block in some respects.
Back in the day though Geldof the singer (the real one, not the daughter) was the real "enfant terrible" of the new wave. When Johnny Rotten retired to become John Lydon and work at being taken as a serious musician, Geldof was right there, stage left, waiting to take over.
But where Johnny Rotten was all about outrage for outrage's sake, Geldof was always more thoughtful, if sometimes a little clumsy. Like Sinead O'Connor, Geldof had issues with some of the hard-dying traditions in Irish society, the influence of the Church, and he used his position as a pulpit from which to attack.
Even his music reflected more thought. While the Pistols were throwing as much manure at the wall to stink up the place, The Boomtown Rats picked their subjects with a little more care, even if shock was still on the agenda. "I Don't Like Mondays" got itself banned in the US for dealing with a schoolyard shooting (20 years before Columbine), and "Mary of the Fourth Form" and "She's So Modern" skewered the rapidly-unwinding tradition of schoolroom innocence, like The Police would do later.
But one song, to me, stands head and shoulders above the rest of their material.
if you're setting out to shock and undermine you can do it, as the Pistols did, with a blunt instrument. Or you can subvert the process and have a little fun. I have no doubt that, as unpalatable as the subject matter is, Geldof had a lot of fun writing this song.
"I never loved Eva Braun/Though a thousand people say I did/She was just some girl who was on the make/Boy she wanted to be so big."
Okay, so we're already coming at the subject sideways. Listen to song! Not only are the Rats twisting our tail, they're taking the mickey by hauling in ancient references (the "Are you really going out with Adolf?", the "oh no?"/"oh yeah?"/"yes we see" are pulled straight from the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack?").
I never heard all the screams (oh no?)/I never saw the blood and dirt and gore (oh yeah?)/That wasn't part of the dream, (yes, we see)/Of maps and generals and uniforms."
To be honest, it's a sick, twisted song, but from the safe distance of thirty-plus years, we can see that it's entirely in keeping with the Geldof way: be outrageous, be subversive, take the accepted truth and play with it.
And it's helped by a truly great chant-along chorus that spins faster and faster, right to the final ringing chord, and the whispered, awed, "Gee!".
Maybe it's not songwriting on a par with the Neil Youngs of this world, but it's as in-your-face and provocative as Geldof ever was.

Apologies for the video... minimize the window if you must.

1 comment:

C.J.Duffy said...

I always thought of Geldof and The Rats as being new wave prog as they were never really punk even though 'Loooking After Number One' spun them into that arena.

Another fine post!