A Rekindled Respect…


…For Bob Geldof.

Anyone else remember this guy? Personally, I don’t have to do much digging to bring him to the forefront of my consciousness. Being a child of the 80’s, I knew him as an icon on three different levels.

Video Icon

His band, Boomtown Rats, was one of those that worked its way into heavy rotation during the earliest days of MTV (when they actually played music videos and didn’t have that many to rotate). With a slight bit of concentration, I can still hear the melancholy sound of their one hit, “Up All Night.”

African jungle
Big City Street
The only real difference
is in the people you meet

It was one of those songs you saw on MTV, but never heard on Top 40 radio (I was much too young to be in tune with “college radio,” where these songs got any radio time at all). The tune was catchy and it had one of those hooks that stayed with me. In 1982, I didn’t yet know Geldof by name, but I knew his band, and I knew him by sight.
Humanitarian Icon

Christmastime 1984. The new single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was all over the radio and MTV. I was almost 13 and just starting to think that I knew a little something about the world. Then I heard this song:

At Christmastime it’s hard,
but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window,
and it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
is the bitter sting of tears

It opened my eyes to a world completely different than my own. And Bob Geldof made it happen.

MTV had the video in heavy rotation and made every effort to tell the story behind it. Bob Geldof saw a news report about the African famine in October of 1984. He was moved to do something about it. Even then, Geldof was pragmatc in his approach. He knew that he didn’t have a high enough profile to generate much interest on his own, so he pulled strings and called in favors and got some of the biggest names in the music business to help produce the single as “Band Aid”. It surpassed anyone’s expectations and became the biggest selling single in UK history (since passed by Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” tribute to Princess Di). Oh by the way, it raised millions for famine relief.

July 13th, 1985. Do you remember where you were? I know exactly where I was. Glued to the TV watching everyone who was anyone in the music business give one of the greatest concerts of all time. The Live Aid concert incorporated almost 80 acts in multiple locations and lasted for 16 hours. It raised almost $250 million for Ethiopian famine relief. Again, Geldof was the driving force behind the colossal effort.

I remember going to the opening of Houston’s Hard Rock Cafe in November 1986. It was a big event for an almost 15 hipster like myself. To me, the coolest artifacts on display were the shoes that Bob Geldof wore during the Live Aid concert.
Cultural Icon

It wasn’t until I got to college in the fall of 1990 that I saw what was probably Bob Geldof’s crowning artistic achievement. I had grown up with Pink Floyd in the background of my cultural consciousness. They were one of those bands that I knew existed, but never paid them much attention. I’d heard a few of their songs, but none that really grabbed me. Although, like any child of the late 70’s and 80’s, I could belt out “Hey! Teachers! Leave us kids alone!” with the best of them.

My roommate during my freshman year, Jack, was a music snob (a la John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity), and he found it absolutely abhorrent that I had never seen Pink Floyd’s The Wall . So we sat down one Friday night and watched it from beginning to end. As soon as I realized that Bob Geldof (playing the lead role of Pink Floyd) was involved, I was hooked. I can’t say I understand every part of the movie, but the visuals and music were definitely entertaining. I’ll echo what critics have said for years and tell you that Bob Geldof absolutely nailed the portrayal of the tormented Pink. To this day, when I hear a Pink Floyd song, even if it’s not from The Wall, the face I associate with the music isn’t Roger Waters’ or David Gilmour’s, but Bob Geldof’s.
Back in the Spotlight

Over the past twenty years, the world hasn’t heard much from Bob Geldof. He has steadfastly refused to try and recapture the magic of Live Aid with another concert. That is until now. Geldof, U2’s Bono, and screenwriter Richard Curtis are at the helm of next month’s Live 8 concert. The goal of this effort is to raise international awareness of the effects of extreme poverty and to push an agenda aimed at alleviating or eliminating poverty in Africa. The agenda calls for a doubling of aid budgets, the elimination of African debt, and a change in trade laws to allow for greater fairness. The timing of the concert is specific, hoping to catch the attention of the leaders of the G8 countries prior to a summit later in the month.
Why the Respect?

Some of you might ask why I am touting the rekindled respect I have for Bob Geldof. I’ve been quick to criticize the One Campaign and its supporters, and they’re basically doing the same thing as Geldof. What makes Geldof so different? For me, it’s the pragmatic approach he has taken to this effort. He really wants to see the effort succeed, and he knows that in order for it to succeed, he must draw the G8 leader’s attention instead of pushing them away. He has recently issued instructions to all of the performers to stay on focus. He reminds them that the point of this concert is to raise awareness of the effects of poverty, and that it is not a platform from which to proclaim their disdain for the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq and on global warming. He’s getting a little pushback from the artists about their desire to express their “righteous anger” with the administration. They just don’t get it. But Geldof does.

He can cut through the politics and recognize good things when they are happening. Here’s a quote from him that appears in the recent Time article about the Live 8 organizers:

“Actually, today I had to defend the Bush Administration in France again. They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American President for Africa. But it’s empirically so.”

Forget politics. Geldof cares about results. I won’t go as far as saying that I agree with every aspect of the Live 8 effort, but I respect it more because someone like Geldof is involved. Will he get the results he hopes for? I don’t know, but for someone that can get the original lineup of Pink Floyd together, I wouldn’t say anything is impossible.

p.s. You can sign the petition at the Live 8 website without putting your e-mail address in! But then, you won’t get any e-mail from Bono or Madonna. Suit yourself.


4 Responses to “A Rekindled Respect…”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    “But then, you won’t get any e-mail from Bono or Madonna.”

    You mean aside from the ones I’ve been getting from them for years — Bono for songwriting tips, Madonna for, well, this is a family blog.

  2. DeJon Redd Says:

    Joe, your writing did an excellent job of dispelling my misconception that we are the same age.

    I’ll start respecting you as an elder.

  3. Whitney Says:

    I feel the same way, this being one of those times I look to my trivia snob of a husband and say “WHY do you know that?” He is SO FULL of completely USELESS information (to be fair, he is full of useFUL information, too.)

    Joey, you’re right. I read “Blah, blah, blah” until the end when you got to the point. That part was good.

    Hopefully your early 80s cronies on here will “get it” more the Dej and I do. Love you.

  4. DeJon Says:

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