Bob Geldof: Death Mettle.

23 September 2002 | 12:00 am | Craig New
Originally Appeared In

Boom(town), Shake The Room.

Bob Geldof plays the Tivoli Theatre on October 6. Sex, Age & Death is in stores now.

Where do you start on a story like that of Sir Bob Geldof? The man has been one of the most talked about pop singers in music history and, ironically enough, least of all for his music. To attempt any kind of reference, analysis or review of Bob’s background would be tantamount to plagiarising his autobiography or at the very worst adding a few more drops to the ocean of both invented and skewed press that has plagued him since the early days of his group, The Boomtown Rats.

Possibly the most sensible thing to do is simply listen to his fourth solo record - and first in eight years - Sex, Age & Death; a dark and introspective adventure that explains a lot more from the heart than a thousand interviews could ever hope for - a musical, emotional and spiritual excursion through the tragedy that has obfuscated the past decade of Bob’s life. Especially considering Bob’s infamous detestation of the whole media spotlight shining directly upon him.

“I really didn’t know how to approach it, and I was afraid of…I don’t know, I don’t know what I was afraid of, but I viewed it with trepidation,” Bob considers down the line from his home in London. “I didn’t want to cheapen this or be naff or anything, so I would only talk to the music journalists from the broad sheet press. The guys who had been writing about music for a long time and would know my music in context. Because this thing that we’ve been through over the last few years was so much in the public eye, they would only view it through a musical lens, and that’s what I required, so it was done with a certain amount of dignity if you like, by them and me.”

One thing you pick up from Bob is that above all else, he is as directly and brutally honest as a nudist retreat. This almost unheard of celebrity quality has possibly been one of the main incitations of the media wrath throughout his career. Some see his character as a man who, unlike most others, makes good on his moral judgements of right and wrong and dares to try and make a difference. Some see him merely as a wanker with a big mouth and too much persuasion. Wherever you sit, hopefully Sex, Age & Death can at least be engaged on a level of its own, without the presumptive bullshit. Sounding very contemporary (something that a lot of long-term musicians find difficult to pull off gracefully and genuinely), Sex, Age & Death is an expansive and thoughtful documentary, merging beats and acoustics with emotional outpourings. There’s still that slightly frustrating, gruff vocal sound, but imbued with an experience and heartfelt honesty that transcends mere technicalities.

“You get interviewers who have heard Looking After Number One and Mary Of The Fourth Form (classic Rats singles), which are cool songs, I fucking love them, because it’s so full on, this fucking poignant energy and rage tumbling out of the speakers at you, and it’s great. People like yourself are able to completely reappraise that period, for good or ill, ‘cause we now know that music - forget ours - music of that period was fucking immense, and it did shift things completely. It completely altered things. It altered the way record companies worked, the type of bands they signed, the type of music radio played, and it was only ten bands that did that, and we just happened to be one of them, and that was fucking cool. Of course we didn’t realise it then, we were just having a fucking laugh.”

“Then things like Live Aid (the world’s largest concert and fundraiser for the famine-struck Africa, held in 1985), that’s less problematic because the questions that we raised at Live Aid are now the political agenda. Bono (U2) wants to do another concert and record, but I said that won’t work. Use your influence, let’s use influence to get into these towers of power and change the agenda, so we started this thing called DATA, which is funded by Bill Gates and George Soros. We go in and of course we have access to Blair, we have access to Bush, we have access to the Australians and the Europeans, so we constantly do that. He and I are like the Laurel and Hardy of third world debt. Bono is enamoured of the world, and I’m enraged by it, but we both arrive at the same conclusion through adverse sides of the same emotional coin.”

Bob and Bono have together made a vast difference to the political and economic agendas that ultimately control the lives and indeed deaths of the entire population of the world. But make no mistake; there is no ‘do-gooding’ about this involvement, more an unending quest for what is right.

“I don’t think it’s anything to do with trying to do good things,” Bob asseverates. “I think it is of necessity, the political agenda. It’s not as if we’re trying to do good shit. We’re trying to adjust ourselves to this new political world, parts of which were talked about in 1984 and ‘85 with the Live Aid agenda. It’s nothing to do with do-goodism, it’s now accepted. World leaders now meet specifically to deal with these fucking issues, and the political fall out of these issues. It’s got fuck all with to do with doing good, how the fuck are we going to arrange this planet so that we can get on with our lives? It’s only by talking to each other that we can sort it out at a lesser level.”

Whilst this kind of discussion has been the impetus behind immense political change and indeed personal inspiration within literally billions of people worldwide, I could not let pass the opportunity to find out if Bob, with his beautifully twisted sense of humour, was ever a fan of The Muppet Show.

“I used to be, years ago,” he laughs. “My favourite were the two old boys who constantly shouted at the stage.” Waldorf and Statler, I clarify. There is a contented sigh at the other end and I can believe it is one of a momentary nostalgic joy. “Bono and I are the Waldorf and Statler of Africa,” he smiles.