Classic Albums No.5 – A Tonic For the Troops (The Boomtown Rats)

A Tonic For the Troops by the Boomtown Rats is my next classic album. Released in 1978 as the punk era was incorporating itself into the mainstream pop culture. The Boomtown Rats has released their first album the previous year and had some minor success, with great single Looking After No 1, but it was this album that launched them into the big time.  Sometimes maligned as being a sort quasi-punk band, the Rats were nothing like this – they were a pop group who wrote great melodies with intelligent lyrics and used the full range of instruments. They were accomplished  musicians.

The album starts – tick tock tick tock tick tock – with Like Clockwork  with a slightly off-not guitar with some fast drumming before Bob Geldof’s vocals come in. This is an ideal opener because it promises lots to come. What comes next is Blind Date, an energetic song that blends a rolling drumbeat with some Rolling Stone-esqe  guitar riffs. The bass guitar moves the song  along and the use of Harmonica just adds a nice touch.

Next comes one of my favourites – (I Never Loved) Eva Braun a satirical take on Hitler’s mistress. This, in my opinion, is a masterpiece of pop. It’s changes of pace, laid back verses and accelerated chorus with the dependable guitar melody and good use of keyboards (a feature of the Rats), along with whistling (yes whistling) and drums at the end just make this a magnificent song.

Living In an Island shows a touch of reggae influence, while Don’t Believe What You Read has a punk influenced vibe all through it, showing how the Rats incorporated all sorts of styles into their songs.
The first song on side two is She’s So Modern, which reached No 12 in the UK charts. This is a delightfully punk-influenced pop song that must get you up to dance, a cacophony of sound that blends perfectly into something  fabulous.

I thought Me and Howard Hughes was not the strongest song on the album, but as it follows such a strong song as Modern Girl I think I might be being a bit harsh. It has a nice melody and motors along as it describes a recluse. Can’t Stop brings a frenetic pace to the album with Geldof’s near hysterical voice adding to the out-of-control vibe (unfortunately I couldn’t find a link to this one).  A Tonic For the Troops finishes off with (Watch Out For) The Normal People  which is a dig at conformity in the suburbs, but is, for me, is great pop song, and the iconic Rat Trap, the Boomtown Rat’s first No 1.

There’s not much I can say about Rat Trap that hasn’t already been said. It’s a story about a Saturday Night in Dublin. These of keyboards, saxaphone , the slow intro, and the build up to a rip-roaring end. But more than that, this is a story, a comment on boredom in the city, a lack of hope, generational chains keeping people down. This is what a pop song should be.

Anyhow, I couldn’t find a link to a full album on youtube, so I have included links to the as many songs as I could below. So long for now.


Like Clockwork –

Blind Date –

(I Never Loved ) Eva Braun –

Living In An Island –

Don’t Believe What You Read –

She’s So Modern –

Me and Howard Hughes –

Can’t Stop  – no link that I could find

(Watch Out For) The Normal People –  as 11:23 on this one of the Peel Sessions

Rat Trap –

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon). Real name Peter Tapsell...just started off writing under a pseudonym and kept going.

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