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Bob Geldof

November 2001

“Contentment is just not part of the human plot. The religious seek contentment, work f***ing hard at it, but never achieve it.”

SAINT Bob Geldof swears now and again — it is the eff word he favours.
“Of course, you know, we’re speaking on the telephone right now, and I’m sitting outside a cafe and yeah, things are fine.
“Do I feel like bursting into song and running down the street? No.”
He almost laughs.
Laughter is probably something Bob Geldof doesn’t do too often.
Of course, for that you can’t really blame him.
Six years ago his incredible life took a downturn when he split from wife of nine years Paula Yates.
“Plenty of guys get divorced but not at some Shakespearean level of tragedy,” he reflects.
Since then, despite being in the public eye more than ever, Geldof has kept a low profile.
Until now that is.
After years of silence Bob Geldof has come blinking into the spotlight again.
He has a new album to promote called Sex, Age and Drugs. It is his first for five years.
And with it he is raking up the whole episode.
On the album’s opening track called One For Me he sings:
“And the teenage clothes and see-through sizes, the mutton dished up on the Sunday plate, is now the lamb in ghostly guises, you should have known better.”
On My Birthday Suit he sings
“I always prayed for me and you but never mind, it doesn’t matter now.”
Inside the CD booklet is a photo of a woman with blonde hair lying on a bed, a crucifix on the bedside table.
“What do you think it’s meant to be?” he asks.
Last year, Paula Yates was found dead at her London home lying on a bed. It followed the suicide of lover Michael Hutchence in November 1997. Despite three years passing, Paula was still overcome with grief, and took an overdose in September last year.
So, it’s Paula, right?
“Well it’s not,” he says, so matter-of-factly he has obviously missed the possible connection.
Less subtle is the track Inside Your Head:
“You got the gold, I got the lead, You got the juice, you left me the dregs, You got the view, I got the ledge, You got the palace, you left me the shed. So why not put a noose around your neck. What the f***’s going on inside your head?”
Considering INXS singer Hutchence was found hanged in a Sydney hotel room four years ago, the similarity is, to say the least, tantalisingly close.
Perhaps what is most startling is the way the song is delivered. It begins with a lot of background chatter, almost like a party song.
Bit sick, isn’t it?
“It’s not a party, it sounds like a cafe or something. Why I did that was because this whole thing was going on between me and the other people involved [he rarely mentions Paula’s name, and never Michael Hutchence’s] was like a public spectator sport. That’s what it was like. Like you were in some sort of f***ing Roman arena where people were just tormenting you. There was enough torment going on anyway.”
Then he adds: “I think that’s what it is. I think that’s why I did that.”
The reason he sounds so vague is that the album, like a diary of his darkest years, was finished over a year ago.
And the songs were written before Paula Yates’ drug overdose.
“I waited until I felt right to put out the record, to be honest with you.
“Why? I don’t know?
“The songs were all written before Paula died but they still work.
“You think you know what they are about and I think I know what they are about and for other people they might mean something completely different. They probably mean something completely different to me than they do to you.
“You are trying to interpret it through what you know about me, and you are probably wrong, which is not your fault.
“It is people interpreting what they know about someone that they know through a distorted filter, like the papers, or whatever.”
Despite that, he admits the album is a reflection of how he felt during the period in question.
“It was not a cathartic exercise but an attempt to give shape to an experience that was wholly incomprehensible and largely still is. I don’t feel a sense of release or relief. It hasn’t got the demons out of the system. In fact, I can’t listen to the album because I find it too troubling.”
“It is unsettling and you don’t want to be reminded of those things.”
Odd that he can’t listen to the album but can sing the songs off it on his short UK tour, which lands at Newark Palace Theatre tomorrow.
Bob Geldof tends not to tour the UK too often, rather favouring the Continent where he is still just Bob Geldof — musician.
“For 25 years I’ve been in people’s faces and so they know all these different types of Bob. Probably the last thing they think about me is music. That isn’t true on the Continent where that’s all they know me for.
“But music is what I do. I do business stuff and other stuff — but it doesn’t occupy any of my brain space.
“Music is completely fulfilling. It’s a crap word and not adequate, but it is. Especially playing live.
“It’s emotionally cathartic, it’s physically exhausting, it’s financially rewarding and psychologically complete.
“When you leave stage after a good gig you sleep — and I don’t sleep very well generally so that’s a novel experience — but you also disappear. You leave yourself and other concerns behind and you are off in the music.”
The last time he was in the county was 1985 with the Boomtown Rats at the Royal Concert Hall.
Back then, he ended the show with Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? which became the biggest-selling single in UK history until Elton John’s Candle In The Wind tribute to Diana.
“That was the only tour we ever played it. I never played it again after that.
“It’s not sort of my song anyway, really. At least I don’t feel it is.”
It was with the new wave group Boomtown Rats that Geldof first tasted celebrity.
The group formed during the punk movement of the late seventies as the Nitelife Thugs.
Geldof, or rather Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof as he was born in 1951, had recently returned from London where he had worked as a music journalist for the NME.
The group were one of the key bands of the era with a dozen hits including Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays, both of which reached number one in the charts.
The same year the band split was the year of Band Aid, which launched Bob Geldof — celebrity.
He wrote Do They Know It’s Christmas? with Midge Ure and assembled the nation’s biggest stars for the record, after seeing news reports of famine in Ethiopia.
It raised £6m and another £50m followed with the Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia.
“The point about Live Aid was that it was an issue no one was discussing and there were potentially 30 million people dying.
“So you had to bring that to general awareness.”
Seeing Geldof with Charles and Di, Mother Theresa and an array of uncomfortable world leaders was not an unusual sight then.
In 1986, he married Paula Yates, the same year he received an honorary Knighthood (honorary because of his Irish birth).
In 1992, after trying a spot of TV and film acting, including Pink Floyd’s The Wall, his TV company Planet 24 launched The Big Breakfast on Channel 4.
Ironic that it was on the show that presenter Yates would first meet Hutchence, whom she would leave Geldof for in 1994.
Initially many saw Geldof as the wounded animal, the victim, separated from his home and his children.
The divorce case, however, revealed the split was a direct result of Geldof’s infidelities throughout his marriage.
Yates fell pregnant with Tiger Lilly during her custody battle with Geldof, which he won.
It is alleged that the day before Hutchence hanged himself in his Sydney hotel room, he had a heated argument with Geldof about the custody of his children.
The Shakespearean tragedy climaxed last year when Yates died of a heroin overdose.
“I don’t discuss these things because I literally can’t,” says Geldof.
“I can’t show you my soul. Some things are unsayable. But maybe you try to articulate the unspeakable in music.
“Musically the album couldn’t have sounded anything but exhausted and weary because that’s the place I was in.”
Sex, Age & Death is his fourth solo album and echoes the introspective work of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and John Lennon.
Although quite a bleak album, lyrically, it ends on a high with a thank you to his partner of four years, French actress Jeanne Morine.
The track 10:15 begins: “Jeanne saved my soul.”
Says Geldof: “I was very raw during all of this. You’re like a sort of livid mess and if anyone touches you with the tiniest amount of kindness or tenderness you recoil — like you’ve been touched in a very wounded spot.
“But nonetheless, it begins to make you whole again. It fits in well as being the last song as the last word on the album is smiling.”
They share a home in Faversham, Kent, with his three children with Yates — Fifi Trixibelle, 18; Peaches Honeyblossom, 11; and Pixie, 11, — and her child by Hutchence, five-year-old Tiger Lilly, of whom Geldof was, perhaps oddly, awarded temporary custody.
One wonders how the girlfriend feels about Geldof’s album raking over a past relationship.
“I think she understands that it’s necessary. If you are a songwriter, it’s what you do and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“I can’t go away and write, ‘Oh yummy yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy’.
“She does listen to it and she thinks it’s great which gives you quite a lot of confidence.”
There was no financial need for Geldof to make the album or do the tour (or get out of bed), having sold Planet 24 for £7m.
“Things are good at the moment but, you know, four kids, all that stuff...
“Also I’d go out of my head if I didn’t do stuff. I like ideas. That’s the thing that excites me.”
He likes to drink wine, has dieted and will always be scruffy Bob, he just doesn’t look right in a suit, he says.
He has never been comfortable with his celebrity and he makes his feelings known if bothered in the street.
“They think they know lots about me.
“Bobbyyyyyy... that’s one thing they shout and it drives the kids mad.
“If it gets to be a pain in the arse, I just think f*** off — the problem is, they like that more.
“If I’m in a really grumpy mood and someone keeps asking me for an autograph I’ll turn round and say, ‘Look will you ever f*** off?’
“And they are like, ‘Wow, Bob Geldof told me to f*** off’.”

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