Rat Trap

Album: A Tonic For the Troops (1978)
Charted: 1
Play Video


  • This single by The Boomtown Rats reached #1 in the UK singles chart for two weeks in November 1978, becoming the first song by a punk or new wave act to do so. It was also the first UK chart topper for an Irish rock act.
  • This Springsteen homage tells the tale of a boy called Billy who feels the depressing town he lives in is a "Rat Trap." It was based on singer Bob Geldof's then job in an abattoir. He recalled to Mojo magazine February 2011: "I wrote Rat Trap in the abattoir in 1973, two years before the Rats were around. But I wasn't particular writing songs. I was just writing loads of words."
  • Mojo asked Geldof how much of his song writing with The Boomtown Rats was journalistic and how much what you felt, like a psychic download? He replied: "The very first interview I did with the NME, with Angie Errigo, I said I wanted to be famous, because I wanted to use fame to talk about things that bothered me. And I have. But with 'Rat Trap,' there was just as much, as you say psychic download going on. That really was me working in the abattoir."
  • The song replaced "Summer Nights" at #1. The song from the Grease soundtrack had spent seven weeks at the top of the UK charts, and when the Rats performed "Rat Trap" on Top of the Pops, Geldof held up a picture of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta to loud cheers from the audience, before ripping it up.

Comments: 1

  • Anonymous"Rat Trap" was considered Ireland's equivalent of "God Save The Queen" (until the even more scathing "Banana Republic" came along). It was about the casual violence, boredom and feeling of no future for everyone in Dublin, where even the prospect of the old route of escape to London no longer seems plausible as Britain plunged deep into recession.

    It was the second time Geldof has written specifically about the despair of living in Dublin, the first being "Joey's On The Street (Again)" about a wide boy who was eventually murdered when he tried dabbling in petty crime to make ends meet and fell foul of a local organised crime syndicate, and the impact his death had on so many of his peers, as his antics had given them the only colour in their lives.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"

Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"They're Playing My Song

"How much does it cost? I'll buy it?" Another songwriter told Jonathan to change these lyrics. Good thing he ignored this advice.

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"They're Playing My Song

When a waitress wouldn't take him home, Jack wrote what would become one of the Eagles most enduring hits.

Michael Schenker

Michael SchenkerSongwriter Interviews

The Scorpions and UFO guitarist is also a very prolific songwriter - he explains how he writes with his various groups, and why he was so keen to get out of Germany and into England.

Gentle Giant

Gentle GiantSongwriter Interviews

An interview with Ray and Derek Shulman of the progressive rock band Gentle Giant to discuss counterpoint, polyrhythms, and... Bon Jovi.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

Tanita Tikaram

Tanita TikaramSongwriter Interviews

When she released her first album in 1988, Tanita became a UK singing sensation at age 19. She talks about her darkly sensual voice and quirky songwriting style.