I Don’t Like Mondays (The Boomtown Rats)

This may sound morbid or insane; and it’s probably both, but whenever my daughter goes away without me my mind wanders to one of those dark places where I imagine that she will never come back. Like I said, both morbid and insane (my people are Irish, which makes me genetically predisposed to both conditions). Tonight she left to go on vacation with a friend’s family for eight days. This is the first time she will ever be away from me (and with people who are not related to me) for any length of time.

Most of me (the sane, normal part) is happy that she will get to hang out for a week in a cabin on Lake Champlain. The fact that she agreed to go to a place without television or internet is a testament to how comfortable she is with these people. People that I barely know, mind you. My daughter just finished her first year of high school. This high school is comprised of kids from four different towns, so she has made some new friends, which is great for her. Maybe not so great for her mother. Prior to high school she was exposed to about eighty other kids; I knew them and, more importantly, I knew their parents.

For years people with older children always talked about how difficult it was to let them grow up, but I never, ever imagined how terrifying it would really be. And while I can certainly pick up the phone and talk to friends and relatives about normal, everyday concerns I am less likely to have a conversation with anyone, including my husband, about how to cope with imagining her dead.

It should come as no surprise that when she went off to high school I concocted at least one or two scenarios in which she was the victim of the random violence of a school shooting. So, tonight after she left I tried to imagine her swimming in the lake, having fun with her friends, etc. But I still could not get the creepy stuff out of my head (car accident on the way there, attacked by a moose, you get the idea). When no amount of early Beatles or CSN (and I deliberately did NOT listen to Ohio) seemed the antidote for my morose mood, I decided to embrace the crazy with a little early Bruce (Nebraska) and finally ended up listening to I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats.

I remember the first time I heard I Don’t Like Mondays. It was the summer of ’79, the summer before I started high school. I was in my early teens, a little bit younger than my daughter is now. It was the summer I discovered The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Styx, Kansas, Rickie Lee Jones, Bruce Springsteen, and Fleetwood Mac. Later in the year Pink Floyd would give us The Wall. But, somewhere in the middle of all of that I heard I Don’t Like Mondays. I loved it then and I still love it. I can tell you that it took me years to fully grasp what it was about. Originally, the hook about not liking Mondays was enough for me. Of course the school shooting that this song refers to was not something that I ever remember hearing about, which may be because I was fourteen when it happened. At fourteen I was not much of a fan of the evening news (come to think of it I am not much of a fan at forty-five either).

The opening glissando was then (and is now) surprising in a rock song. I distinctly remember thinking then that it did not seem to belong, which I think was the whole point. The opening bars, through the use of glissando, kind of ease you into the song. And then, BANG!, the piano, the drums, and the finger-snapping just make you sit up and take notice. The piano remains, for lack of a better word, pretty throughout the song.

Back in the 70s we barely knew what silicon chips or computers were. Yet, here was Bob Geldof saying, “The silicon chip inside her head/gets switched to overload”. And, really, who hasn’t felt like that at one time or another? While I am sure I had no idea what a silicon chip was back then, nor could I have foreseen how such a thing would revolutionize information and technology, I know that I identified with the idea of life being overwhelming and out of control. Even at fourteen years old.

It was a very unsettled time in my life. My father was going through some stuff that today would probably be diagnosed as depression and anxiety; we would fix it with a little therapy and some pills. They called it a nervous breakdown back then; it required hospitalization and mind-altering chemicals. While I am sure it was all very upsetting and frightening to him, to us (my sisters and myself) it was downright terrifying. So, I knew a little something about how a seemingly sane person can just go off the rails; about just how wrong life can go.

At least my father never decided that he needed to hurt anyone but himself. And that is more than a small comfort. The shooting that this song refers to occurred in California. The shooter was a sixteen-year-old girl apparently hopped up on pills and alcohol who decided that it might be a good idea to exorcise her demons by taking shots at some elementary school kids who went to school across the street from her home. When all was said and done the police asked her why she had done such a thing. Her response? ” I don’t like Mondays”. Seriously, that was her response.

And it was this response that inspired the song. I Don’t Like Mondays addresses the search for reasons over and over (in the chorus, “Tell me why” is repeated several times). But in the end confronts the fact that “They can see no reasons/Cuz there are no reasons”. And, finally because “What reasons do you really need?” Ultimately her “reasons” were as insane as her actions. What reasons would have been good enough? sensible enough? to warrant what she did? None. So, in the end, “I don’t like Mondays” was just as plausible as ” I burned my toast”.

A song like I Don’t Like Mondays is surprising in that the subject matter is so dark and depressing, but the music itself makes you want to whistle the tune. Take away the words and the music has a kind of lullabye quality to it. The juxtaposition of the message versus the music is probably what took me so long to actually figure out that Geldof was not just addressing teen angst or lamenting the end of the weekend. Also, I just liked humming the tune.

Somewhere between fourteen and forty-five I realized what the song was actually about, learned about the event that inspired it. Now I listen to it differently. But I still like to hum the tune.


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