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The Boomtown Rats' 'I Don't Like Mondays:' The Strange Story Of Its Lyrics And Meaning

Music | July 28, 2020

Left: The Boomtown Rats on the single sleeve of 'I Don't Like Mondays.' Right: Brenda Spencer in handcuffs following the shooting. Sources: discogs.com; Wikimedia Commons

The Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays," a fun-sounding little song that went to #1 in the UK, isn't about mere start-of-week grumpiness -- it was inspired by the Grover Cleveland Elementary School shooting in San Diego. On January 29, 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer fired 30 shots into a crowd of children waiting to be let in to school, killing two adults and wounding fight kids; when asked why she did it, she replied “I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day.” Bob Geldof, singer and songwriter of the Boomtown Rats, found a song pouring out of him with this infamous phrase as its chorus.

Four little words to spark Bob Geldof's creativity. (ohshit.riotfest.org)

Sometimes greatness can emerge from the worst situations. There’s no better example of that than the Boomtown Rats’ 1979 hit song, “I don’t like Mondays.” Brenda Spencer's remorseless response struck a chord with Geldof, who immediately came up with the song's opening lines:

The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload
And nobody's gonna go to school today
She's going to make them stay at home

The song continues:

And daddy doesn't understand it
He always said she was as good as gold
And he can see no reason 'cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
I wanna shoot
The whole day down
The telex machine is kept so clean
And it types to a waiting world
Her mother feels so shocked, father's world is rocked
And their thoughts turn to their own little girl
Sweet 16 ain't that peachy keen
No, it ain't so neat to admit defeat
They can see no reasons 'cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need, oh, ohoho
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
I wanna shoot
The whole day down, down, down
Shoot it all down
And all the playing's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with the toys a while
And school's out early and soon we be learning
And the lesson today is how to die
And then the bullhorn crackles and the captain tackles
With the problems and the hows and whys
And he can see no reasons 'cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die, die, ohoho
And the silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload, oh
And nobody's gonna go to school today
She's going to make them stay at home
And daddy doesn't understand it
He always said she was as good as gold
And he can see no reason 'cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
(Tell me why) I don't like, I don't like
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
Tell me why I don't like, I don't like
(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays
Tell me why I don't like Mondays
I wanna shoot
The whole day down

The single about “shooting down” the worst day of the week ranked #1 in the UK for four weeks and became an 80’s classic despite its incredibly morbid inspiration. 

A Purposeless Song For A Purposeless Act

The boys from Dublin, Ireland. (simplyeighties)

As Geldof said, “Not liking Mondays as a reason for doing somebody in is a bit strange.” For whatever reason, words to the song just started pouring into him. Nevertheless, his intention was never to take advantage of a terrible tragedy. Sometimes, inspiration comes from the strangest places. “It was such a senseless act. It was the perfect senseless act and this was the perfect senseless reason for doing it. So perhaps I wrote the perfect senseless song to illustrate it. It wasn't an attempt to exploit tragedy.” 

International Recognition

The song became a hit around the world and belated one in America too. (ultimateclassicrock)

Geldof’s original idea for the song was a reggae beat. But after working on it for a few months, it became the power piano ballad that people ate up. In the UK it won the celebrated Best Pop Song and Outstanding British Lyric categories at the Ivor Novello Awards. It was also voted ‘79’s "Single of the Year" in the British Pop and Rock awards. The reception in America was more icey. Brenda Spencer’s parents unsuccessfully tried to get the song banned in America. #73 was the highest it climbed in the U.S charts. Knowing the backstory and understanding America’s issue with gun violence likely tempered the US enthusiasm. 

The Why

A troubled girl who never should have had access to a gun. (learning-history)

Obviously, since that fateful day in ‘79, many more reasons for Spencer’s shooting spree have come to light. Naturally, the reasons started with her parents. Her parents divorced when she was nine and her father got full custody. For her Christmas gift in ‘78, her father gave her a .22 caliber rifle and 400 rounds of ammunition. As Brenda said, “I had asked for a radio and he bought me a gun.” Her father, Wallace, explained the out of place gift as a way for them to spend time together, shooting target practice. Brenda claimed her father was trying to get her to kill herself. 

Quick Thinking And Life In Prison

The music video was one of the first with a storyline, albeit one that avoids the terrible shooting. (reddit)

On the day Brenda Spencer decided to open fire at the elementary school across the street, two adults died trying to protect the children and eight students were injured. However, things could have been much worse if not for the quick thinking of one police officer who blocked Spencer’s line of fire with a garbage truck. Later it came out that she told a police negotiator that she “liked to watch (the children) squirm around after they had been shot." A six and half hour standoff ended when she agreed to drop the rifle in exchange for a Burger King meal. Spencer pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

During her time in prison, she claimed to have been sexually abused by her father, who denied such allegations while he was alive. However, he did have a relationship and child with his daughter’s 17-year-old former cellmate. Brenda Spencer will be up for parole again in 2021. Some news organizations reported that her possibility for release is high, thanks to her age and model behavior in the last 10 years. 

Tags: Bob Geldof | Crime In The 1970s | School Shootings | Song Meanings, Lyrics, And Facts | The Boomtown Rats

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!