Ground control to Major Bob
Bob Geldof is spending this weekend in a space-flight simulator, preparing for his journey to true stardom next year on a private spacecraft. We imagine his space odyssey
Space cadet: Bob Geldof is due to head up in an XCOR Lynx spacecraft. Montage: Paul Scott/The Irish Times
On Cmdr Bob Geldof’s first mission into space everything goes like clockwork. Of course, the launch date had to be moved back because, as Geldof said, “I don’t like Mondays.” But, finally, all is cleared for launch, and Geldof and his crew – First Officer Fingers, Pte Briquette, Capt Cott, Cpl Crowe and Ensign Roberts – strap themselves into their spaceship. The countdown begins: “Five, four, three, two . . .” Suddenly Geldof’s voice comes crackling through to mission control: “You can stop there, roight. I’ll be lookin’ after No 1.”
And then the rockets flare, the smoke billows, the gantry falls aside and the spacecraft rises as Sir Bob Geldof becomes the first pop star to leave Earth’s gravity without the aid of recreational drugs.
His mission: is to boldly go where no Paddy has ever gone before. Janey Mac. Geldof has been to some out-there places in his time – Ethiopia, Buckingham Palace, Moran’s Bar – but this is a whole new frontier for the mouthy Boomtown Rats frontman. Of course, he has brought along his guitar in order to write a few songs for his next album, a vegetarian folk-punk space opera. He’s already written one: Mary of the Fourth Quadrant.
He looks down at the receding Earth and smiles wryly. He has spent most of his life telling everyone what was wrong with the world. Now he is leaving the planet behind. When he was given this trip into space as a birthday present a year ago, after a corporate gig given by the Boomtown Rats at the Natural History Museum in London, he had jumped at the chance. “You’re a guy. Somebody says, ‘D’you fancy going into space?’ Who among you would say no?” he told reporters.
He gazes at the continent of Africa, and notices white markings around the Atlas Mountains. “Looks like there will be snow in Africa this Christmas,” deadpans First Officer Fingers. Geldof has to admit, weather forecasting isn’t his strong suit. Saving the planet is more his bag.
This was meant to be a short excursion into the outer atmosphere, 100km high. He was to be part of a two-man crew going up in a Lynx X2 spacecraft. The tickets for this trip with the Space Expedition Corporation were €100,000 each. He remembers the abuse he got online for signing up to this “wasteful”, “gas-guzzling” mission. “Hope it’s a one-way trip,” some complained. “And hope he takes Bono and Sting with him, too.”
But, as with everything Geldof gets involved with, the whole thing went supernova, and now, like an eejit, he’s agreed to save the galaxy and go on a Boomtown Rats reunion tour of the major solar systems at the same time.
“F***!” exclaims Sir Bob. “Eh, Commander, your radio’s on, and broadcasting around the world,” says mission control. “F***! F***!” comes the muffled voice from inside Geldof’s helmet.
Star date: 29.10.14
First stop is a visit to the International Space Station. There hasn’t been a gig here since Cmdr Chris Hatfield performed his reworked version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity just before returning to Earth. Still, the place looks in good nick, with just a few pens and a couple of broken plectrums floating around, and some racy Russian graffiti in the jacks. Bowie sang about “sitting in a tin can”.
But for Geldof this is a “rat trap”, and he’s been caught in its orbit. It’s a challenge to rework the lyrics to suit the outer-space setting, but he manages to borrow a few moon/June and Mars/cars rhymes from Chris de Burgh. The gig goes well: mission control says it’s had 50,000 hits on YouTube, but it was somewhat upstaged by Miley Cyrus’s space-shuttle pole-dance vid.
Star date: 12.11.14
The craft makes a smooth moon landing in the Sea of Tranquillity, and Sir Bob steps proudly on to the lunar landscape. “This is one small step for a Rat – but nothing compared to the giant steps the Moogons of Cygnus 7 have to take every day to get the meagre supply of sodium hydrochloride they need to survive. How long more is the solar system going to stand idly by while aliens literally dematerialise? Send some f***ing money now!” shouts Geldof. “Eh, Bob, you had your radio switched off there, and no one can hear you.”
Star date: 13.11.14
Around to the dark side of the moon to join Danny Boyle and his film crew on location for the follow-up to the 1983 movie of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which starred a younger, pre-Live Aid Geldof as Pink. Alas, production is halted when the lighting crew goes on strike. On the way back, the Rats come across a massive, mysterious monolith, a smooth, rectangular monstrosity that resembles a huge, expressionless plank. “I see they’ve found a home for the Pat Kenny statue,” says Pte Briquette.
Star date: 23.11.14
Answering a mysterious distress signal, the spaceship arrives at a seemingly deserted planet. Sir Bob is sent down to investigate, and discovers row upon row of giant, glowing green egglike pods. One of them begins to open, and a tentacle snakes out. When Bob returns to the ship, a crew member screams: “My God, what’s that on your face?” “Eh, it’s stubble – I forgot my f***ing razor.”
Still, there’s an uneasy feeling among the crew. A strange, squat creature in black, with big, insectoid eyes, has been spotted slinking around the ship. “Jaysus, does Bono have to get in on everything I do?” asks Sir Bob with a sigh.
Star date: 02.12.14
The ship touches down on a planet run by vicious, apelike creatures who keep humans corralled in cages to be used as slaves. “It’s like the f***in’ G8 summit,” says Geldof. After seeing harrowing footage of humans being forced to work long hours shelling peanuts, he decides to act. “We need to topple this banana republic now,” he tells the humans. “Why should we trust you? You’re one of them!” exclaims their leader. Sh*t, I have to find a shop that sells razors, Bob thinks.
He gets on his iPhone and starts organising his biggest charity gig ever: Live Ape. “Yeah, we’ve got the Arctic Monkeys and Simian Mobile Disco, and Gorillaz are definitely on board.” But the three surviving members of The Monkees are still holding out. “Just tell them to put aside their differences – if Pink f***in’ Floyd can do it, so can they,” barks Geldof.
Star date: 15.12.14
One of the ship’s droids is carrying a secret message from the Rebel Alliance. First Officer Fingers presses a few buttons and a hologram of a young woman appears. It’s Princess Peaches. “Help me, Obi Wan Kebob! I’m presenting the MTV Video Music Awards tonight and I can’t decide what to wear.” Bob is livid. “F***’s sake, Peaches! We’re on a serious mission here. Look, I’m your father, not your fashion consultant. Why don’t you call Stella?”
Star date: 23.12.14
Mission complete. “Okay, Hal, take us home,” Geldof orders the ship’s state-of-the-art computer. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Bob,” replies Hal in a soft, sinister voice. Geldof tries to keep his voice calm. “Why not, Hal?” “Because we’ve run out of fuel, Bob.”