Artist News Business News Legal

Bob Geldof sued by former bandmate over song ownership

By | Published on Monday 17 October 2016

Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof is being sued over his biggest hit to date (well, other than that one with the dubious knowledge of African geography). A former bandmate is suing for co-ownership of the copyright in the 1979 Boomtown Rats song ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’.

It’s the band’s former keyboardist Johnnie Fingers, aka John Moylett, who is now claiming to have co-written the hit, on which Geldof is currently listed as the sole writer. Moylett claims that he actually wrote most of the music and some of the lyrics for the song, which was famously inspired by a shooting incident at a Californian elementary school about which the sixteen year old shooter said, when asked why she committed the crime, “I don’t like Mondays”.

Geldof and Moylett were in the US at the time of the shooting. The latter claims that he started work on the chord sequence and melody for the song as soon as he returned to London, later adding Geldof’s lyrics. But Geldof claims he worked on both the music and the words while still in the US.

Needless to say, Moylett will face the tricky question as to why he waited more than 35 years to claim co-ownership of the song, and indeed Geldof has already hit out at his former bandmate on that basis.

Moylett says that, at the time the record was released, Geldof made an “intimidating” phone call in which he said the keyboardist risked splitting up the band if he insisted on a co-write credit on the song. Meanwhile, in more recent times, Moylett says he has been writing to Geldof about this dispute since 2004 to no avail, hence the legal action.

In theory the time delay in going legal shouldn’t prevent Moylett’s case from proceeding to court, given the precedent set in the famous Procol Harum case.

As previously reported, back in 1989 the House Of Lords (as the highest court of appeal at the time), backed a High Court ruling that gave organist Matthew Fisher a slice of the ‘A White Shade Of Pale’ copyright, despite him taking 38 years to make his claim. This overturned a Court Of Appeal judgement on the matter which had dismissed Fisher’s claim on the basis that he had left it too long to go legal.

Nevertheless, Geldof, who denies Moylett’s version of events and insists he alone wrote the hit, will seemingly seek to have the copyright lawsuit dismissed mainly on the basis of the time that has passed since the song was written. Responding to the lawsuit, he said his former’s bandmate’s recollection of how ‘Monday’ was written was “likely to be a figment of his imagination”.

A court date has yet to be set. Moylett is pushing for two thirds of the copyright, which would likely be worth millions, depending on how far back any royalties split would be applied if the keyboardist won in court.