#3 – Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid

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Currently writing this entry while completely engrossed watching a match of darts on the TV. Darts is possibly the ultimate spectator sport, with the agony and ecstasy of the entire human existence is perfectly shown by two middle aged blokes throwing sticks against a big circle.

In a way Christmas is like that too. It can be a tremendous reminder of the wonderfulness of life, or yet another example of the disappointment that Earth can chuck at us. A great gift, both giving and receiving can be joyous, but arguments and strife are often common across the festive period. It’s the mix of everything that can prove so stressful, too much alcohol and not enough vegetables combined with copious amounts of free time, and seeing people for the first time in ages.

Do They Know It’s Christmas is the perfect song to reflect this phenomenon. Its origins are now legendary, Bob Geldof was an ailing popstar in 1984 who stumbled across a report on BBC News from Michael Buerk on the famines in Africa, especially Ethiopia.

It was a startling, chilling and incredibly unsettling film involving an issue that had been mostly unknown in Britain during that time period. Geldof understood the film more than most, and used his music contacts to help raise awareness, teaming together with Ultravox singer Midge Ure to sketch out a song. The profits of the release would be used to send help to Africa.

The intention was for the song to be a multi-person piece, featuring many of the biggest acts of the time. Paul Young opened the song, and was joined by stars like Paul Weller, Sting, Bono, George Michael, Simon Le Bon, Boy George, and Tony Hadley, with Phil Collins pounding away on the drums. The likes of Adam Clayton, Boomtown Rats, Martin Kemp, Steve Norman, John Keeble, Nick Rhodes, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor, Chris Cross, Holly Johnson, Martyn Ware, Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt,Bananarama, Jody Watley, Kool & the Gang were also involved in the recording in some way.

The single sold an incredible million copies in its first week of release, staying at number one for five weeks and eventually selling nearly four million copies in the UK alone. It was the biggest selling single in UK chart history until Candle In The Wind by Elton John sold about 50 copies per moron when Princess Diana died in 1997.

In an interesting twist, the Christmas number two in 1984 was another classic which is still played to this day. Last Christmas by Wham also sold over a million copies that year, becoming the biggest selling single in UK chart history that never reached the number one position. This chart placing meant that Wham’s lead (only) singer George Michael was involved in the top two singles on Christmas week. Wham donated the proceeds from their single to the Ethiopian famine appeal.

As an aside, just seen that X Factor winner Sam Bailey has just been named Christmas number one for this year selling a measly 149,000 copies of her single Skyscraper. I find it very sad in that a year where this countdown exists, that the race to Christmas number one has been such a damp squib this year. A bunch of losers did get Highway To Hell into the top ten, but that’s as novelty as Bailey.

In an earlier entry I wrote about the blandness of Band Aid 20 especially Dizzee Rascal’s terribly patronising rap. The original genuinely is much better, the synths are cool, Phil Collins banging on the drums like Animal from The Muppets is cool, and I quite fancy Bananarama.

If Bob Geldof hadn’t have been involved with the project, it almost definitely would never have taken off in the way it did. He was an amazing publicist, despite his unkempt appearance. The for his talent was passion, he genuinely believed in what he was doing and saying, which enabled him to get the cast he did, and then the promotion the single needed to lift off. He is of course isn’t exempt from criticism, many disliked his course of action, many just disliked the man.

He’ll always have my support though, not necessarily for the whole Band Aid thing, but for accurately and succinctly describing Russell Brand rather perfectly at an awards ceremony a few years ago.

Look, there might be snow at Africa this Christmas time. They might bloody well know it’s Christmas, and yes Bono was a proper bellend in the video as per, but this was more than a song, it was a movement. Much like the Rage Against The Machine revolution of 2009, this was a group of people clubbing together to make a difference, and to raise awareness, both of which they succeeded in doing.

The success of Band Aid led to Live Aid, a huge worldwide event which took place in the summer of 1985. The British portion was a day long event at Wembley stadium, culminating in a live performance of Do They Know It’s Christmas, which really showed the mix of stars, and nobodies the event attracted. Poor Paul Young, who opened the song on release was demote, as David Bowie, who the opening lines were initially wrote for, kicked off proceedings.

Band Aid also made the Americans take notice, who made their own mass appeal song, in We Are The World, which is also a pretty good song now I come to it. When Live Aid came along, the British and Americans were like two world class darts players coming together to rescue an injured robin from a tree, albeit on a much grander scale.

Or as Dizzee Rascal rapped on the 2004 edition of Band Aid, “you ain’t gotta feel good, just selfless – give a little help to the helpless.”

I could spend hours taking the piss out of Geldof, Midge Ure’s name, Bono, how overrated David Bowie is, Linford Christie, the sport of rugby, Kent, Bastille or pencils, but it’s Christmas, and there is darts on.

Listen to Do They Know It’s Christmas, and all the other tracks here:

And catch up on the rest of the countdown –  just CLICK HERE


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