Sunday, March 1, 2015

Band Aid, 1984

Band Aid

The story of Band Aid is legendary, a sick musician (Bob Geldof) watching television in bed gets moved into action when watching a documentary about the famine in Ethiopia. He gets together with a fello muso (Midge Ure), they write a song (Do They Know It's Christmas) and coerce their fellow musician mates (Band Aid) to record a single to raise money for charity.

Band Aid: The Beginnings

The musician in question was Bob Geldof who at that stage was best known as the lead singer of the Boomtown Rats. The Boomtown Rats had hits such as Rat Trap and I Don't Like Mondays.

Bob Geldof was later to come up with the idea of Live Aid and would eventually become knighted for his charitable efforts.

In his autobiography (Is That It?) he is quite frank about not being a saint even though he is referred to as Saint Bob since his charitable efforts in Africa.

On October 24th 1984 Michael Buerk started his report on the Ethiopian famine for the BBC's 6 o'clock news. It was this report that touched Bob Geldof as he was watching and gave him a new purpose and direction for his life.

Michael Buerk's report started with the words, "Dawn, and as the sun breaks through the piercing chill of night on the plain outside of Korem it lights up a biblical famine, now, in the Twentieth Century."

It was the plight of the Ethiopian children in particular that moved Bob into action.

Michael Buerk has won every major award in journalism while working for the BBC and in his autobiography - The Road Taken - he outlines not only the famine in Ethiopia but also the Falklands War, Lockerbie and the Flixborough chemical plant fire.

His fellow musician was Midge Ure. At the time of Band Aid Midge was best known as lead singer for Ultravox who had hits such as Vienna.

Together Bob and Midge wrote a song Do They Know It's Christmas?. Bob Geldof wrote the lyrics and Midge Ure wrote the music. Next it was time to get their fellow musician's on board.

Bob wanted to insure that he had famous, "hot" acts of that time to make sure that the single would sell. He contacted people and nearly everyone said yes straight away.

In one interview Bob Geldof told people that he asked Simon Le Bon (lead singer of Duran Duran) and as he was wavering he mentioned that Tony Hadley (lead singer of Spandau Ballet) had already said yes. Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran were the battling "super bands" of the time in the UK. Of course, Duran Duran became suddenly committed as well. Bob was certainly sneaky!

Band Aid: The Name

The name Band Aid was chosen as a pun as well as the fact that the musicians were working together as a band in order to aid others. The pun was the well known brand of adhesive bandage, indicating that they were trying to put the bandage on the problem.

Band Aid: The Song

The song has been re-recorded by top British and Irish performers four times, but I am only talking about the original 1984 version.

School children curse the stars of the early 80s as they are now 'forced' to perform the song at Christmas performance! Do They Know It's Christmas has really become a Christmas Classic.

Bob Geldof approached Trevor Horn (former Buggles and big time 80s record producer) to produce the song. Trevor Horn was unavailable and so Midge Ure ended up producing the single - Do They Know It's Christmas?

Trevor Horn did however give them the use of his recording studio SARM West free of charge for 24 hours. Trevor Horn also produced the B side of the single which featured messages from various top artists, some who were at the recording and some who couldn't make it.

The date that Bob was given the recording studio for was 25th November 1984.

The stars turned up on foot, in limos and in beaten up cars. The whole thing was recorded and used to promote the single. Some bands and artists were overseas and flew back specifically to record "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Band Aid - The Result

Band Aid: The Tax Battle

The day after recording the studio Geldof appeared on Mike Read's morning show on Radio 1. I listened to this show every morning and can remember him promoting the single and making a pledge that every penny would go to the cause.

The Conservative Thatcher Government were not happy with this comment and refused to waive the VAT on the record. Bob Geldof and Margaret Thatcher (the British PM) were in a stand off.

Judging the public opinion correctly the government decided to back down, a win for democracy.

Launch Date

The single was released on 3rd December in time for the Christmas sales boom. It entered the charts at the top spot and stayed there for five weeks. Everywhere you turned the song could be heard playing.

It became the biggest selling single of all time and was only usurped by Elton John's tribute to Princess Diana - Candle in the Wind in 1997.

The Band Aid Story in Video

Do They Know It's Christmas?

Written by Bob Geldof & Midge Ure

It's Christmas time
There's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time
We let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty
We can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time
But say a prayer
Pray for the other ones
At Christmas time it's hard
But when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring
There are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time
Feed the world
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?
And there won't be snow in Africa
This Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again
(Here's to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here's to them) underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time (repeat & fade)

Band Aid: The Musicians

The original band aid participants in sleeve order were:

Phil Collins (Genesis)
Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats)
Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet)
Chris Williams (Iron Static Overdrive)
Chris Cross (Ultravox)
John Taylor (Duran Duran)
Paul Young
Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet)
Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17)
Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran)
Simon Crowe (The Boomtown Rats)
Keren Woodward (Bananarama)
Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
Jody Watley (Shalamar)
Bono (U2)
Pinky and Perky (singing porcine puppets)
Adam Clayton (U2)
Paul Weller (The Style Council, and previously The Jam)
James "J.T." Taylor (Kool & The Gang)
George Michael (Wham!)
Midge Ure (Ultravox)
Martyn Ware (Heaven 17)
John Keeble (Spandau Ballet)
Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
Roger Taylor (Duran Duran)
Sarah Dallin (Bananarama)
Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama)
Sting (The Police)
Pete Briquette (The Boomtown Rats)
Francis Rossi (Status Quo)
Robert 'Kool' Bell (Kool & The Gang)
Dennis Thomas (Kool & The Gang)
Andy Taylor (Duran Duran)
Jon Moss (Culture Club, former member of Adam and the Ants)
Rick Parfitt (Status Quo)
Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran)
Johnny Fingers (The Boomtown Rats)
David Bowie (who contributed via a recording that was mailed to Geldof and then dubbed onto the single)
Boy George (Culture Club)
Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)
Paul McCartney (who contributed via a recording that was mailed to Geldof and then dubbed onto the single)
Stuart Adamson (Big Country)
Bruce Watson (Big Country)
Tony Butler (Big Country)
Mark Brzezicki (Big Country)

Band Aid: The Next Step

The Next Step for Bob and Midge was to be Live Aid. Band Aid would be re-released (with different artists performing) in 1989,2004 and 2014.

Live Aid (4 Disc Set)
The American's would also do their own version of Band Aid called We Are The World and raise awareness of Ethiopia's plight
Band Aid raised everyone's awareness of what was happening to ordinary people in Africa and provided ordinary people everywhere else to help by merely purchasing a record (which they would probably have done anyway!).

Band Aid was the day that Music united against poverty.

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