Band Aid was a charity supergroup featuring mainly American, British, and Irish musicians and recording artists. It was founded in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" for the Christmas market that year. On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, and was released in the UK four days later. The single surpassed the hopes of the producers to become the Christmas number one on that release. Two subsequent re-recordings of the song to raise further money for charity also topped the charts. The original was produced by Midge Ure. The 12" version was mixed by Trevor Horn.
The supergroup was formed by Bob Geldof; former lead singer of Irish Band The Boomtown Rats. The media of the BBC played a major role in capturing the poverty effecting Ethiopian citizens and therefore influencing Geldof to take action. As a Celebrity Diplomat, Geldof could see that these images would elicit widespread compassion from the western world for these victims of intense poverty as well as donations from the public. The group was composed of forty artists to raise awareness and funds for the Ethiopian famine in 1983-1985. The groups name stemmed from the idea that the musicians were providing aid to the less fortunate and suggested that their project was likened to putting a band-aid on a wound. Geldof was looking for support from all nations for Africa beginning in Great Britain. To do so, the artists recorded a hit single titled Do They Know It's Christmas? depicting the poverty stricken African scenery of the time. Lyrics of the song included description of the country saying, "where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow, do they know it's Christmas at all?" This song and its lyrics focus solely on the Western World's Christmas Celebrations. Ethiopia follows the Orthodox calendar where Christmas is celebrated on the seventh of January. The point is, do they know it is Christmas? Probably not. But the sentiment remains. People should help people.
Original Band Aid:
The original 1984 Feed the world logo was designed by Phil Smee of Waldo's Design, who designed all the Ads prior to the event being announced. Geldof was so moved by the plight of starving children that he decided to try to raise money using his contacts in pop music. Geldof enlisted the help of Midge Ure, from the group Ultravox, to help produce a charity record. Ure took Geldof's lyrics, and created the melody and backing track for the record. Geldof called many of the most popular British and Irish performers of the time (Kool & The Gang and Jody Watley were the only Americans present at the original recording), persuading them to give their time free. His one criterion for selection was how famous they were, in order to maximise sales of the record. He then kept an appointment to appear on a show on BBC Radio 1, with Richard Skinner, but instead of promoting the new Boomtown Rats material as planned, he announced the plan for Band Aid. The recording studio gave Band Aid no more than 24 free hours to record and mix the record, on 25 November 1984. The recording took place at SARM Studios in Notting Hill between 11am and 7pm, and was filmed by director Nigel Dick to be released as the pop video though some basic tracks had been recorded the day before at Midge Ure's home studio. The first tracks to be recorded were the group / choir choruses which were filmed by the international press. The footage was rushed to newsrooms where it aired while the remainder of the recording process continued. Later, drums by Phil Collins were recorded. The introduction of the song features a slowed down sample from a Tears for Fears' track called "The Hurting", released in 1983. Tony Hadley, of Spandau Ballet, was the first to record his vocal, while a section sung by Status Quo was deemed unusable, and replaced with section comprising Paul Weller, Sting, and Glenn Gregory, from Heaven 17. Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran sang between contributions from George Michael and Sting. Paul Young has since admitted, in a documentary, that he knew his opening lines were written for David Bowie, who was not able to make the recording but made a contribution to the B-side (Bowie performed his lines at the Live Aid concert the following year). Boy George arrived last at 6pm, after Geldof woke him up by 'phone to have him flown over from New York on Concorde to record his solo part. (At the time, Culture Club was in the middle of a US tour.)
The following morning, Geldof appeared on the Radio 1 breakfast show with Mike Read, to promote the record further and promise that every penny would go to the cause. This led to a stand-off with the British Government, who refused to waive the VAT on the sales of the single. Geldof made the headlines by publicly standing up to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and, sensing the strength of public feeling, the government backed down and donated the tax back to the charity.
The record was released on November 29, 1984, and went straight to No. 1 in the UK singles chart, outselling all the other records in the chart put together. It became the fastest- selling single of all time in the UK, selling a million copies in the first week alone. It stayed at No. 1 for five weeks, selling over three million copies and becoming easily the biggest-selling single of all time in the UK, thus beating the seven-year record held by Mull of Kintyre. It has since been surpassed by Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" (his tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales) but it is likely to keep selling in different versions for many years to come. In 1986 the original music video from "Do They Know It's Christmas?" received Band Aid a Grammy Award nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form.
After Live Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was re-released in late 1985 in a set that included a special-edition 'picture disc' version, modelled after the Live Aid logo with 'Band' in place of 'Live'. An added bonus, "One Year On" (a statement from Geldof and Ure on the telephone) was available as a b-side. "One Year On" can also be found in transcript form in a booklet which was included in the DVD set of Live Aid, the first disc of which features the BBC news report, as well as the Band Aid video.
Live Aid inspired a number of charity events, such as Media Aid that raised money for Save the Children.
The original Band Aid ensemble consisted of (in sleeve order):
Adam Clayton (U2),
Phil Collins (Genesis, solo),
Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats),
Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet),
Chris Cross (Ultravox),
John Taylor (Duran Duran),
Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet),
Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17),
Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran),
Simon Crowe (The Boomtown Rats),
Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet),
Jody Watley (Shalamar),
Paul Weller (The Style Council),
James Taylor (Kool & The Gang),
Peter Blake (credited as 'sleeve artist'),
George Michael (Wham!),
Midge Ure (Ultravox),
Martin Ware (Heaven 17),
John Keeble (Spandau Ballet),
Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet),
Roger Taylor (Duran Duran),
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),
Sting (The Police),
Rick Parfitt (Status Quo),
Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran),
Johnny Fingers (The Boomtown Rats),
Boy George (Culture Club),
Holly (Frankie Goes to Hollywood),
Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings),
Effectiveness & Success:
The hit single, Do They Know It's Christmas?, was incredibly successful worldwide. It sold over two million copies around the globe and raised more than twenty-four million USD. The supergroups success was seen as an large increase in Celebrity Diplomacy. There was then similar actions of support from countries such as Canada, France, Spain and the United States. The success influenced two organizations of live Benefit Concerts run by Celebrity Charity. The concerts were USA for Africa and Live Aid and were broadcast in over 165 countries across the globe. Band Aid and Live Aid combined raised about 150 million USD for the famine relief effort in Ethiopia. This is more money raised than all previous celebrity charity combined.
The first hit was so popular that several of the artists got together again to do a cover version of the original song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" These artists include Dido, Robbie Williams and Chris Martin. The group has now come together on a total of three occasions composed of popular British and Irish musicians.
Band Aid II:
This version, released in 1989 was produced by British songwriting and production team formed of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman known as Stock Aitken Waterman. The only artists from the original Band Aid to be featured again on this version were Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward of Bananarama. This version topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks, but ultimately achieved far less historical significance and status than its predecessor.
On Friday 1 December 1989, Bob Geldof called Pete Waterman to ask if he would consider producing a new version of the song featuring the big stars from that time. Waterman immediately cancelled his wedding (planned for the same day) and began calling up the artists. With just two days' notice, on Sunday 3 December, recording took place at PWL Studios in South London. Present in the studio was Bob Geldof, wife Paula Yates and six-year-old daughter, Fifi Trixiebelle, who was eager to meet Jason Donovan.
Production continued through the Monday, and by Tuesday 5 December the song was broadcast for the first time on London's Capital Radio. Advance sales of the record reached 500,000. The song was released the following week on 11 December and spent three weeks at number one, becoming the 9th biggest selling song of the year, outselling Madonna's "Like a Prayer".
The line up for the Band Aid II project consisted of (in alphabetical order):
Wet Wet Wet,
Band Aid 20:
Musicians and instrumentation:
Most of the people involved in the original Band Aid single appeared on the 1984 Christmas edition of Top of the Pops to mime to the record. However Bono could not attend, which led to the spectacle of Paul Weller miming to Bono's line. According to the film made by The Tube on the days of the recording 24-25 November 1984, Bob Geldof says The Edge from U2 was to have played guitar on the track but was unable to as he was in hospital at the time with a kidney infection.
John Taylor (Duran Duran) - bass,
Phil Collins (Genesis) - drums,
Midge Ure (Ultravox) - keyboards,
Paul Weller (The Style Council/The Jam) - guitar,
Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) - guitar,
Jon Moss (Culture Club) - Percussion/Bells,
Tears for Fears - Drum Samples from the track 'The Hurting',
Mike Stock - keyboards,
Matt Aitken - keyboards & guitar,
Chris Rea - guitar,
Luke Goss (Bros) - drums,
Paul McCartney - bass,
Danny Goffey (Supergrass) - drums,
Thom Yorke (Radiohead) - piano,
Fran Healy (Travis) - rhythm guitar,
Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) - lead guitar,
Dan Hawkins (The Darkness) - lead guitar,
Charlie Simpson (Busted) - rhythm guitar,
The Band Aid project inspired other charity records around the world, including We Are the World by USA for Africa (in the United States), Cantaré Cantarás by Project Hermanos (in Latin America), Nackt im Wind by Band für Afrika (in Germany), Ethiopie by Chanteurs Sans Frontiere'(in France), Tears Are Not Enough by Northern Lights (in Canada), Show some Concern by The Concerned in Ireland, Sammen for Livet by Forente Artister (in Norway), Maksamme Velkaa by Apua-Orkesteri (in Finland), Chega de Mágoa by Nordeste Já (in Brazil), Za milion godina by YU Rock Misija (in Yugoslavia), Stars by Hear 'n Aid (international heavy metal artists), Afrika written by Nanna with various Danish artists, Volare by Musicaitalia per l'Etiopia in Italy and many others.
A compilation of computer games for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum was published under the name Soft Aid. Each platform had its own selection of games from ten different publishers; Elite Systems, Ocean Software, Quicksilva, and Virgin were represented on both. The cassette also featured a recording of the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" single.
Claims of self-righteousness:
In 1986, the anarchist band Chumbawamba released the album Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, as well as an EP entitled "We Are the World", jointly recorded with US band A State of Mind, both of which were intended as anti-capitalist critiques of the Band Aid/Live Aid phenomenon. They argued that the record was primarily a cosmetic spectacle, designed to draw attention away from the real political causes of world hunger.
In a 1985 Time Out interview, Morrissey gave his views about the song:
'I'm not afraid to say that I think Band Aid was diabolical. Or to say that I think Bob Geldof is a nauseating character. Many people find that very unsettling, but I'll say it as loud as anyone wants me to. In the first instance the record itself was absolutely tuneless. One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of Great Britain. It was an awful record considering the mass of talent involved. And it wasn't done shyly it was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music.'
View of Africa:
The song presents a very bleak view of Africa, which the lyrics appear to refer to as a whole. Some of these, such as the suggestions (if read literally) that the continent has no rainfall or successful crops, have been seen as absurd by critics. It also insinuates that there are no rivers in Africa. There are many, such as the Nile, the Niger, and the Congo. At the time of the 2004 release, the World Development Movement spoke out on this issue, describing the lyrics as "patronising, false and out of date", although there was no attempt to discourage purchase of the song.