Cover art for the original "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
release – artist Peter Blake
Band Aid is a British and Irish charity supergroup founded in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in order to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia by releasing a record "Do They Know It's Christmas?" for the Christmas market. The single became the Christmas number one on that release and on two subsequent releases. It was produced by Trevor Horn.
The name "Band Aid" was chosen because it had a double meaning. At one level it means a band of musicians getting together to offer aid but, at another level, it is also an acknowledgement of the fact that such a gesture is like putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound and does not address the full extent of the problem of world famine.
The charity set up to handle the money raised is called The Band Aid Trust. This project kick started Live Aid the following year which became a global phenomenon raising over ten times as much money as the original Band Aid single.
The group has been reformed on three occasions, each time from the most successful British and Irish pop music performers of the time to record the same song at the same time of year. Co-writer Midge Ure has commented that "Every generation should have its own version".
The original Band Aid single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (Geldof/Ure) (Mercury FEED 1) was released in the UK on December 15, 1984. It was recorded in one day on November 25. The song was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and produced by Midge Ure and Trevor Horn and became one of the best selling singles of the year.
The single was released as a 7" (3'55") and a 12" version (6'18").
In 1985, following the success of the original 1984 Band Aid single, Geldof organised the charity concert Live Aid. The record was then re-issued and reached Number Three on December 7, 1985. In all it raised in excess of £8 million.
In 1989, a new line-up, reflecting the musical climate at the time, formed after a second famine struck Ethiopia. Band Aid II featured a different line-up and re-recorded "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (PWL/Polydor FEED 2), and the song was again Christmas Number One in the UK charts.
In 2004 a third line-up known as Band Aid 20, re-recorded the single for the 20th anniversary of the project. The style change between Band Aid 20 and previous incarnations of the song was greater than the change between the first two Band Aid projects. This was partly due to the length of time between the releases and because it was thought that releasing a third version too similar to the original would be less powerful than creating a new interpretation. The 2004 version entered the charts at number 1 on December 5, 2004.
Original Band Aid
Bob Geldof and his then girlfriend television news report by Michael Buerk from famine stricken Ethiopia were both so moved by the plight of starving children that they decided to try and raise money using their contacts in pop music. (The news report itself has become famous, being voted among the greatest television moments of the Century.)
Geldof enlisted the help of Midge Ure from the group Ultravox to help produce a charity record. Midge Ure took Geldof's lyrics and created the melody and backing track for the record. Geldof called many of the most popular performers of the time, pursuading them to give their time for free. His one criterion for selection was how famous they were in order to maximise sales of the record.
The recording studio gave Band Aid 24 hours free to record and mix the record on 25 November 1984. The recording took place between 11am and 7pm and was filmed to release as the pop video. The first track to be put down was drums by Phil Collins including the memorable opening 'African Drum' beat. 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 the Paul Weller/Sting/Glen Gregory section. Paul Young has admited since 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..Boy George arrived last at 6pm after Geldof woke him up by phone to have have him flown over from New York on Concorde to record his solo part.
The following morning Geldof appeared on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show to promote the record and promised that every penny would go to the cause. This led to a stand-off with the British Government which refused to waive the VAT (tax) 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 15 December and went straight to number 1 in the UK pop charts 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 in the first week alone. It stayed at Number 1 for 5 weeks selling over 3 million copies and becoming easily the biggest selling single ever in the UK. (It has since been passed by Elton John's tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, but it is likely to keep selling in different versions for many years to come.)
The original Band Aid ensemble consisted of (in sleeve order):
The sleeve artist, Peter Blake, was also credited on the sleeve.
Band Aid II
The line up for the Band Aid II project consisted of (in alphabetical order):
Band Aid 20
The Band Aid 20 single was first played simultaneously on the Chris Moyles show on BBC Radio One and the breakfast shows on Virgin and Capital radio at 8am on 16 November 2004. The video was first broadcast in the UK simultaneously over multiple channels, including the five UK terrestrial channels, at 5:55 on 18 November 2004 with an introduction by Madonna.
British Artist Damien Hirst designed a cover for the Band Aid 20 single, featuring the grim reaper and a starving African child. However this was later dropped after fears that it might scare children. The single was released on 29 November 2004 and all money raised will go toward famine relief in the Darfur region of Sudan.
One of the new ways to buy the song by downloading it from the Internet hit a problem when Apple computer's UK users to download the song at the standard iTunes price, with Apple donating an extra amount (equivalent to the price difference) to the Band Aid Trust.
The CD version sold over 200,000 copies in the first week to become the fastest selling single of the year.
Organised and produced in 2004 by Midge Ure, Nigel Godrich (producer of Radiohead and Travis) and Bob Geldof.
Bono, Paul McCartney and George Michael were the only artists asked back who leant their voices to the original Band Aid. There was a reported dispute over the line Tonight thank God it's them instead of you which Bono sang on the original version. Justin Hawkins of The Darkness laid down a version of the line but Bono insisted on re-recording his version, which was eventually used on the record. Strangely, although he wasn't invited, Damon Albarn of Blur turned up to the recording session. Although he wasn't allowed to sing on the single, Albarn quite happily made tea for the participants. He does also appear briefly in the video.
The single sold 72,000 copies in the first 24 hours when it was released on the 29 November 2004, and went straight in at number one in the UK charts on 5 December 2004. It stayed at number 1 for Christmas and the week after.
Who sings what on each version
|Lyrics ||1984 version ||1989 version ||2004 version |
|It's Christmas time and there's no need to be afraid ||Paul Young ||Kylie Minogue ||Chris Martin |
|At Christmas time we let in light and we banish shade ||Paul Young ||Chris Rea ||Chris Martin |
|And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy ||Boy George ||Jimmy Somerville ||Dido |
|Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time ||Boy George ||Matt Goss ||Dido |
|But say a prayer; Pray for the other ones ||George Michael ||Cliff Richard ||Robbie Williams |
|At Christmas time it's hard, but when you're having fun ||Simon LeBon ||Jimmy Somerville/Matt Goss ||Robbie Williams |
|There's a world outside your window and it's a world of dread and fear ||Simon LeBon/Sting/Tony Hadley ||Marti Pellow/Jason Donovan ||Sugababes |
|Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears ||Sting/Bono ||Jason/Kylie ||Fran Healy & Sugababes |
|And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom ||Bono/Sting/Simon LeBon ||Cliff Richard/Marti Pellow ||Fran Healy & Justin Hawkins |
|Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you ||Bono ||Jason Donovan/Matt Goss ||Bono |
|And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time ||Boy George/Paul Weller ||Marti Pellow ||Will Young & Jamelia |
|The greatest gift they'll get this year is life ||Bono/George Michael/Boy George ||Sonia ||Will Young & Jamelia |
|Where nothing ever grows ||Paul Young ||Lisa Stansfield ||Ms Dynamite & Beverley Knight |
|No rain nor rivers flow ||Glenn Gregory ||Lisa Stansfield ||Ms Dynamite & Beverley Knight |
|Do they know it's Christmas time at all? ||All ||Sonia/Lisa Stansfield ||Group of 10 & Joss Stone |
|Here's to you ||Marilyn/Glenn Gregory/Rick Parfitt/Francis Rossi ||Kylie ||Tom Chaplin |
|Raise a glass for everyone ||Paul Young ||Kylie ||Justin Hawkins |
|Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived |
If the table was turned would you survive
|2004 lines, not in the original version ||Dizzee Rascal |
|Here's to them ||Marilyn/Glenn/Rick/Francis ||Matt Goss ||Busted |
|Underneath that burning sun ||Paul Young ||Matt Goss ||Justin Hawkins |
|You ain't gotta feel guilt just selfless |
Give a little help to the helpless
|2004 lines, not in the original version ||Dizzee Rascal |
|Do they know it's Christmas time at all? ||Paul Young ||Cliff Richard ||Joss Stone & Justin Hawkins |
|Feed the World (rpt) ||All ||All ||Tom Chaplin, Chris Martin, Sugababes |
|Feed the World, Let them know it's Christmas time again (rpt) ||All ||All ||All |
Adam Clayton (U2) - Bass
Phil Collins - Drums
Midge Ure - Keyboards
Luke Goss (Bros) - Drums
Paul McCartney - Bass
Danny Goffey (Supergrass) - Drums
Thom Yorke (Radiohead) - Piano
Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) - Guitar
Fran Healy (Travis) - Guitar
Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) - Guitar
Dan Hawkins (The Darkness) - Guitar
The Band Aid project inspired other charity records around the world including "We are the World" by USA for Africa in the USA, "Nackt im Wind" by Band für Afrika in Germany, "Northern Lights" in Canada and many others.
A Critical Perspective
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 phenomena. They argued that the record was primarily a cosmetic spectacle designed to draw attention away from the real political causes of world hunger.
- Band Aid's exploits were parodied by The Simpsons in the episode Radio Bart. Local celebrities (including the voice of original Band Aid member, Sting) recorded We're sending our Love down the Well.