Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
As the Christmas lights are turned on and the Christmas trees go up, we are going to throw
it back to the recording and release of one of the most iconic festive songs in history. Almost
exactly 36 years ago to the day, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ was released. Despite being
a track belted out drunkenly and screamed by children in the back of cars, the release was a
much more significant moment in musical history than we might recognise.
The concept of a supergroup-backed charity Christmas single was first constructed by
Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof. After becoming irate and helpless after watching a
BBC news report on the famine in Ethiopia, he penned the iconic lyrics in a matter of hours.
With the help of Midge Ure, famed for his roles in Thin Lizzy and Visage as well as his work
as a producer, the song was ready to be immortalized into festive folklore. Yet, with the
track guaranteed to be a hit if it was released by Geldof alone, the single was sky-rocketed
in significance because of the names appear throughout the track. The best stars of British
and world music all gathered in the Sam West Studio, Notting Hill on 25 November 1984.
From Boy George to Paul Weller, Bono to George Michael, Phil Collins to Sting; the voices on
that record are what make the single the anthem it is today.
However, of course, this record was not just for fun. Bob Geldof wanted to raise as much
money and awareness for the starving children and struggling families he had seen on the
evening news. However, even he was astonished at the response the record gained. The
single sold 11. 7 million copies worldwide and raised $24 million to combat the East African
famine. The single also led to the legendary Band Aid, a simultaneous music event at
Wembley and Philadelphia, which has to be high up on every music fan’s “wish I was there”
list. The day of music alone raised a further $100 million, meaning that Band Aid and Live
Aid cumulatively raised $150 million.
The Band Aid legacy has lived on, with three more editions of the supergroup for varying
issues in Africa. Perhaps a personal highlight of the song is Gavin and Stacey’s Smithy’s
infamous rendition of the anthem, with was not devoid of passion even if it did lack talent.
Of course, the various editions have not been without its controversy, with critics citing the
lyrics to be patronizing and colonial. Despite this, it’s a bloody good tune and perhaps an
even better story.
Words by: Tom Farmer