Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Wendy: In the spirit of the season, I was keen to do a joint post. Obviously Another Rock n Roll Christmas is off limits, I’m not sure we could adequately honour Shaky’s contribution to our collective Christmas tradition and nothing seemed more apt than this bumper selection box of eighties confections; I certainly couldn’t tackle it all by myself.

Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Whenever I hear Do They Know It’s Christmas?, I am reminded of the 1984 end of term Christmas service at the church near our school, when the minister gave a quintessentially eighties address, using the lyrics as a jumping-off point. If I could only remember the sermon, I’m sure it would have made the perfect Christmas guest post; alas, all I can recall is his disapproval of the line Tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you. And the giant home-made Rubik’s Cube he used as a prop, of course.

In the absence of the esteemed Rev McKenzie, I turned to another eminent spiritual beacon for his thoughts:

Mike: There is much to dislike about Christmas – the cost; the waste; Roy Wood’s face, clothes and hair; one’s grudging, half-hearted attempts at exercise; the hot-water-bottle consistency of one’s belly and arse; the sullen bitterness arising from one’s holiday time being consumed by the enforced society of neighbours, colleagues, friends and family; long empty days of gloomy self-reflection through a wine-glass, darkly; the dawning realisation that work, much as you hate it, is preferable; Christmas cards that won’t stand up properly.

I could go on. I will.

I was in John Lewis last Christmas, on a last minute dash to buy something utterly irrelevant but absolutely essential to the success of Christmas, something without which the entire holiday would be a total, unmitigated disaster, and that would result in me becoming a veritable pariah. I can’t remember what it was, other than that I couldn’t find it and I was extremely exercised about it and in a slightly unstable mental state. It was probably ribbon in a particular shade of taupe, or frosting to add to every third glass bauble on our tree.

As I stood there with my pulse racing and my hands clenching, from the tannoy came the ‘Feed the wo-orld’ refrain. It was that bit were the ‘Let them know it’s Christmas…’ descant comes in. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Tears rolled down my face. A punk rock warrior weeping to Band Aid in John Lewis.

Much has been written whether Band Aid was a good thing or whether charity obscures the true reasons for world poverty. I am ambivalent about it. By which I mean I am unsure. Things that I think about it are as follows:

  • As it was the original charity record, I just cannot believe that the participants were completely cynical in their motivations if only because they had no idea of the consequences
  • Undoubtedly it has increased Bob Geldof’s personal profile and wealth
  • And all of the artists that played at Live Aid
  • I think people are poor, because other people, like Bono, are rich
  • It does not invite people to think about the bigger picture, but
  • Perhaps some were encouraged to learn more as a consequence
  • And, after all, it’s ‘only’ a pop record. Lighten up! The masses aren’t gonna listen to Crass.

But what a record it is. Things that I think about the record/video are as follows:

  • That Paul Young, Boy George and George Michael can really sing, man
  • That it is pleasing that Sting sings the line with ‘sting’ in it
  • That Bananarama never looked more gorgeous with their (literally) just-out-of-bed look
  • That it is right that Bono gets to sing the bombastic line with ‘God’ in it. On his own
  • That Weller looks like he has learning difficulties
  • That the preposterous lyrics are perfect
  • That the oafs from Status Quo are despicable buffoons
  • That the song structure is a stroke of genius – from the death knell first half to the joyous, spring-like refrain
  • That the success of the song is primarily due to Midge ‘Wee Jim’ Ure’s composition and production

Wendy: I have to agree. Never a fan of the grand gesture and with typical (affected) cynicism, at the time I could not see past the self-promoting aspect of the enterprise. Funny how things change; the world has waxed snarky since then, and I must have mellowed enough to take a more nuanced view; watching the video, there is a sweetness about it that cannot all be artifice. The ordinariness of the location, the fact that the artists (so young!) look as if they really have rolled out of bed, but above all, Midge Ure, working away in the background; his quiet industry easily outclassing the bombastic Geldof.

As 2011 gets its coat and makes for the door, and 2012 approaches, I don’t remember looking towards a new year with such a mixture of weariness and trepidation. (I suppose this is middle age.) This song and video remind me of when I was young and relatively carefree (although I didn’t think so at the time) and when the world seemed a little more compassionate (although I didn’t think so at the time).

And with that, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year from 80s45s.

Mike & Wendy

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