♫ Do They Know It’s Christmas? ♫

No no no … it isn’t really Christmas … don’t go dragging out the decorations and making your lists just yet!  We are, though, nearly halfway back ’round to Christmas, so perhaps starting a list or two isn’t such a bad idea.  Last month when I played We Are the World, David suggested another song that is about bringing people together, about helping people, about feeding the world.  The title, of course, is Do They Know It’s Christmas, but it’s a song that is apropos any time of the year, and I can’t think of a better time than now.

This is a charity single organized by Bob Geldof, who was the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats. He got the idea after watching a BBC documentary on famine in Ethiopia. Geldof wrote the lyrics and Midge Ure from the band Ultravox wrote the music and produced the track, which was no easy task since so many voices were involved.

In the UK, and much of the Northern Hemisphere, snow and numerous displays leave no doubt that Christmas is near. In most of Africa, however, it’s quite warm on December 25, since it’s summer there. This song asks us to think of those who are living in poverty and hunger in Africa during the Christmas season, reminding us that they might not even know it’s Christmas.

Most of this song was recorded and mixed over a 24-hour period on Sunday, November 25, 1984. Sting and Simon LeBon had recorded their parts ahead of time, but everyone else came that day.

None of the vocalists heard the song before they arrived, so they learned their parts by listening to a guide vocal producer Midge Ure created, then recorded them. With such a tight schedule, there was no time to quibble.  The artists were not all friends, but they set aside their differences and were at least cordial to each other during the recording – with one exception. In the book I Want My MTV, George Michael said: “The only person who didn’t succumb to the charitable nature of the day was Paul Weller, who decided to have a go at me in front of everybody. I said, ‘Don’t be a wanker all your life. Have a day off.'”

The single raised $14 million for famine relief in Africa. Geldof is Irish, so he cannot be knighted, but he did receive a KBE, which is equivalent and is popularly known as Sir or Saint Bob.

Boy George was nearly a no-show, asleep in New York the day of recording. His band Culture Club was huge at the time and Bob Geldof was counting on him for a key vocal, so Geldof called him, woke him up, and told him to get on a Concorde. George flew to London, got behind the microphone and delivered the vocal they were looking for.

Trevor Horn, who was a member of the Buggles and Yes, donated the use of his studio (Sarm Studios in London) to record the song. He also pieced together the B-side of the single, which is an instrumental version with the artists delivering messages over the music. It is called “Feed The World” on the single.

Phil Collins arrived with his entire drum kit to record a live drum track on top of the already programmed drum machine. He set up the kit and then waited patiently until early evening until after all the vocals had been recorded. Ure was content with the first take that Collins performed, but the perfectionist Collins was unhappy with it and asked for a second take to be recorded, which he was satisfied with.

Released on December 3rd 1984 in the UK, the song quickly hit #1 on the charts and stayed there for 5 weeks.  The song became the biggest-selling single of all time in the UK until it was overtaken in 1997 by Elton John’s Candle in the Wind.  In the U.S., the song reached only #13 due to a lack of airplay.

Do They Know It’s Christmas?
Band Aid

It’s Christmastime, there’s no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, 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 Christmastime

But say a prayer, pray for the other ones
At Christmastime 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

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?
Here’s to you
Raise a glass for everyone

Here’s to them
Underneath that burning sun
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Bob Geldof / Midge Ure
Do They Know It’s Christmas? lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

13 thoughts on “♫ Do They Know It’s Christmas? ♫

  1. Interesting back story Jill.
    Don’t how true that is about Weller but it has the air of him. Been like that ever since the days of ‘JAM’
    ‘Oooh I’m Paul Weller, and I’m not a miserable old git I’m socially aware of everything and thus am very angry, which is why I don’t give an interview without throwing in a f-bomb’
    And two brothers from Manchester whose surname is Gallagher said ‘Uuuh we gonna be like him when we get to be over 18 and pretend we’re grown-ups’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is the daddy of the Charity records at Christmas and made such a diffrence in Africa back then.I thinkk there have been two UK attempts to revive it neither of which have made the same impact with singing stars of the time.I’m sorry they haven’t managed to raise many millions again butt I confess Im happy to note no–one has beaten the original.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree … it is a beautiful song by so many who had their hearts in the right place and did a wonderful thing. I think it’s past time for another like this, or “We Are the World”, but I know nothing about today’s music/musicians, so I don’t know if there are any out there who are up to the task.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 2 people

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