Do They Know It's Christmas?
|"Do They Know It's Christmas?"|
Cover art for the original release
(artist Peter Blake)
|Single by Band Aid|
|B-side||"Feed the World"|
|Released||28 November 1984|
|Recorded||25 November 1984|
|Genre||Pop rock, new wave, synthpop, Christmas|
6:16 (12" version)
|Writer(s)||Bob Geldof, Midge Ure|
Trevor Horn (12" version)
"Do They Know It's Christmas?" is a song written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in 1984 to raise money for relief of the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia. The original version was produced by Midge Ure and released by Band Aid on 28 November 1984.
In October 1984, a BBC television report by Michael Buerk was aired in the UK, which highlighted the famine that had hit the people of Ethiopia. Irish singer Bob Geldof saw the report and was inspired to raise money to relieve those affected by the famine. He called Midge Ure from Ultravox and together they quickly co-wrote the song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?".
Geldof kept a November appointment with BBC Radio 1 DJ Richard Skinner to appear on his show, but instead of discussing his new album (the original reason for his booking), he used his airtime to publicise the idea for the charity single, so by the time the musicians were recruited there was intense media interest in the subject. Geldof put together a group called Band Aid, consisting of leading British and Irish musicians who were among the most popular of the era. On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, and was released four days later.
The 1984 original became the biggest selling single in UK Singles Chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone. It stayed at Number 1 for five weeks, becoming Christmas number one, and has sold 3.7 million copies domestically. It remained the highest selling single in UK chart history until 1997, when Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" was released in tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, which sold almost 5 million copies in Britain. Worldwide, the single had sold 11.8 million copies by 1989.
Following the release of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in December 1984 and record sales in aid of famine relief, Geldof then set his sights on staging a huge concert, 1985's Live Aid, to raise further funds.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2012)|
Geldof approached Trevor Horn to produce the song, but he was unavailable (he later produced and performed on the 12" version). Instead, Horn offered the use of his studio in London, Sarm West Studios, free of charge to the project for 24 hours. Geldof accepted and assigned Ure as producer instead. On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded and mixed.
Geldof and Ure arrived first at dawn so that Ure could put the recorded backing tracks (created at his home studio), into the system at Sarm. Ure also had vocals for the song recorded by Sting and Simon Le Bon which he had acquired from the artists in advance in order to provide a guide for the other vocalists.
The world's media were in attendance as artists began arriving, starting at 9 am. Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Culture Club (without Boy George, initially), George Michael of Wham!, Kool and the Gang, Sting, Bono and Adam Clayton of U2, Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 (whom Ure personally ordered down) and his bandmate Martyn Ware, Phil Collins of Genesis, Paul Weller of The Style Council, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of Status Quo, Jody Watley of Shalamar, Bananarama, Marilyn (who was not invited but arrived anyway) and some of Geldof's bandmates from the Boomtown Rats all arrived. Only one of Ure's Ultravox colleagues, Chris Cross, attended. Geldof, noticing Boy George's absence (despite phoning him in New York the day before, demanding he sing on the record), called the Culture Club frontman again to get him out of bed and onto a Concorde transatlantic flight.
Ure played the backing track and guide vocals to the artists together then decided, as a way of getting all involved straightaway, to record the climax first, which also allowed the 'team shot' of the day to be photographed. The artists were put in a huge group and sang the 'Feed the world, let them know it's Christmas time' refrain over and over again until it was completed.
Then Ure sought a volunteer to be first into the studio to sing the main body of the song. Eventually Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet did so, with plenty of rival artists watching him, and sang the song straight through. The other assigned singers then did likewise, with Ure taping their efforts and then making notes on which segments would be cut into the final recording. Le Bon, despite having already recorded his part at Ure's house, re-recorded it so he could be part of the moment. Sting also recorded his words again, this time to provide harmony.
Phil Collins arrived with his entire drum kit and waited until Ure was ready to record him over an electronic drum track that had already been put in place. The song ended up as a mixture of Collins' drums and an African rhythm that opens the song, taken from a sample of The Hurting by Tears for Fears.
Ure stated in his autobiography that he was constantly battling with Geldof, the song's lyricist but not renowned for his melody skills, and telling him to leave when he would come into the production booth and wrongly tell the artist behind the microphone what to sing. Ure also had to shelve an attempt by the two members of Status Quo to record the "here's to you" harmonies because Parfitt could not hit the note. Rossi afterwards told Ure that Parfitt never sang in the studio, only onstage, and he should have kept him away from the microphone. This section was eventually taken on by Weller, Sting and Gregory. However, Quo were able to contribute in other ways, according to the journalist Robin Eggar:
- "Once Status Quo produced their bag of cocaine and the booze started to flow – I brought six bottles of wine from my flat, which disappeared in a minute – it became a party."
Boy George arrived at 6:00 PM and went immediately into the recording booth to deliver his lines. He was rather vocal in his dislike of fellow singer George Michael, some of which is caught on video during the filming of the Band Aid collaboration. While recording harmonies, Boy George openly confused Michael's recorded vocals with the voice of "Alf" (British singer-songwriter Alison Moyet, who did not participate in the charity single). When the engineer correctly identified the voice as that of Michael, Boy George replied "God, he sounded camp. But then he is."
Once Boy George had finished his tracks, Ure had all the vocals he needed and, as the artists began to party and then drifted away, began working on the mix. A B-side, featuring messages from artists who had and hadn't made the recording (including David Bowie, Paul McCartney, the members of Big Country and Holly Johnson from Frankie Goes to Hollywood) was also recorded over the same backing track. Trevor Horn put this together in his own studio.
Despite being singers themselves, neither Geldof nor Ure had a solo line on the song, though both took part in the 'feed the world' finale.
Ure worked on the mix through the night and finally completed the task at 8:00 AM on Monday morning. Before departing Sarm, Geldof recorded a statement, which was added as part of a song on the B-side of the 12-inch vinyl record called, "Feed The World". Geldof's spoken-word statement read: "This record was recorded on the 25th of November 1984. It's now 8 AM in the morning of the 26th. We've been here 24 hours and I think it's time we went home. So from me - Bob Geldof, and Midge, we'd say, 'Good morning to you all, and a million thanks to everyone on the record. Have a lovely Christmas. Bye.'" Additionally, Bowie recorded a similar statement which also appeared on the B-side song: "This is David Bowie. It's Christmas 1984, and there are more starving folk on our planet than ever before. Please give a thought for them this season, and do whatever you can - however small - to help them live. Have a peaceful New Year." Finally, Ure - arguably the "heavy lifter" of the overall project, albeit away from the spotlight - recorded his statement as such: "Hello this is Midge Ure from Ultravox. I forgot there were so many bloody groups here today. Ah, just have a good Christmas, and ah, enjoy yourself." In addition to Geldof's, Bowie's and Ure's spoken-word statements, several other artists contributed spoken-word statements, generally giving thanks, citing the famine, offering well-wishes for the Christmas season, and acknowledging the efforts of all involved - which essentially comprised the entire B-side song, "Feed The World", which was only available on the 12-inch vinyl version of the record.
The song was quickly dispatched to the pressing plants who had promised to have the single pressed and ready by Tuesday. A spell of publicity and final legal details followed, then it hit the shops on Thursday 29 November in a sleeve designed by Peter Blake. It went straight to No. 1.
The original Band Aid ensemble consisted of (in sleeve order):
- Adam Clayton (U2)
- Phil Collins (Genesis)
- Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats)
- Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet)
- Chris Cross (Ultravox)
- John Taylor (Duran Duran)
- Paul Young
- Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet)
- Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17)
- Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran)
- Simon Crowe (The Boomtown Rats)
- Keren Woodward (Bananarama)
- Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
- Jody Watley (Shalamar)
- Bono (U2)
- Paul Weller (The Style Council)
- James "J.T." Taylor (Kool & the Gang)
- George Michael (Wham!)
- Midge Ure (Ultravox)
- Martyn Ware (Heaven 17)
- John Keeble (Spandau Ballet)
- Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
- Roger Taylor (Duran Duran)
- Sara Dallin (Bananarama)
- Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama)
- Pete Briquette (The Boomtown Rats)
- Francis Rossi (Status Quo)
- Robert 'Kool' Bell (Kool & the Gang)
- Dennis J. T. 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)
- David Bowie
- Boy George (Culture Club)
- Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)
- Paul McCartney
- Stuart Adamson (Big Country)
- Bruce Watson (Big Country)
- Tony Butler (Big Country)
- Mark Brzezicki (Big Country)
|United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)||1|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||1|
|Germany (Media Control AG)||1|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||1|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||1|
|Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)||1|
|Europe (Eurochart Hot 100 Singles)||1|
|US Billboard Hot 100||13|
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||1|
|Canada (RPM 100 Singles)||1|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||1|
Style and content
The song comprises two parts: a verse and bridge which allow individual singers to perform different lines; and a chorus in the form of two repeated phrases by ensemble. The chorus was added by Midge Ure shortly before the recording session. The first line of the recording is sung by Paul Young on the 1984 version, Kylie Minogue on the 1989 version, and Chris Martin of Coldplay on the 2004 version. The line was originally written for David Bowie who finally sang it at the Live Aid concert in 1985. See the Band Aid article for the full list of contributors.
The following morning Geldof appeared on Mike Read's BBC 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 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.
Radio 1 began to play the song every hour - normally an A-list single got seven or eight plays per day - as the public mood was gripped. The DJs began to take apart the song in order to identify each vocalist, and BBC Television was persuaded by Geldof (who rang BBC1 controller Michael Grade personally) that Top of the Pops, the flagship chart show, should break with tradition and feature a song which had yet to be released. Grade watched the video and immediately ordered that every preceding programme should start five minutes early in order to accommodate it on Top of the Pops. David Bowie flew into England to record an introduction for the video.
The single was released on 3 December 1984, 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 copies in the first week alone. It stayed at Number 1 for five weeks and ultimately sold more than three million copies.
During the release of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", while he was at Number 1 in the charts, singer/songwriter Jim Diamond publicly pleaded with people not to buy his own single "I Should Have Known Better" that week, and urged them to instead buy "Do They Know It's Christmas?". He was quoted as saying "I'm delighted to be at number 1, but next week I don't want people to buy my record; I want them to buy Band Aid instead."
Each week of its stay at Number 1, the video would be shown on Top of the Pops, although for the Christmas Day episode, reviewing the year's hits, the song was relayed through the speaker system in the studio while all the artists mimed their own line - with the exception of Bono. U2 were not invited on to the episode, as they had only had one hit in 1984 and were still relatively unknown, so Paul Weller was given the task of miming Bono's words as well as his own.
The single was released just before Christmas with the aim of raising money for the relief of the famine. Geldof's somewhat cautious hope was for £70,000. Ultimately, however, the song raised many millions of pounds and became the biggest-selling single in UK singles chart history. It has since been passed by Elton John's tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, "Candle in the Wind 1997".
Eventually, the British-American band Foreigner displaced the song at Number 1 in the UK with their rock ballad "I Want to Know What Love Is" at the beginning of 1985. During Band Aid's tenure at the top, Wham! had stayed at number 2 with their double A-side "Last Christmas"/"Everything She Wants", which became the biggest selling single (at over a million) not to reach Number 1 in the UK. George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley donated their royalties from this record to Band Aid.
In the United States, the video was played on MTV frequently throughout the Christmas season. It sold more than a million copies in the U.S. but did not reach Number 1 there, due to the more complex nature of the chart system, which counted airplay as well as sales. Despite outselling the official Number 1 by four to one, it did not make the Top Ten due to a lack of airplay, ultimately peaking at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Twelve months later, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" returned to the UK charts, reaching number 3 in the week after Christmas of 1985, with only songs by Whitney Houston and Shakin' Stevens preventing its return to the top merely 47 weeks after it had left the Number 1 spot. In 1986 the song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form.
In 2001, the song was included on the Now That's What I Call Christmas! CD, along with 35 other popular Christmas songs, many by the original artists who made them famous. Those artists (or their legal heirs) who participated on the CD received a platinum album for their contributions to its success (certified 6x Platinum in November 2004).
- Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Simon Le Bon, Steven Tyler, Ozzy Osbourne, Geddy Lee, Paul Stanley, Jimmy Page, Sting, Tony Hadley, Bono, Paul Weller, Glenn Gregory, Marilyn - lead vocals, chorus line vocals
- Adam Clayton, Boomtown Rats, Martin Kemp, Steve Norman, John Keeble, Nick Rhodes, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor, Chris Cross, Holly Johnson, Martyn Ware, Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Bananarama, Jody Watley, Kool & the Gang - chorus line vocals
- Phil Collins - drums, chorus line vocals
- Gary Kemp - guitar, chorus line vocals
- John Taylor - bass, chorus line vocals
- Midge Ure - keyboards, chorus line vocals
- Jon Moss - percussion, bells, chorus line vocals
Sales and certifications
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||6X Platinum||3,690,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||2,500,000|
|Total available sales:||6,175,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
Band Aid II
|"Do They Know It's Christmas?"|
|Single by Band Aid II|
|Writer(s)||Bob Geldof and Midge Ure|
|Producer(s)||Stock Aitken Waterman|
A new version was recorded under the name of Band Aid II in 1989, produced by the popular Hit Factory team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman and featuring a number of the year's most accessible artists, including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Lisa Stansfield, Cliff Richard, Jimmy Somerville, Wet Wet Wet and Bros. Bananarama also appeared, making Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward the only artists to appear on both versions.
The lyrics were rearranged for a more traditional "verse and chorus" structure, with the opening verse being split in two with a short repeat of the ending chorus being played at the end of both, followed by the "here's to you" section and a final lengthened version of the closing chorus (with commentary by Michael Buerk played over the closing in the music video).
The song again reached No. 1 for Christmas, raising more money and also making it the final number-one single of the 1980s. It was also the final song to be played on Top of the Pops in the Eighties.
- Big Fun
- Cathy Dennis
- D Mob
- Jason Donovan
- Kevin Godley
- Glen Goldsmith
- Kylie Minogue
- Chris Rea
- Cliff Richard
- Jimmy Somerville
- Lisa Stansfield
- Wet Wet Wet
Band Aid 20
|"Do They Know It's Christmas?"|
|Single by Band Aid 20|
|Genre||Pop, alternative rock|
|Writer(s)||Bob Geldof and Midge Ure|
Band Aid 20 recorded a third version of the song in November 2004 for the twentieth anniversary of the original recording, and again got to No. 1. The idea was prompted by Coldplay singer Chris Martin, although Geldof and Ure both got quickly involved. Geldof did the publicity and educated the younger artists on the issues (some of the artists weren't born when the original was recorded) while Ure assisted producer Nigel Godrich and filmed the event for the corresponding documentary.
This version of the song featured an extra segment—a rap by Dizzee Rascal in the midst of the "here's to you" section. Bono arrived at the recording to sing the same line as two decades earlier, making him the sixth artist to appear on two versions, in addition to Geldof, Ure, Paul McCartney, Sarah Dallin and Keren Woodward (Bananarama).
While the 1989 and 2004 versions of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" had notable chart success (despite both being criticized for their very "pop" oriented sound which lacked the earnestness of the original recording), the popularity of the 1984 recording has remained unmatched and the record has seen numerous re-releases in small numbers around Christmas over the years.
Other versions and parodies
In 1995, Canadian group Temperance released their own version of the song on their album Virtues of Life.
ITV television show Spitting Image produced a song entitled "We're Scared of Bob" with the various artists suggesting they are only making the record because they were too afraid to say no when Bob Geldof asked them. The song was included on the B side of some versions of their number 1 hit "The Chicken Song".
In 2005, a "benefit spoof" of this song was released by "The North American Halloween Prevention Initiative" made up of a wide variety of indie artists. The proceeds of the single titled "Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?" were donated to UNICEF.
Canadian band Barenaked Ladies recorded a version of the song, which they had played live for several years, for their 2004 release Barenaked for the Holidays. The release of the album happened to coincide with the 2004 Band Aid release. All the profits/royalties the band receive for their release are donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
There are two Polish versions of that song, both called "Daj im znak", which means "give them a sign." One is recorded by Cugowski Brothers, Maciej Silski, and Grzegorz Markowski (Perfect), and the other Magda Rzemek, Cugowski brothers (Bracia), and Artur Gadowski (IRA).
Piccolo Coro dell'Antoniano, an Italian children's choir, has also performed it occasionally, initially 2003 at their annual Christmas Concert. It has also appeared twice on their Christmas albums.
In 2003, the Germany's TV AllStars released a version of the song. At Christmas 2004, Conan O'Brien of Late Night with Conan O'Brien did a segment on his show that was supposed to be a sale of a Christmas CD called "Do They Know the Singers of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'?"
In 2009, Toronto punk rock band Fucked Up released a version of the song, featuring vocals from GZA, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, Tegan and Sara, Yo La Tengo, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, comedian David Cross, Andrew W.K. and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio. The recording was financed using some of Fucked Up's 2009 Polaris Music Prize award. The money received from purchasing the track from iTunes was split between three Canadian charity groups, Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, DTES Power of Women Group, and Sisters in Spirit, all fighting to give voices to the murdered and missing aboriginal women who are being ignored by the police and governments.
Also in 2009, Comedy Death-Ray released a Christmas album with a version of the song, performed by "The Comedy Death-Ray Xmas Nativity Choir" featuring Patton Oswalt, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Rob Huebel, Doug Benson, Jimmy Pardo, Ed Helms and many more comedians.
In 2012, a parody version of the video was produced to help promote the Australian Shitbox Rally, an annual car rally that raises funds for Cancer Council of New South Wales.
- "Tears Are Not Enough," 1985 charity single recorded by a supergroup of Canadian artists, under the name Northern Lights
- "We Are the World," 1985 charity single recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa
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- Hear 'n Aid, supergroup of hard rock/heavy metal musicians which recorded "Stars"
- "What More Can I Give," song written by Michael Jackson and recorded by a supergroup of singers following 11 September attacks in 2001
- Interview with Midge Ure and Bob Geldof on YouTube, featuring Ure's original demo
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10. Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid [#1]
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Band Aid version
"Mull of Kintyre" by Wings
|UK best-selling single in history (UK Top 10 Best Selling Singles)
11 December 1984 – 14 September 1997
"Something About the Way You Look Tonight / Candle in the Wind 1997" by Elton John
"The Power of Love" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
|UK number one single
11 December 1984 for 5 weeks
"I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner
"Only You" by The Flying Pickets
|UK Singles Chart Christmas Number 1
"Merry Christmas Everyone" by Shakin' Stevens
"Like a Virgin" by Madonna
|Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
14 January 1985 for 4 weeks
"I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner
Band Aid II version
"Let's Party" by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers
|UK number one single
17 December 1989 for 3 weeks
"Hangin' Tough" by New Kids on the Block
"Mistletoe and Wine" by Cliff Richard
|UK Singles Chart Christmas Number 1
"Saviour's Day" by Cliff Richard
Band Aid 20 version
"I'll Stand by You" by Girls Aloud
|UK number one single
5 December 2004 for 4 weeks
"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Steve Brookstein
"Just Lose It" by Eminem
|RIANZ (New Zealand) number one single
20 December 2004 – 27 December 2004
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"Mad World" by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules
|UK Singles Chart Christmas Number 1
"That's My Goal" by Shayne Ward