Do They Know Its Christmas? by Band Aid
Released on December 3rd, 1984 after it was recorded only 8 days earlier, this charity single was the biggest selling single in the UK (with over 3 millions copies sold) until Elton John's reworking of Candle In The Wind to honor Princess Diana following her death surpassed it in 1997. In fact, the song reached #1 in nearly every country it was released in: France, Japan and the US being the exceptions (in the US it reached #13 but sold over 2.5 million copies.....I have two copies in my house, mine and my wife's).
The song came about after Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, saw a documentary about the famine in Ethiopia and felt he had to do something. Geldof contacted fellow musician Midge Ure, lead singer of Ultravox, and they agreed a charity single would raise awareness. Geldof handled wrangling stars for the single while Ure worked on setting up the recording studio and writing a suitable song. The team approached much in-demand producer Trevor Horn, (he had recently produced three #1 singles for Frankie Goes To Hollywood) he was unsure he could participate but he was willing to donate the use of his studio for 24 hours.
With the studio secured and with Geldof promoting the single on every form of media he could get on, the song was becoming the hurdle that loomed the highest. Ure spent some time coming up with a "Christmassy tune" but Geldof mocked it as sounding like a cheesy british tv show. Geldof dusted off a tune he had written for his band and re-wrote the lyrics. Just like that, the only thing left to do was to record the whole thing.
For several days before the actual recording, Ure spent time in his home studio laying down keyboards and programing drum tracks. The day before the recording, John Taylor of Duran Duran came in and recorded bass tracks and Paul Weller recorded a lead guitar part that was later left off the single.
At 8am on the morning of November 25th 1984, members of the newly formed Band Aid began to arrive. The first thing to do was to record the group vocals at the end of the single.
After several takes, the plan was to move on to the solo parts. One of the singers that Geldof wanted for a solo was Boy George.....and he wasn't there. Several calls were placed and eventually it was discovered that he was in New York and had only just gone to sleep (apparently forgetting he had promised to be at the recording). Eventually he was convinced to get on the Concord and fly directly to London, arriving at 6 pm and being the last one to record his part.
One musician went above and beyond that day, Phil Collins. Arriving that morning with a full drum kit, he intended to lay down live drums over the programed drums and was forced to wait until all the solo parts were recorded (considering how late Boy George was that day, Phil was quite the trooper). Collins recorded the drums in one take that Ure considered perfect but Collins wanted to get it "perfect" and tried one more take.
With that, the only thing left to do was to mix and master the single and the video and get them sent out to the world......and wouldn't you believe it, but they did it.
The original hope was that the single would raise £70,000 but it ended up raising over £8 million for Ethiopian Famine Relief in just twelve months. In 1980's money....that's a lot.
Please enjoy.......and tonight thank God its them, instead of you (that still seems like an insensitive line)