My Sick Obsession

…with Band Aid III continues apace – yesterday I was seriously considering setting up a special blog for news of the single. This despite the unavoidable fact that the record will be rubbish. Not because “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is a bad song – patronising and melodramatic it may be, but its combination of gothy dirge and pub singalong is a rich and strange one. Also the original Band Aid record is one of the angriest (and simultaneously guiltiest) records ever to top the charts – that’s how they can get away with all that “clanging chimes of doom” malarkey, however naive or confused or two-faced the pop stars were there was clearly a real moral force behind the project.

But of course you can’t just snap your fingers and recapture that force. Band Aid II was a tacky career grab and if half its poor reputation comes from anti-SAW snobbery the other half is still justified. So what about Band Aid III? The interesting thing for me about this project is now little emphasis – almost none, in fact – is being placed on the purported reasons for it, the humanitarian crisis in the Sudan.

Part of this is down to the fact that the Darfur famine crisis is more explicitly political than the Ethiopian famine was: these people are dying in the desert because of other people driving them there. The original Band Aid project depoliticised (to an extent) the hunger problem and I’m sure this helped it succeed – and contributed to its huge (and less helpful) impact on Western perceptions of Africa and its people.

Even so it’s curious the extent to which Band Aid III’s main referent is not any kind of current situation but instead a 20-year old record. There’s been little debate as to whether it’s a good or helpful idea doing a charity record, but equally there’s been little positive enthusiasm – the mood of most news reports has been a kind of dutiful observance, as if “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was a kind of pop national service. The respectable and frankly boring Wogan Generation line-up of performers doesn’t help, either: part of the delight of the original project was the incongruity of seeing firebrand Bono and fifth wheel Marilyn in some kind of collaboration, there was a sense (now totally lost) that the usual judgements as to which pop stars were ‘good’ or not had been suspended in the face of tragedy. This incidentally is why the new record will be more like the lifeless and pointless “Perfect Day” than the original “Do They Know…”.

Meanwhile the bandwagon rolls along. At least half the reason for the enthusiasm around Band Aid III is the hope that it might produce Live Aid II, which lots of people want, particularly record retailers cross-promoting DVDs of Live Aid I. This single is blatantly a stalking horse for that possibility, and will probably do its job nicely. Meanwhile we have a lot of pop stars heartily agreeing that something should be done, and unanimous on what it is, but entirely silent as to why.