4
Sep 09

BAND AID – “Do They Know It’s Christmas”

FT + Popular/120 comments • 13,546 views

#543, 15th December 1984, video

“Do They Know It’s Christmas” is significant in one way, and insignificant in another. First, it raised a lot of awareness and money and established the pop single as an excellent mechanism for doing those things. This was significant. Gargantuan “supergroups” like this fell out of favour but charity records will be a constant from here on.

This isn’t an unalloyed good, and not just because most of the records are atrocious: private charity can generally do very little about the root and structural causes of bad situations, and Band Aid’s chosen name is a dark pun. Band Aid – and subsequently Live Aid – provided a readymade narrative of success: a way to give the famine story a happy ending. The Ethiopian famine set the tone for media coverage of Africa as a failed continent: a basket case constantly requiring the help of Western governments and citizens.

But it would be absurd to have expected Geldof and Ure to be able to change this, and wrong to have preferred that they did nothing. They did their best, it was a very good best, and there are individuals alive now who would not be if it wasn’t for this single, which isn’t something I can say with confidence of “Mouldy Old Dough”. However, feeding the world is well outside what I’d generally expect pop to do – so this whole introductory hand-wring is a way of saying that I’ll be listening to charity records as records, not as charities.

And as a record, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” has stuck it out better than I thought it would, mostly because it’s become a record about Christmas, not a record about tragedy. As a record about tragedy it’s notoriously heavy handed, but heavy-handedness is exactly what Christmas hits thrive on. It starts with a lift from Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” and then gets jauntier and jauntier until by the end it’s positively festive. Because I’m lucky enough to enjoy Christmas, and because this record came out when I was small and enjoyed it even more, the main feeling I get from “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is one of immense well-being and the sense that all is right in the world.

The cognitive dissonance works because it’s what the song’s very clearly about: “Here’s to you – raise a glass to everyone! Here’s to them – UNDERNEATH THE BURNING SUN!” (a line that always makes me imagine the song as a comic strip). So the more “Christmas” turns into a drunken singalong, the more we giggle at the scratched-up, awkward greetings on the 12″, the more we bellow out That Line, the guiltier we then feel, and the more we give. Well, that’s the theory. Since the recording session turned into a massive party when Francis Rossi got his bag of coke out, it’s fair to say that the song’s immense capability for inappropriate bonhomie has been coded in from the start.

The main contemporary criticism of Band Aid – voiced by Chumbawamba, but also by every playground cynic – is that the stars involved were doing it for the sake of their careers. This is surely completely true, but that’s how celebrity charity operates. It’s also worth pointing out that from this perspective the Band Aid single didn’t actually work: it’s not just Marilyn whose career headed dumperwards. This is where “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is insignificant: it felt and looked like the sealing of pop’s new establishment, when in fact it was their peak. The bands split, faded, took ill-advised sabbaticals, leaving U2 and George Michael the great survivors. Within only a couple of years the British pop landscape would look very different.

6

Comments

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  1. 61
    Izzy on 6 Sep 2009 #

    Tom – are going to give ‘Last Christmas’ a special-case review? I think it deserves it!

  2. 62
    Conrad on 6 Sep 2009 #

    re 59/60 er, well spotted. It was Friday afternoon…apologies to both!

  3. 63
    wichita lineman on 6 Sep 2009 #

    Ah, Rosie, I guess you won’t be retiring to spend more time writing the Erith & Belvedere FC programme notes. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on the early, sparsely commented entries.

    Marcello, I’m hoping you might be giving us your thoughts on Xmas ’79-’84 entries too. Very pleased to see you back. Great “first” comment.

    For the record, pouting stick-in-the-mud that I am, this is my most disliked record in all pop (Earth Wind & Fire’s Got To Get You Into My Life coming in second) and I’m quite surprised that I’m in a minority of one.

    Re 29: Good call, Steve! Without wanting to bait the bunny too hard, I’d forgotten all about the third version. I was thinking of the second. Clue: it’s not Rolf Harris.

  4. 64
    Tom on 6 Sep 2009 #

    #29 and #63 – the one Steve was thinking of is surely the only time the BA project has “picked a winner” in terms of future pop success! (Unless U2 count…)

  5. 65
    Tom on 6 Sep 2009 #

    #61 Izzy – nope, the highest-selling #2 is still a #2! It’s my favourite Wham! single, and my favourite post-glam Xmas single, so it’s a shame.

  6. 66
    koganbot on 7 Sep 2009 #

    Here’s the Tosches link, and if that doesn’t work, here it is sans html:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=WrgC6N_oS6IC&pg=PA20&dq#v=onepage&q=&f=false

  7. 67
    Erithian on 7 Sep 2009 #

    Such a lot of waterfront to cover!

    First of all, many thanks to Conrad and Wichita for their tributes when they thought I was the one that was resigning from Popular. It’s bit like reading your own obituary! As you’ll have realised, “Enitharmon” (a character in the mythology of William Blake, Wiki tells me) was the alias lately adopted by our good friend Rosie. While “Erithian” (a term used by the chronicler of 19th-century sport in Erith, “Tumbler” Bell) is the alias of, not Ian, but Brian from Barnehurst – whose claims to fame now include being an alumnus of the same Manchester school those lads were planning to blow up last spring in homage to Columbine!

    Secondly, my own tribute to Rosie – you’ve signalled your departure for some time, and this particular entry, one of the most significant marker points in pop history for all sorts of reasons, is a suitable time to bow out if you’re going to. As others have said, you’re always welcome to make a return visit to fill in bits of your journey from Bank back to Barrow.

    Thirdly, a very hearty welcome back to Marcello, and the fervent hope that he’ll find time to revisit the glorious half-decade of pop we’ve been discussing since the bust-up he refers to. Not wishing to revisit old debates, but some of your postings at the time did indicate a degree of stress, and it’s good to see you back mate. The project may have been thriving in your absence, but your superb contributions always take it to another level (no reference to chronic boy band intended).

    And finally – in the words of Oyvind Vinstra, on with the music. (If you spot that reference to Radio Active, you’re as sad as me!)

    It strikes me that the first Band Aid got an easier ride from the cynics than the one twenty years on. One or two people asked the question about why they should know it’s Christmas if they’re not Christian (I’ll come to that in a moment) but generally everyone was carried along with the heroic efforts of its instigators, and the boos were reserved for the Government when it was seen to be dragging its feet about waiving tax on the record sales. By the time of Live Aid the Guardian published a monumentally sour piece by Terry Coleman, who asked why the whole thing couldn’t be tucked away in a highlights package on late night BBC2 (and that it was OK to have it on Radio 1 because “they would only have been playing rubbish anyway”) which earned him a letter to the paper nominating him for the Curmudgeon of the Year award.

    It’s easy to attack Geldof and Ure and indeed any of the artists involved for boosting their careers on the back of this, but how better to use their talents to serve a cause? In a different context, when the Israeli Eurovision entry this year was a Muslim/Jewish duo singing a plea for harmony, I thought: you’re not going to solve the Middle East situation with a pop song, but if writing and performing pop songs is what you do, then it’s an honourable thing to try to do so. Same here: as Mother Teresa of all people said to Geldof, “You can’t do what I do, I can’t do what you do, but it’s important that we both do it.”

    (LondonLee #32 – I think the story goes that Geldof called Paula Yates, who was presenting The Tube in Newcastle; Ultravox were guesting that week, so Midge was able to discuss it; then he called Sting who was a friend from new wave days, and within 24 hours Duran and Spandau were on board, and the rest fell into place from there.)

    There have been mixed comments about the record itself, but I would maintain that considering its genesis it’s a phenomenally good record. There was a cracking bit of radio a few years later in which Bob acknowledged that it was entirely Midge’s record, and Midge revisited the master tapes to deconstruct the song: confirming, as MikeMCSG says at 22, that the doom-laden intro was sampled with permission from Tears For Fears, then playing the individual sounds (the didgeridoo-like undertone, the bells, the drum track) that created the atmosphere. The finished work has bags of pace and momentum, held together by a fine Phil Collins contribution. It’s such an easy thing to get wrong, as (with a fine disregard for Spoiler Bunny) the 2004 version did in spades: the whiney minor chords, the characterless voices, the momentum-killing halt in the middle and the overlong wigout at the end (I’ll give a free pass to the rap bit, which I thought actually worked.)

    As for the lyrics, again people have criticised it (more so in 2004 than in 1984 I noticed) for triteness and a broad-brush approach to Africa (“there’s snow on Kilimanjaro, ner-ner-ner!”) But it’s a pop song FFS, and not a treatise on African geopolitics. Its job is to draw people’s attention to that world outside their window and to highlight the contrast between our Christmas and what’s happening a few hours’ flying time away. Which is why it’s virtually irrelevant whether they’re Christian or not – the message is to us, it’s inviting us to have the same reaction Geldof did looking into Peaches’ bedroom after seeing the Michael Buerk report. As others upthread have said, it did actually contribute to saving lives, and maybe it goes beyond record sales and cash raised: I wonder how many of those doing valuable work in international development now were first made aware of the issues by Bob and Midge’s efforts?

    And, again as others have said, this was a full stop to an era. In terms of chart success, Duran, Spandau, Culture Club and Sting had peaked, and the Rats were barely a going concern anyway. George Michael was at the commercial peak of his “first” career and Bono was the up-and-coming star who would be confirmed by Live Aid. Just as we said in the “Merry Xmas Everybody” thread, pop royalty seemed stable but was in flux as always, and here ends this particular Golden Age – with a record that would still be the biggest selling single ever in the UK if the paparazzi hadn’t set off in pursuit of that car in Paris.

  8. 68
    pink champale on 7 Sep 2009 #

    swanstep #52 that’s a great point. i’d always just thought about The Line from my godless point of view, that ‘thank god’ just means ‘thank yr lucky stars’ and from that perspective it’s great as a confrontation to the listener – “it could be YOU, you know” – sort of like the “..he hands you a bone” bit of ‘ballad of a thin man’. but if you actually believe in god, as bono certainly does (i dunno about bob g), then, as you say, The Line is actually just plain badness.

    also, sorry to see rosie go, glad to see marcello back, suitably baffled by waldo’s “luke, i am your father” revelations and most of all sorry we won’t get to talk about ‘everything she wants’, which i sometimes think is the best single of the 80’s.

  9. 69
    Rory on 7 Sep 2009 #

    Erithian #67 – thanks for reassuring me (indirectly) that I wasn’t totally out on a limb in rating this so highly. I considered backing off to 9 or 8 because 10 seemed so over-the-top for a less-than-perfect song, but this is such a landmark single that giving it less would have felt like saying that Everest is only two miles high. Criticisms of Geldof for careerist opportunism always seem to me to assume remarkable prescience, because how could he have known that it was going to be that big? And if this was to bolster his career, which career are we talking about? His post-Rats musical career sure hasn’t been the envy of millions.

    Your point about the song inspiring who knows how many people working in international development is an important one, too. NASA is full of scientists and engineers who grew up reading science fiction, and TV shows and movies set in unusual places often lead to increased tourism, so it’s hardly a stretch to imagine a huge single like this having a conscious or unconscious impact on people’s work and study choices. I don’t know if it affected my own choice to study the politics of developing countries for the best part of a decade, but who knows – the debates that it prompted were recent enough to potentially have been a factor.

  10. 70
    Erithian on 8 Sep 2009 #

    Certainly Geldof’s post-Rats musical career was no great shakes, but his media career certainly blossomed thanks to his production company Planet 24, set up with Waheed Alli, which made The Word and The Big Breakfast before selling out to Carlton in 1999 for a figure somewhere between £15m and £30m. He certainly always knew how to network.

    One highlight of his musical career you might have seen, Rory – there was a documentary called “Geldof Goes Goondiwindi” showing him and his band playing a Bachelors and Spinsters Ball in the Aussie outback, which was almost literally riotous fun.

  11. 71
    Rory on 8 Sep 2009 #

    Haven’t seen it, but it sounds like it could be good – some of those B&S balls are insane.

  12. 72
    Martin Skidmore on 8 Sep 2009 #

    I have my doubts about whether the charity aspect of this was a good thing. As I remember it, when the TV news highlighted the famine so well, the immediate pressure was on the government. There was a UN-agreed level of unconditional aid (as opposed to money given to give straight back in contracting) to the third world from first world governments, as a proportion of GDP, and as I recall the UK was giving something like 40% of what it was supposed to. I don’t recall the numbers, but I think I remember hearing at the time, after this and Band Aid, that the charity amount raised that year still fell short of the government’s shortfall, and that was in that one banner year. In the wake of the huge charity success of these things, the pressure on government seemed to fade away hugely.

    Obviously I don’t know that these efforts did allow the government to get away with not paying what it had agreed (and I believe many other governments were in similar positions), but it felt like a significant factor in letting them off the hook. This means that I have never found it easy to regard it in the generous spirit that its intentions warrant. And as a record I dislike it, for the lyrical idiocies mentioned, the jarring changes of voice, the horrid sub-Hey-Jude singalong and so on.

  13. 73
    mike on 8 Sep 2009 #

    Oh dear, there’s almost too much that I want to say at this juncture, and most of it is barely about the actual song under consideration. So firstly, let me echo the “welcome back” to Marcello and the “au revoir” to Rosie – whose contributions I have greatly enjoyed, even though it seems to be our destiny never to agree on anything much! (Strictly in pop musical terms, that is.) But then again, that’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed reading Rosie’s opinions – most usually with a wry “here we go again” smile at their indirect opposition to my own.

    I’ve somehow been expecting Rosie to bow out with Band Aid, as it does mark one of the most sudden and profound sea changes in pop history. As others have said, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” dealt a fatal blow to New Pop – along with the conclusion of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood trilogy, which took its concepts to their ultimate conclusion. Where, indeed, could we go from here?

    To my (probably quite biased) mind, this represented the closing of a generation gap that had first opened up with punk. For any lingering notions of a culture of new breed/old school opposition within British chart pop were sent packing, as Good Old Phil Collins and Good Old Status Quo were called back in from the cold, to jam along with the (comparatively) cool kids.

    And if you were of a weekly-inkie-music-press mindset, then you might have recoiled in horror at the scene, drawing parallels with the closing pages of Animal Farm. Did we fight the punk wars for this? Or as Biba Kopf put it, in his briefly notorious single-sentence dismissal on the NME’s singles review page (paraphrased from memory): “Millions of dead pop stars make rubbish record for the right reasons.”

    For what Band Aid brought back, and Live Aid later confirmed, was the notion that Big Equalled Good. It re-introduced the pecking order, and re-affirmed the primacy of the superstar elite. Good old Queen! Good old Tina Turner! And with that re-alignment of public perceptions (and with the caveat that I’m obviously over-generalising to make a point), there was a sudden and marked swing towards a renewed notion of authenticity (“proper” songs, signalling substance over style), and a hurried distancing from artificiality (plastic poseur cocktail crap with stupid haircuts).

    In chart pop turns, the effect felt immediate. The charts of the first couple of months of 1985 were widely praised for containing a sudden influx of “quality” material – and indeed, a lot of great singles did chart during that period, before (as I saw it) the rot properly set in.

    To begin with, I welcomed this New Authenticity – possibly because it felt like the only logical next step. Playing catch-up during 1984 – and certainly this was influenced by the clubs I was hanging out in – I’d fallen in love with the back catalogues of artists like James Brown and Aretha Franklin, and consequently I had started to prize, and to seek out, new music which espoused overt notions of soulfulness and sincerity, and “classic” song-writing and performance values.

    For me, this was a unprecedented step to take, as the notion that had underpinned all of my fiercest musical passions since childhood had been one of messing with the rule book, and of pushing back the boundaries. From the nonsense bubblegum lyrics and novelty songs of my childhood, through the experimentation of prog, the culture shock of punk, the self-consciously conceptual manoeuvres of New Pop and the modernistic thrills of electro-funk and hip hop, I had always valued the breaking of new ground. So perhaps in this context, the New Authenticity also offered the promise of expanding my horizons? In retrospect, I see it as a major misstep – and so I’m looking forward to putting these assumptions to the test, as we step through the pop-cultural desert of the mid-Eighties.

    Meanwhile, back in December 1984, we have one of the great chapter-closing Christmas charts – just as we did in 1973, with glam rock’s grand finale. And don’t get me wrong here: rather than aligning myself with the Biba Kopfs of this world, I was thrilled at the way that Band Aid seemed, albeit temporarily, to expand the possibilities of what pop music could do.

  14. 74
    enitharmon on 8 Sep 2009 #

    Mike @ 73: Let’s just say we have held complementary views on pop during our journey together. However much our pop tastes may vary, I’ve followed your own background story with interest and a certain amount of fellow-feeling and been moved and inspired by it.

    To Marcello, as we pass through the revolving door together, I say good to see you back, chuck. We’ve had our ‘interesting’ moments and I haven’t always agreed with you but I have learned a great deal from you and we’ve even found the odd spot of common ground.

  15. 75
    MikeMCSG on 8 Sep 2009 #

    I wonder if the phenomenal success of this single temporarily re-introduced some older record-buyers to the singles market. It’s two immediate successors are distinctly Old Pop! As we shall see…

  16. 76
    CarsmileSteve on 9 Sep 2009 #

    oh, this just occured to me, the reason DTKIC was so thrilling to me as a ten year old comic reader was OMG, TEAM-UP!!!! if duran duran and wham! and all the other people were individually great then SURELY all of them together must be ZAWESOME…

  17. 77
    Tom on 9 Sep 2009 #

    Did you ever read HEROES AGAINST HUNGER Steve?

  18. 78
    thefatgit on 8 Oct 2009 #

    I’m not sure if it has been mentioned on threads of xmas #1’s previously, but I thought I might mention that 1984 was the year that The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now” topped John Peel’s Festive Fifty chart.

    I only mention it as I feel more inclined to discuss that particular single than DTKIC. Ho hum.

  19. 79
    CarsmileSteve on 14 Oct 2009 #

    The year-end polls of the time tend to get a mention in the poll posts at the end of each year, if you see what i mean, eg: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2009/09/popular-84/ for this one (although it was only about this point that the festive 50 became “the last year only” rather than all music ever, isn’t it?)

  20. 80
    Tom on 14 Oct 2009 #

    It was 82 I think – he did an “all time” one which was the then-cemented pop canon, and a “this year” one which had Shipbuilding at the top IIRC (obviously I wasn’t listening at the time, I was more concerned with Doomlord.)

  21. 81
    Glue Factory on 14 Oct 2009 #

    “Is it worth it?/A new winter coat and energiser ring for the wife”

  22. 82
    mike on 18 Dec 2009 #

    Just popped in to say that a remix of my comment at #73 is in today’s Guardian Film & Music.

  23. 83
    Tom on 18 Dec 2009 #

    The whole of today’s Film and Music is well worth a look for the Popular fan, since there’s also Bob Stanley discussing all the 00s #1s, Jude Rogers on the RATM/X-Factor thing, and comments box reg’lar The Lex reviewing the Electrik Red album. Good times!

  24. 84
    mike on 18 Dec 2009 #

    And according to the Jude Rogers column, you’ll be taking up a more regular residence in Guardian Film & Music in the New Year, Tom? This is good to hear.

  25. 85
    Tom on 18 Dec 2009 #

    Yup, fortnightly column – I’ll hype it more when it starts, worry not.

  26. 86
    Billy Smart on 2 Feb 2010 #

    Re 54: Oh wow, here it is! (sadly copyright restrictions mean that we can see, but can’t hear, parts 2 & 3);

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42qMebiJCCE

  27. 87
    Brooksie on 5 Mar 2010 #

    @ CarsmileSteve # 76: I was a comic fan too, and I had the same mentality when it came to a team-up; ‘Spiderman and Daredevil’? Twice the value and twice the excitement! That was definitely where my head was at when Band Aid came out… every pop star on earth has combined forces to make a Christmas record?!!! MEGA!!!!

    I forgive the song all its faults because of how fast it was made. When that is taken into account I just think what they produced was something akin to magical.

    I don’t subscribe to the theory that people were trying to boost their careers at all. Nobody knew this would be the biggest single ever, or that it would spawn the Live Aid concert and ‘We Are the World’ or any of that. In fact, people didn’t even know whether it would be a good song. Geldof just tried to rope them in and they either said yes or no. It’s worth pointing out that half the people who walked into that studio were bigger than both Geldof and Ure; Paul Young, Duran, Sting, Phil Collins, Boy George, George Michael – do we really believe any of these people needed (or thought they needed) a career boost? Yes, some of them were reaching a peak that would slide a year or so later, but they didn’t know that. It would be fair to say that the record wouldn’t have been half the hit it was without those big artists, and it would also be fair to say that not one of those artists owes their career or their fame in any way to this record. The record needed them – not the other way round.

  28. 88
    Paytes on 12 Oct 2010 #

    Anyone know if there has ever been a decent book written about New Pop?

  29. 89
    Billy Smart on 12 Oct 2010 #

    ‘Like Punk Never Happened’ by Dave Rimmer, and the second half of Simon Reynolds’ ‘Rip It Up & Start Again’.

  30. 90
    punctum on 12 Oct 2010 #

    Rimmer’s is an invaluable historical document but makes the elementary mistake of confusing New Pop with New Romanticism – two connected but very different movements.

    RIU&SA is so thoroughly wrong-headed it makes one wonder whether the author actually listened to any of the music under alleged examination. This is a common factor in his other books.

    Lena and I intend to put this right and write a proper New Pop book; currently in preparation.

  31. 91
    wichita lineman on 12 Oct 2010 #

    DJP I took your recommendation on Like Punk Never Happened and was quite surprised by how literal the title is. Apart from it being so Culture Club heavy (I shoulda guessed from the cover and full title), there is a thread that New Pop is like Old Rock and rather a lot about making money, buying yachts, accruing mansions. That’s not how I remember ABC, for one. I remember them saying their aim was to soundtrack the eighties. A very enjoyable book, but even writing in 1986 I’d have thought Rimmer could have got a clearer, truer perspective than that. Then again, maybe I’m misremembering/misinterpreting the meaning of New Pop.

    Looking forward to yr book. When’s it due? Are Zero doing it?

    My main problem with RIU&SA is that there is no thread at all, no connection of the chapters which all read like stand-alone essays. And it includes 2 Tone, chronologically post punk but the total opposite of Post Punk – sonically backwards-looking at a time when there were so many new vistas opening up.

  32. 92

    I thoroughly recommend Dave Rimmer’s memoir of his life after he left Smash Hits; in Berlin and Eastern Europe before and after the Wall came down: “Once Upon a Time in the East”. It’s a kind of glamour-detox; very funny and rather moving.

    Isn’t part of the argument of Like Punk Never Happened that his perspective (not to mention that of his subjects) is so very sharply delimited by the process they’re caught up in?

  33. 93
    Billy Smart on 12 Oct 2010 #

    Oh, perhaps the best New Pop book, and certainly the most fun, is ‘The Best of Smash Hits’ edited by one Neil Tennant in 1985.

  34. 94
    Tom on 12 Oct 2010 #

    Morley’s Ask: The Chatter Of Pop would be another necessary volume on the New Pop bookshelf.

  35. 95
    wichita lineman on 12 Oct 2010 #

    Re 92: I think I know what you mean. It’s very well written; I suppose I was disappointed that it didn’t give me an idea of why New Pop happened or what it was supposed to do.

    Previously recommended by Punctum, Ask by Paul Morley has some entertaining and revealing interviews with Boy George, Marilyn and Adam Ant, plus a frank and miserable one with Phil Collins (a good refresher course, just in case you were starting to think, as I was, he might be a little misunderstood).

  36. 96
    flahr on 12 Oct 2010 #

    “My main problem with RIU&SA is that there is no thread at all, no connection of the chapters which all read like stand-alone essays.”

    !!this was exactly my problem with it too – especially since I read it straight after “The Last Party”, which has a proper narrative to it [perhaps too much of a narrative, but we will come to this in time]

  37. 97
    punctum on 12 Oct 2010 #

    I do feel bad about slagging off RIU&SA since I am quoted in the book and thanked in SR’s acknowledgements but my main beef (and it’s been a sufficiently big beef that SR and I haven’t spoken in five years) is SR’s habitual Achilles heel of forming the theory first (and arguably, throughout all his writing from Monitor onwards, I’d say it’s been the one unchanging theory) and fitting the music into it second; if it doesn’t fit, then it’s a craven failure/a sell-out/not valid. Also, as WL says, the various pieces in this book don’t form themselves into a complete picture; all we really get is SR bought lots of new records until 1983 when he got bored and bought lots of old records instead and what happened and why (but where does SR himself come into all this? Apart from the introduction, scarcely at all) and New Pop was all down to Thatcherism but actually Britain was in a bad state the unions had too much power and we needed Thatcher oh dear. Factually it’s misleading and in places downright ill-informed and my concern is due to lack of competition it’s going to end up the set text for this period in music – in my opinion, it deserves far better and Lena and I are going to do our best to make sure it gets far better. First step will be to adopt a considerably lighter approach. Not necessarily thinking of Zero Books (need colour, pictures!) but who knows?

  38. 98
    Paytes on 12 Oct 2010 #

    Thanks all for the suggestions – and look forward to reading the book, Marcello!

  39. 99

    […] So how do you write a good festive protest song? Well, there’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which isn’t a world away from No Christmas in Kentucky in terms of emotional blackmail and grim melodrama, only with the leavening presence of ramshackle pop-star bonhomie and actual bells, but that’s a fundraising tool before it’s a pop song. (Tom Ewing discusses the song with customary insight here.) […]

  40. 100

    […] Ewing and his followers’ comments on his Popular entry for “Do They Know It’s Christmas” address Live Aid as the last and biggest hurrah […]

  41. 101
    Web Development on 31 Jul 2012 #

    Admire the information published.its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. it was really valuable

  42. 102
    maqbool mirza on 3 May 2013 #

    This site is excellent and so is how the subject matter was explained. I also like some of the comments too. Waiting for the next post.

  43. 103
    enitharmon on 10 Nov 2014 #

    We’re going to get a 30th anniversary version then. Yawn! Can’t somebody come up with something original?

  44. 104
    James BC on 11 Nov 2014 #

    Do They Know It’s 2014

  45. 105
    Erithian on 25 Nov 2014 #

    Kudos to James Masterton for pointing out that Band Aid 30 (and it’s a long way away so never mind the bunny) is the first Christmas song to reach number one in November since Harry Belafonte’s “Mary’s Boy Child” in 1957.

  46. 106
    Erithian on 30 Nov 2014 #

    – and now the first Christmas song to be knocked off number one before we even got to December!

  47. 107
    Lazarus on 30 Nov 2014 #

    What ever happened to ‘God Only Knows?’ Been and gone, or release held back? I just had a look at the new chart, can’t say I know many of the titles although I dare say some would be familiar if I heard them. Shocked at the longevity of several hits though. I see Mariah Carey and the Pogues w/ Kirsty McColl have spent 81 and 78 weeks on the chart respectively!

  48. 108
    Lazarus on 30 Nov 2014 #

    ‘God Only Knows’ 20 – 38 – gone by November

  49. 109
    Mark G on 30 Nov 2014 #

    So what became of Punctum & Lena’s book? I’d say that the time was right for it now!

  50. 110
    punctum on 1 Dec 2014 #

    Everybody thinks TPL ought to be published in book form apart from publishers.

  51. 111
    Mark G on 1 Dec 2014 #

    Yes, but I was meaning the “Post-Punk” book mentioned in #90 and #97

  52. 112
    punctum on 1 Dec 2014 #

    Four years is a long time in pop.

  53. 113
    hectorthebat on 20 Dec 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    CMT (USA) – Impact: Songs That Changed the World (2002)
    VH-1 (USA) – Nominations for the 100 Greatest 80s Songs (2006)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs from the Past 25 Years (2003) 83
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 10
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  54. 114
    mapman132 on 21 Dec 2014 #

    Looks like the right time of year to comment on this. As noted by previous commenters, this reached #13 in the US. That may not sound very impressive but the structure of the Hot 100 back in those days made it nearly impossible for seasonal songs to gain much traction on the chart, so getting that high was actually quite extraordinary at the time. I’m surprised by the American commenters who say they haven’t heard the song as to me it’s become a regular part of the Christmas song pantheon – I heard just today in the supermarket in fact (and yes, it was the original, not the still bunnied version). I have to say my cynicism over the song has waxed and waned over the years – with three official remakes and counting, I’m waiting for a bunch of African musicians to record an answer song “Yes, We Know It’s Christmas Time (Now Shut The **** Up).” It’s almost a ritual looking for a cause at this point, although perhaps not as blatant as the godawful “We Are The World 25” in 2010. Anyhow because it’s Christmas and because its original intent was (probably) good, I won’t subtract a point for every misguided remake since, and agree with Tom’s original 6/10.

  55. 115
    hardtogethits on 11 Dec 2017 #

    Charities, asking for money at this time of year, honestly! Do they know it’s Christmas?

  56. 116
    Kahless on 18 Aug 2018 #

    I know I’m late to this; but I wanted to add that I was the child of an American Airman living in England when this single debuted. Obviously; then & now, I gathered what it was about. All these years later however, it has become the prime nostalgia generator for my first Christmas in the U.K. What a great time to have been living in England (ducking from the tomatoes sure to be thrown my way by some English natives who don’t look back so fondly on the early 80s!) all the best!

  57. 117

    […] and looked like the sealing of pop’s new establishment, when in fact it was their peak,” Ewing writes. “The bands split, faded, took ill-advised sabbaticals, leaving U2 and George Michael the […]

  58. 118
    Walter Scott on 22 Sep 2019 #

    This maybe isn’t the right place to ask (haha) but seeing as it was mentioned (albeit almost a decade ago!) I was wondering if anyone here has a PDF of Morley’s Ask. It’s out of print and is currently going for about fifty quid on Amazon, which isn’t money I’ve currently got to spend on a book.

    Thanks to any sympathetic readers!

  59. 119
    Kinitawowi on 1 Jan 2021 #

    And the number 2 is now officially bunnied.

    I wonder if, when Popular gets that far, there’ll be a discussion about why certain Christmas songs seem to endure and some don’t…

  60. 120
    Gareth Parker on 6 Jun 2021 #

    Tom’s mark of 6/10 seems reasonable here.

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