Tuesday, 5 May 2009

1984 Band Aid: Do They Know It's Christmas?

Christmas 1984 will forever and a day be associated with Band Aid in my memory banks. For the whole of December it was everywhere. You couldn't move for one of the 'stars' spouting off about the 'great experience' and the 'good cause' on the TV or on the radio, and wherever they where then the song and/or the video weren't far behind.

There isn't much mileage in criticising the song itself; the main movers Bob Geldof and Midge Ure knocked it out almost overnight with no other goal than having a product in the shops to generate income for their cause. And it shows. But it doesn't matter; there are a lot worse Christmas singles doing the rounds than this one, and it raised millions for a good cause and was the biggest-selling single in UK chart history until 1997. So all gravy to them.

But after all the dust settles, the lyrical tone and message of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' niggles like a loose tooth. The title for a start - over 50% of Africans are Muslim, so why should they know or care whether it's Christmas or not? The aim of Band Aid was to raise money for famine, not to act as some neo Missionary vehicle and though this would have been furthest from the mind of Geldof at the time, it's still subliminally there.

Further - "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime" Really? Except of course at altitude where there's snow all year round. "Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears" The only water? Except of course the longest river in the world (the Nile) and the river that feeds the biggest man made lake in the world (the Volta).

"Where nothing ever grows. No rain nor rivers flow" Nothing grows? Ever? Africa is the second largest continent in the world, and what irks most about 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' is the way that it brands its entire 12 million square miles as some sun drenched, fly blown, famine riddled hell hole when in fact only a small percentage of it can be accurately described this way. The continent as a whole has wealth enough for all with mainly politics standing in the way of self help. A simplistic view maybe, but no less simplistic than the one forwarded here which actually puts the cause down to circumstance and thereby absolves the country's leaders from any responsibility other than moral.

But I digress. Or rather, I head into areas that are beyond the remit of this light-hearted blog, so I'll stop and just say that 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' marks a different sort of milestone in my musical life in that it's the point where I first started to loathe Bono with the sort of passion usually reserved for child murderers. The impassioned cry of this Christian on the line:

"Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you"

is breathtaking in its absurdity; isn't the attitude the we've spent the past few hundred years being glad it's 'them' and not 'us' part of the problem as Band Aid see it and one which they are seeking to change? And whatever, it's not a very Christian proclamation is it? Bono didn't write it I know, but the fact he was happy enough to reprise his triumph for the re-make of the song in 2004 proved the man has no shame whenever a spotlight is pointed in his direction.

My hatred has only increased as the years have gone by.

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