FFWDing to the Best Part: “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” Band Aid (1984)

Fun fact: This single was released one day after my 10th birthday.

A year before Michael, Bruce, Lionel, Ray, Billy, Daryl, Cyndi, Huey, and Dan Aykroyd (?) gathered to sing 12 choruses of “We Are the World” to raise funds for starving children in Africa, famed British pop icons did it one better. They raised funds for starving children in Africa AT CHRISTMAS.

The Bono solo line (at 1:29 in the video below): “But tonight, thank God it’s them [the starving African folks] instead of you [people of earth listening to this jam] …” is among the most oft-mocked lines of modern secular Christmas music. First off, the passion with which he belts it is derived from the most powerful section of his loins. Secondly, the phrasing (courtesy of Bob Geldof) is a touch un-self-aware at best, douchey at worst –“Well, God wants ‘you’ to eat figgy pudding, while those poor bastards just hope to survive another few hours without contracting malaria.” Thirdly, it’s odd to see Bono without sunglasses.

Best part? There was a time in my life, ’round 1993, where Sting, Simon Le Bon, and Bono were among my favorite men in this world.  And there, at 1:21, all three of them are huddled around the mic together!  Delivering a message of peace and goodwill!  Odd that Sting doesn’t really get his own solo line (though the camera does focus on him during the line “bitter sting of tears” BRILLIANT). Also odd that Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet appears at 1:16 in the midst of all these once-and-future superstars.  And of course, along for the whole ride?  Phil F*ckin Collins.

 

Would such a gathering happen now?  In 2001, there was that MTV All-Star Tribute reboot of “What’s Going On,” featuring Bono (again),  Britney, JT , Eve, Aaron Lewis, Fred Durst, and other stars of that era.  The intended charity was AIDS Research,but given the untimely release (October 2001), some of the proceeds went toward the Red Cross’ 9/11  efforts as well.   All well and good, but did they actually all gather in a studio together?  The video sure doesn’t look like it.

Now in 2010, many artists gathered for a re-imagining of “We Are the World” to benefit Haiti and it does appear  like at least most of them gathered live to record the damn thing.  But did anyone care?  So maybe it’s not that artists have grown less philanthropic; we as a people have become more apathetic.  Also, this version is riddled with offensive angles.  T-Pain autotuned, Stephanie Pratt (?) in the house, Celine bastardizing the iconic Cyndi solo.

Ugh.  Time to re-watch some Band-Aid and remember a simpler time.

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FFWDing to the Best Part: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” U2 (1987)

The explosion of Amazon packages at my doorstep, the -9 wind chill, and the red cups at Starbucks remind me that Christmas season is upon us. Oh, as does the non-stop onslaught of festive music everywhere one turns. Call me Ebenez–ess(?), but I was pretty tired of “Jingle Bell Rock” on about Nov. 30. Speaking of which, does anyone else feel the need to insert an extra “jingle” in the lyric that goes “Giddy-up, jingle horse, pick up your [jingle] feet…”?  Every year, I screw this up, even though the extra syllables don’t properly scan.

But U2’s version of this particular secular ’60s hit (originated by Darlene “He’s a Rebel” Love) remains among my favorites, despite the fact that it was co-written by a convicted murderer. Joy to the world!  Short, sweet, with a touch of anguish, and that robust Bono intensity we all love (some in larger doses than others).

Best part? 1:39 – 1:47. Bono sings, “If there was a way, I’d hold back these tears, but it’s Christmas Day…”  Sad, right?  Alone and sobbing during the most wonderful time of the year?  And yet, the singer himself is rather clearly trying to hold back laughter.  What was happening in the studio as this line was being sung?  Hijinks between The Edge and foot models? Too many pints of Guinness?

 

What’s your favorite holiday tune? Maybe I’ll cover it in the next 12 (!) days.