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.


Sting Concert, Old Friendships, and More (In Which I Daydream About Lyrics)

One of my oldest friends, Sendil, had a quick trip to Chicago this weekend, his new lady-friend in tow. Sendil and I go way back – more than two decades – here’s proof!  That’s him, far left, with the Members Only jacket.  Forgivable for 1991.  I’m in the middle, rocking the too-big suede jacket and overly curled mushroom haircut.  Not as forgivable. Nor is the alien/phallic/Halloween-themed-in-September balloon hat rising out of the background.

Oh, the 90s

Here we are, older, wiser, and more attractive (even in workout gear), running the Chicago Gay Pride 5K in June.  (Sendil isn’t gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I don’t want to crush his game unnecessarily).

The combination of Sendil’s visit and the main event of the weekend – an amazing, musically progressive Sting concert – got me thinking about the power a songwriter can wield over the object of his or her affection.  Seriously, what lady wouldn’t like to be told that ‘Every little thing [you do] is magic?’

Sendil – always purely a platonic friend – is the only guy to have ever serenaded me. But to be clear, it was at a high-school talent show, I was pulled up on stage with no warning (while wearing a tucked-in flannel and jean skirt, as I recall), and the song directed my way was ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s ‘Good Enough for Now,’ which features such lyrics as:

You’re pretty close to what I’ve always hoped for
That’s why my love for you is fairly strong
And I swear I’m never gonna leave you, darlin’
At least ’til something better comes along

‘Cause you’re sort of everything I ever wanted
You’re not perfect, but I love you anyhow
You’re the woman that I’ve always dreamed of
Well, not really…but you’re good enough for now

Still, it was nice just to be included.

While every girl dreams of being serenaded (like, for real), only the rare and the proud ever reach that utmost pinnacle of rock-and-roll legend: the songwriting muse. Pattie Boyd. Dave Coulier. Pattie BoydWarren Beatty or whoever. Rosanna Arquette. Pattie Boyd. Damn, girl.

Note that the songs written for women are earnest and sweet (save the hints of sarcasm in ‘Wonderful Tonight.’)  ‘You Oughta Know’ and ‘You’re So Vain,’ however? Skew heavily toward the bitterness side of the scale. Ladies be crazy.

Other than perhaps a mean-spirited parody or two in fifth grade, I must say I don’t think a song has ever been written about me.  But here are a few lines I wish had been:

Dizzy, Goo Goo Dolls

You’re cynical and beautiful
You always make a scene
You’re monochrome, delerious
You’re nothing that you seem
I’m drownin’ in your vanity
Your laugh is a disease
You’re dirty and you’re sweet
You know you’re everything to me

This isn’t even that complimentary.  Cynical, vain, unpredictable, potentially misleading.  And yet the stanza wraps with a “you’re everything to me” despite it all.

Rio, Duran Duran

You know you’re something special
And you look like you’re the best 

So she’s confident, right? The titular heroine of the song already knows she is one of many special things but the singer assures her that she is, in fact the best.

Ain’t That Unusual, Goo Goo Dolls

See I’d love to be you 
‘Cause at least then I’d see you 

Yes, another GGD song.  It’s a sickness. Probably because singer/songwriter Johnny Rzeznik and I were BFFs for about nine seconds once:

This line is so gut-wrenchingly pathetic that you just have to laugh. And then cry. And then curl up in the fetal position with a bag of pita chips.

Love Song, The Cure 

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

Was Robert Smith ever fun, really? Still a sweet sentiment.

Ladies (and gents), what song lyric do you like to pretend was penned about you?  I’m really hoping here that no one quotes ‘The Purple People Eater.’