Band Aid: The next generation

Tears in the recording studio as a new wave of pop stars including Busted, The Darkness and Joss Stone join Bob Geldof to make an updated version of the world's best-known charity single
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Then, it was Bono, Sting, George Michael and Bananarama. Yesterday, it was The Darkness, Will Young and Sugababes, most of whom were at school at the time the event they were re-enacting took place.

Then, it was Bono, Sting, George Michael and Bananarama. Yesterday, it was The Darkness, Will Young and Sugababes, most of whom were at school at the time the event they were re-enacting took place.

The soul singer Joss Stone, 17, was not even born when, on a similar Sunday morning 20 years ago, the bleary-eyed aristocracy of British rock and pop gathered at a west London recording studio to record "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

In 1984 it was the leading producer Trevor Horn who gave a day at his recording studio. Yesterday it was Sir George Martin's Air Studios in Hampstead where a line-up of today's biggest stars gathered for the 20th anniversary re-recording of Britain's most famous Christmas single, which went on to become second biggest selling single in British pop history.

Present on both occasions were Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof, who by co-writing and masterminding the original Band Aid, and the subsequent Live Aid concert, gave a generation a social conscience and raised £80m for charities working in Africa. Geldof said: "I think this time we have 20 years of knowledge within pop music of what this thing is. There is a cultural and political reference."

He said he did not think there would be another Live Aid concert. "For me this record is about firing the starting pistol to the year of 2005 when Britain is the chair of the G8 and president of the EU," he said. "The reality is that only politics created this dilemma and only politics can resolve it."

Compared to the frantic preparations for the 1984 recording, when writing the song, recruiting the stars - only Sting had a car phone then - and recording and pressing the single were done in less than a week, the preparation for BandAid20 has been a more planned and relaxed affair. Several artists, Dido, Dizzee Rascal and Robbie Williams recorded their lines in advance. Also absent was Sir Paul McCartney, who laid down his bass guitar part on Friday.

Geldof said: "It appears more organised because of the publicists and managers involved, but it all sort of tumbled into place in a couple of weeks.

Ure, who in 1984 had taken charge of the recording the song while Geldof, having written the lyrics, badgered the likes of Spandau Ballet, Boy George and Duran Duran to take part, said: "It was a different world back then. Last time round I was behind the mixing desk for 24 hours. This time I am just hanging out."

Among the first of around 40 artists to arrive yesterday were the soul singer Jamelia, with her three-year-old daughter, the boy band Busted and Fran Healey from Travis. Most were well wrapped against the cold, but Justin Hawkins, singer with The Darkness, wore his shirt open, baring his chest as if about to go on stage.

Inside, as in 1984, it was the same awkward mingling of people who would normally never find themselves in the same place at the same time for a common purpose.

Before the obligatory photo call, Geldof - accompanied by his daughter Pixie, wearing the same "Feed the World" T-shirt that her father had worn 20 years previously - assembled the artists to tell them: "This year, when people buy your record, they're making a political statement. What you're doing this morning and giving up your Sunday is that you are making that political demand."

The use of chart artists such as Busted and Will Young, the Pop Idol winner, is clearly designed to appeal to a whole new generation. Lemar, a Fame Academy runner-up, said of his role: "I think I will represent the young generation. This is taking a snapshot of the industry with the older artists and young ones coming up."

As in 1984, different singers recorded different lines, but it remained unclear who would sing what in the final cut. U2's Bono was flying in last night, from Ireland, to add another version of his famous line: "Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you" although others, including Hawkins had already contributed their versions. Neither was it clear yesterday whose voice will replicate Paul Young's opening: "It's Christmas time...'' Among the chorus were Katie Melua, Beverley Knight, Keane, Snow Patrol and Ms Dynamite, who recorded the "Feed the world" refrain. Ms Dynamite said the new recording was "totally different" from its predecessors. She said: "Musically it is very now. Very current. I really like it. I'm very honoured to be part of it."

By late afternoon a party atmosphere prevailed, Fran Healey took a turn on drums, Rachel Stevens shook maracas and Blur's Damon Albarn did not sing, but served African cakes and tea. "It's been fantastic, would could not have asked for anything more,' said Ure, as the artists began to drift away.

The result, which is being produced by Ure and Nigel Godrich, will be aired simultaneously on Radio One, Two and Five and many commercial stations on Tuesday morning. It will be released on 29 November, costing £3.99 and is almost certain to top the charts at Christmas. The cover will again show a black child against a Westernised Christmas scene (a Damien Hirst version was rejected as "too scary").

The Band Aid Trust, of which Sir Bob and Ure are board members, and the charities to which it channels money, such as Save the Children and Oxfam, are hoping that it will go on to raise as much as the £40m the original raised for African aid projects over the past twenty years (the original still gets around £100,000 a year from sales and repeat plays). In addition to this year's version, the charities will also benefit from the sales from the Live Aid DVD, released earlier this month; the Government has said it will not charge VAT on either. The money will mainly go to Ethiopia, Darfur and southern Sudan.

To remind the stars why they were there yesterday - and why he had been galvanised into action after watching Michael Buerk's moving report on the Ethiopian famine on BBC News on 15 November 1984 - Sir Bob played the film of images from Ethiopia that silenced Wembley Stadium when shown during Live Aid to the soundtrack of The Car's "Drive". Many were visibly moved again yesterday: Joss Stone and members of Sugababes cried openly.

Geldof said: "If anything, it's of more importance this time, so I just wanted [to show it to them] if there was any doubt or if they were a bit fed up that they had to give up their Sunday. You can get carried away by the event, especially if you're in a pop group. It is about something other. It's about using art and culture to move something that is a grievous sore.''

And there was one other, unheralded person at his side yesterday morning. Birhan Waldo, was in the film, pictured as a young starving child in the arms of her mother. Both of her parents died in the famine. Today, she is healthy, 23, and studying agriculture to help her country grow its own food, a fact which had moved Sir Bob immensely. He told them: "This is proof that Band Aid and Live Aid work."

Comments