'Help' team tipped to win new Brit award

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The Independent Online
THREE music business insiders who spend their lives promot- ing other people are themselves likely to take centre stage tomorrow night at the Brit awards, Britain's music Oscars, with the album they conceived in aid of the the women and children of Bosnia.

The Help album, featuring all the major Brit nominees, has raised over pounds 2m for the charity War Child and is hotly tipped to carry off a new award - named in honour of Freddy Mercury - for charity fund-raising.

Terri Hall, Tony Crean and Anton Brookes, who all work in pop public relations, came up with the idea, and in September organised the album of 20 acts each recording a track in just 24 hours. It was recorded on the Monday, pressed and packaged in the same week, in the shops by Saturday and in the charts the following day. It features Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, Stereo MCs, Neneh Cherry, Suede and fourteen other acts and has already sold over 500,000 copies.

Tony Crean, the 32 -year-old Liverpudlian head of marketing for Go! Discs, began the project when he "started reading something other than football reports in the papers." Moved by the plight of children in Bosnia who had seen their parents murdered, or mothers who gave birth on the road, he suggested the idea of a charity album featuring current bands to Anton Brookes, 32, a partner in Bad Moon Publicity which, since 1989, has represented the major American alternative bands.

The two were travelling to a concert when The Beatles' "Come Together" played on the stereo tape deck. "I said: 'That's a great name for an album'," recalls Crean. In the end, it instead became the final track on the album, sung by Paul Weller at Abbey Road studios and featuring Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher with Paul McCartney on backing vocals.

Although all 20 tracks were recorded within 24 hours, the Help album was arguably a bigger organisational headache than any other charity venture. "Logistically, it shouldn't have been done but it was," says Brookes. "I never thought we'd do it," adds Terri Hall, who is 31 and runs Hall or Nothing, a music PR firm which represents bands including Radiohead, the Stone Roses and the Manic Street Preachers.

Tony Crean disagrees: "When everything seemed to be going wrong, it went right. It was like John Lennon was watching over us that day." He makes the point that it was crucial that the album was done within a week. "We wanted to do it quickly. The whole point was not to raise money like Band Aid, it was to say: 'You can get off your arse and do something'. It wasn't a massive effort, that's the last thing I'd want people to think, because that would stop them thinking they could do something."

War Child co-founder David Wilson has no doubt about the success of the project. "War Child has been in existence for three years and we found out quickly that music is as important to children as food. It's enabled us to fund major operations in food, clothing and music therapy."

In the six months since its release, it has, in conjunction with The Independent's Children of War Appeal, paid for an orphanage in Tuzla, a medical clinic in Bihac, baby incubators in Banja Luka, a music centre in Mostar and a mobile bakery.

The renowned Britpop fan Tony Blair has already called it "a remarkable album. It helped at a time when there was a danger of the press turning its back on Bosnia."

"The Help album is better than these one-off songs with big choruses by faded stars," David Wilson adds. "It's currently playing on every radio station in Bosnia."

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