Band Aid 30: this time it's feel the world

Today's stars record a new version of the song, for Ebola

Adam Sherwin
Sunday 16 November 2014 11:39
Bob Geldof arrives at a west London studio to record the new Band Aid 30 single on November 15, 2014
Bob Geldof arrives at a west London studio to record the new Band Aid 30 single on November 15, 2014

Thirty years ago the cream of British pop slunk into a Notting Hill studio to record a charity singalong for Africa, which turned into an all-day booze and drugs party. Bob Geldof, who convened the session, admitted he had no idea if anyone would turn up.

Yesterday a fleet of people-carriers disgorged their clean-cut chart successors at the same complex, which hummed with an army of minders, PRs and “YouTube celebrities” as Band Aid 30 once again attempted to recapture the magic of that landmark charitable venture.

Rita Ora, One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding and Paloma Faith joined 1984 survivor Bono for the fourth edition of Band Aid, will raise funds to combat Ebola in Western Africa.

Much has changed since the original Do They Know It’s Christmas? sold 3.7m copies, raising £7m for famine relief. Sir Bob Geldof admitted that the new single needs to sell millions of copies at 99p a download, when it’s released on Monday, to make up for an industry decline in more expensive physical sales.

A £4 CD single will be released three weeks later because the only pressing plants still in existence are busy manufacturing Christmas albums.

Sir Bob emerged from the studio to appeal to fans not to simply stream the video on YouTube. “Buy this thing. Don’t go looking for it free,” he said.

Yet this Band Aid is determined to reach out to the social media generation so YouTube stars Zoella Sugg, her brother Joe and Alfie Deyes were invited to take part in the recording.

The trio were greeted with bigger screams by the fans penned behind barricades outside Sarm West Studios than several of the pop stars chosen to follow in the footsteps of Duran Duran and Culture Club.

Bono, whose arrival by private jet was delayed by fog, acknowledged Band Aid’s critics, who this week called the venture “patronising” for “dehumanising the people it is helping.”

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The U2 frontman said: “We’ve been trying to make this kind of event a thing of the past - we want to make Band Aid history - for quite some time. If every country kept the promises they make at these big G8 meetings and the like we wouldn’t have to be standing here.”

Sir Bob has rewritten the original song to reflect the lush landscape of Western Africa, the epicentre of the ebola outbreak and the cruel reality of a “filthy little disease” which “renders humans untouchable”.

“Where nothing ever grows, No rain nor rivers flow” now becomes “Where to comfort is to fear. Where to touch is to be scared.” Bono’s cutting line “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,” had been softened to “Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.”

There will, finally, be snow in Africa this Christmas time. Geldof now posits “No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa – the only hope they’ll have is being alive.”

The merits of the reworked song, led off by One Direction, and the assembled cast, which included Chris Martin, Elbow and a new string arrangement from classical clubbers Clean Bandit, are irrelevant, the campaigner said. “It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like this song. It really doesn’t matter if you don't like the artists, it really doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a lousy recording - what you have to do is buy this thing.”

George Osborne pledged to waive the Government’s VAT take on the song’s sales, after speaking with Sir Bob.

Paul Epworth, Adele’s producer and Midge Ure, the song’s co-writer, worked through Saturday night to prepare a rough mix in time for its debut on ITV’s The X Factor tonight.

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