Francis Kaye Beirne shares stories from the recording of Do They Know it’s Christmas
From the opening clang, followed by Paul Young’s voice singing, “It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid”, Band Aid’s ageless single has been heard over the airwaves for the past 36 Christmases, and it never shows its age.
On 25th November, 1984, Do They Know It’s Christmas? was recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London.
Producer Midge Ure and sound engineer Stuart Bruce worked on the mix through the night and finally completed the task at 8.00 a.m. on the Monday morning.
The song was quickly dispatched to the pressing plants who had promised to have the single pressed and ready by the Tuesday.
The 7” vinyl single hit the shops on Thursday 29th November in a sleeve designed by Peter Blake (who designed the Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper sleeve).
The single surpassed the hopes of the producers to become the Christmas Number 1 in 16 countries including Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries apart from France, Poland and Portugal. It raised more than £8 million for famine relief in Africa.
Dubliner Bob Geldof’s claim on Mike Read’s BBC 1 breakfast show that every penny would go to the cause led to a stand-off with the British Government, who refused to waive the VAT on the sales of the single. Geldof publicly challenged Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and, sensing the strength of public feeling, the government backed down and donated the tax back to the charity.
Band Aid was founded in 1984 by Irish singer, Bob Geldof, and Scottish musician, Midge Ure, and while the former was the more vocal and wrote the first draft of lyrics, it was Ure who polished it, arranged it, produced it and saw that it reached the ears of millions of record-buyers.
Midge Ure was actually the catalyst behind the single, from shaping the song and recording the original demo, to convincing the Boomtown Rats’ man that the charity song was a viable idea.
“Bob turned up at my place with a guitar that looked as though he’d found it in a dump,” said Ure. “It had hardly any strings on it. He started singing me this thing – it was obvious he was making it up as he went along.
“We wrote the middle section together: ‘Here’s to you, raise a glass for everyone,’ which is the nod to the irony of it being a Christmas record.”
Though most of the big stars of the day came on board willingly, the Band Aid single threw up some awkward situations, having to deal with a few inflated egos and diva-like behaviour.