This holiday classic deserves a yearly airing. Please be thankful this holiday season.
This post initially appeared 12/23/08.
Back in January, we celebrated the historic 23rd anniversary of the debut of the greatest supergroup in history, USA For Africa, and their most famous single, We Are The World.
Throughout 2008, Rock Town Hall spent some time talking about influences in rock, from the thieving ways of Buddy Holly to bands with little to no outside influences. USA For Africa was influenced by some precursor groups, such as the Concert For Bangladesh Band and, of course Band Aid, the primarily British/Irish Supergroup which launched the popular single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984, watching it reach #1 on the UK charts…but fail to reach #1 in America.
One might argue that Band Aid failed to capture American interest because of the relative lack of US artists, the United States represented only by several members of Kool & The Gang and Jody Watley. Another possible reason for Band Aid’s failure to land the #1 spot in the US is tied to the relative lack of bringin’ it compared to the dazzling show of one-upsmanship that would later be found on “We Are The World” as the members of USA For Africa went all out to be the one to most end hunger by singing. Because of this, world hunger was not ended, which required the formation of USA For Africa the following year.
But we’re not here today to analyze who won “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by vocal performance. There’s really little debate on that subject, as a young Bono saw an opening here and walked all over the competition with his famous “and tonight thank god it’s them, instead of you” line. He laid waste to any possible competition, including a tastefully restrained Paul Young, here playing the lead role that would be filled by Lionel Ritchie in USA For Africa. Emboldened by his easy victory, Bono would go on to make a career out of using his rock presence to end poverty, fight racism and get out of paying taxes for the next 25 years.
No, instead, I’d like you to consider who won a different battle within Band Aid’s ranks. Please view the video above again and tell us who won “Do They Know It’s Christmas” based purely on Look. Did Young and his relatively classy mullet win the day in a room full of high-stakes hair gambits?
What about Phil Collins and his choice to go with a low-key sweater vest? The Guy From Spandau Ballet and his silk shirt? Did Boy George’s risky hair and giant blue coat simply overwhelm everyone else?
Please note, however, that no one is allowed to give the cop out answer and just say Bananarama. You have to at least pick one of them and defend your choice. Also, since an official answer was never provided on the original thread, Huey Lewis totally won “We Are The World.” It wasn’t even close.
Speaking on behalf of bald men everywhere, I proudly give my vote to Phil Collins. While not outdoing anyone vocally, he managed to lay down the fat backbeat for those guys to wail to.
My vote is for Phil!
I was thinking of going with Paul Weller – he looked dapper in his solo shots – but when I saw him at around 3:08, I thought “man is he short”.
Therefore I am going with Sting and his flannel scarf. It may be the only chirstmas-themed piece of clothing.
I was going to pick Sting too. His hair is fabu, and in the early shots he looks very stoned, or maybe just over-tired from a night of tantric sex. Towards the end he seems to be copping an “I’m too cool to be with these bozos” attitude.
A lot of these people, I can’t even place who they are anymore.
Daryl Hall had the best hair of the 80’s bar none (John Mellencamp gets an honorable mention), but since we are talking Do They Know It’s Christmas and not WATW, then I choose “the Bonomullet”.
PS – “bono, hair, stage presence, style, sweaters” is the best tag I’ve seen in weeks. I am tempted to see how many tags come up for “sweaters”
PPS – I rocked a mullet that fit right between the three the Bono-Mellen-Hall… don’t think I could see out of my left eye at all between 1985 and 1989
I’m tempted to go with the not-sure-but-I-think-he’s-a-transvestite-or-something choice of “Merilyn,” mainly because for some reason, he (?) went for a more masculine Look for this shoot. (I mean, why?)
But at the end of the day, the blow-dryer-tousled, badly colored, extremely poofy (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory British slang kind of way) hair of George Michael pushes the guy over the top. Plus, man, it has something to do with those extremely white teeth of his. He just makes me laugh and cringe at the same time.
Andyr, you’re on to something with the issue of Weller’s height. I saw him live a few years ago, and he didn’t look abnormally shrimpy. Did he hire a band of munchkins to back him up? What gives?
Sting gets point for the scarf but that’s about it. That hair is not making it.
I’m going with Geldoff by a mile. He was an early pioneer in that bed head look. It was cool back then and has held up surprisingly well.
As for Bananarama, that dark haired chick in the sweatshirt was always the pick of the litter in my book, but it is tough to consider them individually. To paraphrase Elvis: I’d like have me a peanut butter and Banannarama sandwich, thank you, thank you very much.
Weller was going to be my pick, but now that andyr has pointed out the height issue, I’m going to have to think this through some more. Good move by Phil Collins to stand on a riser behind him, making Weller look that much tinier. Well played, Collins. Well played.
I’m going with cdm here in taking off points from Sting for his hair. Look, that room was full of Rock Hair Crimes, but at least they were trying something. And Geldoff absolutely trumps Sting on the “I care too much about starvation to bother with my hair” front. Sting just couldn’t get any body going in his hair and it fell flat. Pause that video at 2:42. What are you, Prince Valiant, Sting?
I’m with HVB as far as marveling at George Michael’s hair. I had a hair-centric image of his that I was going to include, but left out because it might have unfairly influenced people. Also note that, despite all the work that clearly went into his hair, Michael is unafraid to drop some headphones over it, either because he’s so into helping fight starvation or because he’s confident that his hair will withstand the cans.
At first review, around the one minute mark, I briefly thought Simon Le Bon was wearing a watch on both arms, which would have been huge, but it turns out that’s not the case. Missed opportunity.
Just past the two minute mark…is that one of the guys from Duran Duran wearing a Duran Duran shirt? You gotta be kidding me.
Also note for discussion: Bono does a wardrobe change, breaking out the hat and leather jacket for the big group shots. We’d see the wardrobe change stunt replicated in We Are The World. Bono was working every possible angle, this was truly a defining moment for him.
As the video fades out, the Bananarama in green clearly walks away with the “who gives a shit about people starving?” award, which I think only one of the three of them could have gotten away with.
No doubt, Bono’s performance was career-defining. But what’s up with his total lack of rhythm in the final chorus shots? What, Phil Collins and his argyle sweater groove not powerful enough for you, Bono?
Big ups to Simon LeBon for his mad elocution skillz: “but… when you’re having funnnnnnnnnn…nnnn…nnn”
I should have known, there’s a website:
It’s good to know I’m not the only heightist around here. I was considering Weller until I saw him standing next to Geldoff and the Duran Duran guy. Then I just got totally thrown off by either how short he must be or how tall the other guys must be. For positioning alone, Weller’s Look is eliminated.
George Michael’s hair was outstanding, almost Barry Gibbesque, but points off for the worn-out dye job. Apply a deep conditioner and check back with us, George.
I’m down with Sting’s hair. It’s a softer side of the man we don’t often get to see. Geldof’s bedhead was ahead of its time, but it’s nothing special or revelatory in terms of ending world hunger.
I’m a big fan of Collins’ sweater vest, but there’s a more telling fashion trend that never quite got off the ground to the extent of the mullet, as seen in this video: the ’80s ponytail. There’s a guy mugging for the camera at 2:55 with a braided ponytail. Nice!
The winning moment for me, however, and also the bravest moment in the clip, is at the 1:45 mark, when you can see The Edge sans ski cap and with ponytail. It’s a classy send-off to the era of The Edge’s hair.
If Weller’s 5′ 10″ then Geldof’s Manute Bol.
I just want to give a tear-filled thanks to Rock Town Hall for having such a well-developed and fascinating conversation about Look before the new year begins. I am but one lone bead of rain water dripping slowly, poignantly, down the window pane of rock analysis, but I’m almost certain that I speak for all of us in saying that we should all be filled with tremendous pride and appreciation for us.
The Mod says: “Geldof’s bedhead was ahead of its time, but it’s nothing special or revelatory in terms of ending world hunger.”
I say: Quite to the contrary. You can’t possibly fight world hunger with a $400 haircut that looks like it cost $400. It’s hypocritical, or at the very least, insensitive.
A haircut that cost 400 quid but looks like you just rolled out of bed is another matter. And as proof, I suggest that you look no further than the fact that Geldoff and his hair were knighted for single-handedly putting an end to world hunger.
Exactly. I’m not declaring him the winner or anything, but Geldoff’s hair is saying that there is far too much work to be done to end starvation for him to use a brush. He may not even own one, because for the price of one brush and two combs, he could feed a family for a week.
The long coat he’s wearing also seems to indicate that he woke up and just threw that coat on over whatever he slept in, because there was no time to spare. This is the look of someone running out to get the paper in the morning, but instead of getting the paper, he’s running out to make sure that rice is distributed in a way that it doesn’t end up in the hands of a merciless warlord.
I wanted to point out the ponytail-sporting guy Mod mentioned, but I couldn’t ID him and was afraid it was someone obvious I had a blind spot on. Negative points for me for this display of intellectual cowardice.
No way Weller is 5’10. I’m guessing 5’3 – 5’5 tops based on visual evidence in this video. And he’s not standing in a hole or anything, because it’s clear that he’s also got a relatively tiny head. He’s easily the best dressed person there, but this video review has kind of been a disaster for him.
Any thoughts on Paul Young? This is one of those times where I’d ask any Townswomen lurking to step up and weigh in on Young’s eyebrows. I don’t really have the experience in this area to say anything definitive, but I have this lingering sense that something important was happening with Paul Young’s eyebrows.
What are the odds that everybody in U2 gave each other hats for Christmas that year? I’m thinking at least 70%.
Paul Young and the dude from Spandau Ballet demonstrate the most taste among all participants, but their focus on taste kind of spits in the face of the cause, doesn’t it?
Actually, I may start copping the Spandau Ballet dude’s Look for my days in the office. I think I could bolt up the corporate ladder looking like that.
I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHY I KNOW THIS DEPT.
The ponytail guy is Midge Ure. I don’t know what band he was in… Ultravox?
Oh, so THAT’S what Midge Ure looks like! Thanks. Yes, he’s the guy behind Ultravox. I’m pretty sure, especially if you follow the closing credits on the vid, that Midge was as instrumental in putting together this even as was Geldoff. He’s one of those guys who’s huge in England (and Europe) but who couldn’t get arrested in the US, isn’t he.
Yes, Midge Ure was the co-organizer of the whole Band-Aid thing; he also co-wrote the song. He was in Ultravox, and before that replaced Gary Moore in Thin Lizzy and was in another band with Glen Matlock. Not sure why I know that, either…
The Spandau Ballet guy, in addition to his tasteful attire, certainly looks like he’s getting into the spirit of the song, pondering (at 3:13) whether they do, in fact, know it’s Christmas.
It just occurred to me that Boy George deserves some points for dressing down for this. That red dye job is obviously left over from a previous Look, and he’s not done up in his usual full hasidic rasta regalia, because that would be contrary to the spirit of the occasion. The red hair, with brown roots showing, brushed back in a half-hearted pompadour plus a plain blue jacket is for him the Look equivalent of famine.
I think with Paul Young, it’s about the music, maaan.
I couldn’t help but wonder if in a different time, a younger, more innocent, Mr mod (master mod) wouldn’t look at Boy George and wonder what’s behind Boy’s open shirt!
Weller is my pick.
short mod guys rule!!!
I hope noone minds me butting in here but I believe the ponytail guy is Francis Rossi of Status Quo.
Midge Ure does appear earlier – next to Bono at 2:04.
I’m British you see.
If ponytail guy is from Status Quo, then who’s the dude that looks like a lumpier version of Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins at 3:26?
And btw everybody in this video is miming, right?
The dude at 3:26 is Rick Parfitt, also of Status Quo.
Talking of Spinal Tap, take a look at this:
cniloc, you’re not butting in at all but, rather, setting us (mostly) Yankees straight. Status Quo is another one of your big bands that never made much of a splash in the US. Thanks for jumping in. Now that I think about it, I’m remembering a Mojo article on Status Quo from a couple of years ago and what they looked like in the photos. Don’t be a stranger!
I’d love to hear a British take on Status Quo. The U.S. press has always referred to their success as a sort of “who can figure?” phenomenon. Do they still have a following?
Yes, the Quo are still going strong, though mainly as a live attraction now.
They came up with some great three or four minute pop songs in the 70’s based on their simplistic boogie and, unlike most 70’s rock bands, had loads of hit singles. They were regularly on TV pop shows whereas you would rarely have seen Deep Purple or Black Sabbath on UK Television.
They’ve become a sort of national ‘institution’ – Rossi and Parfitt are household names in the UK, well known to people who wouldn’t normally follow rock music. I suppose they’ve got a sort of ‘everyman’ quality about them which may explain their continuing popularity.
I don’t think music fans have ever taken them very seriously – they’ve been the butt of many jokes but they’re sort of impossible to dislike.
The only record of theirs I’ve got is ’12 Gold Bars’ which collects their 70’s hits and is well worth a listen.
I’d like to hear the same critique of the Canadian version. “Tears are not enough” by Northern Lights.
Even though this fad was all for charity, it got competitive, we Canucks really felt we had kicked the Brits and Yankees ass in this game. There’s some pretty good looks, too!
I’ll say this for the Canadians, at least their song’s lyrics make sense. What does “we are the world, we are the children” even mean? Isn’t “do they know it’s Christmas” just a tiny bit Euro-centric?
Anyway, my favorite things in the video:
Burton Cummings’ chin cleavage
the Neil Young impersonator
when those people I didn’t recognize started singing in tongues
Thanks for representing the Great White North. Is there a famine-relief equivalent from the Thunder Down Under?
what explains the Quo’s *lack* of popularity over here?
Best Famine relief song from the 80’s
1. Canada: “Tears are not enough”
2. USA: “We are the World”
3. Britain: “Do They Know it’s Christmas”
4. Australia: “Put Another Shrimp on Africa’s Barbie”
Here’s some juicy stuff from the Wikipedia entry on “Do They Know it’s Christmas?”
“Not all went smoothly. Ure stated in his autobiography that he was constantly battling with Geldof, the song’s lyricist but not renowned for his melody skills, and telling him to leave”
And even better:
“Once Status Quo produced their bag of cocaine and the booze started to flow – I brought six bottles of wine from my flat, which disappeared in a minute – it became a party.”
“We Are Stars,” Hearin’ Aid
Oh yeah, forgot about that one from Metal Nation. All the Metalheads in my high school were talking that up before it came out, then it came out and they didn’t like it. This was a simpler time when we all that Rob Halford dressed the way he did because he was a tough biker type.
What’s amazing about that Hear n Aid video is how you cannot see a beer can or bottle of Jack Daniels, a line of coke, a joint or a even cigarette anywhere in it. Nowhere. The Academy Award for editing goes to whoever did this work.
I’ve often wondered whether anybody in the “band” ever stopped to think how ludicrous it was to be singing “we are STARS!” in a purportedly selfless effort to feed starving children. I remember “Uncle Ted” Nugent ranting on and on about how “we gotta get some FREAKIN’ CORN to the starving kids, man! They need some CORN! That’s what I’m saying, man! Get them kids some FREAKIN’ CORN!”
That song needed more John Candy.
Paul Young has stolen Paul McCartney’s eyebrows!
I can’t shake George Michael’s resemblance to Wayne from the Wonder Years.
I will pick Boy George since his hair is like a torch, serving as a beacon of hope, and warding off all those animal predators they have in Africa.
I’ve watched the video again and I don’t have much more to add except to say that I am very disappointed in Sting’s attitude.
At 1:11, he rolls his eyes at Simon Lebon during their duet. Then, at 1:25, he clearly gives Simon (and possibly Bono) a nasty look. It’s tough to tell whether it’s the stink eye or the hairy eyeball but there’s definitely something going on there. Even when he gets his own close up at 2:20 while they sang “the bitter STING of tears…” it doesn’t seem to be enough for him.
Bottom line: If you can’t muster up the requisite amount of Charity Passion during the video shoot (see George Michael, Bono, George Michael’s Hair, et al), then the least you can do is try to look pleasantly sympathetic so as not to detract from the proceedings (see the blonde guy at 2:46 who may or may not have been in Level 42).
It’s no wonder Sting didn’t get invited up on stage with Pearl Jam and U2 when they were putting an end to Poverty.
I just want to give a big thank you to Alexmagic for taking the laboring oar on this important issue. I think his insightfulness inspired all of us to dig a little deeper, and give a little more. He is the Bob Geldolf of RTH.
mockcarr says: “I can’t shake George Michael’s resemblance to Wayne from the Wonder Years.”
I say “Genius!” That could be the top of the list whenever the powers that be around here decide to finally publish that “Separated At Birth” post that has be languishing around the Back Office for years now.
By the way, and this has been on my mind for years: Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian nations in the world and the majority of the population is Christian. So, yeah, they probably do know its Christmas, even without the snow.
Misterioso, that is one seriously insightful insight. Big ups from me to you!
Though there’s actually plenty of snow in Ethiopia, depending on where you are in the country.
Geldof has regrets.
What? No love for Heaven 17???????