dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Why Band Aid II Turned Out To Be Coal In Pop History's Christmas Stocking

BAND AID 20: 2004

Two years ago at this time, a great pal of mine and I had been writing another blog concerning local hipster spots here in Los Angeles -- sort of a City Guide filtered through an indie/gay lens -- but I found myself strangely fixated on the Band Aid 20 anniversary charity single that was shaping up to be a huge hit in England. It was interesting how, to me at least, bland and tuneless the song had managed to sound in this updated cover, when, by all rights, it could have been punchier than ever. What a wasted opportunity, I couldn't help thinking. Somehow the splendidly perfect mix of joy and melancholy that the original 1984 version evoked was now diluted by a mess of detached Chris Martin and Dido vanity vocals (could she sound more bored?) and, in the final moments, a chaotic, drawn-out guitar solo that sinks the entire thing into a mucky swamp of ridiculousness. I didn't know it at the time, but that very disdain and awe would prove to be the nexus for the creation of Chart Rigger that January, with the intent to punch holes through the more-often-than-not absurdity of pop music.


Of course, that's not to take away from the amazing generosity of Band Aid organizer Bob Geldof. He certainly deserves a Nobel Prize on the mantle for his life's work of helping raise awareness on Third World famine over the past 22 years. But, that said, Sir Bob and those involved in the Band Aid mythos can be a bit, shall we say, snooty about the history of the tune...

BAND AID II: 1989

Two years ago, it was kind of fun to watch pop sites (which weren't as in abundance as they are today) get all up in arms over the seemingly complete erasure of 1989's Band Aid II from history. Granted, this version arguably is worth forgetting about by the general public, but for the music biz itself to deny its existence is quite Nazi-esque. Five years after the original and four years after the globally staged Live Aid concerts, Geldof approached Pete Waterman, the Clive Davis of Britain at the time, to do an updated "Do They Know It's Christmas." This was the result:



Right off the bat, there's something woefully contradictory about the scenes of famine underscored by the jubilant opening chords crafted by Stock Aitken Waterman. Band Aid II was always going to be a hit, thanks to the safe bet of public nostalgia at the holidays, but in retrospect, the whole thing comes across as an overly-incestuous showcase for SAW's stable of artists, starting with the opening lines sung by Kylie Minogue. Featuring outsiders Jimmy Somerville, Bros and Lisa Stansfield is forgivable, but this track's long-term prospects were doomed from the outset by shamefully featuring Big Fun, regarded to be the production trio's most frivolous act, within the first minute.

As for charity, what better way to yank the rug out from under that than by having gratuitous shots of Jason Donovan waving to paparazzi, or Kylie being hoisted in the air by young, beautiful and rich popstars, all smiling for another picture, or one of the Goss brothers giving instructions on doing "the running man"... Geldof likely knew what he was getting -- a quick, easy hit from professionals he knew wouldn't say no to the publicity. Like a john with a hooker, he was in and outta there, and never looked back. Even Pete Waterman didn't include "Do They Know It's Christmas," a #1-charting single, on last year's Gold compilation. One could argue that this was the very turning point for SAW's fortunes, when they were unwittingly flushed away to the Island Of Misfit Toys, but alas, that's another story.

On the flip side, taken out of the context of the unfortunate video, Band Aid II's rendition is quite enjoyable -- much more than Band Aid 20's. Chances are, though, you won't be hearing Band Aid II's "Do They Know It's Christmas" on the radio this -- or any -- year. But that's why Chart Rigger is here; to remind you to say a prayer -- pray for the other ones.

If you're feeling charitable, two organizations worth checking out are The William J. Clinton Foundation and Save Darfur. For a mostly-accurate list of who sang which parts on all three versions of "Do They Know It's Christmas," go here.

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15 Comments:

  • At 4:56 PM, Blogger Puckme said…

    Just the name Kylie Minogue is enough to tunr me even wanting to hear this aborted version. Once done is enough in my opinion.As for Dido et al..ghastly but not worse than anything with K Minogue in it.She is so bland, PR greedy and cheesy and such a bum singer( all that nasal sutff is vile)

    Anyway she is one of the least charity concerned humans in showbiz.. she is all me me me.

     
  • At 7:22 PM, Blogger Robpop said…

    Yes, puckme. Indeed. Ahem. Not. about. Kylie.

    So, ChartRigger my dear gin/tonic friend of mine...the best version of this rather turgid epic has to be the one performed and recorded by the collective German PopStars groups. Included are the girlbands No angels and Preluders. It even includes a poptastic rap by a 2 year old boy from Hamburg. Ghetooooo.

    Check out the fake tans, da fake goo in the hair, excellent accents, boys look at each other with loving intent and joyful miming:

    PURE BLISS!

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=oIzrFAGdBM0

     
  • At 8:22 PM, Blogger J'ason D'luv said…

    Ehm, Puckme, not quite convinced about KM, but to each their own, I suppose.

    RobP, I also failed to mention the version by Barenaked Ladies... thank me at your leisure. Gonna go check you the one you recommended...

     
  • At 4:40 AM, Blogger Paul said…

    i absolutely despised BandAid20, not least for the vomit inducing shot of the fake tears evil Joss Stone had squeezed into her eye to run down her cheek when she watched the starving orphans. So hideously manipulative. I do however love love love Band Aid II. It's utter genius, captured the era perfectly (in terms of who is on it) and made money! You can't ask for better than that now can you??

     
  • At 6:36 PM, Blogger Poster Girl said…

    Do you actually like the original, then? Because, I must confess, I do...

    My favorite part of the Band Aid 20 video is where they try to pass off someone else's lines as being Busted's--I think their voice are really faint in the background, maybe, but otherwise they've never sounded so pretty and one voice-ish!

    If you're looking for more covers that are somewhat inappropriately happy, you could do worse than Swedish singer Shirley Clamp's version--famine has never sounded so danceable and party-inspiring!

    http://www.zshare.net/audio/do-they-know-its-christmas-mp3-mvh.html

    (From FMSM forums--I'd look at who in particular, but it's not working...Digital Technique, maybe?)

    By the way, I love that you linked to where you can donate. Seriously.

     
  • At 7:41 PM, Blogger J'ason D'luv said…

    Oh, thanks.

    And, yes, love the original. I tear that one up at karaoke...

     
  • At 6:54 PM, Blogger Lenny said…

    For some irony, this holiday year(2006) on MuchMoreMusic in Canada, they played Band Aid II on their videoflow program. I haven't seen the video like last year and two years ago.
    I dunno what to say which version I like. Band Aid II seems to be growing on me.
    As one of the poster said, the Band Aid 20 version, Joss Stone did ruin the video when "being shocked." So, I never to the whole thing on my iPod.

     
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  • At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Natural no side-effects phentermine said…

    Once done is enough in my opinion.As for Dido et al..ghastly but not worse than anything with K Minogue in it.

     
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    Band Aid II was awesome . and I like say marry Christmas .

     
  • At 1:57 AM, Anonymous Top Rated Vacuum Cleaners said…

    So many cool songs here man. It's the best Christmas ever. I think im gonna bring some candys and listen to these songs all day long.

     
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