How Band Aid Changed Christmas

Wham - Last Christmas

Those of us old enough to remember Band Aid will recall what a momentous charitable event it was capturing the hearts and minds of people all over the world. From the great Christmas song release Do They Know it's Christmas? in 1984 millions and millions of pounds have been raised in Band Aid's name, while the spectacular Live Aid concert that followed in the Spring of 1985 did the same. Here we take a look at the story behind the event.

Michael Buerk

Michael Buerk was and still is a BBC news correspondent and reporter who back in 1984 produced a report from Ethiopia that would shock the world. The footage was hard to watch as thousands of men women and children were shown not only living in dire circumstances but also starving with hundreds dying on a daily basis. Buerk's empathetic reporting that was factual, informative but not without feeling struck a chord with many including the lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, Bob Geldof and lead singer of Ultravox Midge Ure.

Band Aid The Record

Many artists and singers along with Geldof and Ure wanted to do something to help if they could. Geldof and Ure had the idea of involving lots of acts to sing on a record that would be released before Christmas. They called their super group Band Aid as it was akin to putting a sticking plaster of sorts, although they hoped for more, on the famine problem. The title of the song was "Do They Know It's Christmas? and was sung by a selection of mainly UK artists that were current at the time. The record was plugged on many radio shows that week with the enthusiasm it brought gaining momentum all the time.

Geldof wrote the words while Ure wrote the music and all the artists gave their time freely in order to make the recording and the video. Geldof insisted that all the money raised by the record should go to the Ethiopian Famine Disaster with even the government of the day, run by Margaret Thatcher eventually backing down regarding VAT on the record. They had previously said that they would not waive the cost of the VAT on the record.

Do They Know It's Christmas? was released on November 29th 1984 and went straight to number one. People were overwhelmed by the Ethiopian people's plight and with Christmas just around the corner what better time to release a record asking this question. The songs lyrics told the Ethiopian story with lines such as "where nothing ever grows, no wind and rain or snow, do they know it's Christmas time at all?

The underlying message of the song was, it's Christmas, we are well off, please let's help the starving people! The record sold over one million in its first week of release and sat at number one for five weeks. Three million copies were sold in all which at the time was a record.

Artists Featured on the record included

George Michael


Boy George

Paul Young

Duran Duran

Phil Collins

Spandau Ballet

Status Quo


David Bowie

Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Band Aid Led The Way

Bob Geldof in Africa

The Band Aid record certainly changed Christmas in a way as it was the first Christmas charity single that has been followed by many many more over the years. Its huge success gave artists the idea that by producing a record such as this we can raise millions of pounds for charities.

There are many charity records released now such as by Children in Need who commission a record sung by popular artists every year in order to raise money for their charities, while Do They Know its Christmas? has found its way into the charts at Christmas time many Christmasses since its first release. Sport Relief and CComic Relief were also inspired by Band Aid and also release a charity single when the shows are aired.

A Word About Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof literally ran himself into the ground both physically and financially due to his dedication during the organisation of the Band Aid record and the Live Aid concert. He has since been made a Knight of the Realm in recognition of his services to charity which was certainly well deserved.