It’s treacle, it’s tripe, it’s sentimental garbage…But you know all the words, right? Written by Bob “Boomtown Rats” Geldof—a one-hit wonder band known mostly to a few fans of obscure British New Wave—and Midge “Thin Lizzy” and “Ultravox” Ure—bands known even fewer people, this “benefit song” became the best-selling single of all time. And it was recorded in a day. One day. Unlike the bastard son it inspired, Michael Jackson and company’s “We Are the World,” which had much more star power but, in the end, was not nearly as good a song. Although, admittedly, Bob Geldof himself has called this song the worst he ever wrote. (Hm. Really? Not “Up All Night”?) And to think, the only reason they made an original song (instead of just covering a traditional Christmas tune) was so that they wouldn’t have to pay royalties, which would (quite literally) take food out of the mouths of starving babies.
There were rumors, including this hilarious video by Spitting Image, that the artists only appeared because Bob Geldof threatened to release the names of people who didn’t help out…
The gang-bang-for-charity approach was also the inspiration for 1985’s series of Live Aid concerts. But most importantly, it inspired one of Sam Kineson’s best jokes: “If you’re starving in Africa, move where the food is.”
The song made over $8 million for children starving in Ethiopia. It featured Sting (of the Police), Duran Duran, Boy George and Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young (who got to lead off the track), Phil Collins, Marilyn, Kool & The Gang, Bono and Adam Clayton (U2), The Boomtown Rats, Bananarama (perhaps the best-named girl band of all time), Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17), Chris Cross, George Michael, Status Quo, Paul Weller and Jody Watley.
Further listening: Uh…The B-side has messages from David Bowie and the dude from Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Covers: There were several follow-up Band Aids for different charities, but they’re not worth your time. Instead, check these out: