Yesterday’s winner: Do They Know It’s Christmas
Which song do you like better: Finest Hour or Secret Oktober?
Yesterday’s winner: Do They Know It’s Christmas
Which song do you like better: Finest Hour or Secret Oktober?
Every year, at Christmas, without fail, I listen to the song, Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band-Aid. This tradition has existed since the song was released in 1984. If you haven’t listened to it yet this year, let me post the video for you to do just that:
Yesterday, I noticed a tweet from Duran Duran featuring an article posted in Rolling Stone magazine written by our friend, Lori Majewski, which you can read here. The article discusses the making of Band-Aid along with some behind-the-scenes stories, which are thoroughly enjoyable. I have to admit that I especially liked the fact that Duran showed up with Spandau and both bands were hungover.
While I was entertained by the article, I found myself drawn to two particular quotes. First, Boy George said, “‘Band Aid and Live Aid were a great contradiction to what people thought, another side of the decade,” says Boy George. “The Eighties were about greed and excess – we were called Thatcher’s Children.'” Then, Simon followed up with, “One reason Le Bon and his contemporaries found Band Aid so attractive, he says, was because it “was this opportunity to do something that wasn’t about ‘me.’ It made you feel you could do something useful. We made young people believe they had some kind of power and were able to do something that did have an effect.'”
This song came out Christmas 1984, when I was nine years old. I hadn’t been a Duranie for very long and had little ideas about the world and my role in it. Duran’s decision to participate in something like this didn’t surprise me as I had no expectations of whether or not a band should partake in activities for charity or make political statements. Yet, I do remember feeling proud to be a fan of a band that would join in such an effort to raise money for a starving people. I, in fact, defended the British supergroup over many of my peers who didn’t know anything about the song or its impact once USA for African’s song “We Are the World” was released. I complained, openly, to my classmates that the Americans were copying the British’s idea.
Looking back, I had no idea that Duran Duran was often dismissed for the (incorrect) assumption of being connected to Thatcherism or Reaganism, the ultimate capitalistic, political leaders. I didn’t realize that for many critics Duran’s participation in Band-Aid and later Live Aid seemed out of character. To me, it made sense. Clearly, the members were kind people who wanted to help out their fellows, at least that’s what I thought (and still think). I recognize now that this supergroup and single changed the vibe of the 1980s from being one of fun, greed, materialism to being serious, selfless but had no idea back then. I have heard John Taylor state in interviews that Live Aid divided the decade into these two halves.
Interestingly enough, I wonder now how much this song really affected my world view. Heck, I ponder how much Duran Duran of the 1980s impacted my philosophy of life. I do believe in having fun and express that every time I get to a show or get to go on tour. I enjoy times out with friends, having a drink or two. Yet, I also am a person who believes that humans should act to help out their fellow humans. I went into teaching–not for the pay or the summers “off” (HA! I wish!) but because it provided a chance to help many kids. Then, I spend time outside of work and fandom on political activities. Why? Again, I want to do my part in order to make the world a little bit better.
Perhaps, Duran Duran and Band-Aid’s Do They Know Its Christmas helped to form this fundamental philosophy of life I have. I don’t accept the premise that I need to choose between having fun and being serious, between focusing on myself and on others. I saw my idols, as a kid, doing both simultaneously, even if that isn’t what adults or music critics saw then. That is what I saw and what I hope to live in my own life now.
I am way, way late with the Katy Kafe highlights for Simon and Nick, and I apologize. To begin with, for some reason I couldn’t get the audio to play on my laptop (I have a MacBook), which has never happened before, and then well, Christmas happened. So I’m a little late, but never fear, I have the highlights!!
Simon LeBon and Katy settled in, Katy with Lemonade and Simon with whiskey for a pretend “fireside” chat about 2014.
Simon did a Rolling Stone interview on Band Aid, so if you’ve missed out on that, check it out. However, he did share his pride with being on the original. He was one of the first to agree to doing the record, along with Sting – and even after showing up that fateful morning to realize that it wasn’t just he and Sting on it, he feels as though the song has stood the test of time.
This year, Simon really has enjoyed London Grammar‘s album “If You Wait”. Simon describes the album as ambient and soft without a set rhythm. He also has enjoyed another Estonian artist that I can’t even spell…nor find phonetically online…but you can find it on his twitter if you care to search!
Simon said that he didn’t see too many concerts this year…something about being locked up in the dark of the studio for the past year I suppose… He did go see Leonard Cohen though, and also saw Fleetwood Mac, which he really enjoyed.
Simon said that the only films he saw this year were on airplanes, and then mentioned Cold In July.
Hands down, it seems that Simon’s favorite TV show was Happy Valley – a UK show starring Sarah Lancashire. He says the show was very dark, which seemed to be an ongoing theme for Simon in 2014.
Simon began his year with Donna Tartt and The Goldfinch, and ended it with Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, beginning with Never Mind. These novels are considered autobiographical, even though the main character has a fictional name. We also learn that Simon reads more than one book at a time. (Don’t we all? I have several going at one time, depending on what mood I’m in and whether I’m doing research or reading for fun.)
You get one guess and it starts with “Fashion”. You guessed it – for Simon, Fashion Rocks topped off 2014. As a personal favorite, Simon looks to celebrating his father’s 80th birthday as the event of the year.
OK, admit it – this is what you’ve been waiting for. Simon says the album will be out in June or July (which really means Autumn at the earliest if you speak Duran Duran. We haven’t even made it through New Years Eve yet and we’ve already preempted half of next year.) He says the album is brilliant, (I am thrilled but I want to make that judgment for myself. Next year, thankyouverymuch.) but they need to cut down the songs to about 10 (right now they are at 13, according to Simon – and you’ll soon find that it depends on what band member you’re talking to as to how many songs they’ve got.) Best question of the Kafe? Katy asked Simon what they’ll do with the songs they have leftover after deciding upon the album. Simon’s answer, which is likely the best answer of 2014 no matter how you slice it – “We’ll sell them to One Direction.”
Katy also asked if they had an album title. Simon said yes. Then he spoke “LeBon gibberish” and said that he gave the album title backwards. Then he did it again, and again…each time sounding just a little different. So, yeah. It’s still #DD14 to me. Yay.
And we’re off to 2015…
It has been two weeks since I posted a summary of what has been happening in Duranland. I didn’t do it last week as I was busy with some out-of-state guests. (waves at Rhonda) Anyway, I thought I would take time this weekend to catch us all up by compiling any and all Duran Duran news in one spot!
Did you know that Dom Brown has been with the band for 10 years?! 10! Duranduran.com celebrated this fabulous anniversary by posting a note from Dom himself. As a big fan of the guy, Rhonda, too, posted a little blog about this important occasion. I, for one, love the last line of his note–here is to 10 more!
This month focused on the album, Notorious. I never knew that there were subtle differences in how the album looked in various countries or what all of the remixes for this album are. Yet, you can find all of that information and more over on the duranduran.com’s post. Fascinating stuff! It definitely makes me want to be more of a collector!
Did you know that there was an extended mix of this song? Apparently, there is and it just recently surfaced! See the post on duranduran.com to read John’s quote about it and to click on the link to hear. After that, tell us what you think about it!
‘Tis the season for a little shopping! Duran Duran has a new calendar out this year with the focus being studio pictures. Buy it now here and read Rhonda’s thoughts about it here. Perhaps, you want to support a little blog you know (and hopefully love!) by shopping at our Cafe Press store.
If you are a paid member of DDM, I highly recommend logging in and checking out the interview with Patty Palazzo. You can learn a lot about her history on the Duran team as well as her own designs with Punk Masters! I look forward to seeing her new line, which is to be released in December! After you finishing this interview, check out Rhonda’s interview of her and Lori Majewski here!
Nick and his girlfriend, Nefer, attended the Guy Bourdin image maker exhibit at the Somerset House in London last week. Check out Duran’s Facebook page for a picture of them!
Have you heard the song, “Kingdom,” by Charli XCX featuring Simon Le Bon yet? If not, it has been released and getting lots of press. BostonHerald.com covered it here. The Examiner covered it, too! Empty Light House reviewed it as well! If that wasn’t enough, ABC Radio News wrote about it, too! Look for our thoughts about it soon!
Can you believe that Duran Duran and other pop stars met thirty years ago to record the song, Do They Know It’s Christmas? I try not to think about it too much as it makes me feel very old! Nonetheless, there has been lots of press about it. I recommend starting with Rhonda’s blog about it. Then, you definitely should read the behind-the-scenes article by Mad World author, Lori Majewski! After that, you can check out the article on Be80s here. Heck, even Huffington Post UK covered it here!
Duranduran.com updated the band’s gallery to feature the band’s performance for the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit.
Nick’s latest project, Geneu, an anti-aging product was featured in the latest issue of Wallpaper Magazine! Need a refresher about this project of Nick’s? Check out the press release on the band’s official site.
That’s all I could find on official sites. Did I miss something? I am confident that I have. If so, comment about it so that the information is included! Thanks!
I know I’ve already done a date in history for today, but also on this date in 1984, Duran Duran, and particularly Simon LeBon, was featured in Bob Geldof’s and Midge Ure’s project “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, by Band Aid.
On a day where it’s pretty difficult to get into the holiday spirit…I think it’s uplifting to see that yes, we really can make a difference. Music matters. One single song, one single Duran Duran song (yes, I felt it was theirs) made a difference. I remember being 14 (goodness gracious) and feeling a sense of pride hearing that song on the radio. The band participated in something that mattered, something that was going to make a difference. Buying a single piece of music helped make the world better…all very lofty ideas for a kid. Never mind that Simon thought he was doing a solo with Sting or that he was pretty annoyed to realize he was going to be sharing the microphone with many, because I didn’t know any of that in 1984. I believed it was all for the greater good. Helping the world…hell, saving the world.
Nowadays, it’s impossible to miss what’s going on around us. I am sure most have read the headlines this morning, watched the videos, and were probably shocked by the photos coming from Ferguson. It even has it’s own set of hashtags on Twitter, for crying out loud. It blows my mind, in some respects, that we’re still dealing with the same sorts of problems now that we were back in the sixties. Nothing seems to change fast enough, and yet everything seems to move way too quickly in this world. Well, back in 1984 I really did believe we were changing things, making a difference, doing good for the world with a single song. Call it naivety, innocence…maybe even a little ignorance, but I believed. I bought into the ideals. Hook, line, sinker.
For me, “Do They Know it’s Christmas” was the Christmas song to own. One single Duran Duran song turned Autumn into the holiday season for me, and what’s really funny is that it still happens to this very day. At some point just before Thanksgiving I will turn on the radio to our local “Holiday Music Station” (KOST 103.5) just to try and feel a little more in the spirit – and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” will come on, in all of it’s glory, and I’ll smile. I’ll forget the trials of being an adult, and something in me clicks. I’ll start thinking about how I felt sitting in the backseat of my parents old green longer-than-a-city-block Mercury as the song would start and we’d more than likely be out looking at Christmas lights, as we always did more than once during the holiday season. Sure, I was a kid and didn’t really know much about the world around me at the time – but I believed there was more good than bad.
Somehow, I think we all still need a bit of that today.
Bob Geldof says there’s no way he’s going to rerecord every Duranie’s favorite Christmas tune, “Do They Know It’s Christmas”….except that it turns out he is. In what he claims to be “the worst-kept secret ever”, Bob Geldof announced today that there will in fact be a new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, available next week. This time, the lyrics are being reworked for the Ebola crisis and will feature recording artists that are more than likely much more notable to today’s teens than those of us still clinging on to the original “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by our fingernails.
I didn’t realize that this would be the fourth version of the song (clearly I really am stuck in the 80s and I just can’t quite believe I’m the only one), so before we get much further, let’s take a quick look back:
This version is our most beloved from 1984, and is the one that I hear whenever it’s played on the radio.
This version was recorded in 1989. The lyrics were rearranged in a traditional “verse and chorus”. It apparently reached number one for Christmas and included the following performers:
This was recorded in November 2004 for the 20th anniversary of the recording, and also reached number one. This version featured an extra rap segment by Dizzee Rascal during the “here’s to you” section.
Which brings us to the present, Band Aid 30, which is set to record next Saturday. Coldplay (contributing from Los Angeles), Jessie Ware, Paloma Faith, and Sinead O’Connor have signed on to record the newest version. Interestingly enough, Bono is the only artist to sing the same line in the original and recent versions, and he is set to record with the yet-to-be-fully-announced group on Saturday. Geldof mentions that other “giants” of rock and roll have yet to be announced.
While I applaud the idea of doing something to fund the campaign against Ebola – dealing with the problem at it’s source, I have to wonder if this version will ever reach the heights that the original, beloved original once did. The original song was a first, it was wholly unique, and dammit – it featured Simon LeBon.
This is our final book club for the book, Mad World. We will finish by discussing the last three chapters on Animotion, Band-Aid and the Afterword by Moby. Perhaps, we will also include a little bit of what we learned along the way. I hope you throughly enjoyed the book and the book club as much as we did! Jump in and join us!
Truly, this was an unbelievable chapter and story to read. As I read it, I almost thought that I should be keeping a chart about who did what, when, why, etc. There were so many statements and moves made that affected Animotion that it was hard to keep track. Clearly, VERY clearly, the band members, themselves, did not have control over their band. Much like the lyrics to the song, there is a desperation underlying all of the agreements and moves made by the individual members. They seemed to want to succeed so badly and the little taste that they had made them want more. This desire was so strong that they made some questionable decisions. Unfortunately, those decisions didn’t seem to put them in a better spot in the long run.
Before I dive into the chaos that was the Animotion story, I have to acknowledge what I knew before hand. I knew that Michael Des Barres co-wrote this song and that it did very, very well for him. In fact, before Power Station, this seemed to be his big claim to fame. I never once thought about the actual band who performed the song. I was just happy that Michael experienced such success and I guess I assumed that the band must have as well. How naive am I?! The band’s story shows or reminds that one should never ever assume when it comes to the music business.
Right away into Animotion’s story, I know that this wasn’t going to go well when the song, “Obsession,” sounded nothing like the rest of the album and didn’t match the sound they were going for. It seems to me that it never ends well when ONE song or ONE album goes against the rest of an artist’s catalog. When the band heard the song, one member loved it and thought it was the direction they should be going and the other wasn’t so sure. Perhaps, part of the problem was that the band wasn’t really on the same page to begin with and weren’t comfortable with each other. Yet, of course, reservations were pushed aside as the song moved up the charts.
After that, behind-the-scenes became complete chaos. There was the producer trying to run the show and get in between band members. Then, the record label pushed new songs at them and when the next one didn’t do as well, the label backed off support. A new A&R man comes in filled with hate over everything they had done before. Likewise, new managers determined that key members needed to go and be replaced by Cynthia Rhodes. It seems to me that member, Astrid Plane, summed it up best on page 307 about what it was like to be them then, “You were nothing. You were an item that was going to be on a shelf to be sold, and if they felt like you weren’t sales-worthy, then [they’d] toss you in the trash.” I am left just shaking my head at how horrible and upsetting their story really was. I wouldn’t want any other band or artist to experience something like this, but I suspect their story really isn’t all that unique.
Unlike Amanda, I was pretty naive about who wrote “Obsession”. Of course I know the song – it’s difficult to claim yourself as New Wave fan without acknowledging the song (purely as an aside, my younger sister continues to sing this song to me at the oddest moments, whenever the timing makes sense…to remind me of my Duran Duran fandom. Thanks, Robin.), but I really never thought about who wrote it. I guess you could even say that I didn’t care, because I really didn’t. I just knew the song to be one of those overplayed-to-death songs from the radio. I don’t know that I ever really think about that kind of thing as a music consumer. (except when it comes to Duran Duran and their various guitar players over the years) I was shocked when I read this chapter though. If there was ever any question about how the industry REALLY works – how incredibly unfair it can really be, or how it will chew you up, spit you out and then come back later for more – this is the chapter to read.
Animotion was never one of my favorite bands from this era, and I wholly admit that this particular song had everything to do with that. I suppress a bit of a chuckle when I find that this song wasn’t even their typical sound. It sounds nothing like their music at all, actually. That’s a real problem for this band – because if you’ve got an audience wanting to hear more like “Obsession”, and you’re used to writing something much more similar to say, early Police or Fleetwood Mac, that audience is never going to follow you. Instead, you’ve got a band here who literally floated to the top of the charts on a song that they didn’t write – therefore making nearly NO money on the song (even to this day, it’s the writer of the song – Michael Des Barres – who continues to see handsome royalty checks on this one), and there’s not any way to bring those fans of this song to their back catalog. It is really THAT different. I read stories all the time about bands who are/were famous and yet haven’t a penny to their name(s), and mostly I want to scoff and laugh because really – is that possible? The answer is yes. Yes it is. If you can’t/didn’t write your own music, I’m not entirely sure that you want to “just” be the performer, and especially not after reading this chapter.
I’d like to share a quote from Bill Wadhams, followed by a quote from Michael Des Barres. It’s easy to see that they are two sides of the same coin – two products of the machine.
Wadhams says, “I go on YouTube and see Michaels Des Barres performing at SXSW, and he prefaces ‘Obsession’ by saying, ‘This is a song that I wrote that made me a bloody fortune.’ The year that ‘Obsession’ [was a hit for Animotion], each member of the band made about $50,000; the next year, just about nothing. Whether it’s fair or not, it doesn’t matter because I don’t know that Michael Des Barres ever sang a song that was an international hit. I wonder whether he would trade having been the singer of the hit song for the money, if he would’ve been able to walk out on stage, sing ‘Obsession’, and have people go, ‘That’s the voice, that’s the hit that we love.’ (308)
Des Barres says, “It’s put my kid through college, [supported] two wives, and more besides. One song enters the lexicon of American consciousness, and it will take care of you for the rest of your life.” (308)
Astrid Plane, singer for Animotion, finishes the chapter by adding, “We are still in debt to the record company to this day.” (308)
Lori Majewski’s introduction in this chapter instantly brought me back to my elementary school lunch hour. Why? Simple. I, too, experienced endless debates between Band-Aid and USA for Africa. While her debates might have been about which had bigger stars, mine focused on who was first. No matter how many times and how many ways I tried to explain that Band-Aid was first, that they had started it, my classmates didn’t believe me. This was obviously long before the internet so I couldn’t prove it to them but I so wanted to. In reality, below the surface of the debate, it was more about which was better: New Wave or Motown? Duran Duran or Michael Jackson? You see, unlike so many in 1984, I lived in an area where it wasn’t cool to be a Duran Duran fan. Michael Jackson was the one and only king there. Even now, I have to admit to loving the comments Nick Rhodes made in this chapter about the differences between Band-Aid and USA for Africa. He seemed to be spot on, to me!
While I knew the story behind the song and how quickly it was put together, reading Midge Ure tell about it makes it all the more real. They truly put the song together so quickly from writing to recording to getting it airplay. He tells how easily it could have been horrible and that “it wasn’t that bad”. I don’t know about the rest of you but I can’t imagine a holiday season going by without listening to the song and hearing it played somewhere. It lives on.
Of course, the real story of Band-Aid isn’t so much the song itself or the bands involved, but what was pointed out in the introduction. It marked the end of the party. The first half of the 1980s, the New Wave era, ended with this song and what followed with Live Aid and other charity events. I have mixed feelings about this. I wish the New Wave era, musically, continued forever as I loved it so. Yet, I know that, sometimes, it is good for something to be shorter lived. It wasn’t around long enough to get completely run down and sucky. I still have mixed emotion about the worldly awareness that followed. While I’m a political person, I have never chosen music that is overtly political. I like artists to be smart, thinking and feeling people but not preachy. Did Band-Aid change people and the industry to become preachy? Maybe. It is hard to say but things definitely did change after that.
The holiday season just isn’t so without this song. Like Amanda, I wish the New Wave age had gone on longer – I didn’t graduate from high school until 1988 and it could have easily continued that long without complaint from me. I will never forget hearing the song for the first time, or the glee I get each and every time I hear it on the radio during the season. This single song sums up much of my entire music experience during my formative years. To this day I smile every time I hear Simon sing his lines, and while I know the song is for charity and it’s purpose was to galvanize the community into support for Africa – to me it’s about so much more. It’s a musical era. It’s my history. It’s the capstone of New Wave, and it was a song ever created for a charity (sometimes I wonder just how much of that message gets lost amongst the noise).
I don’t know if I like what happened following the release of this record so much. For me, music changed after that. I won’t even mention the US answer to this song, suffice to say that there have been many attempts to copy what this song tried to do. There is something really kind about “Do They Know it’s Christmas”, and I think that feeling was completely lost after that with “other” attempts. It became production and big industry business. Maybe that’s why I’ve always stuck to British bands….
After that record though, music started having some sort of a conscious, and bands tended to forget that the purpose was to entertain, not preach. And of course, New Wave as I knew it really ended. But at the time, when this record came out – I had no idea. I listened to it nearly non-stop during that 1984 holiday season. Ignorance was bliss, and trust me – I was indeed full of bliss that holiday.
Moby does a good job in expressing how New Wave was different–international, gentle, escapist. I felt all those same things. I felt that way living in the Chicago suburbs and later even more so when I moved to small town, Illinois. I longed for anything that wasn’t small town American focused, jean wearing, beer guzzling, hard rock that was all the rage by the time I found myself transported to what seemed like another planet. I still miss it but there was a desperation then in my youth that led me to reject anything and everything popular for a good number of years.
This book brought me back to my childhood and the music I loved so much. It reminded me why I fell in love with it and truly what was so good about it. I loved the imagination and the creativity that everyone seemed to bring. There was uniqueness in every artist despite having common influences. As the kid, the music seemed carefree and fun. Of course, the book also shed light on the stories behind the music and many of those stories revealed the good, the bad and the ugly. I learned how quickly some songs were written. I also learned how easily band members can grow apart even when they were the best of friends. The music industry might have been kinder then, in general, but still was a thorn in people’s sides too often. Yet, despite everything that happened to each of these bands, their music remains. Like Moby, I’m definitely thankful. I’m also ready for the sequel!
I don’t think I grew up in a particularly small town, but even so, New Wave was my escape from reality. I was a typical junior high school band nerd. My friends were either band members, or they were also nerds. We didn’t know how to dress, make-up was still a mystery, and awkwardness was probably my FIRST name at the time. The popular girls at my school loved to pick on me, and music was how I escaped the ridicule. I think to some extent, it still is. Back then I’d come home from school, and the first thing I’d do was turn on the TV in search of music video, or I’d run to my bedroom, flop on my bed and hit my stereo. I didn’t want to hear or see pop – I wanted bands like Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, INXS, Depeche Mode or nearly any other band mentioned in this book. (coincidence? Probably not!) I didn’t have an allowance, and money wasn’t “free-flowing” in my parents house, so I can remember waiting for KROQ to play certain songs so that I could tape them from radio. The audio quality would be terrible (back then I literally had to take my tape recorder and face it towards one of my radio speakers to make it work, and I nearly cried with joy the day my parents finally bought me a “boom box”…good Lord…) I always loved the boys who were less football, more introspective, and if they played in a band – all the better. So when I read Moby’s afterword, I find myself nodding in agreement. His story really isn’t much different from my own. New Wave WAS my adolescence and it did make life bearable. I don’t know what I would have done without it.
Like Amanda, I’m ready for the sequel. This book was everything I’d hoped, and much, much more. If you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, I urge you to give it a try. I loved this book so much it’s earmarked and red-lined, with notes in the margins and sadly, a few pages have even come out of the binding at this point. I daresay it’s been well-consumed.
-A & R