It raised £17 million for famine relief and kick-started a global charity machine that created tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds more, but the hit single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ might not have been recorded today because of its colonist overtones, said one of the stars involved.
Actor Nigel Planner was at the recording of the 1984 Band-Aid No 1 in character as Neil, the depressed hippie he played on the BBC comedy The Young Ones, but he said that even though the song was made with really good intentions, he believes the concept wouldn’t stand up to today’s more woke standards.
He said that now it would be investigated and that the tone, the colonist tone of the event, would now come under some scrutiny.
The comedian, who began a degree in African and Asian studies at Sussex University before dropping out to pursue an acting career, said that on the day of the recording he chickened out at the last minute and declined to appear on the single or its video.
He told Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast that his comedy alter ego would have jarred with the serious message of the day, giving a feeling of: ‘That was fun, wasn’t it? Now let’s look at some poor children with flies on their eyes.’
But he did record a separate sketch that was used in the fundraising effort.
Highlighting stars such as George Michael, Banarama, Bono and Boy George, Do They Know It’s Christmas became the biggest selling UK single of all time, and it’s been re-released three times and the subsequent Live Aid concert raised an extraordinary £40 million.
Bob Geldof, who was later knighted for his charity work, and teamed up with Midge Ure to create the track after seeing disturbing BBC broadcasts of the escalating crisis in Ethiopia.
But this isn’t the first time it’s been criticised for its Western viewpoint, especially the line, ‘Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,’ which was dropped from the 2014 remake.
At that time, Robtel Neajai Pailey, a Liberian born academic at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, described the lyrics condescending and said the track reeked of the white saviour complex.
Midge Ure admitted the song’s shortcomings but said it was all about creating money, but in his more direct way, Bob Geldof said that anyone criticising the lyrics could, well, get stuffed.
The song raised millions instantly and made some difference, but now there would be three years of meetings, focus groups, allergy testing, mental health assessments, inclusivity questionnaires, gender inclusion support groups, and then at the last minute it would all be called off due to the environmental impact.
And now there’s always someone that will take offence, no matter what the topic, you really can’t win anymore, and forty years on, and all that effort, all that money, what exactly has it all achieved?
All it really did was give publicity to some virtue signalling celebrities, and as for people saying that it was offensive, if you choose to be offended then that’s that person’s problem because one man’s pleasure is another man’s poison.
And Bob Geldof was aware of the problem at the time and tried to stop the white saviour photos from happening, but he couldn’t control people swarming him wherever he went, and he couldn’t control every picture taken, and he just couldn’t watch children perish and do nothing about it, and Bob Geldof is a long way off from being a bourgeois English colonial – he’s just a spitting, snarling Irish guy saying it to your face.