I bought my first ever single from Woolworths in December 1984. It was the anthem of a generation. Do They Know It's Christmas Time (Feed the World) by Band Aid was released in November of that year and brought together the chart topping voices of pop and rock, the best the early 80's had to offer. It was recorded in London and was in stores three days later. It became the UK's biggest selling Christmas no.1 for 15 years.
Whilst I love the nostalgia of thinking back on this first musical investment of mine, listening to it over and over on a record player in our small council flat, it is the story behind the recording of this track that now inspires me.
The original lyrics were penned by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, but the song started out as a rejected Boomtown Rats song. It was altered to call attention to the plight of those starving in the humanitarian crisis of Ethiopia, Africa. Bob called the artists he knew and arranged for a group recording session at Sarm Studios. However, when some performers arrived it was not what they had bargained for.
Simon Le Bon thought he was singing a duet with Sting, and so when he turned up and heard other artists singing "his lines" in his words, he "was a bit pissed off". Even though this was a charity single, egos were not left at the door, Sting and Bono did not want to sing their lines, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet arrive together hungover and Boy George nearly didn't show up as he was on a flight back from the US. And when demands for brandy came over the intercom, Midge Ure was the voice of reason - "No! We don’t have anyone here to go running about for you.” He said that they "didn’t have mountains of food, we didn’t have champagne, there was no sponsorship going on. It was incredibly basic."
Sting sums up the experience "it was a funny day, like a school reunion for truants. All of us had a lot in common but had rarely been in the same room together. There were no fights as I remember."
So, a rejected song, pulled together in three days, sung by the UK's greatest artists who were hung over, late or "pissed off" resulted in a hit Christmas single which sold over 2 million copies worldwide and raised over $24 million dollars (US) or £18 million pounds. This is the power of coming together, even when things aren't perfect.
There were over 40 'yeses' to Bob Geldof's call. Over 40 individuals who decided to come together and do what they could do - sing, play, create. Their unity showed how saying yes, flaws and all, can make a difference and can literally feed the world.
We so often think things must be perfect or just so in order for us to take action or to have an impact. "When I've completed this course, I'll be ready", "when I've lost the weight, I'll be more confident", "when I have more money, I'll give" or "when I find the right person to work with, I'll make a start". But time moves on, time doesn't wait for us to be perfect, ready, confident, or rich. The ways we can make a difference, and most importantly, the people who will benefit, also don't wait for (or care about) perfection, confidence, or the size of your bank balance.
Imagine if Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet had waited until they were sober, or Boy George hung around until his US tour had finished. What if Sting or Bono had waited for the perfect line or Simon Le Bon had held out for a duet. When Bob Geldof turned up at Midge Ure's house he had "a guitar that looked as though he’d found it in a dump. It had hardly any strings on it. He started singing me this thing – it was obvious he was making it up as he went along. He sounded like a demented Bob Dylan. There was no melody, no structure and every time he sang it, it sounded different." Thank goodness Midge Ure didn't wait for perfection.
I am signing off for 2021 with this post and as we approach a new year – full of hopes, dreams, and opportunities to make a difference, let’s not wait for perfect. Let’s come together as we are, a rag tag chorus of voices, warts and all. Let’s support each other, let’s build each other up and spur one another on. As they say, time waits for no one, and our time is now.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways you want to make a difference – big or small. Let me know in the comments below or on my Instagram @iamsarahalexcarter
Image via Getty Images
Info via https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/the-making-of-band-aid-secrets-and-stories-from-the-star-studded-session-172815/