Midge Ure

Band Aid Insider: The Artists Remember “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” 2

When Jonathan and I were making the list of songs to include in Mad World: The Book, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” wasn’t on it. After all, it was a novelty hit (albeit a huge one). But as we progressed with our interviews, we realized how important Band Aid was to new wave. For one, it was a song that brought so many of the pivotal artists in our book together. But it also signaled the end of the era: After Band Aid in 1984, the new wave party quickly came to an end. It only seemed fitting that we include “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” as the final chapter.

Then, this past summer, after about book came out, I began working on a piece about Band Aid pegged to its 30th anniversary. Though many of the artists were eager to reminisce about “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and proud of all of the good that it’s done, I initially had trouble getting Bob Geldof to talk. Apparently he had had a moratorium on the subject for years. After months of chasing him down through various managers, publicists, and friends, an interview was finally scheduled for late September…although on the morning of our chat, his rep emailed to say he still didn’t want to talk about Band Aid. That afternoon he relented, but when I finally got him on the phone, he let loose a barrage of expletives before allowing himself to recall a few of his favorite memories.

But, as Geldof told me, he never got into music to change the world. Nor did any of the other artists in Band Aid. That’s exactly what happened, though. And whatever one thinks of Geldof and his prickly nature, or the song’s controversial lyrics, or Band Aid II or III or IV, it cannot be disputed that the record altered the course of the 80s musical landscape and, more importantly, it saved lives. When I was in Los Angeles recently, my Uber driver told me that he was a victim of the Ethiopian famine who owes his life to the song.

Below is an “extended mix” of the Band Aid story that was published by Rolling Stone. Happy holidays, and have a peaceful and prosperous new year! —Lori Majewski

 

By Lori Majewski

Weeks before Thanksgiving, those commercial-free holiday-music marathons are already inescapable. Listen long enough and, along with repeat playings of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” and the bludgeoning of countless classics by Mannheim Steamroller, you’ll eventually be treated to that darkest of year-end chestnuts: Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“The lyrics are bleak, but essentially so, and a welcome change from the bromides of mistletoe and the saccharine Christmas fare that is usually served up,” says Sting, recalling the charity single he recorded 30 years ago on November 25th as a member of the mostly-British supergroup.

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Nearly 40 artists — many of the biggest acts of the early eighties: Duran Duran, Culture Club, Wham!, even a then-bubbling-under U2 — converged that day at London’s Sarm Studios in response to a harrowing BBC report on the starving victims of the Ethiopian famine. And every year since, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” reminds us, as we gobble down our holiday dinners, that “there’s a world outside your window/it’s a world of dread and fear,” and, in its bluntest moment: “Tonight thank god it’s them instead of you.”

“It was a song written for a specific purpose: to touch people’s heartstrings and to loosen the purse strings,” says ex-Ultravox singer Midge Ure, the song’s producer and co-writer, along with Band Aid organizer Bob Geldof, frontman for the Boomtown Rats. “[The lyrics] had to be brutal. We were looking at television pictures of children spending five minutes trying to stand up.”

Their initial goal was for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to claim the coveted Christmas number-one spot in the UK and raise about 100,000 British Pounds (approximately $160,000), Ure says — enough to fund a few shipments of food to Ethiopia and hopefully urge world leaders to take action. But the record became bigger than anyone could’ve imagined: According to recent figures from the Band Aid Charitable Trust, it’s made more than $190 million to date.

“Band Aid helped to keep, I would say, millions of people alive — certainly hundreds of thousands,” Geldof says. “It was deeply satisfying, because we [saw] an immediate benefit to a number of people.”

In stores just three days after it was recorded, the song became the fastest-selling single in Britain. A world-wide number one, it spent five consecutive weeks atop the UK singles charts (it got as high as number 13 in the U.S.) and was the country’s biggest-selling record until Elton John’s Princess Diana tribute version of “Candle in the Wind” in 1997.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” also opened the floodgates for myriad rocker-led charitable efforts — most notably USA for Africa’s “We are the World” and the bi-continental mega-concert Live Aid (also a Geldof and Ure production), along with Farm Aid and Hands Across America — consequently turning the Me Decade into the We Decade.

“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.”

“We got lumped in with Thatcherism because people thought we were living the high life,” says Simon Le Bon. (Though Duran Duran were the yacht-lounging, supermodel-squiring embodiment of eighties extravagance, he insists they weren’t Tories: “We absolutely hated Thatcher and her policies.”) 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. Bono and Bob[’s philanthropy and activism], the Red foundation, the whole Drop the Debt campaign — it all started with Band Aid.”

Three decades on, the work of the Band Aid Charitable Trust — still led by Ure and chairman Geldof — is far from over. Thanks to the more than $480,000 in annual licensing fees and royalties from “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the trust is able to provide consistent support to aid agencies on the ground in Ethiopia, Niger, and Chad.

“While it was modestly and ironically called a ‘band aid’ designed to react to an emergency, many of its projects were designed to be sustainable, and continue to this day to be useful,” says Sting.

In recent years, the trust has helped to fund “orphanages, medicines, blankets, fields of stuff,” according to Geldof, as well as larger projects, such as a gravity pipeline built by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to supply fresh water to Somali refugees in eastern Ethiopia. Meanwhile, $300,000 gained from the 2011 cast singalong on Fox’s Glee will likely go toward the building of a new school in the country.

Though at least one member of Band Aid is calling for a 2014 update (“Tell Bob we need to do it again,” says JT Taylor, whose Kool and the Gang was the sole American group on the record. “The world is a mess, man”), Ure says he and Geldof are thinking about moving on. “In the not too distant future, we’re going to have to hand this over to someone else,” says the Scot, who was made an officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth in 2005. (Geldof, an Irishman, was granted an honorary knighthood in 1986.) “We’re getting older. We have to think: How do we ensure that it carries on [and that the money is allocated] safely, securely, and with the same kind of passion about it that we have?”

For now, Geldof wouldn’t mind going a holiday season — or 20 — without having to hear the song that made it all possible.

“I associate it with the meat counter at my local supermarket,” he says. “Every time I arrive to buy the fucking turkey, I hear [hums the song’s intro]. The butcher looks at me with a little smile and I go, ‘Yeah, yeah. Give me the fucking turkey, dude’.”

Read on, as Band Aid alumni share stories about “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, what it was like that day in the studio — and why Bono had a problem with the song’s most dramatic, climactic line.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” began life as a rejected Boomtown Rats tune. 

Midge Ure: Bob turned up at my place with 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. He presented me the idea for the lyrics, the “It’s Christmastime, there’s no need to be afraid.” My main contribution was changing “And there won’t be snow in Ethiopia this Christmas,” which doesn’t scan in anybody’s book. We changed that to “Africa,” and we wrote the middle section together: “Here’s to you, raise a glass for everyone,” which is the nod to the irony of [it being a] Christmas record.

 

Simon Le Bon thought “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was going to be a duet between him and Sting. 

Simon Le Bon:  I was the first one Bob called. He called out of the blue and said, “Simon, did you see the [BBC report on the Ethiopian famine] last night? We’ve got to do something.” I didn’t see the program. He told me what it was about, and he said, “I have an idea. We should make a charity record. What do you think?” I said, “Yes, mate. Absolutely.” But it wasn’t sold to me as, “This is going to be a whole pile of musical legends”; it was, “You and Sting do it.” I thought I was going to get  half the song. I was a bit pissed off, because when I walked into [Sarm Studios] they’re already recording somebody else singing one of my lines! That took a while to sort of get my head around.

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Sting didn’t want to sing the lyric, “the bitter sting of tears.” 

Bob Geldof: Sting was moaning: “Do I have to sing that?” I said, “Yes, because it’s just a coincidence that the word sting is in it.” If you listen to the song, there’s a deep bitterness in Sting’s voice.

Sting: There’s a touch of irony there. When we had to dole out the lines to everyone else, it wasn’t an accident. I was still the King of Pain after all.

 

Bono didn’t want to sing his line — “Tonight thank god it’s them instead of you” — either.

Ure: Bono had a problem with it. He said, “Why would you say that?” That can be perceived as a brutal, unfeeling line.

Geldof:  He said, “Are you really sure that’s what you want to say?” And I said, “I’m really sure.” I went through it with him rather like a director goes through a line that the actor may not be happy with.

JT Taylor (Kool and the Gang): I hated that line. All these years, I thought I was the only only person who felt that. For me, it was the worst line in the whole song.

Ure:  But we’re not saying rather them than us; we’re saying how lucky we are that we don’t have to deal with that kind of extreme poverty. [After] Bob explained, Bono got it, and turned it into this magical moment on the record.

Geldof:  He just has a profound rage. If you listen to the way the emotion of the song scales up, that’s the big powerful explosion.That became a phenomenon, which none of us expected.

Ure:  I think he probably scared himself when he did it. He jumped way up an octave, and it was just astonishing — the sound that this little guy could radiate! It was like standing next to an opera singer. He did it twice but I think we kept the first [take].

 

Band Aid taught Bono that rock ’n’ roll can change the world.

Ure: The Band Aid process changed a lot of people; it changed him quite considerably. I saw a U2 concert three, four years ago, and they stopped the concert in the middle and said, “In the audience tonight…” And the spotlight came on me. Bono said, “Him and Bob taught me how to care.”

Geldof:  I pulled him into Band Aid. [U2] were young turks on the make; they hadn’t really crested yet. But I thought, He’s got such a voice… And then, Live Aid — they thought they blew it. It actually pushed them over the top. A few years later, he wanted to get involved in a related subject [i.e., the ONE Campaign, which fights extreme poverty and disease in Africa; Bono is a co-founder, Geldof an advisor]. We argue all the time; it’s kind of a good cop/bad cop [friendship]. He wants to give the world a big hug; I want to punch its lights out.

 

Boy George almost missed the recording session entirely.

Boy George: Culture Club had just done a show at Madison Square Garden, and I was in bed at the Plaza hotel. I got a call at 3 o’clock in the morning from Bob Geldof, whom I’d never met.

Ure:  We had to have him. So Bob woke him up in New York. George said, “Who’s there?” Bob said, “Every fucker but you. Get your ass on Concorde.” And he did — at his own expense, I might add.

Boy George:  When I arrived, around 8 o’clock in the evening, there was no time to practice or maybe have a go at the song to make sure you’re in the right key. It was literally: “You’re on!” I was thinking, “Oh my God, what’s going to come out of my mouth?”

Ure:  He turned up, and he said, “Can someone get me a brandy?” I had to press the intercom button and say, “No! We don’t have anyone here to go running about for you.” We didn’t have mountains of food, we didn’t have champagne, there was no sponsorship going on. It was incredibly basic.

Boy George:  I did pretty well, though. I remember Bob saying, “Oh George, you sound like a black lady — like a black mama!” I was like, “That’s what I’m aiming for, so thank you!”

 

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Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet arrived together, and a little worse for wear.

Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet): The night before we were in Germany on the piss with Duran, having a real good drink. By the morning, we were all pretty rough. We didn’t look great. I remember arriving back at Heathrow and someone said, “There’s all the press, there’s cameras out there, there’s about 400 screaming fans.” All of a sudden we’re all in the bathroom trying to make ourselves look presentable — you know, Nick Rhodes putting stacks of makeup on. I think we all put a bit of makeup on that day, actually.

Le Bon: I remember turning up in the car with a hangover. I did everything with a hangover in those days. I don’t think John [Taylor, Duran Duran] had been to sleep at all. But that was John. He just didn’t need much in those days because of chemical sleep.

 

The session was “like a carnival of celebrities,” according to Boy George.

Boy George: You could not move for famous people. I remember being in this room with a lot of people I hadn’t met before — Bono, Phil Collins — just thinking, “Everyone’s being quite well-behaved. People have really parked their egos for the evening.”

Sting:  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.

Le Bon: That was the first time I met Sting. He was very friendly, apart from when I said, “God, it’s really hot and sweaty in here,” and he told me not to do so many drugs.

Boy George: I had had a feud with Simon Le Bon, a bit of a confrontation in Paris, and we ended up walking into the studio arm in arm for the press.

Nick Rhodes:  We were among the first people to say yes, which I am proud of. Because I think it helped to say “I’ve got Duran Duran on board.” It was such a bizarre mix to have us, Spandau [Ballet] and [seventies British rockers] Status Quo. And you had Paul Weller, who I seem to remember arrived by bus.

Le Bon: My God, he was grumpy! Paul Weller wasn’t very friendly. He was very political…and [Duran Duran] as a band had always stayed clear of politics. But [Band Aid] wasn’t about politics, it was about saving lives. People wanted to have an effect, and that really is the line that joins me to Paul Weller. He wanted to help feed some kid in Africa, same as I did.

 

The “Feed the World” chorus was inspired by Lennon’s “War is Over” refrain.

Ure: There was a moment in the studio when Bob said, “We need something like the John Lennon thing, some anthemic thing we can sing along with.” Between the two of us, we came up with “Feed the world/let them know it’s Christmas time again.”

 

When Boy George first heard George Michael’s vocals, he thought it was Alison Moyet.

Boy George:  I remember hearing the voice after me and saying, “Who’s that? Who’s the girl?” and then being told it was George Michael. I said, “He sounds really camp.” Then I said, “But he is, though, isn’t he?” I was always trying to out George.

 

George Harrison advised on how to prevent Band Aid from turning into another financially questionable Concert for Bangladesh.

Ure:  The Concert [for Bangaldesh]…all of the money didn’t get where it was meant to go. It was spent on overhead and ad men. So [Harrison’s advice to Geldof] was, “Get yourselves good accountants.” We have the same accountants today who [ensure] we don’t spent a penny on anything. We’ve had no office, no secretaries. We begged, borrowed, and stole telephone lines, space, whatever we could. We didn’t spend a penny of Band Aid money on running Band Aid.

 

The record sleeve was designed by the same artist who did Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Ure: It’s a Peter Blake original. Peter Blake is kind of a British Andy Warhol. All those Victorian cut-outs, he pasted the whole thing together. And he did it for free.

 

Compared to USA For Africa’s meticulously-planned “We are the World,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was like Britain itself: cold, dark, and pessimistic.

Sting:  Ours is less slick, less polished and thrown together, with a spontaneous, make-do enthusiasm and passion that translates into heartfelt authenticity.

Rhodes:  The British one was very naive, and then suddenly America stormed in with “We are the World.” The title alone says something to you. It was a big, lush production. In many ways, it does define the differences between American music and British music at the time.

 

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” created the mold — and then broke it.

Boy George: If there was an extreme situation like [the famine in] Africa, I can imagine most of today’s artists being drawn into it. Whether it would have the same impact, I don’t know. It’s such a different time now, because we are bombarded with so much information. You tend to get neutralized by all the different tragedies and situations going on in the world.

Le Bon:  Yes, it could [happen]. Would it be the same? No. I think a lot of people would [think] “Oh, we need to do this because everybody else is doing it.” We’re going through a time where everybody’s scared of sticking their neck out. Not only do they not have politics in their songs, they don’t really have a lot of anything in their songs.

Taylor: When we were coming up, we had Motown, the Beatles and the Stones, Woodstock, Joe Cocker, and Sly Stone. We had Santana saying, “You can be an artist, and you can speak your voice.” Today, they only sign youths, beautiful-looking young girls, handsome young boys, and their world isn’t so much about the politics of life; it’s about, “Wow, I’m a star now.” It’s refreshing to hear someone singing about doing something other than shaking your ass.

 

 

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Midge Ure Talks Band Aid 30 — and Who He and Bob are Looking to as Possible Successors 0

In Mad World: The Book, the final chapter is a tribute to the song that was the death knell for the new wave party: Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” So it’s only fitting that we keep an eye on all of the hubbub surrounding the latest recording of that most bleak of holiday tunes. 

On the eve of Band Aid 30, Mad World co-author Lori Majewski interviewed Midge Ure — three decades on, still an active member of the Band Aid Trust that helped to “feed the world.” For the song’s fourth rendition, the Ultravox frontman and Bob Geldof have convened another pop-star super group — including Band Aid alumni Bono and Chris Martin, along with fresh faces One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and more — to “heal the world,” as they face down the ebola crisis in West Africa. Below is a a more comprehensive version of the piece that first appeared in Rolling Stone.

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Some of the faces of Band Aid 30

In late September, Bob Geldof was in no mood to reminisce about one of his life’s greatest accomplishments. On the morning Rolling Stone was to interview him for a story timed to the 30th anniversary of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” — the November 1984 charity single that benefitted the victims of the Ethiopian famine — his publicist emailed to say he wanted to cancel. The reason: “Bob does not want to discuss Band Aid.”

Geldof eventually relented, mostly because he did want to discuss the recent reunion of his beloved Boomtown Rats, the band he’d formed in Dublin in the mid-seventies. “I do the Africa stuff every day of the week,” the 63-year-old humanitarian/singer explained. “The only thing that actually stimulates me, that really, truly interests me, is music. It’s so exhilarating to be on a stage. To forget about all that other stuff that I do, is amazingly cathartic.”

When the topic inevitably turned to Band Aid, Geldof grew cranky. “Sixty-thousand documentaries, you can look at them — you don’t need me talking about it,” he said.  And as for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”: “I associate it with the meat counter at my local supermarket. Every time I arrive to buy the fucking turkey, I hear [he mockingly hums the song’s intro]. The butcher looks at me with a little smile and I go, ‘Yeah, yeah. Give me the fucking turkey, dude’.”

Not six weeks later came the announcement that there will be a Band Aid 30 — a “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” update to be recorded on November 15, featuring the likes of One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Adele, and Ellie Goulding alongside returning artists like Bono and Chris Martin, who was a part of Band Aid 20, which benefitted the troubled Darfur region of Sudan. If Geldof can barely stomach hearing the song, why would he want to spearhead a fourth recording of it?

“It was the hideous synchronicity of the ebola crisis and the way it’s escalated, and the fact that we had this 30th anniversary coming up that everybody was asking us about,” said Midge Ure, Geldof’s longtime Band Aid partner and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” co-writer, speaking early Friday morning. “A month ago, this wasn’t in the cards. Then Bob got a call from the UN saying, ‘Can you do it again?’”

At a London press conference on November 10, Geldof said they were inspired by “the phenomenal bravery of the National Health doctors and nurses who volunteered” to go into the heavily infected areas — Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria — to help.

“Can you imagine how hideous it must be, getting sent out to Liberia or Sierra Leone, knowing you can catch this thing just by touching a tear, or anything?” says Ure. “We want to show them some kind of camaraderie, that we care.”

Another, more lofty, goal is to spur on world leaders to do more to help ebola victims and to curb the spread of the disease. “I presume governments are incredibly aware of what’s going on,” Ure says. “But maybe they’re just slow, lumbering machines. Whereas, you get people in the entertainment industry to start rattling cages and it’s media-worthy. I wouldn’t be talking to you right now about it if there wasn’t going to be a three-ring circus happening on Saturday. Maybe it doesn’t help focus politicians, but it certainly embarrasses them. It embarrasses politicians to think that masses of people can be moved into action because of a bunch of pop stars.”

During our conversation, Geldof recalled how world governments were forced to do more to aid Ethiopian famine relief efforts in the aftermath of the original Band Aid and 1985’s Live Aid, the super concert that he and Ure staged in London and Philadelphia. “It isn’t a record, and it isn’t a concert,” he said. “It’s a 30-year endeavor so far, and Band Aid just happened to be the spark. The aid effort was increased hugely. It began the long journey of a political conversation. Thatcher immediately put it on the next G8 agenda.

“Charity is the simple understanding and acknowledgement of another’s pain,” he continued, “and the most that most people can do is give a buck in the care box for Oxfam or Save the Children or whatever. But where it really counts is when a million people put the dollar in the care box, because that’s political, and politics is numbers.”

That’s why Geldof and Ure are urging people to do something very 1984 and buy the re-recorded version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, either as a 99-cent download, which will be available starting Monday, or on CD, which is set to go on sale in three weeks. (For more information, go to BandAid30.com.) Streaming services like Spotify will not have access to the song until after the new year.

“All we can do is hope that on Saturday Ed Sheeran and One Direction and everyone else plead with the fans not to stream this, not to download this for free,” Ure says. “We don’t want people engaging for free. We want people engaging emotionally. All these kids know this song because they’ve sung it in every Christmas play they’ve ever been in, they’ve heard it blasting out of radios every Christmas since they were born. What they now have to learn is why the song was done in the first place and why the song’s being done this time — for slightly different but equally valid reasons.”

Read on, as Ure — speaking by Skype in the middle of the night following a concert in Germany to promote his latest album, Fragile — talks about the rush to record the new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, what they’ve learned from the new generation of artists, and the importance of passing of pinpointing artists to whom they can pass the Band Aid torch. “It’s probably going to be the last time we do it,” he says.

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Artist Tracey Emin’s cover sleeve for Band Aid 30′s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (The original sleeve was by Sgt. Pepper artist Peter Blake.)

 

LORI MAJEWSKI: I presume you were Geldof’s first call after he hung up with the UN. What was the call like?

Midge Ure: He opened up with an apology: “Sorry.” [Laughs] I’m a bit of a sounding board for him, the voice of sanity in his mad world. So we talked about what the possibilities were, who we would have on board, and how we could change [“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”]. Because the song is very geared toward hunger, and there are references to the burning sun and no water — “no rain or rivers flow,” and all that stuff — which isn’t true anymore. Africa’s changed a lot over the last 30 years.

RS: You’re in the middle of a tour and suddenly you have Band Aid 30 to deal with. What have the last few weeks been like?

MU:  We weren’t going to do a 30th anniversary thing at all. Then Bob got the call from the UN, and, from that moment on, it’s been an absolute whirlwind. It’s forever changing. Every day is different names, different people, a different set-up. I don’t remember the last one being this hectic, or the original one. Things have gotten a lot more complicated over the years, I think, when technology should make things easier. The first time around, we didn’t really speak to managers; this time, we’re dealing with managers and labels. The artists are great, but there’s a whole lot of middle men trying to cross the t’s and dot the i’s, and it makes things move kinda slow. It’s difficult to try and organize logistically, because so many artists have to be away at a certain time because they’re playing that night, or they’re flying into the country at a certain time and have to have their vocals done. But it’s going to be fantastic. We’ve got a great lineup.

LM: You could’ve just had the artists record their parts wherever they were in the world and email you the files, something that would have been possible back in 1984 with the original Band Aid. But it seems important to you that you have all the artists on site on Saturday.

MU: Because that shows commitment. It also makes the event a real event. The whole thing about Band Aid that you get off your backside. You turn up, and you hang around, and you wait for your turn. You leave your ego at the door and you come in and you engage. How can you ask complete strangers all around the world to buy the record if you’re not engaged enough to be there to make the thing in the first place? For instance, we’ve got Bastille, who have cancelled two of their concerts, in Vancouver and in Seattle, to to come in and be a part of this. Not just to record a bit of video and a bit of singing and then email it to us, but to actually come over and be with us. Now, that’s the kind of commitment you want to see in young bands, in young musicians. They feel it’s important enough to do that, which could affect their career, their finances. But they’re coming to do it, and that’s phenomenal. So it was incredibly important, and the diversity of the artists is as well. It always has been. We had Bono and Bananarama the first time around — you would never see those guys in the same room ever again. That’s exactly what we’ve got this time as well. You’re going to have Bono in there and you’re going to have One Direction in there, all standing side by side and chatting away, being a part of something together.

LM: For the original Band Aid, you’ve said that you and Bob had a modest goal of raising a couple hundred-thousand Pounds. Do you a goal in mind this time — a certain number of downloads or an amount of money that you feel you need to make in order to make a difference?

MU: When we figured out the first time around that we could make generate a couple hundred-thousand pounds if we had a Christmas number-one [on the UK charts], that was because we a template. We knew what a Christmas number one would sell. We had figures. These days, I don’t know. It’s so multi-faceted, isn’t it? You get little bits of income from different income streams. It’s almost impossible [to come up with a guesstimate] — you can’t even talk in the number of downloads. There’s some hideous statistic that Bob mentioned the other day that [Comic Relief founder] Richard Curtis had told him: When One Direction had done a charity record for Comic Relief, they had 48 million hits online but sold no records. [After being leaked online and made available for illegal downloading ahead of its Feb. 17, 2013 release date, the single, a cover of Blondie’s “One Way Or Another,” went to number one in the UK but sold only 113,000 copies.] So I have no idea. It’ll be an interesting project, if nothing else.

LM: Assuming you do raise some money, how will the Band Aid Trust go about dispensing the funds? Will you being giving it out to aid agencies on the ground in Ebola-stricken countries?

MIDGE: Band Aid is a draw-down facility — a bank. We are called upon by the aid agencies who cover their own overheads to fund various projects. Because that’s what works best for us. We don’t own a telephone; we don’t have an office. We don’t spend any of the money on any of that. The money goes directly to where it should go. So I presume we will carry on doing that. It’s not a million miles away, funding projects for ebola, as it is from funding projects for hunger. It’s very closely linked. For example, we’ve been funding a charity in Africa called Mary’s Meals. It’s a charity [that] feeds children. We just got an email the other day from Mary’s Meals when [Band Aid 30] was announced, saying “Absolutely fantastic, because we are feeding 80,000 children right now in Liberia.” One of the side effects of ebola, they said, is, if children aren’t dying of the disease, then they are dying of hunger, because food has rocketed in price.

LM: The good news for Band Aid 30 is that Millennials are, on the whole, innately charitable. One Direction recently helped to raise $341,000 when they asked fans to donate to its Prizeo campaign to support Stand Up to Cancer. And tens of thousands of dollars have already been raised by a Prizeo campaign for Band Aid 30 on the back of a few tweets from Ellie Goulding, Paloma Faith, and Rita Ora. 

MU: We are learning from the young guys, to tell you the truth. Bob and I were sitting in a room a couple of weeks ago, scratching our heads and going, “How do you generate money from this?” I knew about the One Direction stuff, about the fundraising that they can do via the social networks. So we stole the idea from them. And we wouldn’t be using Paul Epworth, the producer we’re using right now for making the record, unless they had said, “He’s the guy — you’ve got to go and check him out. He’s the guy who produced Adele[’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’], and ‘Skyfall’.” So we’re listening to what the younger generation and what they’re bringing to the table. They’re not just transient, pretty faces that you stick on there just to get the fan base. The fan base is huge, so it’s great to have that on board, but they are teaching the old dogs new tricks.

LM: Speaking of old dogs, last time we talked you said that you and Bob were starting to look around for possible successors. Chris Martin has been involved in a previous recording of Band Aid, and he’s been recruiting artists for Band Aid 30. Is he someone to whom you might consider passing the baton?

MU: I think Chris Martin already is. There is a little clique of artists you could put in a bag — it’d be Bob and I, Bono, Sting, Chris Martin. Chris Martin is one of the newer guys to come on board, so, yes, I think he’s very engaged. But you need people from the One Direction [generation] to come in and get engaged in this and spread the word. Chris Martin: great talent, lovely guy; great to have him on board, great to see him doing what he’s doing. But he’s a generation in between Bob, Sting and I and the younger generation. So I’d like to see some of the younger guys… I’m sure we’ll be bending their ears on Saturday. While I’m doing my work behind the desk, I’m sure Bob will be out there beating them up.

LM: At the press conference there was some talk of Quincy Jones readying an American contingent for a new rendition of “We are the World.” Any idea if that’s going forward?

MU: I know Bob’s spoken to Quincy, and I believe Quincy was taking it on board. So, keeping fingers crossed that there will be an American version, just as today it’s been announced that there’s a French version, and there’s a German version going on right now. Once one of these things starts, it’s like pushing a boulder down a hill: It starts very slowly, then, once it starts to gather momentum, it picks up an awful lot of [speed] along the way. So I like to think that this thing that we’re starting in the UK, other territories will pick up on it and do their interpretations — not necessarily a record, but something, towards raising awareness and generating income to try and help people out there on the ground who are trying to fight this thing.

 

 

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Mad World Meets Midge Ure 0

Am I a hopeless romantic because I love new wave? Or do I love new wave because I’m a hopeless romantic?

I’d have to say the former. I was barely of menstruating age when I found myself being wooed by new wave’s poetic lyrics, melodramatic music, and beauteous boys in puffy shirts and eyeliner. After falling head over heels for the likes of Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, and Ultravox, how could the “regular” boys at school and their scruffy sneakers ever compete?

Midge Ure was a knight in new romantic armor. Cocking one eyebrow, sucking in his cheekbones, and sporting the most immaculate mustache, the swoonsome Scot owned me the second I heard him sing, “This means nothing to me — oh, Viennaaaaaaaaaaa!” It certainly didn’t hurt that the serenade took place in the fog of dry ice.

It would be many years before I realized those lyrics literally meant nothing to him. As he recounts in Mad World: The Book — and he did again on Sunday, for all of the good people gathered at Rough Trade in Brooklyn for my Mad World Conversation With Midge Ure — at the time of this classic song’s writing, Midge had never even been to Vienna.

“I was out to dinner with my old Rich Kids manager and his wife, who was a bit pissed [inebriated],” he recalled. “She said, ‘You need to write a song like that “Vienna”.’ And I was like like, ‘What song “Vienna”?’ She said, ‘You know that Fleetwood Mac song: Vieennnnnnnaaaaa: She was singing ‘Rhiannon.’”

That was just one of the tales spun by the Midgester at our Mad World tribute to the OBE (that’s right: he’s an officer of the Order of the British Empire, as proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth). During the 90-minute Q&A, he also reminisced about his new romantic anthem “Fade to Grey,” resurrecting Ultravox after John Foxx’s and Robin Simon’s sudden departures left it with barely a pulse, and co-organizing Band Aid and Live Aid, as well as his excellent new album, Fragile.

In this video clip, Midge talks about his participation in the recently wrapped Retro Futura Tour, which also included Thompson Twin Tom Bailey’s triumphant return to the stage following a 27-year absence, along with sets by Howard Jones, China Crisis, and Katrina and the Waves singer Katrina Leskenich:

Thanks to Midge for all the beautiful and hopeful music he’s contributed to the soundtrack of our lives — and for our favorite DJ, The Big PA, for spinning an excellent set of it (see below, or follow the Spotify playlist here). Thanks also to Rough Trade for their continued support of Mad World, and to everyone who came out!

 

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