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Do They Know It's Christmas: Behind the Truth

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BOB GELDOF BEN GURION
AP

1984. The year a man called George Orwell predicated the world would end in a book of the same name. But the world failed to end. Thanks to one man. A humble, dishevelled man. A singer, a balladeer, a mere minstrel. A man who threw off the shackles of light entertainment and opened the eyes of the puffy, pinstriped masses, permanently. Like an Irish Jesus come to life.

His name was Robert Geldof. He went by Bob. Despite his startling appearance, he brought together the master musicians of the day and with one pure voice, and some drumming from Phil Collins, they asked a simple question.

Do they know it's Christmas?

And who were the they? The they were Africans. And the answer was no. They didn't know it was Christmas. Their hunger was too great. But Bob healed this abscess with a simple song and an accompanying performance based video that choked mankind on its own salty, guilty tears of shame and hurt.

Together with wide-boy spiv chancer Midge Ure, they poured the anguish generated by Michael Burke's harrowing VT to camera into notes, words and quavers. That changed the world. And saved it, as mentioned previously. In a flash, Geldof formed a makeshift, rag-tag group, then decided Rag Tag was not the best name and changed it to Band Aid. He summoned his fellow musical goliaths to a recording studio in London via telephone. Apart from Francis Rossi, who was staying in his spare room at the time. Domestic trouble.

But Bob knew his valiant, Ghandi-esque vision would only succeed if the first voice the masses heard was the most powerful, poignant, perfect, post-pubescent voice on the globe. There were only two words that pull off this near impossible singing task: Paul Young.

Didn't the Bible say it would be a young man who would lead them? I don't have one handy, but I'm pretty sure it did.

And so it was Paul Young, the biggest, male, solo, vocal star in the mid-northern European territories and Scandinavia in the first two years of the entire decade, that released those iconic sounds:

"It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid..."

Bob, Midge and the rest of the gang were so overwhelmed by the intensity and the eroticism of Paul's performance, they demanded he sing the second line as well. It was originally supposed to be Van Morrison, but he was sent home in tears.

The inevitable, profound question was, where to go from there? Bob knew laptops across the nation would be snapped shut after hearing Paul's incredible tones. The audience satiated and spent. Only the leading female vocalist could provide the balance, singing and vulnerability to keep the fickle, soon to be TV talent show obsessed, public interested. But tragically Alison Moyet was laid up with gout. No other women were involved in pop music at the time. It was the 80s.

Bob turned to the only known alternative: Boy George.

It was a controversial choice. George was an alienating figure. His creed against religion 'Church of the Poisoned Mind' had outraged heads of faith all over. It's rumoured that the Pope threw the maxi-disc across a Vatican room when he first heard it.

But there was no time. Kid Jensen, the most powerful figure in the music industry at the time had agreed to play the single if it reached him before he went on air. Kid's show 'Jensen Time with Kid Jensen' was the most the most listened to radio programme on the known Earth at that time. A thumbs up from The Kid could make or break a career. Bob needed to get whatever the equivalent of a DAT for that time in Kid's hands by midnight or so.

So Bob Geldof turned to Boy George and said those now famous words, "Alf's fucking carked it, get your lady pipes into that booth and save some fucking Africans."

And so he did.

The rest of the running order was decided by an Uno battle. George Michael won and went next, though Paul Weller contested the result and soon formed The Style Council in protest. Legendary vocalists came and went, all setting mouths agape with their sensational vocal stylings. Except for Simon Le Bon, who's ludicrous over-pronouncement of the H's in his line made everyone uncomfortable.

As Bono approached the microphone, he turned to Geldof and they spoke together in the traditional Irish Craic.

"I've got an idea," Bono said unintelligibly. "I'm going to bellow the bit I sing in a quite alarming way."

"Why?" asked Bob.

"You'll see," The Irish Paul Young said with a grin and a twinkle.

And Bob did see.

The dazzling effect of Bono bellowing his line in a quite alarming way catapulted U2 to their position of 'The New Celtic Beatles'.

All that remained was the chorus.

"Easy," the vile, sickening Midge Ure slavered in Bob's ear. "That's the sweetest cherry of all. We'll sing the chorus. I'll do the first one and you can have the rest." He licked his lips in a disgusting manner then rubbed his hands on his greasy lapels.

A disgusted Geldof turned to this thinly moustached Machiavelli.

"No," he stated like the statesman he would become. "We'll all sing it. Together."

"Even Bananarama?" A horrified, weasely Ure exclaimed.

"Yes," said Bob, "it's Christmas."

Previously the most people to sing together in the same place had numbered 11. It had been a mass charity sing on the Isles of Scilly in 1951. Bob crushed that record, shipped the single, amazed the world and saved Africa forever.

And when the final notes of the final chorus trailed away, Bob Geldof silently walked out of the studio doors and was never seen again. Some say he went to live in Poole, satisfied. And the history of Band Aid, this monument to humanity that was built two remarkable honest Irish hands, remained untarnished forever. Until Dizzee Rascal rapped all over the 2004 remake. That was awful.