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Death Is Not The End
In the second part of a major interview, conducted at The Music Show in the RDS, Bob Geldof talks about Band Aid, Live Aid, Paula Yates, the death of his father Bob Snr. and his new solo album, How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell.
Niall Stokes, 23 Feb 2011
You were describing the genesis of the Band Aid single, ‘Do They Know It’s Chruistmas?’ How did you start putting the cast together?
Bob: Paula had gone up to Newcastle ‘cause she was a host on that rock ‘n’ roll show The Tube, and I rang her and I said “Who’s on?” and she said “Midge (Ure) is here”. I knew Midge Ure. We used to go around Phil Lynott’s place and do things. Midge came on and I said, “Did you see that thing last night?”, and he said, “Yeah”, which wasn’t unusual in those days of monolithic broadcasting: everyone saw the news. And I said, “I wanna do something”, and he said, “Well have you got a song?” and I said, “No, but we can do a cover” and he said, “No, fuck off and write a song!” and I said “Nah…”, and he said “Look I’ll do a bit and you’ll do a bit and let’s see”. So that instant reaction, that this guy who was having a lot of hits – I think he’d just come off ‘Vienna’ at that point – just saw me as a peer and an equal, that gave me quite a lot of confidence. So I had to go visit a friend who was sick in Camden Town and in the taxi over I wrote ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ but it was to the tune of a song the Rats hadn’t liked I’d played them, called ‘It’s My World’. “It’s My World/There’s no need to be afraid” was the opening line. So I just said “It’s Christmas time/There’s no need to be afraid”. And so I went up to Midge after, and I played it really badly ‘cause I was nervous. Well, I play badly anyway, but everytime I played it I did a different tune and he said “What is the melody?” and I said (singing the song) “It’s Christmas Time…” and he said, “That sounds fucking awful”. So he had sent me this thing which was like (hums indistinctly) and he said, “What do you think?” and I said, “I think it sounds like ‘Z-Cars’, which was a police series on BBC. And he said, “Well, it’s better than the shite you have!” So then he just said, “Look, leave it with me”. So I left it a day or two and came back and he’d put this brilliant backing track even with the ‘Dong’, the doomy bell, in there ‘cause he had to copy my words. We didn’t have the middle bit, “Here’s to them…” and we didn’t have “Feed the world”. I wanted one of John Lennon’s declamatory ‘Happy Christmas’, ‘War is Over’, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ things – they were very effective and again I went back to Woody Guthrie and this was to be overtly clear. It could be corny but it had to be clear. So literally we sat down like I’d read about, sort-of across from one another, and played it and he sang a line and he came up with “Here’s to you, raise a glass to everyone” – it’s Scotland isn’t it? Definitely. “Do they know it’s Christmas?” I had that. And then “Feed the world…” might’ve been me. “Let them know it’s Christmas time” was probably him. And so that was that.