In 1984, the new wave’s crème de la crème united as the supergroup Band Aid to record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” a benefit single organized by Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof in response to a BBC report about a famine in Ethiopia. The instant seasonal classic, which boasted 80s icons like Sting, George Michael, U2’s Bono, Boy George, Duran Duran, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, and others, caused a stir in the UK on Nov. 29 and in America on Dec. 3, with the track shooting straight to No. 1 and staying there for five weeks. Despite its success, the tune has been criticized for its eurocentrism, its perpetuation of African stereotypes, and its bungled distribution of funds. Nonetheless, the song has stood the test of time and inspired several other high-profile ‘80s charity efforts, including the American all-star equivalent “We Are the World,” and 1985’s international Live Aid concerts. The song was also the subject of a parody by Pulp.
The song continued to evolve with the 1989, 2004 and 2014 versions, each benefiting various worthy causes. The 1989 iteration, often referred to as Band Aid II, featured top U.K. pop artists at that time and became the last No. 1 hit in the ‘80s. The 2004 rendition, known as Band Aid 20, marking the 20th anniversary of the song and benefiting the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, was produced by members of Radiohead, Coldplay, and a host of other British stars. Finally, the 2014 Band Aid 30 lineup, formed to raise money towards the Ebola crisis in Western Africa, united a diverse mix of British artists, including members of indie and alt-rock bands and the biggest pop idols of the day.
In 2019, Ure made it clear that there will never be another remake to honor the late George Michael and Rick Parfitt. But these lesser-known versions had their charms and are worth remembering. Specifically, the jolly, endearingly awkward Top of the Pops clip featuring many of the Band Aid stars has become a classic.