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(See Band Aid for full details of the original line-up).

In 1984 the Boomtown Rats singer, Bob Geldof, was watching BBC News when he saw a report on the famine in Ethiopia. Moved by the harrowing pictures, he organised for a group of major British performers to club together, forming the supergroup Band Aid. This group performed the song Do They Know It's Christmas?, written by the singer Midge Ure - the song went directly to No 1 in the UK and the US, and raised over £10m worldwide for Ethiopia. It was followed up by the enormous Live Aid concerts, which were seen by 1.5bn people worldwide. Do They Know became the fastest-selling Christmas album of all time. It also prompted a the formation of a similar American supergroup, USA For Africa, who released We Are the World in 1985 (Bob Geldof performed in this song too!).

In 1989 Band Aid II re-released the song, with some small success.

20 years on, in November 2004, the recently-knighted Sir Bob Geldof OBE was meeting the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who was visiting Africa in advance of taking over the chairmanship of the Group of 8. A reporter for the mass-market tabloid The Sun asked Sir Bob if he intended to organise a new Band Aid single to mark the 20th anniversary of the original. He replied that he would, and immediately set out to organise it. The Sun contacted Coldplay, Travis and The Darkness, all of whom agreed to perform on the new single.

The new line-up (see below) wanted to stick closely to the original song. So much so that Bono, of U2, reprised his rendition of the "key" line in the song, "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you". All the same, the new version captures some of the key sounds in British music today, including Dido's plaintive voice, Pop Idol winner Will Young, and rapper Dizzee Rascal. Coldplay's Chris Martin takes to the piano for the opening lines, while Sir Paul McCartney provides the driving bass sounds.

So popular was the drive to release the album that Gordon Brown (the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Britain's finance minister) decided to rescind all taxes raised from the album's sale - all of the money would go directly to the Darfur region of Sudan. The single was released on 29 November 2004, and was considered to be such a dead-cert for the hallowed Christmas Number 1 position that book-makers refuse to take bets on it - instead offering bets on who will reach No 2. The first broadcast of the video, which was broadcast simultaneously on all five UK network TV channels, was hosted by Brit-wannabee Madonna, who wanted to help out. It is to be released simultaneously in the US, and is expected to be a success due to the current popularity of British music.

Unsurprisingly, on 19 December 2004 BBC Radio 1's official Top 40 chart show announced that Band Aid 20 had secured the Christmas No 1 slot.

Band Aid 20 line-up

Do They Know It's Christmas

It's Christmastime,
There's no need to be afraid;
At Christmas time
We let in light and we banish shade.
But in our world of plenty
We can spread a smile of joy;
Throw your arms around the world, at Christmastime.

But say a prayer;
Pray for the other ones.
At Christmastime, it's hard
But when you're having fun,
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear,
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears;
And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom,
Well tonight thank God it's them, instead of you!

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime,
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life.
Where nothing ever grows,
No rain or rivers flow,
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Here's to you, raise a glass to everyone
Here's to them underneath their burning sun,
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the World
Feed the World

Feed the World,
Let them know it's Christmastime again
(repeat to end)

Aside - when interviewed on Radio 1 on Sunday 14 November, Joss Stone said:

"It's great that Sir Bob - um - what's his name? Gandalf? - wanted to do this."

Let's start by not mincing words.

Band Aid 20 is a truly awful song.

The thinking behind it, of course, is fantastic, and I hope it raises a huge amount of money for a worthwhile cause. But the original Band Aid single was not only doing this for a worthwhile cause, it was a decent song.

This time, you can almost feel that when Bono does his "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you" he really can't be bothered with it. The vocals are blandly sung, the music is bland and there's none of the continuously building crescendo of the original song.

This single will sell, largely to the kids of today who like the singers on it, and who weren't around in the mid 1980's when the original came out. But I feel that this could have been so much more.

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