The Pirate George Advent Calendar: Day Seven

“Do They Know It’s Christmas”: A Cronology

0:16 –  The opening lyrics, written explicitly for The Thin White Lines Of Choice Blow Duke, are instead sang by Paul Young.  “Who”, everyone not from the United Kingdom and Steven Michael Van Ore are asking, “is Paul Young?”  His big US hit was “Every Time You Go Away”, and his band had Who 2.0 bassist Pino Palladino in it.  That’s all you get.

[All cocaine jokes aside, there was a ton of fucking cocaine during the recording sessions.  1984, folks!]

0:31 – Young sings, “We let in light, and we banish shade.”    Did you know that “shade” is a term used in some, ahem, communities to describe insulting someone?  Because guess who’s about to throw some shade?

0:32 – Boy George, who wasn’t even there in the beginning; he was drunk and coked in New York.  Culture Club were there, but Geldof wanted the Big Wig, who did finally show up to sing.

0:32 thru 0:45 – It’s important to know that Boy George moved his feet and shoulders in the oh-so-white way that Barbara Mandrell did during the 1976 Johnny Cash Christmas Special.  Coincidence?

0:46 – OH SHIT PHIL COLLINS.  He played drums along with a Tears For Fears sample; Adam Clayton of U2 played bass

Collins had started his transition at this point, from the turgid prog throb of Genesis to the pooched-out vaginal estrus of No Jacket Required.  Ok, full disclosure: I do love his duet with Phillip Bailey, “Easy Lover.”  But that song was on Bailey’s album.  Phil Collins’ solo hit in 1984 was “Against All Odds”.  Barf-o.  The argyle sweater vest should be a clue.

Oops!  I forgot that I promised you “shade”.  Boy George said of the next singer,”God, he sounded camp… but then, he is.”  Who could it be?

0:48 thru 1:00 – George Michael, looking tasteful in black-and-white Buffalo plaid and a Meg Ryan hairdoo dying for a hot oil treatment.  Camp?  I don’t know about that.  It’s Gregorian Chant compared to his subsequent Live Aid performance, with a Day-Glo orange short-sleeved Oxford unbuttoned all the way down to the button fly of his jeans; the look on Andrew Ridgeley’s face every time Bob Geldof says the word “cock” during the Live Aid intro is priceless  in it’s gayness.

1:00 thru 1:10 – Simon Lebon, I choose you(to look like you wore off your last toot of White Girl ten minutes ago and are slumpy drunk off of merlot)!

1:10 thru 1:14 – Geldof uses Sting… it’s super effective(at looking confused and drug addled, like you pushed a Japan fan with Asperger’s Syndrome into the duet with Lebon)!

1:14 thru 1:17 – I’m not sure who this is, but the blouse he is wearing?  That is camp.  Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker could riff on those four seconds of video for hours.

1:17 thru 1:22 – “The bitter sting of tears”.  Sang by Sting.  Get it?  Sting makes people cry!

1:22 thru 1:29 – If you notice, Simon Lebon, now in a trio with Sting and Bono, feels so ridiculous about the lyrics, “And the christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom,” that he pretends to be too drunk to sing.

1:30 thru 1:37 – Bono steps up to the microphone and boldly teaches lesbians how to style their hair for the next twenty years.

1:37 thru 1:39 – cuz tonight, Tonight, TONIGHT, Ohh Ooooohhhhhh…

1:40 thru 1:41 – A bloke is singing that I can’t identify, other than “Guy That Looks Like Tim Roth, If Tim Roth Suffered From Marfan Syndrome”.

1:41 thru 1:42 – Another second of my life ruined by Sting’s solo career.

1:43 thru 1:47 – Boy George gets featured while Culture Club look on, seething about sitting by the mixing board when THAT QUEEN DIDN’T EVEN SHOW UP TO BEGIN WITH.

1:47 thru 1:53 – quick flashes of people I can’t recognize, including Lady With A Squirt Can

1:54 As if by a queer magic, Boy George appears one second after the word “squirt” is flashed across the screen.

1:55 thru 2:11 – Who are the band people?  I know Adam Clayton, but some acoustic guitar guy showed up, too.  This was recorded in Trevor Horn’s studio, so I’m sure it wasn’t Jon Anderson playing guitar…

2:12 – Photographic evidence that Phil Collins’ nuts were removed during Genesis’ recording of their eponymous album.

2:28 thru 2:33 – The order of appearance of guests: White Women(Bananarama), Black Men(Kool and The Gang?), Black Woman(Jodi Watley), Unidentified White Woman.

2:35 – Two babies, inexplicably brought onto the set, high-five each other, openly celebrating their survival of their mother’s prenatal drug abuse.

3:11 – To show that London was still one of the most diverse cities in the world in 1984, the cameras focus on the brilliant sheen of activator in the hair of Robert Bell and Dennis Thomas.  Please note: Kool and The Gang were not British.  Did they have to import people with actual African roots?  Was Emergency the blackest thing playing over London airwaves in 1984?  Perplexing.

3:30 – The Unidentified White Woman is actually a dude.  A dude named Marilyn, who wasn’t even invited but showed up anyway.  Some twenty-five years later, Marilyn would achieve success under the name Ke$ha.

This single made 1) millions of dollars for African relief, 2)the Live Aid concert possible, and 3) Geldof miserable–he now feels like this song and “We Are The World”, recorded a year later, are twin albatrosses wrapped around his neck.  Typical depression after a coke and booze binge, also known as “The Eighties”.

5 thoughts on “The Pirate George Advent Calendar: Day Seven

  1. Embellished version of the reply I put on Facebook this morning:

    Bloke at 1.14 = Foghorn-voiced future Conservative Party cheeleader and twat, Tony Hadley out of Spandau Ballet.

    Bloke at 1.40 = Paul Weller, wearing espadrilles and pretending to be French in the Style Council at that point in his career. A lot of music press articles tend to ignore the Style Council years, as if he made some unseen jump between the angry young man of the Jam, and the grizzled “authentic” Britpop survivor of his 1990s revival onwards. I like a lot of the SC stuff though, and if it’s camp you’re after, just look up the “Long Hot Summer” video on the Tube of You…

    Lady with the squirt can is Paula Yates, notorious “wild child,” presenter of “The Tube” and then Mrs Geldof. She was with Geldof for 10 years, and had two daughters (the entirely sensibly named Fifi Trixibelle Geldof and Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof – one of the babies in the clip is probably Fifi) before taking up with Michael Hutchence in 1996. She died from an accidental heroin overdose in 2000, aged only 41.

    The others in that sequence are various Durans and Spandaus. Acoustic guitar bloke is Gary Kemp of the Spandaus, whose left-wing Red Wedge supporting tendencies may have made inter-band relations with Hadley, er, interesting.

    Others glimpsed include Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 (pale, skull-faced scary man) and the ubiquitous Rossi & Parfitt from Status Quo, who allegedly kept the rest of the stars well supplied with Bolivian marching powder throughout the session. Quo were actually disbanded at the time, but famously reformed for Live Aid to be the first band on at Wembley (unless you could the massed trumpets of the Coldstream Guards giving the royal fanfare.) Apparently, their management took some time to convince the coke-addled buffoons that the opening slot of the day wasn’t the great insult they thought it was.

    Other thoughts: At the time, the whole Band Aid / Live Aid thing was enormously exciting, and still has a huge cultural weight, in the UK at any rate, though not in the US, from what friends have told me. In 1985, in Britain there were only four TV channels, and that day, BBC1 was completely dedicated to the Wembley show from 12 noon until the end, with the US concert then continuing over on BBC2 into the small hours. With the Whistle Test team responsible for the production and presentation on a scale which hadn’t been imaginable up to that point, it was amazing that the day went so smoothly, with the only tecnical hitch coming during the Who’s set. And it worked – for my generation, it was like our Woodstock moment.

    With hindsight, there are issues though. From today’s viewpoint, the distinct lack of black artists is noticeable, and Geldof hadn’t learned his lesson when it was pointed out that the Hyde Park Live 8 concert didn’t feature any black artists. He then compounded the error by announcing a separate concert (“Africa Calling”) made up entirely of African artists, way down in the remoteness of Cornwall. Andy Kershaw, one of the BBC’s Live Aid presenters, pro-African activist and outspoken critic of Geldof, said “They might as well have put signs up saying “grateful darkies this way!””

    Another thing is that it created a new, overly earnest Rock Aristocracy. Bono’s tedious summit meetings with popes, presidents and Nelson Mandela? All started here. Following Live Aid, it seemed that almost every Summer there was a string of charity concerts at Wembley, with one or several of the usual supects headlining (Dire Straits, Simple Minds, Sting, Phil etc etc) and the audience greeting every pious pronouncement from the stage with gales of cheering and applause. The post-punk acts gained respect, the old guard (Macca, Bowie, Eric, Phil again) got a shot in the arm, and music became a lot more predictable and less exciting. There was an adventurousness about a lot of early 80s post-punk, which all but vanished underground after Live Aid, and it didn’t really return until “Madchester” had its brief time in the Sun in 1990, and the last gasp of Britpop five or six years later.

    At the time though, for one long day in Summer 1985, it really did seem as though music really was going to change the World for the better, and even now, cynical 40something that I am, if I dig out my official Live Aid DVD set (without added Led Zeppelin) then I can still get a brief burst of that feeling again…

  2. I can always count on you, Kent, to keep me well supplied with cocaine jokes and comments on the prissiness of the members (!) of Duran Duran. I can always count on you, John, to fill in important cultural gaps and supply us with authentic uses of the word “twat”. Music is the best.

  3. To John: Thanks for the across-the-pond insight. I am a poor barometer of how big of a cultural touchstone Live Aid was in the States: I lived in an MTV-less part of the Bible Belt and had poor access. Mr. Tim Dodd, however, lived in Godless Oklahoma, and I believe he stayed up for 30 hours taping the entire MTV broadcast on VHS. I know this because I’ve seen the tape: the leathery visage of Michael DeBarre hamming it up with Power Station and flashing a goof-ass rock-and-roll look to the camera during the chorus of “Bang A Gong” still haunts me.

    I tried to make all my auxiliary verbs either passive or continuous in the King’s English just for you. It was easier than I thought, thanks to being exposed to Monty Python since elementary school. Merry Christmas.

    To Tim: At first I thought the phrase “Japan fan” might be mixed up to readers, thinking of the phrase in the same way that June Carter sang it on “Jackson” instead of the pre-Duran Duran band. But then I realized only you would be awesome enough to accidentally process both images. Yes, music is the best.

  4. I initially had an inkling that you were talking about David Sylvian and co., but when I watched the video and saw Sting’s hair, I knew for sure that’s what you were talking about. Funny that Japan comes up in a discussion of a coke-addled Simon LeBon, seeing as how Duran Duran always seemed to me to be a poppier, less rhythmically complicated version of that band. John, any thoughts? Or could you give a shit about such foppery?

    Also: Live Aid was a big fucking deal to us in Godless, Oklahoma.

  5. Good to hear that Tim – the impression I’d been given was that the fragmented presentation of the event on MTV (cutting to presenters in the middle of bands’ sets) had an effect on the impact of Live Aid in the US. Glad to be corrected 🙂

    Duran Duran, hmm… I do remember them seeming a little artsy and clever early on, and the saucy “Girls On Film” video caused a stir when a local DJ showed the unedited version on his screen at a school disco. Every girl at school lusted after John Taylor, or so it seemed, though I do remember a few who went for the generally weirder and more ambiguous Nick Rhodes, who seemed pitched as the band’s resident cultural expert and polymath; a Happy Shopper version of Brian Eno with more hair. I don’t remember LeBon and the other Taylors getting much of a look-in though.

    After a couple of years, their interviews were full of references to how much money, smoked salmon and champagne they were getting. That, along with the conspicuously ruthless escapism seen in their videos (especially all that poncing about on yachts in expensive pastel suits with supermodels) didn’t endear them to a certain portion of the disenfranchised in Thatcher’s Britain.

    Putting it in some sort of context, at this time, the Miner’s Strike was in full swing, we’d had the riots in Brixton and Toxteth a couple of years earlier, and we had to contrast Duran’s “we are richer than YOU!” stance with the TV news images of the police being essentially used as the Government’s private army (some commentators have named the brutal “Battle Of Orgreave” as the closest this country has come to civil war since the 17th Century) and all the other industrial and social unrest which Thatcher’s equally ruthless stance had led to. On the other hand, as a bunch of oiks from Birmingham, could Duran be faulted for grasping the opportunity to escape the dole queue and reap the rewards which most young men would have killed for? At least they appeared to be having fun, which is more than Billy Bragg and the Smiths appeared to be.

    Japan had a bit more credibility than Duran – they were more quirky and experimental. Duran would never have recorded something as bizarre and atonal as “Ghosts”, less still released it as a single. I only really became aware of them during the “Tin Drum” era, and their murky bad-haired Glam-punk roots were largely ignored. Everything about “Tin Drum”s packaging says that it’s a serious album; sepia-tinted photo, Sylvian’s carefully studied pose, intellectual spectacles, the bare lightbulb, the stratgically placed bowl of rice and portrait of Mao. This was certainly NOT a man who would be willingly seen poncing about on a yacht in the Bahamas. Musically, all that plinky-plonky faux-oriental minimalist stuff was harder to get a handle on. I didn’t like it very much at the time, but I’ve grown to appreciate it in later life!

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