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Way back in November 1984, Anglophiles rejoiced as the crème de hair-crème of new wave came together, under the gruff guidance of Sir Bob Geldof, to record the legendary holiday single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for Ethiopian famine relief. Those cute boys from Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet! Those ratty-haired gals from Bananarama! Gender-benders Boy George and Marilyn, both looking absolutely fabulous! All in one London studio, on one song! It was a Christmas miracle, indeed.
We imagine today’s young pop fans feel equally joyful about this week’s new “Band Aid 30” reprise of the classic, seen and heard above, which this time around benefits West Africa’s Ebola crisis. (To donate, go to http://www.bandaid30.com.) Those cute boys from One Direction and Bastille! Those pompadour-haired gals Emeli Sande, Jessie Ware, and Paloma Faith! Sam Smith and Rita Ora, both looking absolutely fabulous! Et cetera.
But this is not the first time that “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” has gotten the remake treatment. It’s actually the third. All four recordings of the song, penned by Geldof and Ultravox’s Midge Ure, have raised funds for worthy causes (this latest one raised $2 million in just five minutes!), so we’re wary to criticize any of them. But really, we can’t resist making a Christmas list and checking it twice, ranking all four “Do They Know It’s Christmases” from naughty to nice.
4. Band Aid II (1989)
The production trio of Stock Aitken Waterman ruled over the late-’80s U.K. pop scene with a Midas-touched golden fist — so much so that if Taylor Swift were British, her album 1989 would be completely influenced by Cathy Dennis and Wet Wet Wet. Both of those artists, along with Technotronic, Lisa Stansfield, and Bros, of course heeded the all-powerful Pete Waterman’s call when he asked them to participate in the first Band Aid remake. Even Cliff Richard showed up! We admit, it was nice to see the lovely Kylie Minogue step into the Paul Young role and kick off the song, and it was cool that a couple of girls from Bananarama (the only holdovers from the original “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”) returned to the scene. But still, the end result was about as treacly as, well, a Christmas pudding.
3. Band Aid 30 (2014)
The latest Band Aid lineup, as seen above, boasts quite a wild-ranging mix of Brits, from indie and EDM (Elbow, Disclosure, Marcus Mumford, Ed Sheeran, Chris Martin) to mainstream pop (1D, Ellie Goulding, X Factor alum Olly Murs, Rita Ora). Representing the old guard is Bono, a true Band Aid veteran, along with Sinead O’Connor, Seal, Robert Plant, Underworld, and Queen’s Roger Taylor. This randomness makes it seem like Geldof just sent out a last-minute mass Evite in the hopes that some people would show up. Well, whatever he did, it worked, as this is a rather impressive turnout. Band Aid 30’s version won’t go down in history, but it has its charms.
2. Band Aid 20 (2004)
Ten years ago, members of Coldplay, Radiohead, Supergrass, the Darkness, Morcheeba, the Thrills, Turin Brakes, and Travis — alongside Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Joss Stone, Dido, and yes, Bono — united to raise money for Darfur. One version of the video even featured a cameo by Madonna, who was still married to Guy Ritchie and apparently considered herself an honorary Brit at the time. Anyway, we could have done without Dizzee Rascal’s awkward rap, but the choirboy falsetto of Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins sounded just perfect on a Christmas song like this.
1. Band Aid (1984)
But of course, nothing can compare to the original. Sure, many of the first Band Aid’s participants not named Bono, who were considered “all-stars” at the time, are mere footnotes now. (Side note: Whatever happened to Heaven 17? They were awesome.) However, this single launched many other charity efforts — including the American equivalent, “We Are the World,” and 1985’s international Live Aid concerts — and that’s in the true spirit of Christmas. Feed the world, everyone!