At what point did Do They Know It’s Christmas become part of the classic songbook of radio-friendly festive tripe, rather than what it really is, a song about starvation?
Those who were around when it was released (and greetings fellow dotards) will recall that hearing it always carried with it a heavy sense of the reason for its creation. When it hit the top of the charts, every performer on Top Of The Pops (apart from one bozo from Slade) wore a Feed The World t-shirt. This was never a song about celebrating Christmas, it was about getting sustenance to people who were dying.
But somehow, in the last decade or so, it has become a fundamental part of the avalanche of schmaltz which infests the December airwaves. Do broadcasters really not understand that just because a song has Christmas in its title, it doesn’t necessarily slot in alongside classics like Wonderful Christmastime or pap like Last Christmas? There are clues in the lyric, after all. “The Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.” It’s not exactly “When the snowman brings the snow”, is it?
And while we’re on that subject, “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time”? Yes there will. You might have to look pretty hard for it – the higher ground of Chad, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, Mount Kilimanjaro, there’s even a ski resort in Lesotho. Given that Africa is as big as China, India, the USA and most of Europe, generalisations were always likely to be a bit on the crass side. The whole continent didn’t have famine, you patronising Europeans.
The worst of it, though, surely has to be “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”. Sorry, do what now? Thank God that someone else is starving instead of me? I won’t, if it’s all the same to you. If I’m going to say anything to God, I’ll probably ask why anyone needs to be starving at all. And if I’m going to thank him, it will be for my not being a smug, self-important, tax-evading rock singer who apparently believes himself to be an international statesman.
Still, at least it’s not that abomination by Mariah Carey.