A HOST of musical stars including One Direction, Bono and the Scots singer, Emeli Sandé yesterday recorded a new version of the Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas? with new lyrics to address the Ebola crisis.
As dozens of singers and musicians gathered at a studio in Notting Hill to re-record the song 30 years after its original release, the government announced that it would waive VAT on the charity single which is expected to raise millions for relief efforts in Africa.
The song, first released in 1984 in response to the Ethiopian famine, has had some lines re-written to reflect the horrors of the highly contagious disease which has devastated West Africa.
The second verse has been tweaked to include the words: “Where a kiss of love can kill you and there’s death in every tear,” and the line, “Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.”
The third verse now includes the lines: “No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa. The only hope they’ll have is being alive. Where to comfort is to fear. Where to touch is to be scared.”
As singers arrived at the London studio to record the track, Bob Geldof revealed that the Chancellor George Osborne had called him to reveal he would waive VAT on the single, a move which means 100 per cent of the money raised by the song will go to charity.
Geldof said: “I spoke to the Chancellor about five minutes ago and he agreed to forgo the VAT on the record.”
He added: “Amazing, that the government has just said ‘fine, keep the tax’. The record, it’s a song, it’s a track, but it’s an event, and the next stage now is to turn this into a phenomenon like it was in the 80s, and the only way to do that is to get people to buy the thing. Spare me this free economy. Spare me Spotify and YouTube. There is a donate button on YouTube. Hit the donate button.”
The song was recorded yesterday and is currently being mixed. It will go on sale at 9am tomorrow, although it is due to be debuted on tonight’s X Factor.
Yesterday Osborne said: “I spoke to Bob Geldof this morning and I confirmed that we would waive VAT on the Band Aid anniversary single. It’s fantastic that he’s got so many musicians together again to help fight Ebola and I wanted to make sure every penny raised goes to combat this terrible disease. Whether it’s the British public or their government, we are united in helping lead the world efforts against Ebola.”
Bono, the lead singer of U2, who sang on the original recording, and also took part in yesterday’s session took a dig at rich countries which fail to honour aid pledges as he arrived. He said: “We’ve been trying to make this kind of event a thing of the past. We want to make Band Aid history for quite some time. If every country had the values of Great Britain and kept the promises they make at these big G8 meetings and the like we wouldn’t have to be standing here.”
The International Development Secretary Justine Greening said waiving VAT will “make sure people’s donations go even further as we fight to contain and control this terrible disease”.
She added: “The UK’s £230 million Ebola response is already saving lives in Sierra Leone. Every Band Aid single sold will help provide more treatment and care in West Africa.”
Emeli Sandé said Geldof had made a moving speech to the singers before they recorded the chorus. She said: “Bob gave a really touching speech before we started singing so I think that really got everybody in the mind frame that we needed to be in to remind us it’s fun but we’re here for a really serious reason.”
She added: “It was him expressing how passionate he was about this cause and how it’s so unnecessary that so many people should be dying.”