Damned Charity Records

You could have little radio campaigns with jingles running along the lines of “ A pound a day keeps Busted at bay”, (actually, sorry about that, it was just a personal fantasy)..


 Charity records.


Hmm. This is a thorny subject, and in writing this I could get quite heavily slagged off. After all we live in precarious times. Witness to constant war, destruction and famine, (culminating in the terrible events in Sri Lanka over Christmas), it is beholden on us all to help and donate in whatever way we can. And I am about to embark on an article that denounces a method of raising money to very good causes. So, to put matters straight right now, I implore you all to help the Band Aid 20  (AND the Tsunami charities) by contacting the relief organisations concerned and giving money.


However, I am writing this in order to have a go at the actual records and the recording process. The song first. And, I am going to limit myself to slagging off the Band Aid single. Suffice to say the Tsunami effort with, inter alia, various Bee Gees, made me weep and shudder.)


In the words of Peter Cook, it lacks eveything. Where the original Band Aid single had a certain something, almost despite itself, the latest incarnation is piss-poor. Piss-poor. The original record had a very austere, late 1940s "make do and mend" feeling to it. It clunked along like an old dinky car, and for a while we all suspended our disbelief at it's lyrical inanity and our hatred of Spandau & Co. It's heart was in the right place, not to mention it's hair. It was actually quite a moving record and we all bought it.


The second metamorphosis fails precisely because it is a re-run. In not being bothered to write a new song to address the awful problems in Sudan, the Band Aid 20 organisation does us and them a dis-service. All that happens is we feel cynical, which is not good at all. One could argue that we feel that they feel that it would be a mere trifle to wheel out the record to milk us, the complacent and understanding cash cow. All of which will doubtless be vehemently denied, I'm sure. And fair enough. No one doubts the sincerity of the performers, especially Messrs Geldof and Bono. In the celeb's defence, I also get the feeling that we, the public, want this bunch of pop stars to jump through higher hoops than the previous lot. Which leads me to the point, which can be construed as a compromise, an entente cordiale.


To sate our celeb bloodlust, and as a chance for the pop stars in question to show they really are donating their pound of flesh, I have concocted this formula.


Why can't we give money to Band Aid for them not to sing? Why can't we, the paying public demand a sponsored silence from the pop stars; tabulated in a system that would mean the more money paid by us, the longer the silence "produced" by them? 


Just think of the benefits. We get to ban Busted, Westlife and Girls Aloud from performing anywhere for as long as we see fit. We also give to charity. As for our attitudes to the pop stars themselves, our cynicism would be ended by the fact that we knew that they were genuinely giving something. And just think of the spin offs. You could have little radio campaigns with jingles running along the lines of " A pound a day keeps Busted at bay", (actually, sorry about that, it was just a personal fantasy)..


In terms of monies raised, I'm sure we could make it all stack up. At time of writing, about 1 million people bought the single, priced about £7. So in the UK that's about seven million quid. Britain's population is around 60 million. Take the idea of a sponsored silence. If, with a 1 in 5 ratio of the populace donating only £1 only once you'd get 12 million. And the silence could carry on through the year. After all, my idea is not hamstrung by the concept of just being a Christmas record. Even if people got bored and there was a 50% fall off each month, you could still raise around 11 million extra by spring. In addition, you could start a bidding war with the record companies and radio stations. Just think, Warners, Universal, the BBC, Sky, and all the rest having to match our donated sums to overturn the ban and to get their expensive charges back on the air.


They've all invested too much brass in the likes of Robbie Williams just to drop him. Even if they didn't bother overturning the ban, their lack of faith expressed in Mr. Williams (for example) would probably force him to re-consider his role as an artiste (i.e. he'd hopefully give up).


Alas, I fear my idea will not come to fruition. For one thing, it would involve a considerable leap of faith and generous helpings of humour on the part of the performers who are a nervous, paranoid bunch at the best of times. And, of course the mere act of trying to be reasonable and charitable in the face of record company politics and cynicism will be a gargantuan struggle in itself.  One can't eradicate greed or vanitas from the equation.


Oh well, better the devil you know, eh?


Words: Richard Foster