Flashback: Do they know it's Christmas - a hit that raised millions for charity from its Notting Hill studio

It wouldn’t be Christmas without hearing ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas’ at least once! But do you know why and where this song was recorded? In October 1984 Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof watched in horror as footage of the worsening Ethiopian famine played across his television screen as part of a BBC News documentary. A week later he met up with Midge Ure, who was just as troubled by what he had seen on the report. The two decided to channel their outrage into a new charity single.

band-aid-1984-billboard-650.jpg
hqdefault.jpg

The plan grew significantly larger in scope after Geldof made some calls to the British pop community. “I rang Sting and he said, ‘Yeah, count me in,’ and then [Simon] Le Bon. He just immediately said, ‘Tell me the date and we’ll clear the diary,’” Geldof told Melody Makerin 1984. “The same day I was passing by this antique shop and who is standing in there but [Spandau Ballet’s] Gary Kemp, just about to go off on tour to Japan. He said he was mad for it as well and to wait 10 days till they got back in the country… suddenly it hit me. I thought, ‘Christ, we have got the real top boys here,’ all the big names in pop are suddenly ready and willing to do this… I knew then that we were off, and I just decided to go for all the rest of the faces and started to ring everyone up, asking them to do it.” The vocal track was completed in one marathon 24-hour session, and — amazingly — in shops just days later, credited to “Band Aid.” Thanks to a massive publicity campaign and an hourly push on BBC radio, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” shot to number one in the U.K., where it remained the biggest selling single until Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997.” In addition to the tens of millions of dollars it raised worldwide for Ethiopian famine relief, the song helped sew the seeds for Geldof and Ure’s Live Aid concert the following year.

The recording took place in Notting Hill at Sarm West Studios, an old church converted into a studio in 1969.