Belfast Telegraph

Bob Geldof's Band Aid still hits all right notes, despite the cynics

By Lindy McDowell

The poor, as the man said, are with ye always. Ditto, it appears, Band Aid. The music industry's charity effort has re-released itself in time for a renewed assault of the Christmas No 1 spot 10 years after its last incarnation.

It doesn't seem like a whole 30 years since the very first Band Aid, which was five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. After that came Band Aid II (standing for Band Aid Two, not Band Aid Eleven). Then Band Aid 20 to mark the 20th anniversary and now Band Aid 30.

Announcing this year's Aid effort was the eternally impassioned and dishevelled Sir Bob Geldof. It's interesting to note that, back when the video was shot in '84, he was being described as scruffy-looking then.

By comparison with today's bedraggled Bob standard, the younger version looks like a promo for male grooming products.

One thing that hasn't changed with the years, though, is his campaigning zeal. Geldof has had a horrendous year. Only a few months ago, he lost his beloved young daughter to drugs.

An amateur psychologist might suggest that he throws himself into charity work to help assuage his grief. Perhaps. He would not be the first.

But he has always had a good heart, Bob. In the video he towers physically beside his fellow Band Aid organiser, the thin-faced and magnificent Midge Ure, their shared, clear-eyed determination a reminder that now and again even the likes of the shallow, superficial music business can rise above itself in a moment of undiluted nobility.

And this was undoubtedly one of its finest.

Amid the big hair, teeth and ego and those once-so-familiar young faces and voices, what also shines through is impassioned hope, belief even, that the world can be fed. That the world can be changed.

Not by Russell Brand-style self-promotional "revolution". But by a simple, heartfelt, straightforward strategy fuelled by human empathy. Give them the expletive money.

This was back in the days when raising hard cash was still considered more practical and, therefore, important than "raising awareness".

Before selfie-centred celebs trivialised tragedy and horror as a cynical means of raising their own profile.

Band Aid didn't staunch Africa's suffering. Just as the once-sainted Bono's drive to Make Poverty History didn't make poverty history (although the U2 frontman did have some success with his effort to make taxation history ...) So why do it all again?

This time round the single will raise funds for victims of Ebola. And, it's argued, will also raise awareness of the scourge of that horrific disease. Although you have to think that if daily media coverage of bodies being buried in mass graves and victims being left in agony to die on the streets hasn't already "raised awareness", there's little hope for humanity.

Band Aid 30 may serve as a rebuke too, to the likes of the World Health Organisation which surely, surely could and should have done more to combat a disease whose devastating potential was known about for decades.

And featuring as it does the stars of 2014, it will of course, resonate with a new, younger audience.

Tired and predictable the format may be. Easy to sneer at.

Yet once again Geldof and Ure return to us all, not so much the ghosts of Christmas past. But as the conscience of Christmas past.

Whatever that pair's personal demons, however, others in the cynical pop world may now regard their project as Bandwagon Aid - basically a promotional vehicle for those taking part - something of the integrity and the hope of the original still sings through.

All these years on, all these line-ups later, Band Aid reminds us all once again that some things are still bigger, still more important than No 1.

What price to find truth about Maddy?

The investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has produced a new batch of “arguidos”. From what would seem like a never-ending supply of suspects. How many more can they possibly come up with? There is always the hope, of course, that the Scotland Yard team will solve this most perplexing of cases. But on and on and on it goes. So many theories. So many arguidos. So little certainty. The search is already estimated to have cost £10 — a sum which critics say is too much, given that nothing like the same attention has been devoted to other, less high-profile cases. If they crack the case, it will be seen as money well spent. But what if they don’t?

Harping on about the weather again

A billboard ad for beer close to Central Station declares Belfast to be the home of 200 days of rain and suggests that the upside of this negative is how happy we tend to be when the sun shines. (Harp, it’s our thing.) I’m surprised the Tourist Board hasn’t ordered a Swat team round to rip the thing down with their bare hands. But more surprised, actually, by that 200 days of precipitation statistic. Is this just advertising hype, or genuine meteorological fact? By my reckoning it would mean we have a whole 165 days without rain. Really?

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