Music

Bob Geldof pays sweet nod to Paula Yates who he credits for Band Aid line up

Sir Bob Geldof has revealed how he formed the lineup for the charity single Do They Know It's Christmas – from his own unexpected encounters to help from late partner Paula Yates.

Boomtown Rats singer Bob shared the story behind Band Aid at an In Conversation Event, celebrating Live Aid and 100 years of the BBC, as part of the BFI and Radio Times TV Festival on May 20, 2022.

Talking about the moment he saw a BBC news broadcast of the famine in Ethiopia in 1984, he said the footage had 'stayed with him' and partner Paula Yates, who subsequently left a message in the bowl asking any visitors to the house to donate five pounds for charity.

He paid tribute to Paula's idea for charity donations, saying it was 'very cool' and that he knew at that moment he needed to do something to raise money – and the one thing he knew how to do was write a song.

Speaking at the BFI and Radio Times TV Festival, he said: "At that moment. I knew I had to do something," and that he could "write a tune, but the band [The Boomtown Rats] probably won't have a hit."

He also credited Paula with helping him connect with friends and Do They Know It's Christmas co-songwriter Midge Ure, saying: "I called Paula – 'find out who is on The Tube and see can we get something together.' So that's how it started.

"Midge Ure was there, so Midge came on and Midge was having hits."

He added: "I said to Midge, did you see that thing, and he said no, I don't think so – tell me about it.

"I said I really want to do something, I'd like to put a band together.

"I said we need to do it quickly, as it needs to be Christmas because that's where the big sales are. We do it by Christmas, make the money, give it."

Together the duo co-wrote Do They Know It's Christmas, with Bob revealing that he wanted the final chorus to be a statement, saying: "What was going to be the big send-off? I thought it has to be declamatory.

It's got to be 'All you need is love'. It's going to be 'War is over, if you want it.' It's got to be as brutally clear. This is not pop anymore – it's a declamatory call to arms."

Now that they had the song, Bob explained that it was through his own unexpected encounters and his and Paula's connections to the music world, that they were able to bring the biggest stars of the time together to make the record.

"It was clear to me that the only way was to stuff this record with as many of the stars of the time, to guarantee it a hit. It was a practical response," said Bob.

Bob was already friends with stars including Sting and had also recently met one of the biggest upcoming bands of the time – U2, who subsequently agreed to be on the record.

However, Bob did explain that a number of the stars also joined the line-up through a series of unexpected encounters he had on the Kings Road in London.

"I left my house and walked up to the Kings Road and I walked up, there was an antique shop and I looked through the window and there was Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet.

"I banged on the window and I told him, and he said 'we're in Italy. We're touring Italy, but we'll come back.' I swear to you, ask Gary, that was the response. I thought, great.

"I walked down the road and then Sting was coming up the road. I said to him, and he said, 'yeah absolutely'.

"I sat down in the Picasso and I had The Boomtown Rats, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet and The Police. Instantly. So now, who is going to refuse?"

He also revealed that the final line-up came together as he knew a lot of the big artists at the time, thanks to Paula Yates presenting work, saying: "Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, George Michael would come down to our house, all the new guys came to our house because I knew them through Paula knowing them from The Tube."

He added: "We knew LeBon and the [Duran Duran] guys very well, George Michael. My confidence built, because to them I was the older generation, just like we had been in 1976 with all the guys before us."

"I think it was because luckily because Paula did The Tube, we knew them well. That's what happened."

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