Maybe it was because it was my first year as a teenager, or perhaps it was because it was the year my favourite song of the decade, The Kane Gang’s “Closest Thing To Heaven” was released. It could have been the diversity of the music that filled the charts – everything from Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” to Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” to Howard Jones’ “Hide and Seek”. The release of films such as The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters and Footloose (which was so good, I went back to the cinema a couple of days later, to watch it again!), and reading S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” for the first (of many) times certainly help. As does finishing the year with the ground-breaking Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. All these things, plus more too numerous to list, are the reason why 1984 is my favourite year of the Eighties. I’d love to know what is yours and why…
It’s funny how today’s return to Sarm Studios, to record Band Aid 30, has brought memories of the recording of the original Band Aid single flooding back. The unprecedented collaboration of some of the biggest names in music, and some of the biggest egos too, had me enthralled from the very beginning. Watching the news that evening in November 1984 was an overwhelming exercise in star-spotting, as the likes of Duran Duran, Paul Young, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, Sting and Boy George crossed my TV screen. As Paula Yates came into view, with a big 80’s bow in her hair, carrying baby Fifi Trixibelle, I felt so envious of her behind-the-scenes access. It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that I was first in the queue to buy the video of the making of the Band Aid single, to add to my collection of 7″ and 12″ singles, and Feed The World t-shirt.
Unfortunately, my family had chosen the loser in the VHS/Betamax video battle, so I’m no longer able to watch my video. I live in hope that one day I’ll find a working Betamax video player that does not cost a fortune, or is not sitting in a museum somewhere!
Those of you who are familiar with my writing, will know how having Mr. Geldof living nearby influenced my teenage years. However, you may not be aware of how far-reaching that influence became . I think describing my behaviour around that time as “obsessive” would not be an understatement. How many 14 year olds do you know who would spend hours creating a replica of the Band Aid line up out of wooden peg dolls??? All worth it though, when it won first prize a few months later at the Geldofs’ summer fête, and I was congratulated by Bob himself!
My obsession did have a less flippant side though, when it came to the Band Aid single itself. This manifested itself in me organising a petition, calling for Margaret Thatcher’s government to waive the VAT on the single. Remember, this was 1984, so no clicking online to “sign” a petition. I spent a week approaching strangers in Canterbury city centre and my home town of Faversham, as well as canvassing signatures at school, until I finally had over a thousand signatures, which I then sent to the Iron Lady.
The letter opposite was the reply I received from HM Customs & Excise in February 1985, in response to the petition. A long-winded way of saying “No”, the contents of it are summed up in its second paragraph: “The suggestion that either VAT should not be levied or that an amount equivalent to the VAT should be contributed to the relief has been given very careful consideration by the Government but the conclusion reached is that it would be neither possible in practice – nor indeed right – to treat this fund-raising operation as a one-off case…If the principle of relief was extended generally, it would lead to a major commitment of taxpayers’ money which would have to be recouped by increases in taxation elsewhere.”
Thankfully, today’s recording will not be subject to such draconian judgement. Chancellor George Osborne confirmed this morning that VAT will be waived on the Band Aid 30 single, meaning every penny raised will go towards fighting the Ebola virus. With that in mind, I will again be one of the first in line to buy the single, even if it means having to watch the X Factor on Sunday night, when the single has its world premiere. The lengths I go to for Sir Bob!
Occasionally, my commute to the office involves bus travel. Now, I don’t mind sharing my journey to work with strangers, but what I do object to is being forced to listen to the inane conversations some people don’t seem to mind sharing with the rest of us. Even worse than being forced to listen to the thought-provoking debate as to whether nail wraps are better than acrylics, before my caffeine levels have peaked, are those travellers who can’t bear to be be alone with their own thoughts for five minutes, and spend their whole journey shouting down their mobile ‘phone. These one-sided conversations are even worse than the non-stop chatter, as the gaps in conversation lull you into a false sense of security that you may actually be about to zone out of the vocal dross. Therefore, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that my MP3 player and I have become inseparable, when I have a bus journey to face.
Recently, I got on the bus and began what has become my little ritual: rucksack on the inside seat, me on the outside (people think twice about asking to share your seat if they have to climb over you!); sunglasses on, to avoid making eye contact with my fellow travellers; earphones in, ready for Duran Duran to take me back to the summer of ’84. However, the opening bars of The Reflex were nowhere to be heard. When I looked closer at my earphones, I realised the reason why – my cat had chewed through the wire, effectively leaving me with an expensive pair of earplugs!
My journey was every bit as bad as it had always been pre-earphones, so at lunchtime I set out to buy a replacement pair. Being pushed for time, and not wanting to fight through the crowds of tourists in Canterbury, I popped into the nearest pound shop, for a makeshift pair. On my journey home, I discovered why the earphones were only a pound. In order to be able to hear anything through them, the volume had to be on full, and the quality reminded me of listening to my old Casio personal cassette player (I couldn’t afford a Sony Walkman). I loved it! As I travelled home, I travelled back to the Eighties, listening to Freddie singing about wanting to break free. It took all my self-restraint not to sing along, and become the loony on the bus who everyone tries to avoid. Now there’s an idea, to ensure some personal space on my next journey…