Billboard #1s for the Week Ending December 22, 1984

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Like A Virgin Madonna 1
R & B Operator Midnight Star 1
Country Why Not Me? The Judds 1
Adult Contemporary Do What You Do Jermaine Jackson 1
Rock The Boys of Summer Don Henley 2
Album Purple Rain Prince and the Revolution 21

DoTheyKnowXmasThis week sees the British chart phenomenon that kicked off a decade of celebrity fundraising concerts enter the U.S. charts. After seeing a TV news report on the famine in Ethiopia, Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats called Ultravox’s Midge Ure and asked him to help write a song to raise money and awareness. The pair knocked out the song quickly and then started calling up their friends and colleagues to contribute to the project. Geldof talked it up at a radio interview that had been set to promote the latest Boomtown Rats album, sparking media interest. By the time the song was recorded, demand was high. Do They Know It’s Christmas? entered the British charts at #1 on December 3, 1984 and stayed on top for five weeks, fittingly winning the coveted “Christmas #1” single in the U.K. that year. It was the fastest selling single in British history, selling more copies its first week than all the rest of the chart put together. (Elton John’s reworking of Candle In the Wind as a tribute to Princess Diana eventually took over the best-selling crown a dozen years later.)

Ure produced the song, but he and Geldof stayed in the background of the recording process. Several singers took turns singing through the whole track, starting with Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley. Portions of each lead were stitched together to make the final version. The lead vocals on the track came from (in order of appearance) Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Simon LeBon, and Bono. Sting, Hadley, and Paul Weller provided prominent harmonies. After the first half of the song, a choir of participants came together to sing the “Feed the World” chant that fades out the song. Besides the lead vocalists and writers and their bandmates, many other prominent acts (including America’s Kool and the Gang) pitched in. A complete list of participants is available on Wikipedia.

Geldof had hoped to raise about £70,000; the single and related projects raised millions. It sparked the American parallel project USA For Africa and the massive 1985 Live Aid concert, setting the stage for many other multi-act fundraisers.

This week the song debuts at a more modest #65 on the Hot 100. It zipped up to #13 in its fourth week, then dropped quickly off the charts.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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