Band Aid Stuck in U.K.

By | December 3, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Do they know it’s Christmas? Maybe, maybe not. The bigger question is: Do we care?

Band Aid 20’s new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is selling at a record pace-in England, anyway. The story, though, is different on this side of the Pond.

The updated take on the 1984 Christmas charity smash features some of Britain’s biggest names, including Dido, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Joss Stone, Paul McCartney and, for good measure, one Irish megastar in the form of U2’s Bono. The performers, checking their egos at the door (in theory, anyway), gathered together to help victims in Sudan’s Darfur region-much like the original single was used to raise cash for famine relief in Africa.

But while the newly assembled ensemble, dubbed Band Aid 20, is a smash hit in its opening days on the British charts, the track might not make it to U.S. record shops before Christmas, if at all, according to industry sources.

“The last we heard it is not coming out in the U.S.,” says Jerry Suarez, Virgin Megastore’s senior music product manager for North America. The chain is selling an import version of the CD single.

“Considering we only got it a few days ago it is doing especially well,” says Suarez, especially in New York and Los Angeles.

Universal International/Mercury Records is releasing the single in England, but according to a rep for Universal in New York, there are no immediate plans to release the single in America.

The song is available on Apple’s iTunes music download service, but only on U.K. and European versions of the online store.

“Historically, the American marketplace has proven averse to much of what has been incredibly successful in England,” says HITS magazine editor and E! News Live correspondent David Adelson.

“Despite the success of the first Band Aid, as well as the noble cause behind this latest one, the chance of replicating the song’s U.K. success Stateside is slim at best.”

The first version of the Bob Geldolf/Midge Ure-penned “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” brushed the upper echelons of U.S. charts when it was released 20 years ago, peaking at number 13 on Billboard ‘s Top 100. It still pops up this time of year as radio stations shift to holiday music programs.

The updated tune sold nearly 100,000 copies Monday, its first day in stores, and was moving 2,500 copies an hour at Woolworth stores, according to Britain’s Sun. The track is expected to bow at number one and stay at the top of the Brit pops until Christmas.

U.K. music magazine NME predicted that first-week sales of the song will hover near 500,000-which would make it the year’s fastest-selling single after Eamon’s “(F*** It) Don’t Want You Back.”

Perhaps Universal’s apparent ambivalence at releasing the tune has something to do with the lukewarm critical reaction. British critics harshed on it (“Nobody’s idea of a great record,” opined the Guardian ), and in New Zealand, one radio station has even banned the tune-calling it “rubbish.”

One of the 40 artists on the new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”-Travis frontman Fran Healy-recently chided naysayers, hoping to put the focus back on the song’s charitable goals. He told the BBC last week that the song is “not a big nostalgia trip to remember our childhoods in the ’80s.”

He called criticism of the single “disgraceful.”

U.S. fans wanting to hear the new version can go to the official Website, BandAid20.com.

The latest version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is actually the third time the song has been worked over by an all-star lineup. In 1989, the song was remade with help from of-the-moment pop stars like Kylie Minogue and Wet Wet Wet to decidedly mixed reviews.

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