I have a problem with Bob Geldof that stems from a personal encounter with the man. I have always been a huge fan of The Boomtown Rats and even Geldof’s Solos albums. In fact moreso, the solo albums. Have you heard “Sex Age Death”? Stunning, stunning album.
My problem, though, stems from events around the Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” It’s not going to be one of those dreary/paranoid “yeah, but where does the money really go?” type posts. I’m in total admiration of the fundraising aspect and the good it’s done. My problem is this…
Back when the single was first released, I was working on a Community Access Radio show for the BBC Sheffield (R.O.T.T. should anyone recall). I got the job of interviewing Geldof on his Boomtown Rats tour. I was quite excited about it, what with being a huge fan.
Now, with Live Aid a not so distant memory and the Band Aid single owning the charts, there was plenty to talk about, although I really wanted to stay close to the subject of the Boomtown Rats. The problem was, I absolutely hated and still hate that song. Given the reason for the single, I and almost everyone else in the country, felt it my duty to contribute in some way. But I couldn’t buy that bloody single.
Instead, I donated my entire giro for the fortnight around the release date – the community access gig was voluntary at the time, before anyone asks. That essentially meant I had to live of the spilled rice and beans in the back of my cupboard for a couple of weeks. I’m not equating that in any way with the starvation and suffering Band Aid was trying to alleviate, but donating around £70 – according to the historic inflation calculator, thats around £200 now – and not eating for two weeks surely had more kudos than buying a 99p single? (Again, I wasn’t donating for the kudos it afforded, it just seemed right at the time)
It wasn’t good enough for Geldof though.
When I went in for the interview and said hi, the first thing he said, rather than hello, was “Have you bought the single”. I said no and started to explain the donation, only to be interrupted by the phrase “I’m not fucking talking to anyone who hasn’t bought the fucking record.” I looked at him and told him I’d donated a lot more to the fund, but he didn’t care. He got really verbally aggressive and physically threatening – he’s tall, looms and points his finger right in your face – and reiterated his statement. He was completely unwilling to talk to me because I hadn’t bought the single. Sorry, mate, but I don’t buy shit, whatever the cause. I’d rather make a donation some other way.
I stood up and left, minus an interview.
Thing is, however much of an arse the man was, the cause remains true and worthy. I have, when possible, continued to support the cause and that’s largely down to him and Live Aid/Band Aid and the awareness he brought to us.
What makes me very angry though, is the way the Adele has become the object of vilification simply because she didn’t want to be on the new version of the song for ebola relief. That’s her choice. It was mine to contribute in another way. Her management has stated that she also has donated, just not via the medium of Geldof’s ego. He should be satisfied with that.
The vitriol, she has faced in the press because of a personal decision to help in another way disgusts me. Geldof is now denying the sequence of events as reported, and whether it is true or not, I don’t know. Or care, really. I just know how he treated me.
My belief then, as now, is that the situation is not about him. It’s not about the song. It’s about people who are dying. Kudos for raising awareness – mine in particular – and kudos for getting the support he has, but his is not the only way to make a difference. Geldof has done some amazing things, and Band-Aid is still well worth supporting, but he’s not the be all and end all of fund-raising.
And bullying people, even if the cause is a good one, is unforgivable.
Donate to the Ebola Outbreak Appeal here http://www.redcross.org.uk/ebolavirus/, if you wish. Buy the single if that’s your thing and donate if you can. But don’t be bullied into by me or anyone else.