[If the year ends in '4' it must mean it is time for another Band Aid single. And also another two-column week as once again this was a single whose significance and notoriety meant it deserved a piece all to itself].
In 1984 the idea of an all-star charity single didn't really exist. So Bob Geldof and Midge Ure invented it. The result was Do They Know It's Christmas, the original Band Aid single and recorded to raise money to aid the victims of the Ethiopian famine that year. A collection of what at the time were some of the biggest names in British rock and pop, all performing a song that ended up as a bone fide classic. The record topped the charts for Christmas 1984, sold over three and a half million copies and spent 13 years as the biggest selling single of all time in this country.
Since then there have been two more hit versions of the song. The first came in 1989 in an incarnation which is more or less erased from history, featuring as it did a variety of stars from the Stock Aitken and Waterman stable along with token additions such as Bros, Cliff Richard and Chris Rea. And no Geldof involvement either. Although another Number One version it is the smallest selling and least regarded version of the song.
Then in 2004 and after prompting from some sections of the press, Bob Geldof got the band back together again. A new collective of British stars re-recorded the single with African famine relief the aid once more. The Band Aid 20 version of Do They Know It's Christmas came in for its fair share of criticism, the arrangement seen as being rather bland and middle of the road, featuring what passed for music royalty at that time in the shape of Dido, Katie Melua, Coldplay, The Darkness and a gratuitously tacked on rap from Dizzee Rascal. Yet it hardly mattered, the song and concept were essentially bulletproof. A four-week fixture at Number One at the close of 2004, Band Aid 20 did the business once more. Yet in the years since it is still the original 1984 recording which gets nostalgic airplay and annual sales. Once more a remake is consigned to the dusty part of the archive.
Which brings us neatly to the present day. In 2014, a neat 30 years since the record was first made, there is a new emergency in Africa. This time medical rather than environmental with an Ebola epidemic threatening to devastate huge swathes of the western part of the continent. It is this which last week motivated Bob Geldof to return to the Band Aid concept. The song has undergone some small lyrical amendments to remove references to starving children - most notably the notorious line "well tonight thank God it's them instead of you" replaced with "well tonight we're reaching out and touching you" (still of course delivered by Bono) - but it is still fundamentally the same piece which Geldof and Ure threw together in an afternoon three decades ago. This apparently was not to the satisfaction of all, Emeli Sande this week having bemoaned that her suggestions did not make the final edit and with a planned rap from Fuse ODG reportedly axed due to his discomfort with the song overall.
Lyrical misgivings aside, once more the cream of British musical talent (and Bono) answered the call. This time around the names seem so much bigger, British pop royalty now represented by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sande, Sam Smith, Paloma Faith, Bastille, Elbow and Clean Bandit - but pointedly not Adele whose reluctance to answer the call was elevated to the status of a full-blown snub by the tabloid press. The Band Aid 30 remake of Do They Know It's Christmas is the freshest sounding yet, still by no means a patch on the original (how could it be) but in so many ways a more worthwhile exercise than its predecessor from a decade ago.
The release of the track is to come in two stages. First, this week came a digital release with a physical version to follow in mid-December. Needless to say, it was another huge seller, and early reports that the track had sold nearly a quarter of a million copies in two days made its journey to the top of the charts an absolute foregone conclusion. So it is that for the second week running a high profile charity single takes its bow at the top of the Official UK Singles chart. Do They Know It's Christmas reaches Number One with a mammoth sale of 312,000 - actually rather less than its start of week form indicated would be the case, suggesting that an abundance of pre-orders rather inflated the initial sales figures. Nonetheless, to put this in some perspective, this is the largest single week sale achieved by any single since James Arthur sold 489,000 copies of Impossible for Christmas 2012 and the highest November weekly sale since another charity record, the all-star rendition of Perfect Day sold 385,000 exactly 14 years ago this week.
In the process Do They Know It's Christmas sets some further intriguing new benchmarks. For a start it is only the second song in chart history to reach Number One in four different versions, equalling the total notched up by Unchained Melody in versions by Jimmy Young, The Righteous Brothers, Robson and Jerome, and Gareth Gates. With its alarmingly prompt release, (reflecting, according to Geldof, the urgency of the crisis) the song becomes only the second Christmas themed song in chart history to Number One on a chart dated in November - the first being Harry Belafonte's take on Mary's Boy Child which ascended to Number One for November 22nd 1957.
Precisely what happens next will be quite intriguing. The single is being withheld from streaming services until January, to persuade as many people as possible to buy it at full price and raise as much money as possible. Every version of Do They Know It's Christmas so far has been Christmas Number One. That seems a tough ask this time around, the Christmas chart being a full four weeks away - although the December 8 release date for the CD single (which will impact the singles chart dated December 20 - one week before Christmas itself) will almost certainly be a factor.
For now, it is impossible to do any more than sit back and appreciate the moment, Do They Know It's Christmas having essentially made all other pop music stories this week irrelevant. It would, however, be wrong to overlook the other singles this week, so look out for another column shortly detailing the rest of the week's chart action, which will include the extraordinary way the Top 10 this week also features singles by Clean Bandit, Olly Murs, One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding - all of whom also appear on Do They Know It's Christmas.