Do They Know It's Halloween? Well, Do They?
Last winter, the sausage-curling rerelease of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” raised millions of dollars for charity while also perpetuating the ignorance of the song’s original lyrics. Sorry, Sir Bob, but Africa isn’t a land where “nothing ever grows” and “no rain nor river flows.”
Maybe what Bono doesn’t realize is that belting out groaners such as “tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” is a tad patronizing—but we do. So we wrote our own charity song.
“Do They Know It’s Halloween?” came to life after Band Aid 20 topped the charts, when Nicholas Diamonds from the Unicorns came to visit me in Los Angeles and we formed the North American Halloween Prevention Initiative.
After reading a report about UNICEF trick-or-treating boxes being banned due to pressure from fundamentalist groups (because UNICEF distributes contraceptives and provides abortion clinics to impoverished nations), we decided to voice our feelings about the fear-obsessed age we live in.
This song’s mission is to raise money and awareness for UNICEF’s trick-or-treat boxes: all profits go to charity. The lyrics, however, are WMDs against both the current climate of fear and brainless benefit songs.
The first step was writing the music. Easy peasy. Then we went over to our friend Steven “Redd Kross” McDonald’s studio to record it. REM’s flawless drummer Joey Waronker popped in, and 20 minutes later, “Brown Sugar”-style, the track was cut to tape.
The next step was recruiting vocalists. The Arcade Fire happened to be in L.A., so they came over while fending off armies of orgasming record-label execs. Karen O made us sit outside while she recorded; then, gone in a flash, she forgot her bong in our car. Malcolm McLaren asked to come record his part at 7:30 AM: “Not the most rock and roll time of the day,” he acknowledged in full Cockney. Before long, we were driving to Detroit to meet 60s soul legend Gino Washington in his 9-Mile kitchen.
This was a globalist, digital-era undertaking. Devendra Banhart recorded his parts in his tour bus in Europe. Tagaq sent us an MP3 of her throat-singing from Nunavut. Disco D remixed the single in Brazil.
Generosity made this a reality. Nobody was paid a cent: recording studios, engineers, managers, mastering guys, mixers, and vocalists all donated their energy. VICE Recordings agreed to release it, taking on a huge workload without pay. UNICEF will be getting paid by Christmas-time, so shut up.
In the meantime, we’ve been receiving concerned emails about our “anti-Halloween activities” from Larry over at thehalloweennetwork.com. Remember, Larry, this song is both a trick and a treat.
ADAM LEITH GOLLNER
Go to www.vice-recordings.com/halloween/ to hear what he’s going on about.
Click here to see the video.