I'M REACHING OUT IN THIS MOURNING AIR
In 1995, the Warchild charity organization--set up to do exactly what its name suggests by helping children in war-torn areas--undertook a revolutionary endeavor. Borrowing their mission from a quote of John Lennon's about how much time it should take to put out a record, they had twenty bands record an exclusive track in the same 24 hours, and then the CD was released five days later. It broke sales records, and shocked people further by being incredibly good. (Read a more detailed history of the event here.)
In many ways, it was like a crystallization of what was happening in British music at the time. It was the height of Britpop, and here was a group of their biggest bands joining together under one banner for one cause. There were new songs from Portishead, Stereo MCs, The Boo Radleys, KLF, Blur, and Radiohead (a debut of "Lucky;" the same version as the one put on OK Computer a year later); some bands did covers, including The Charlatans teaming with The Chemical Brothers on Sly Stone's classic "Time for Livin'," Suede performing Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding," the Manics doing "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," and Sinead O'Connor's haunting "Ode To Billy Joe;" and a few bands did new versions of their old songs, such as Oasis' stripped-back redo of "Fade Away," The Stone Roses tearing through "Love Spreads," and Massive Attack giving "Karmacoma" to Brian Eno to remix. Topping it off was a supergroup: Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, and Paul McCartney covering The Beatles' "Come Together" under the name The Mojo Filters.
It was a rare compilation album that could be listened to as a complete record. In some strange way, by working towards a common goal, the groups forged a common bond. In an effort to get the album out under deadline, Warchild had the sleeves printed before they knew what songs would be turned in, so no names were printed on the actual disc or booklet. It added to the sense of community, and when you first put Help on, part of the fun was not knowing what you were about to get. Plus, the cover was by John Squire from the Roses, so it was cool anyway. Only Terrorvision and The Levellers dropped in a duff track, but they were easy to skip.
That album has long been out of print, but you can download the full thing here, since Warchild is now online. You can also look into their other excellent albums, Hope and the amazing 1Love: contemporary artists covering past #1 hits.
But, more importantly, Warchild is doing it again. Today, September 8, 2005, twenty bands have once more stepped into the fray, and with the advances of digital technology, we can all get the songs tomorrow! A full tracklisting is already posted, including details of where all over the world the bands will be recording. It's another great line-up, reflecting the current sunny climate of British music: Bloc Party, Elbow, Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, The Coral, Belle & Sebastian, Razorlight, Gorillaz, Magic Numbers, Maximo Park, The Zutons, and more. Adding an international flavor are bands from other countries, like Australia's Go! Team and New York's own Antony (from & the Johnsons), who is duetting with Boy George on John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Also, returning for a second go are Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers. [Edit: See Marc's post in the comments feature to show where my lack of research failed me in reference to where Go! Team and Antony are from.]
I know right now our charity is been understandably being directed towards relief for Hurricane Katrina, but we can't forget about the other problems that are continuing around the world. Plus, you get to be part of a musical event. Why not buy an album that can make a difference?
Current Soundtrack: the original Help, naturally
Current Mood: hopeful
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich