The best (and worst) charity singles ever

We applaud any musician who takes the time to record a charity single. As a way of raising awareness for a cause or campaign, such releases are invaluable, and the results often stand up in their own right.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the end product is much less than the sum of its celebrity parts. Here’s our roundup of grand successes and sorry failures.

The Good

It BitesCalling All The Heroes (Cumbrian Flood Relief, 2001)

Joining the band on a joyous romp through CATH are John Wetton, Steve Hogarth, Geoff Downes and original It Bites singer Francis Dunnery. The video looks like it cost a tenner, but it does feature a Sky News-style scrolling infobar, and everyone involved appears to be having the time of their lives. Keep your eyes peeled for some world-class air-drumming.[](

Manic St PreachersTheme from MAS*H (Suicide Is Painless) (Spastics Society, 1992)

In which the Manics perform in a warehouse full of flags. This was the band’s first UK Top 10 hit (they wouldn’t release a more successful single until A Design For Life four years later), and it sits comfortably alongside Motorcycle Emptiness as one of the band’s saddest, most affecting recordings.[](

Artists for Children’s PromiseIt’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (Children’s Promise, 1999)

The internet isn’t large enough to fully list the great and good who gathered to record this single, but it does include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, Joe Cocker, John Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, Chrissie Hynde, Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt and Skin out of Skunk Anansie. The Spice Girls’ turn in announced, just in case the listener doesn’t know who they are.[](

Project Aegis Collide & Spark (The Bridge Bunch, 2013)

A one-off progressive metal outfit staffed by members of Swedish outfits Pagan’s Mind, Darkwater and End Of September, plus Theocracy (from Atlanta, Georgia). We can’t imagine it achieving Band Aid levels of success, but hell, it’s for a worthy cause (feeding the homeless in Nashville, Tennessee), and there’s still time. Dig deep, folks.


Artists United Against Apartheid - Sun City (Various anti-apartheid projects, 1985)

Elton John, Tina Turner, Linda Ronstadt, Ray Charles and Dionne Warwick all played Sun City, which probably accounts for their absence on this potent portion of polemic. The chorus feels like it goes on for about nine weeks, but there’s no doubting the charged exuberance of the recording. The song was banned in South Africa.[](

The Bad

Status QuoRunning All Over The World (Sport Aid, 1988)

We bow down to no one in our admiration for The Quo, but if you’re going to make a record to raise funds for charridee, why not come up with something original, instead of changing a single word to a song that everyone already knows? If the phrase “will this do?” had a soundtrack, this would be it. Must try harder.[](

U2 (feat. Green Day)The Saints Are Coming (Music Rising, 2006)

Billy Joe Armstrong opens this song by singing the lyrics to House Of The Rising Sun (presumably because it mentions New Orleans, not because it’s about a brothel), and it’s all downhill from there. The original (by The Skids) is a much more charming, frisky affair, but the fake headlines and CGI aircraft in the video are cool.[](

Hear N’ AidStars (African famine relief, 1985)

“Who cries for the children?”, asks Ronnie James Dio in this monstrous hunk of 80s metal. Actually, Ronnie, we all do. A decent enough song, Stars was presumably extended (it lingers for nearly seven minutes) so that all the guitarists on show got the chance to solo. The record, which raised money for African famine relief, was launched (inappropriately, some might say) with an all-star party at the Hard Rock Cafe.[](

Full Metal Rackets Rock and Roll (Armenian earthquake relief, 1989)

Rock Aid Armenia called upon Steve Harris, Nicko NcBrain and Roger Daltrey for their final project, a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic. What could possibly go wrong? We’ll tell you want went wrong: Pat Cash and John McEnroe went wrong, thank you very much, transforming the song from thrilling rock joyride into a gadabout, clowning novelty. Game, set, and indeed, match.


progAIDAll Around The World (Tsunami Relief, 2004)

“All around the world, hand to hand, black to white, make your stand for what is right,” advise a set of lyrics we imagine were written with the aid of random cuttings from the Child’s Guide to International Diplomacy. Still, everything builds to a rousing crescendo, and it looks like the musicians enjoyed a nice visit to the pub during the filming of the video.[](

The Ugly

Mr. Bean and Smear CampaignElected (Comic Relief, 1992)

One would hope that a song recorded for Comic Relief might actually be funny. In this case, one would be wrong. This is truly dismal stuff, despite the metal stylings of Bruce Dickinson and friends. For as any fule kno, Mr Bean only appeals to three-year-olds, and to those with a similarly limited grasp of the English language. Having said that, an unexpected touch of excitement is provided by an appearance by disgraced TV presenter Angus Deayton as the election’s returning officer.[](

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.