War Child was established by film-makers Bill Leeson, David Wilson along and social entrepreneur (“need a ticket, I can help you sir”) and peace activist Willemijn Verloop in response to violence and ethnic cleansing they witnessed in the former Yugoslavia in 1993. The trio were appalled by the children’s experiences of conflict but were inspired by the positive impact music therapy workshops run by Professor Nigel Osborne in air raid shelters in Mostar and Sarajevo were having. Their first convoy containing supplies and equipment was sent to Bosnia later that year. On leaving Bosnia, Leeson and Wilson went on to establish War Child UK. In September 1995, the Help album was released with the purpose of raising funds for the charity. All the songs were recorded on the same day – the 4th – with the album in the shops the following weekend. No tracklist on the sleeve.
Help doesn’t start with a bang; instead it’s the warm acoustic strum of Oasis & Fade Away. Kate Moss and Liam on backing vocals, Johnny “Durex” Depp on guitar; it really is a lovely counterpart to the spirited and lively original that first appeared as a Cigarettes & Alcohol B-side. This relaxed vibe is continued on song 2, the Boo Radleys’ gentle and sparkling Oh Brother, a welcome respite from the (sometimes) overbearing smiley pop of the Wake Up! LP. Rocking things up a bit are the Stone Roses and a re-recorded Love Spreads. It’s much shorter than the original and somewhat lacking in fizz. Things perk up on Radiohead’s Lucky, nailed in five hours with engineer Nigel Godrich, who had assisted producer John Leckie with The Bends and produced several of the band’s B-sides. Lucky provided the direction and entry point for the journey that Radiohead would take on OK Computer and it still sounds fantastic today. It was also chosen as the lead track on the Help EP which was released a month after the compilation and also featured three non-album supports: PJ Harvey’s 50 Ft. Queenie (Live), Guru’s Momentum and Portishead’s Untitled. Both Lucky and The Smokin’ Mojo Filters’ Come Together were gathered up on the essential Now That’s What I Call Music 32, a fine summation of the 1995 Q3 & Q4 chart action.
Light years ahead, Orbital drop the thoughtful Adnan; Paul Hartnoll said “The name comes from the sympathy story of the day on the news about a family evacuated from the former Yugoslavia. The father had to stay behind to work, and his 16-year-old son decided he had to go back and stay with him. He felt he couldn’t leave him on his own. After a few days the son, Adnan, got blown up and killed.” A longer version of the track appears on their 1996 LP In Sides. Next come Portishead with the self-fulfilling Mourning Air, another track that would subsequently feature on a 1997 album. Neatly following are Massive Attack and the chilled out Fake The Aroma, a less intense and relaxed take on Karmacoma while Suede’s beautiful remake of Shipbuilding manages to sound older than the original, perfectly pitched somewhere between glam rock and Soft Machine. Taking a ’70s focus are The Charlatans & The Chemical Brothers on a groovy cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s Time For Livin’ and while not a standout, the Stereo MCs’ laidback and moody Sweetest Truth (Show No Fear) really fits in well among such surroundings.
The second half (it’s a CD but you get my point) kicks off with another cover, Sinéad O’Connor and Ode To Billy Joe. A surprisingly haunting take with elements of trip hop and ghostly elongated traditional interludes. A last minute inclusion too, it’s well-paired with The Levellers’ quietly defiant Searchlights. Elsewhere the Manic Street Preachers returned to the recording studio with a fantastic cover of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, as good a tribute to Richey Edwards as you’ll ever hear. By the time of release, he was missing seven months and there was still hope. “Because I’m free, nothing’s bothering me.” Moving on, Terrorvision show their sensitive side with the melancholy strum Tom Petty Loves Veruca Salt while The KLF make a welcome re-appearance as The One World Orchestra playing a subversive version of The Magnificent Seven theme complete with Serbian radio samples. Elmer Bernstein and the jungle massive meet the Moodys Boys etc.
On the home stretch now and the late Andrew Weatherall along with the Planet 4 Folk Quartet & David Harrow serve up the Message To Crommie, utterly blissful stuff. Trailing behind are Terry Hall & Salad with a very relaxed take on Dream A Little Dream; sounding very like something you’d hear at Strictly Fish in Powers Hotel early in the night. Counting in, 1-2-3-4-5 is performed by Neneh Cherry with the mysterious Trout (not the guy in Rage Records but Jonny Dollar). The other side of that infamous battle – Blur – finally arrive – Eine Kleine Lift Musik is typical of The Great Escape sound; a part of therein. Videos of it generally have the comments turned off, I wonder what Yuko and Hiro would make of it. The full band demo on Blur 21 – Hope You Find Your Suburb – is brilliant too. That just leaves time for one more, a competent but logical version of The Beatles’ Come Together, by new supergroup The Smokin’ Mojo Filters which consisted of Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Steve Cradock, Steve White, and Carleen Anderson. Help would go on to raise more than £1,250,000 for War Child and topped the UK compilation charts. It’s a wonderful snapshot of an unforgettable time. Always cherish the instant karma.
Oasis – Fade Away (War Child Version)
Radiohead – Lucky
Manic Street Preachers – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
Lest we forget
The One World Orchestra – The Magnificent