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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
War Child rocks against the clock
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell

The race against the clock was on.

Tracks from artists like Radiohead had been arriving since Thursday night for their inclusion on the album Help: A Day In The Life.

From as far afield as Hong Kong, New York and Berlin, they trickled into the central London studio as the aim to record and release the fastest ever album got under way.

War Child, a charity which raises money for children affected by conflicts across the world, hoped the whole 22-track album would be recorded, mastered and ready for download within 24 hours.

By Friday afternoon, the pressure was on.

Mark Waddington, War Child chief executive, said he had gone without sleep, adding the experience had been "mad".

"There is no way we could have done this on our own," he said.

Antony and the Johnsons
Belle & Sebastian
The Coral
Damien Rice
Kaiser Chiefs
Keane and Faultline
The Manic Street Preachers

"The music industry has put in a huge effort, including the artists themselves, PR companies and record companies. We have been blessed."

The original Help! album in 1995 achieved critical acclaim, with contributions from bands like Radiohead, Oasis, Blur and Suede.

Waddington said it was the overwhelming success of that album that helped boost the latest challenge.

"We went from a running start," he explained.

"The original album was received to such acclaim so the artists were safe in the knowledge it was going to be a quality album.

"All of the tracks are original and exclusive to us. It's amazing."

African rapper Emmanuel Jal was among the artists who came down to the studio to see the final mix being put together.

Emmanuel Jal
Rap artist Emmanuel Jal experienced war as a child

He said it was vital to be helping children affected by the horror of living through conflict.

And he should know.

Jal was born as a refugee in Sudan and, after his mother died, was abducted by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to be trained as a soldier. He was around eight years old.

He survived frontline action after a dramatic and traumatic escape from the rebels' ranks, before he was adopted and smuggled into Kenya by British woman Emma McCune.

Tragically, she died some months later but Jal was able to get into full-time education and began singing in 1998, releasing his debut album in 2005.

Jal said: "My country was at war before I was even born. My mother was a refugee. I was born a refugee.

"For 19 years I was fed on aid. I used to see food being thrown from the sky, so when the bombers came, we thought it was food.

I don't think it is the job of musicians to talk about politics, I think it is everyone's responsibility
Guy Garvey, Elbow

"When I came to England that's when I got to see how they raise funds.

"If my music and my contribution to this album can help raise money to help other people all over the world, that is a good thing."

The money raised by Help: A Day In The Life will go to aid children caught up in conflicts around the globe, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Musician and songwriter Billy Bragg, who is a patron of War Child, said it was that tangibility that made the charity unique.

"Live 8's message of 'Let's Make Poverty History' is an aspiration, which is very laudable, but it is also very long term," he said.

Billy Bragg
Songwriter Billy Bragg is a patron of War Child

"War Child are saying 'we have got two drop-in centres in Iraq and we are helping children to rebuild their emotional infrastructure'. They have very specific aims.

"They give people the chance to make a small contribution to do something positive about Iraq, and I think that is what makes War Child different."

When the first deadline passed at 1400 BST on Friday, 17 tracks were ready to go.

They included Manic Street Preachers track Leviathan, which had been recorded in Wales; Hello Conscience from The Zutons; Maximo Park's Wasteland, from Newcastle; and The Coral sent It was Nothing from Liverpool.

But late and welcome additions from bands like Coldplay and Babyshambles meant it was taking a little longer than planned.

Waddington was upbeat: "We already hold the record for the fastest album. We are only trying to beat ourselves."

Elbow's track Snowball was one of the last to arrive in the studio.


Singer Guy Garvey described the song as "political" and added the band felt "privileged" to be involved in the project.

"I don't think it is the job of musicians to talk about politics, I think it is everyone's responsibility," he said.

"We are not trying to suggest alternatives, just mirror what is going on the world.

"That means being very scared and angry about what is going on and I thought it was important to write about it."

Since midday the War Child website had been inundated with almost one million hits before the songs were even ready for download.

They finally went up at 1810 BST - about 32 hours after the bands began entering the studios.

It shaved days off the five-day record the original Help! album set exactly 10 years to the day.

Full track list for Help: A Day in the Life

  • Antony and the Johnsons and Boy George - Happy Xmas (War is Over)
  • Babyshambles - Bollywood to Battersea
  • Belle & Sebastian - The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House
  • Bloc Party - The Present
  • Coldplay - How You See The World
  • The Coral (produced by Portishead's Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley) - It Was Nothing
  • Damien Rice - Crosseyed Bear
  • Elbow - Snowball
  • Emmanuel Jal - Gua
  • The Go! Team - Phantom Broadcast
  • Gorillaz - Hong Kong
  • Hard-Fi - Help Me Please
  • Kaiser Chiefs - I Heard It Through the Grapevine
  • Keane and Faultline - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  • The Magic Numbers - Gone Are the Days
  • The Manic Street Preachers - Leviathan
  • Maximo Park - Wasteland
  • Mylo - Mars Needs Women
  • Radiohead - I Want None of It
  • Razorlight - Kirby's House
  • Tinariwen - Cler Achel
  • The Zutons - Hello Conscience



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