Live Aid
benefit concert
Location London and Philadelphia
Date 13 July 1985
Founded by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof
Genre various
Websites Live 8 Site
featuring Duran Duran

Live Aid was a multi-venue rock music concert held on July 13, 1985, which featured Duran Duran. The event was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia.

About the concert[edit | edit source]

Billed as the 'global jukebox', the event was held simultaneously in Wembley Stadium, London (attended by 82,000 people) and the JFK Stadium, Philadelphia (attended by about 99,000 people). On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries, such as Australia and Germany. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time: an estimated 400 million viewers, across 60 countries, watched the live broadcast.

The concert was conceived as a follow-on to another Geldof/Ure project, the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", performed by a collection of British and Irish music acts billed as Band Aid and released the previous winter.

The concert grew in scope, as more acts were added on both sides of the Atlantic. As a charity fundraiser, the concert far exceeded its goals: on a television programme in 2001, one of the organisers stated that while initially it had been hoped that Live Aid would raise £1 million with the help of Wembley tickets costing £25.00 each, the final figure was £150 million (approx. $283.6 million). Partly in recognition of the Live Aid effort, Geldof received an honorary knighthood. Music promoter Harvey Goldsmith was also instrumental in bringing the plans of Geldof and Ure to fruition.

Collababorative Effort[edit | edit source]

The concert began at 12:00 BST (7:00, EST) at Wembley Stadium, England. It continued at JFK Stadium, U.S., starting at 13:51 BST (8:51, EST). The UK's Wembley performances ended at 22:00 BST (17:00 or 5:00 PM, EST). The JFK performances and whole concert in the US ended at 04:05 BST July 14 (23:05 or 11:05 PM, EST). (See the full schedule of the concert here). Thus, the concert continued for 16 hours, but since many artists' performances were conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert's length was much longer.

It was the original intention for Mick Jagger and David Bowie to perform an intercontinental duet, with Bowie in London and Jagger in Philadelphia. Problems of synchronization meant that the only remotely practical solution was to have one artist, likely Bowie at Wembley, mime along to prerecorded vocals broadcast as part of the live sound mix for Jagger's performance from Philadelphia. Veteran music engineer David Richards (Pink Floyd and Queen) was brought in to create footage and sound mixes that Jagger and Bowie could perform to in their respective venues. The BBC would then have had to ensure that those footage and sound mixes were in synch while also performing a live vision mix of the footage from both venues. The combined footage would then have had to be bounced back by satellite to the various broadcasters around the world. Due to the time lag (the signal would take several seconds to be broadcast twice across the Atlantic Ocean) Richards concluded there would be no practical way for Jagger to be able to hear or see Bowie's performance, meaning there could be no interaction between the artists, which would defeat the whole point of the exercise. On top of this both artists objected to the idea of miming at what was perceived as an historic event. Instead, Jagger and Bowie worked with Richards to create a video clip for the song they would have performed, a cover of "Dancing in the Street". The video was shown on the screens of both stadiums and also broadcast as part of many TV networks coverage.

Each of the two main portions of the concert ended with their particular continental all-star anti-hunger anthems, with Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" closing the UK concert, and USA for Africa's "We Are the World" closing the US concert (and thus the day's proceedings).

Concert organizers have subsequently said that they were particularly keen to ensure that at least one surviving member of The Beatles, ideally Paul McCartney, took part in the concert as they felt that having an 'elder statesman' from British music would give it greater legitimacy in the eyes of the political leaders whose opinions the performers were trying to shape. McCartney agreed to perform and has said that it was "the management" — his children — that persuaded him to take part. In the event, he was the last performer (aside from the Band Aid finale) to take to the stage and one of the few to be beset by technical difficulties; his microphone was turned off for the first two minutes of his piano performance of "Let It Be", making it difficult for television viewers and impossible for those in the stadium to hear him. He later jokingly thought about changing the lyrics to "There will be some feedback, let it be".

Phil Collins performed at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, utilising Concorde to get him from London to Philadelphia. UK TV personality Noel Edmonds piloted the helicopter that took Collins to Heathrow Airport to catch his flight. Aside from his own set at both venues, he also provided drums for Eric Clapton and the reunion of the surviving members of Led Zeppelin at JFK. On the Concorde flight, Collins encountered actress and singer Cher, who later claimed not to know anything about the Live Aid concerts. Upon reaching the USA however she did attend the Philadelphia concert and can be seen performing as part of that concert's We Are the World finale.

An official book was produced by Bob Geldof in collaboration with photographer Denis O'Regan.

The Broadcasts[edit | edit source]

The concert was the most ambitious international satellite television venture that had ever been attempted at the time.

In Europe, the feed was supplied by the BBC, whose broadcast was opened by Richard Skinner, co-hosted by Andy Kershaw, and included numerous interviews and chats in between the various acts. The BBC's television sound feed was mono, but the BBC Radio 1 feed was stereo and was simulcast in sync with the TV pictures. Due to the constant activities in both London and Philadelphia, the BBC producers omitted the reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from their broadcast. The BBC, however, did supply a 'clean' feed to various television channels in Europe.

ABC was largely responsible for the US broadcast (although ABC themselves only telecast the final three hours of the concert from Philadelphia, hosted by Dick Clark, with the rest shown in syndication through Orbis Communications, acting on behalf of ABC). An entirely separate and simultaneous US feed was provided for cable viewers by MTV, whose broadcast was presented in stereo, and accessible as such for those with special receivers of the time, as there were very few stereo sets in the summer of 1985, and few television stations were able to broadcast in stereo. While the BBC telecast was run commercial-free (as it is a public broadcaster), both the MTV and syndicated/ABC broadcasts included advertisements and interviews. As a result, many songs were omitted due to the commercial breaks, as these songs were played during such times.

The biggest caveat of the syndicated/ABC coverage is that the network had wanted to reserve some of the biggest acts that had played earlier in the day for certain points in the entire broadcast, particularly in the final three hours in prime time; thus, Orbis Communications had some sequences replaced by others, especially those portions of the concert that had acts from London and Philadelphia playing simultaneously. For example, while the London/Wembley finale was taking place at 22:00 (10:00 pm) London time, syndicated viewers saw segments that had been recorded earlier, so that ABC could show the UK finale during its prime-time portion.

The ABC Radio Network broadcast the American domestic feed of the concert, and later broadcast many of the acts that were missing from the original live radio broadcast.

At one point midway through the concert, Billy Connolly announced he had just been informed that 95% of the television sets in the world were tuned to the event, though this can of course not be verified.

In 1995, VH1 and MuchMusic aired a re-edited ten-hour re-broadcast of the concert for its 10th Anniversary.

Inspirations[edit | edit source]

Memorable Moments From Wembley Stadium[edit | edit source]

The Coldstream Guards band opened with the "Royal Salute", "God Save the Queen". Status Quo started their set with "Rockin' All Over the World", also playing "Caroline" and fan favourite "Don't Waste My Time". This was to be the last appearance by the band to feature bassist and founder member Alan Lancaster, and drummer Pete Kircher who had joined the band three years earlier.

Bob Geldof himself performed with the rest of the Boomtown Rats, singing I Don't Like Mondays he stopped just after the line: "The lesson today is how to die" to loud applause with the lyrics taking on a whole other meaning. He finished the song and left the crowd to say the final words.

Queen opening to massive cheers with "Bohemian Rhapsody", and the antics of lead singer Freddie Mercury who got the entire Wembley crowd clapping in unison to "Radio Ga Ga" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" before singing along, word-for-word, to "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions". The band's performance, also including "Hammer to Fall", led to Queen's slot being voted in a 2005 poll as the 'Greatest Live Gig Ever'.

Elvis Costello appeared singing a simple but touching version of the Beatles "All You Need is Love", which he introduced by asking the audience to "help [him] sing this old northern English folk song".

Another moment that garnered a huge crowd response was when David Bowie performed "Heroes" and dedicated it to his young son, as well as "all our children, and the children of the world".

U2's performance established them as a pre-eminent live group for the first time — something for which they would eventually become superstars. Bono jumped off the stage to join the crowd and danced with a girl. Because of this, the band only played two songs; the third, "Pride (In the Name of Love)", had to be ditched. In July 2005, the girl with whom he danced revealed that he actually saved her life at the time. She was being crushed by the throngs of people pushing forwards; Bono saw this, and gestured frantically at the ushers to help her. They didn't understand what he was saying, and so he jumped down to help her himself. This can be seen on the Live Aid DVD during "Bad".

The transatlantic broadcast from Wembley Stadium suffered technical problems and failed during The Who's performance of their song "My Generation", immediately after Roger Daltrey sang "Why don't you all fade..." (the last word was cut off when a blown fuse caused the Wembley stage TV feed to temporarily fail). The Who were playing with Kenney Jones on drums, who was still an official member of The Who at this time, although this was their first performance since they'd officially disbanded after their 1982 'farewell' tour. The Who's performance included an at times shambolic, but still blistering version of "Won't Get Fooled Again", which was extremely popular with the audience in Wembley Stadium. The band's performance was described as "rough but right" by Rolling Stone magazine, but they would not perform together again until the 1988 BPI Awards.

At the conclusion of the Wembley performances, Bob Geldof was raised heroically onto the shoulders of The Who's guitarist Pete Townshend and McCartney — symbolising his great achievement in unifying the world for one day, in the spirit of music and charity.

Memorable Moments from JFK Stadium[edit | edit source]

At the very beginning of the televised portion of the Philadelphia concert, Joan Baez announced to the assembled crowd (and the viewing audience) that "this is your Woodstock, and it's long overdue", before leading the crowd in "Amazing Grace" (paired with a couple of verses of "We Are the World").

When Madonna got on stage, despite the 95°F ambient temperature, she proclaimed "I'm not taking shit off today!" referring to the recent release of early nude photos of her in Playboy and Penthouse magazines.

During his opening number, American Girl, Tom Petty flipped the middle finger to somebody off stage about one minute into song. Petty stated the song was a last minute addition when the band realised that they would be the first act to play the American side of the concert after the London finale and "since this is, after all, JFK Stadium".[1]

When Bob Dylan broke a guitar string, Ronnie Wood took off his own guitar and gave it to Dylan. Wood was left standing on stage guitarless. After shrugging to the audience, he played air guitar, even mimicking The Who's Pete Townshend by swinging his arm in wide circles, until a stagehand brought him a replacement. Although this moment was left off the DVD, the performance itself was included, featuring footage focusing solely on Keith Richards.

During their duet on "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", Mick Jagger ripped away part of Tina Turner's dress, leaving her to finish the song in what was, effectively, a leotard.

The JFK portion included reunions of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the original Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne, and surviving members of Led Zeppelin, with Phil Collins and Chic member Tony Thompson sharing duties on drums (although they were not officially announced by their group name from the stage, but were announced as Led Zeppelin on the VH1 10th Anniversary re-broadcast in 1995).

Teddy Pendergrass made his first public appearance since his near-fatal car accident in 1982 which paralyzed him. Pendergrass, along with Ashford & Simpson, performed "Reach Out and Touch".

Also, Duran Duran performed a four-song set. The five original band members would not perform together publicly again until 2003. Their set is also memorable for an inadvertent falsetto note hit by frontman Simon Le Bon during "A View to a Kill", an error trumpeted by some media outlets as "The Bum Note Heard Round The World". In a later interview, Le Bon described hitting the false note as the most humiliating moment of his career.

Raising Money[edit | edit source]

Throughout the concerts, viewers were urged to donate money to the Live Aid cause. Three hundred phone lines were manned by the BBC, so that members of the public could make donations using their credit cards. The phone number and an address that viewers could send cheques to were repeated every twenty minutes.

Nearly seven hours into the concert in London, Bob Geldof enquired how much money had been raised; he was told £1.2 million. He is said to have been sorely disappointed by the amount and marched to the BBC commentary position. Pumped up further by a performance by Queen that he later called 'absolutely amazing', Geldof gave an infamous interview in which he used the f-word. The BBC presenter David Hepworth, conducting the interview, had attempted to provide a list of addresses to which potential donations should be sent; Geldof interrupted him in mid-flow and shouted: "Fuck the address, let's get the numbers!" (not as is commonly misquoted "Give us your fucking money"). Private Eye made great capital out of these outbursts, emphasising Geldof's accent which meant the profanities were heard as "fock" and "focking". After the outburst, giving increased to £300 per second.

Later in the evening, following David Bowie's set, a video (Edited by Colin Dean) shot by CBC, was shown to the audiences in London and Philadelphia, as well as on televisions around the world (though notably neither USA feed, ABC or MTV chose to show the film), showing starving and diseased Ethiopian children set to the song "Drive" by The Cars. (This would also be shown at the London Live 8 concert in 2005.) The rate of giving became faster in the immediate aftermath of the moving video. Ironically, Geldof had previously refused to allow the video to be shown, due to time constraints, and had only relented when Bowie offered to drop the song Five Years from his set as a trade-off.

As Geldof mentioned during the concert, the Republic of Ireland gave the most donations per capita, despite being in the throes of a serious economic depression at the time. The single largest donation came from the ruling family of Dubai. They donated £1m in a phone conversation with Geldof.

The next day, news reports stated that between £40 and £50 million had been raised. Now, it is estimated that around £150m has been raised for famine relief as a direct result of the concerts.

Duran Duran at Live Aid[edit | edit source]

Power Station performed "Murderess" and "Get It On (Bang a Gong) at JFK.

Also, Duran Duran performed a four-song set: "A View to a Kill", "Union of the Snake", "Save A Prayer", "The Reflex" . The five original band members would not perform together publicly again until 2003. Their set is also memorable for an inadvertent falsetto note hit by frontman Simon Le Bon during "A View to a Kill", an error trumpeted by some media outlets as "The Bum Note Heard Round The World".

Live Aid performers and setlists[edit | edit source]

(In order of appearance; Key: W - London Wembley Stadium, JFK - Philadelphia JFK Stadium):

  • Coldstream Guards (W 12:00);
  • Status Quo (W 12:02);
  • Style Council (W 12:19);
  • Boomtown Rats (W 12:44);
  • Adam Ant (W 13:00);
  • INXS (performing in Melbourne; 13:06);
  • Men at Work (performing in Melbourne; 13:12)
  • Ultravox (W 13:16);
  • Loudness (taped in Japan, 13:34);
  • Off Cause (taped in Japan, 13:36);
  • Eikichi Yazaza (taped in Japan, 13:38);
  • Motoharu Sano (taped in Japan, 13:40);
  • Spandau Ballet (W 13:47);
  • Bernard Watson (JFK 13:51);
  • Joan Baez (JFK 14:02);
  • Elvis Costello (W 14:07);
  • Austria for Africa (taped in Austria, 14:12);
  • The Hooters (JFK 14:10);
  • Nik Kershaw (W 14:22);
  • The Four Tops (JFK 14:33);
  • B B King (JFK 14:38);
  • Billy Ocean (JFK 14:45);
  • Sade (W 14:55);
  • Black Sabbath (JFK 14:52);
  • Yu Rock Mission (performing in Belgrade, JFK 15:10);
  • Run DMC (JFK 15:12);
  • Sting with Branford Marsalis (W 15:18);
  • Phil Collins (W 15:27);
  • Sting and Phil Collins (with Branford Marsalis) (W 15:32);
  • Rick Springfield (JFK 15:30);
  • REO Speedwagon (with The Beach Boys ) (JFK 15:47);
  • Howard Jones (W 15:50)
  • Autograph (performing in Moscow, (W 15:55);
  • Bryan Ferry with David Gilmore (W 16:07);
  • Crosby.Stills and Nash (JFK 16:15);
  • Band Fur Afrika (performing in Cologne, W 16:24);
  • Judas Priest (JFK 16:26);
  • Paul Young (W 16:38);
  • Paul Young and Alison Moyet (W 16:48);
  • link-up between Wembley Stadium and JFK Stadium;
  • Bryan Adams (JFK 17:02);
  • U2 (W 17:20)
  • The Beach Boys (JFK 17:40);
  • Dire Straits with Sting (W 18:00)
  • George Thorogood and the Destroyers / Bo Diddly/ Albert Collins (JFK 18:26)
  • Queen (W 18:44);
  • David Bowie and Mick Jagger (video, JFK 19:02);
  • Simple Minds (JFK 19:07);
  • Davis Bowie (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) (W 19:22);
  • Famine Video edited by Colin Dean CBC (W 19:41);
  • The Pretenders (JFK 19:41);
  • The Who (W 20:00);
  • Santana and Pat Metheny (JFK 20:21);
  • Phil Collins and Steve Blacknell - Interview, live on the Concorde (W 20:27);
  • video from Norway - "All Of Us" (W 20:44);
  • Elton John (W 20:50);
  • Ashford and Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass ) (JFK 20:57);
  • Elton John and Kiki Dee (W 21:05);
  • Elton John, Kiki Dee and Wham! (W 21:09);
  • Kool and the Gang (pre-recorded live video) (JFK 21:19);
  • Madonna (JFK 21:27);
  • Finale at Wembley Stadium:
  • Freddie Mercury and Brian May (Queen) (W 21:48),
  • Paul Mccartney (W 21:51),
  • Band Aid (led by Bob Geldof ) (W 21:54);
  • Tom Petty (JFK 22:14);
  • Kenny Loggins (JFK 22:30)
  • The Cars (JFK 22:49);
  • Neil Young (JFK 23:07);
  • Power Station - "Murderess", " Get It On (Bang a Gong) " (JFK 23:43);
  • Thompson Twins- "Hold Me Know" (JFK 00:21);
  • Thompson Twins with Madonna (JFK 00:39);
  • Phil Collins again (having taken Concorde from UK to USA) (JFK 01:04);
  • Plant,Page Jones (JFK 01:10)
  • Crosby ,Stills ,Nash and Young (JFK 01:40);
  • Duran Duran (JFK 01:45);
  • Cliff Richard (live at the BBC, 02:10);
  • Patty LeBelle (JFK 02:20);
  • Hall and Oates (with Eddie Kenricks and David Ruffin) (JFK 02:50);
  • Mick Jagger with Hall and Oats / Eddie Kendricks/ David Ruffin (JFK 03:15);
  • Mick Jagger with Tina Turner (JFK 03:28);
  • Finale at JFK Stadium:
  • Bob Dylan , Keith Richards and Ron Wood (JFK 03:39),
  • USA for Africa (led by Lionel Richie) (JFK 3:55).

References[edit | edit source]

  • Live Aid: Rockin' All Over the World - BBC2 documentary, recalling the build-up to the day, and the day itself; viewed 18th June 2005.
  • Live Aid: World Wide Concert Book - Peter Hillmore with Introduction by Bob Geldof, ISBN 0-88101-024-3, Copyright 1985, The Unicorn Publishing House, New Jersey.
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