“Live Aid”, for those of a very certain age, was a magical afternoon/night - 10 hours of unmissable entertainment. Bod Geldof may not have been much of a singer, but by God, when he and Midge Ure (of Ultravox) decided to arrange a concert to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, he can’t in his wildest dreams have envisaged what they were going to achieve. The concert was planned to take place in 2 locations – Wembley Stadium in London and, semi concurrently, in JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Geldof thought originally that they might raise up to £1 million.
He was slightly out – it finally ended up making around £150 million.
It was one of those events which totally gripped both the public’s and performers’ imagination and in the weeks before the event, it just grew and grew and grew. Finally on 13th July 1985, in boiling summer weather, it all got underway. At the time, it was the biggest outside broadcast ever, and in truth, it was a bit of a shambles, which added to the impact, in my view. Paul McCartney, closing the show at Wembley had the first two minutes of his set completely unamplified, when his microphone didn’t work.
But, in spite of the setbacks, it was a simply unforgettable experience for anyone who watched it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so riveted by anything like this in the whole of my life. As it unfolded, you felt you were watching a real piece of history being made.
To get a clue of the scale of what Geldof pulled together, just read through the list of performers he managed to get on stage in the UK and the USA –
Status Quo, Style Council, Boomtown Rats, Adam Ant, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, Nik Kershaw, Four Tops, Billy Ocean, Sade, Black Sabbath, Run DMC, Sting, Phil Collins, REO Speedwagon, Howard Jones, Bryan Ferry, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Judas Priest, Paul Young, Bryan Adams, U2, Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Queen, Simple Minds, David Bowie, Pretenders, The Who, Santana, Elton John, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Kenny Loggins, The Cars, Neil Young, Thompson Twins, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, Patti Labelle, Hall & Oates, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Prince.
Not bad, eh? A well placed bomb or two that afternoon would have destroyed Pop Music as we then knew it throughout the entire world. It’s interesting to read the post event squirmings and explanations of those few performers whose egos prevented them from attending and performing.
I don’t suppose anything like it will ever happen again. It’s all about the timing. The conjunction of the planets, and all that. I even wonder, being someone to whom that list of people represented the best that Pop Music could ever, in all its history, have ever collected together, what the list of potential, let alone actual performers you’d pull together in 2009 would look like I know I’m a bit biased, but, if you think you can top that lot, just have a go.
I think you’d be wasting your time.