Make us your home page

'It's 12 noon in London, 7 a.m. in Philadelphia, and around the world it's time for Live Aid!'



Bob Geldof and Live Aid

Live Aid is 25 years old?!? A quarter of a century has passed and yet it's hard to conceive that the most important rock concert of our generation was conceived by a fading Irish rocker who was just pissed off at what he was seeing on television.

Bob Geldof, whose Boomtown Rats hadn't made a hit since 1979's I Don't Like Mondays, watched the BBC report delivered by reporter Michael Buerk and cameraman Mohamed Amin on Oct. 23 and 24, 1984. Punctuated by frame after frame of dying children and the wails of misery, Buerk called the situation "the biblical famine of the 20th century."

Geldof snapped into action. A month later, the charity single Do They Know It's Christmas was out. And on July 13, 1985, scores of the world's most-popular musicians gathered in London's Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia's JFK Stadium for a 16-hour fundraising concert dubbed Live Aid. Twenty-five years later, here are some of the enduring memories and forgotten moments of that day.

IT STARTED EARLY: The concert began these words by British broadcaster Richard Skinner: "It's 12 noon in London, 7 a.m. in Philadelphia, and around the world it's time for Live Aid!" I watched nearly the entire concert that day in the TV lounge of my college dorm, flipping between MTV and syndicated broadcasts by ABC. Thanks to commercial breaks and the overlap between London and Philly shows, there's still not to this day a complete set of all the performances available to watch.

THE SOUND WAS AWFUL: You might think back on it being a brilliant day for music. And maybe it was. But it wasn't a great day for musicians. Feedback and constant sound problems make the entire event a major headache. During Paul McCartney's performance his mic went out. He said years later that, during the performance, he was thinking of changing the lyrics to his song Let It Be from "There will be an answer" to "There will be some feedback, Let it be."

ALWAYS THE REBEL: During The Who's set in London, a red warning light at the front of the stage flashed to alert the band that their time was up. Pete Townshend stepped on the warning light, broke it, and the band played for five extra minutes.

A VERY WHITE LINEUP: Geldof was criticized at the time for picking a mainly white lineup for the London show. Sade was the only performer of color. He responded that he simply picked the acts that were most popular. The American lineup, by comparison, was far more diverse. 

VERY BRITISH TOO: The London lineup was entirely British. The American lineup had both British and American bands. (Duran Duran and Simple Minds, for example, played in Philly.)

POOR SPORTS: Several bands were invited to perform but didn't, including Tears for Fears, Prince, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen, who later admitted said he "simply did not realize how big the whole thing was going to be."

OH THAT BONO: U2 were planning to play three songs, but while the band was playing Bad, Bono jumped off the stage to dance with a girl and the song stretched to 14 minutes long. Not that any of that mattered. U2, along with Queen, turned in the most memorable performances of the day, agreed most fans and rock critics.

TINA AND MICK: My least fave performances of the day: Anything involving Mick Jagger and Tina Turner. Seriously campy and hammy beyond words. The only good thing? Hall and Oates was their backing band. 

THE IRISH COME THROUGH: Even though the nation of Ireland was in severe economic depression that year, its citizens contributed the largest per capita contributions to the Live Aid cause. 

Click here to read more memories for the story in today's St. Pete Times.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:23am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours