July 13 1985. I have missed the actual 25th anniversary by a day or so, but blimey, for those of us who watched it, who could ever forget Live Aid?
There were of course a few charity concerts before Live Aid, but never ever had there been anything on the scale of this event. Almost everyone who was anyone played that day and night, the curious notable exceptions being four of the biggest acts of the time – Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson and, most annoyingly for me, Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Oh well, never mind the four we didn’t get, let’s remember the many that were there. Sorry in advance for sporadic memories of the whole event; I dare say if you want a full and proper account you will find it somewhere!
I remember well sitting in the lounge with the whole family watching the majority of the Wembley concert. It was awesome. Status Quo started it all off in style, and from then on you pretty much sat glued to the TV. It was annoying to see Adam Ant do just the one song; it was only later that it was revealed that he had been requested to cut his set to accommodate some other acts. No other bands or artists had such an imposition, it has to be said. The Style Council did all their big numbers, which in some way made up for it for me.
It felt at the time a little awkward when Paul Young started off his set with Do They Know It’s Christmas. I to this day don’t know if he cut it short deliberately or if he sensed it wasn’t going down too well.
A new-ish band from Ireland called U2 came on. They had been on Top Of The Pops not so long before with some halfway decent song called Pride (In The Name Of Love) . They weren’t too bad – who knew they would build on this and become the biggest band in the world?
A lot of fuss was made of the return to the stage of The Who for the first time in many years. A lot of frustration was felt when a technical error (blown fuses, apparently), blacked out coverage of their anticipated set!
Then, of course, there was the act that defined the day, the band that created an image that may very well have a case for defining the decade. I speak of course of the performance considered the best of the best in terms of Live Aid and spoken of by many as the greatest live performance ever. As approximately one billion words have already been written about just how astonishing Queen were at Live Aid, I cannot say much beyond how fondly I remember sitting and watching it with my Mum, Dad, brother and sister in the stunned, mesmerized silence that I would imagine the whole world did.
After Queen, well, I wouldn’t say everything else didn’t seem that great, but nothing stuck in the mind quite as much. The sight of Phil Collins dashing from Wembley to the USA to do two gigs in one day was excellent. The rumours that George Harrison & Ringo Starr sneaked onstage to join Paul McCartney for the grand finale carry on to this day.
The American leg did, by comparison, seem a bit flat. Simple Minds were ace, and I remember staying up until the early hours of Sunday to watch Mick Jagger do his solo set whilst other members of The Stones played later – 1985 was pretty much the height of The Stones not liking each other, charity or not.
13 July 1985 was the closest to a perfect day for music lovers the world had ever seen, really. Of course, as the last 25 years have gone by, some of the imperfections and unexpected consequences have come out.
Leaving aside where all the money raised for the starving people of Ethiopia actually ended up (refer to the many “investigations” of late for info on that), let’s consider the way the event affected music. Firstly, and most obviously, it all became rather friendly. After July 1985, there were no more “band rivalries” for quite a while. Whether they were fun or foul, artists no longer had a go or a dig at each other in the way they did before, at least not until the infamous Blur vs Oasis row in the mid-90s. A sense of bands not trying to outshine or outdo each other dawned, and made music following a rather clean, somewhat sterile venture.
The record labels picked up on quite an interesting knock on effect, too. With the notable exception of Adam Ant, every artist who performed at Live Aid saw their record sales jump considerably over the next couple of weeks. Whereas there can be no question of any artists expecting or anticipating such a thing before Live Aid, all and sundry were well aware of it after the fact. Charity records and concerts became the thing to do after it. Whereas it’s fantastic that money was raised for many good causes, it did start to get a bit much – one tragic event somewhere and you knew for sure that a record and concert would be held very soon after it, with acts all of a sudden falling over themselves to get in on it.
The worst of the latter was easily Live 8, an event which they blocked from being broadcast on the continent that it was supposed to help, and by all accounts an event broadcast with very obvious, heavy handed adverts for the back catalogue of all the acts appearing there.
Another unfortunate side effect was the notion of Live Aid giving certain bands the misguided belief that all and sundry wished to hear their overtly political views on absolutely everything. Step forward, Jim Kerr and Bono, for this is a reference to you. Both Simple Minds & U2 built on their successful Live Aid appearances and then, for much of the late 80s, used the platform for success they built to sprout forth any and all issues they had with the world. It got boring very quickly, and to a great extent cheapened the selfless, admirable work they did on that day in July 85.
One thing that has caused many some concern is the apparent inability to be critical or in any way negative of the event organizer, Bob Geldof (or “Saint Bob” as he has been more commonly known for the last 25 years). Well, what’s there to be critical of? Apparently he’s been rather prudent with where he keeps his own money in regards of tax “efficiency”, but so what? The man slaved away to try and do good, and hasn’t done anything particularly bad that I am aware of. Nice work, fella.
Other than effectively and rather unfairly ending Adam Ants’ solo career overnight, the ups of Live Aid far outweigh the downs listed here. It really was a day and night where it felt like the entire world was together as one to do some good. The only comparable event I can think of since is probably December 31 1999.
For those reading this of an age to remember watching Live Aid, hope this has brought back some splendid memories!