Live Aid was a dual-venue benefit concert held on Saturday 13 July 1985, and an ongoing music-based fundraising initiative. The original event was organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the "global jukebox", the event was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom (attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States (attended by about 100,000 people).
On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries, such as the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia, Austria, Australia and West Germany. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time; an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcast. If accurate, this would be nearly 40% of the world population at the time.
The BBC News reports of Michael Buerk (pictured) on the Ethiopian famine sparked the aid relief movement.
The 1985 Live Aid concert was conceived as a follow-on to the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which was also the brainchild of Geldof and Ure. In October 1984, images of millions of people starving to death in Ethiopia were shown in the UK in Michael Buerk's BBC News reports on the 1984 famine. The BBC News crew were the first to document the famine, with Buerk's report on 23 October describing it as "a biblical famine in the 20th century" and "the closest thing to hell on Earth". The report shocked Britain, motivating its citizens to inundate relief agencies, such as Save the Children, with donations, and to bring the world's attention to the crisis in Ethiopia. Bob Geldof also saw the report, and called Midge Ure from Ultravox, and together they quickly co-wrote the song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in the hope of raising money for famine relief. Geldof then contacted colleagues in the music industry and persuaded them to record the single under the title 'Band Aid' for free. On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, and was released four days later. It stayed at number-one for five weeks in the UK, was Christmas number one, and became the fastest-selling single ever in Britain and raised £8 million, rather than the £70,000 Geldof and Ure had initially expected. Geldof then set his sights on staging a huge concert to raise further funds.
The idea to stage a charity concert to raise more funds for Ethiopia originally came from Boy George, the lead singer of Culture Club. George and Culture Club drummer Jon Moss had taken part in the recording of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and in December 1984 Culture Club were undertaking a tour of the UK, which culminated in six nights at Wembley Arena. On the final night at Wembley, Saturday 22 December 1984, an impromptu gathering of some of the other artists from Band Aid joined Culture Club on stage at the end of the concert for an encore of "Do They Know It's Christmas?". George was so overcome by the occasion he told Geldof that they should consider organising a benefit concert. Speaking to the UK music magazine Melody Maker at the beginning of January 1985, Geldof revealed his enthusiasm for George's idea, saying, "If George is organising it, you can tell him he can call me at any time and I'll do it. It's a logical progression from the record, but the point is you don't just talk about it, you go ahead and do it!"
It was clear from the interview that Geldof had already had the idea to hold a dual venue concert and how the concerts should be structured:
"The show should be as big as is humanly possible. There's no point just 5,000 fans turning up at Wembley; we need to have Wembley linked with Madison Square Gardens and the whole show to be televised worldwide. It would be great for Duran to play three or four numbers at Wembley and then flick to Madison Square where Springsteen would be playing. While he's on, the Wembley stage could be made ready for the next British act like the Thompsons or whoever. In that way lots of acts could be featured and the television rights, tickets and so on could raise a phenomenal amount of money. It's not an impossible idea, and certainly one worth exploiting."
Among those involved in organising Live Aid were Harvey Goldsmith, who was responsible for the Wembley Stadium concert, and Bill Graham, who put together the American leg.
The concert grew in scope, as more acts were added on both sides of the Atlantic. Tony Verna, inventor of instant replay, was able to secure John F. Kennedy Stadium through his friendship with Philadelphia Mayor Goode and was able to procure, through his connections with ABC's prime time chief, John Hamlin, a three-hour prime time slot on the ABC Network and, in addition, was able to supplement the lengthy program through meetings that resulted in the addition of an ad-hoc network within the US, which covered 85 percent of TVs there. Verna designed the needed satellite schematic and became the Executive Director as well as the Co-Executive Producer along with Hal Uplinger. Uplinger came up with the idea to produce a four-hour video edit of Live Aid to distribute to those countries without the necessary satellite equipment to rebroadcast the live feed.
The concert began at 12:00 British Summer Time (BST) (7:00 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)) at Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom. It continued at John F. Kennedy Stadium (JFK) in the United States, starting at 13:51 BST (8:51 EDT). The UK's Wembley performances ended at 22:00 BST (17:00 EDT). The JFK performances and whole concert in the US ended at 04:05 BST 14 July (23:05 EDT). Thus, the concert continued for just over 16 hours, but since many artists' performances were conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert's length was much longer.
Mick Jagger and David Bowie intended to perform an intercontinental duet, with Bowie in London and Jagger in Philadelphia. Problems of synchronization meant 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 Jagger and Bowie could perform to in their respective venues. The BBC would then have had to ensure 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 was no way for Jagger to hear or see Bowie's performance, meaning there could be no interaction between the artists, essentially defeating the whole point of the exercise. On top of this, both artists objected to the idea of miming at what was perceived as a historic event. Instead, Jagger and Bowie worked with Richards to create a video clip of the song they would have performed, a cover of "Dancing in the Street", which was shown on the screens of both stadiums and broadcast as part of many TV networks coverage.
Each of the two main parts 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 entire event itself).
Concert organizers have subsequently said they were particularly keen to ensure 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 it was "the management" – his children – who 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 failed 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 joked by saying he had thought about changing the lyrics to "There will be some feedback, let it be".
Phil Collins performed at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, travelling by helicopter (piloted by UK TV personality Noel Edmonds) to Heathrow Airport, then by Concorde to New York, and by another helicopter to Philadelphia. Aside from his own set at both venues, he also played the drums for Eric Clapton, and played with the reuniting surviving members of Led Zeppelin at JFK. On the Concorde flight, Collins encountered actress and singer Cher, who was unaware of the concerts. Upon reaching the US, she attended the Philadelphia concert and can be seen performing as part of the concert's "We Are the World" finale.
Performances and setlists
London, Wembley Stadium
Time Performer(s) Performed song(s)
12:00 Coldstream Guards "God Save the Queen" (First six bars only)
12:01 Status Quo "Rockin' All Over the World" "Caroline" "Don't Waste My Time"
12:19 The Style Council "You're the Best Thing" "Big Boss Groove" "Internationalists" "Walls Come Tumbling Down!"
12:44 The Boomtown Rats "I Don't Like Mondays" "Drag Me Down" "Rat Trap" "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"
13:01 Adam Ant "Vive Le Rock"
13:17 Ultravox "Reap the Wild Wind" "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" "One Small Day" "Vienna"
13:46 Spandau Ballet "Only When You Leave" "Virgin" "True"
14:07 Elvis Costello "All You Need Is Love"
14:22 Nik Kershaw "Wide Boy" "Don Quixote" "The Riddle" "Wouldn't It Be Good"
14:53 Sade "Why Can't We Live Together" "Your Love Is King" "Is It a Crime"
15:18 Sting Phil Collins "Roxanne" (Sting) "Driven to Tears" (Sting) "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" (Phil Collins) "Message in a Bottle" (Sting) "In the Air Tonight" (Phil Collins) "Long Long Way to Go" (both) "Every Breath You Take" (both)
15:49 Howard Jones "Hide and Seek"
16:08 Bryan Ferry "Sensation" "Boys And Girls" "Slave to Love" "Jealous Guy"
16:40 Paul Young "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (intro) "Come Back and Stay"
"That's the Way Love Is" (with Alison Moyet) "Every Time You Go Away"
17:19 U2 "Sunday Bloody Sunday" "Bad" (with snippets of "Satellite of Love", "Ruby Tuesday", "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Walk on the Wild Side") 18:00 Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" (with Sting) "Sultans of Swing"
18:41 Queen "Bohemian Rhapsody" "Radio Ga Ga" "Hammer to Fall" "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" "We Will Rock You" "We Are the Champions"
19:23 David Bowie "TVC 15" "Rebel Rebel" "Modern Love" "Heroes"
19:59 The Who "My Generation" "Pinball Wizard" "Love, Reign o'er Me" "Won't Get Fooled Again"
20:50 Elton John "I'm Still Standing" "Bennie and the Jets" "Rocket Man" "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (with Kiki Dee) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley) "Can I Get a Witness"
21:48 Freddie Mercury Brian May "Is This the World We Created…?"
21:51 Paul McCartney (with David Bowie, Bob Geldof, Alison Moyet and Pete Townshend) "Let It Be"
21:57 Band Aid "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
8:51 Bernard Watson "All I Really Want to Do" "Interview"
9:01 Joan Baez "Amazing Grace" "We Are the World"
9:10 The Hooters "And We Danced" "All You Zombies"
9:32 Four Tops "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)" "Bernadette" "It's the Same Old Song" "Reach Out I'll Be There" "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)"
9:45 Billy Ocean "Caribbean Queen" "Loverboy"
9:55 Black Sabbath "Children of the Grave" "Iron Man" "Paranoid"
10:12 Run–D.M.C. "Jam Master Jay" "King Of Rock"
10:27 Rick Springfield "Love Somebody" "State of the Heart" "Human Touch"
10:47 REO Speedwagon "Can't Fight This Feeling" "Roll With the Changes"
11:12 Crosby, Stills and Nash "Southern Cross" "Teach Your Children" "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
11:29 Judas Priest "Living After Midnight" "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)" "You've Got Another Thing Comin'"
12:01 Bryan Adams "Kids Wanna Rock" "Summer of '69" "Tears Are Not Enough" "Cuts Like a Knife"
12:39 The Beach Boys "California Girls" "Help Me, Rhonda" "Wouldn't It Be Nice" "Good Vibrations" "Surfin' U.S.A."
13:26 George Thorogood and the Destroyers (with Bo Diddley and Albert Collins) "Who Do You Love?" (with Bo Diddley) "The Sky Is Crying" "Madison Blues" (with Albert Collins)
14:05 Simple Minds "Ghost Dancing" "Don't You (Forget About Me)" "Promised You a Miracle"
14:41 Pretenders "Time the Avenger" "Message of Love" "Stop Your Sobbing" "Back on the Chain Gang" "Middle of the Road"
15:21 Santana (with Pat Metheny) "Brotherhood" "Primera Invasion" "Open Invitation" "By the Pool" "Right Now"
15:57 Ashford & Simpson (with Teddy Pendergrass) "Solid" "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" (with Teddy Pendergrass)
16:27 Madonna (with Thompson Twins and Nile Rodgers) "Holiday" "Into the Groove" "Love Makes The World Go Round" (with Thompson Twins and Nile Rodgers)
17:02 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "American Girl" "The Waiting" "Rebels" "Refugee"
17:30 Kenny Loggins "Footloose"
17:39 The Cars "You Might Think" "Drive" "Just What I Needed" "Heartbeat City"
18:06 Neil Young "Sugar Mountain" "The Needle and the Damage Done" "Helpless" "Nothing Is Perfect (In God's Perfect Plan)" "Powderfinger"
18:42 The Power Station "Murderess" "Get It On"
19:21 Thompson Twins (with Madonna, Steve Stevens and Nile Rodgers) "Hold Me Now" "Revolution" (with Madonna, Steve Stevens and Nile Rodgers)
19:38 Eric Clapton "White Room" "She's Waiting" "Layla"
20:00 Phil Collins "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" "In the Air Tonight"
20:10 Led Zeppelin "Rock and Roll" "Whole Lotta Love" "Stairway to Heaven"
20:39 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" "Daylight Again/Find The Cost of Freedom"
20:46 Duran Duran "A View to a Kill" "Union of the Snake" "Save a Prayer" "The Reflex"
21:20 Patti LaBelle "New Attitude" "Imagine" "Forever Young" "Stir It Up" "Over the Rainbow" "Why Can't I Get It Over"
21:50 Hall & Oates (with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin) "Out of Touch" "Maneater" "Get Ready" (with Eddie Kendricks) "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (with David Ruffin) "The Way You Do the Things You Do" "My Girl" (with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin)
22:15 Mick Jagger Hall & Oates Eddie Kendricks David Ruffin (with Tina Turner) "Lonely At the Top" "Just Another Night" "Miss You" "State Of Shock" (with Tina Turner) "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" (with Tina Turner)
22:39 Bob Dylan Keith Richards Ronnie Wood "Ballad of Hollis Brown" "When the Ship Comes In" "Blowin' in the Wind"
22:55 USA for Africa "We Are the World" Presenters:
13:05 Sydney, Australia Oz for Africa various (depends on the broadcaster)
13:34 studio (performers from Japan) Loudness "Gotta Fight" Off Cause "Endless Night" Eikichi Yazawa "Take It Time" Motoharu Sano "Shame" Meiko Nakahara "Ro-Ro-Ro-Russian Roulette"
14:12 Vienna, Austria Austria für Afrika "Warum?"
14:40 The Hague, Netherlands (from the North Sea Jazz Festival) B.B. King "When It All Comes Down" "Why I Sing the Blues" "Don't Answer the Door" "Rock Me Baby"
15:10 Belgrade, Yugoslavia YU Rock Misija "Za milion godina"
15:55 Moscow, Soviet Union Autograph "Golovokruzhenie" "Nam nuzhen mir"
16:27 Cologne, West Germany Band für Afrika "Nackt Im Wind" "Ein Jahr (Es geht voran)"
21:19 studio Kool & the Gang "Stand Up and Sing" "Cherish"
2:11 London, United Kingdom Cliff Richard "A World of Difference"
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