Jul 15, 2020

Remembering Live Aid 35 Years Later

July 1985- My Story: At the time I was a young 19 year old teenager, ready to start my real job at the Utility the Monday after this concert. At that time Rock & Roll was everything to me & my friends. It was a time where classic Rock was at a cross over. The sixties music was still popular with us, we grew up in the seventies rock & were living the 80's Rock, especially the Hard Rock / Heavy Metal scene. (Now it's called classic Metal) 

We were regulars at the rock clubs (Lamore's Brooklyn, Lamore's East Queens, The Red Eagle Saloon (Bronx), The Rising Sun (Yonkers) The Ritz (NY)  Kenny's Castaway, Rock & Roll Cafe & other MacDougal/Bleeker Street Clubs. We were attending all the rock/metal concerts coming through the New York area, so we had to be at this Live Aid concert.

My friend Spanky, managed to get tickets to the sold out show. Me, Billy & Spanky set off on Friday night from the Bronx, to Brentwood, Long Island to pick up his brother & his friends. Then we were off to RFK Stadium in Philadelphia. It was a hot weekend of partying, no sleep & incredible music, one of the best concerts of the hundreds that I attended.




Live Aid was held simultaneously in Philadelphia (RFK Stadium- 100,000 people) & in London (Wembley Stadium 72,000 people) with a few other smaller venues around the world. 

It was broadcast live on MTV & at prime time on the major networks. It was a big, big deal at the time, billed as the Global Jukebox. 1.9 billion people watched on TV world wide (40% of the world population) as millions of dollars went to the Ethiopian famine cause. But for us it was about the music & an awesome concert of the generation.

In America, the concert began @851 AM & went 14 hours until 1105 PM. It was very, very, hot (95 degrees) very humid, with no shade. We had floor seats & there were no aisles or rows allotted. It was just like being on a beach, people everywhere. Pretty unsafe by todays standards, but it was the 80's & we were a tougher generation. 

I can not emphasize enough, on how hot it was. The sun was blaring on a typical hazy, hot humid, North Eastern sweltering summer day. There were some Red Cross stations, on the side tiers of the stands with water, but my memory had them break down after a half hour trek from our seats to get there. 

The place ran out of food as well. I remember eating hot dogs when we first went it, because we were stupid enough not to bring any food on the trip. After that all that was available were sno-cones for sale. At times they tried to spray water on the crowd to cool off, but inly if you were lucky enough to be in the vicinity of the fire hoses.

At one point I was taking a nap, and I remember the Red Cross waking me up to see if I was ok. In the background I saw my friend Spanky laughing as he must have have told them to check on me. So yes, there was medical teams available to assist.

As the day ended & turned into evening, it was such a relief. The sun was down & breeze came through the air, ah relief!!. We met some girls who had fruit in a cooler & they shared with us. At this point is was just Me & Billy as we lost the other guys. Also from some where we got some water. We were revived.

In Philly, between some sets, the large screens would broadcast the major events live from London. That's how I saw the now legendary Queen set. It was live, but I watched in a stadium across the world. Still pretty kool looking back. 

And yes even at that time, we knew they kicked ass & did a great performance. We were old Queen fans from the 70's, into their albums up until "The Game" (1980). Their newer music hadn't been our style, but Billy & I especially had always been huge fans & it was great to see them rock again. 



Via satellite at Philadelphia, I also got to see, one of my other favorite bands live (sort of) for the first time. The Who in London. 

It was the first time in three years the Who had played live, this time with Kenny Jones who replaced Keith Moon, on drums. I remember at the time that it was also a great performance.

The Who set (My Generation, Pinball Wizard, Love Reign O'er Me & Wont Get Fooled Again)


Also on the Wembley bill were: Queen, David Bowie, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Dire Straits, Sade, Adam Ant, U2, Status Quo, Bryan Ferry, Howard Jones, Bob Geldof who put the whole thing together band- the Boomtown Rats & a few others. Paul McCartney himself, closed the show with Let It Be. He was joined on stage by Pete Townshend, David Bowie, Alson Moyet & Bob Geldof.






Back In America: It was an incredible concert, with two generations of classic rock acts, as well as some R&B & Motown mixed in. 

This was also the first time I saw Mick Jagger live. He came on when the sun was down & the place cooled off.  On this night, I realized what a showman he was, as soon as he hit the stage, the crowd was electrified. 



To see one guy on a stage, ignite a crowd of 100,000 plus, like that was incredible. Mick was a solo act at Live Aid. He was joined by Tina Turner for a hot set as well. The Stones had been on hiatus since the Tattoo You tour, with Mick & Keith bickering. It was the closest the group ever came to breaking up. Keith Richards & Ron Wood also played ay Live Aid, but an acoustic set, with Bob Dylan. 

Mick Jagger set (Lonley at the Top- Just Another Night & Miss You)
Mick Jagger & Tina Turner set (State of Shock & It's Only Rock & Roll)








Also on that day, some of our favorite Metal bands played & reunited as well. The most anticipated event of all, was the Led Zeppelin reunion. Zeppelin had not played together since the death of John Bonham in 1980.  




They were still one of the biggest names in Rock. Phil Collins, actually took the Concord & played at both, Wembley & the Philadelphia shows during the day. Collins & Queens, NY born drummer Tony Thompson (Power Station / Chic)  both filled in on drums, for the departed Bonham.

Led Zeppelin set (Rock & Roll- Whole Lotta Love & Stairway to Heaven) 


Led Zeppelin themselves, thought their performance was terrible & did not have it included on the  DVD that was finally issued years later.



Plants voice was hoarse, Page's guitar was out of tune, the monitors were not functioning right. Collins wasn't a good fit on drums & Page didn't want him there. 





But for us fans, it was a dream come true. I remember when they started with Rock & Roll, the excitement just exploded, everyone was dancing, jumping & pumping their fist in the air. 

Everyone was singing along to Stairway to Heaven, with people their arms around each other. The sight of Jimmy Page playing his double neck guitar was just mesmerizing. 

Stairway to Heaven was probably the most popular song of our 70's-80's classic rock generation. It was a concert moment for a life time.



Another much anticipated event, happened earlier, as Ozzy Osbourne reunited with Black Sabbath for the first time in seven years! At this point they were still the biggest name in Heavy Metal so this was super special for us metal heads. 

It was hot when Sabbath came on but again I can remember the energy of excitement through the crowd, with fists a pumping & heads a banging.

Black Sabbath set (Children of the Grave, Iron Man & Paranoid) 









One of the biggest Metal bands of that time (and all time), was Judas Priest. Priest got a call to come down to play the gig as they were recording the Turbo album. 

They also played an awesome set that day and one of the hardest, best rocking, since they had been touring & very active in those days. 

Judas Priest set (Living After Midnight, The Green Manalishi & You've Got Another Thing Coming).






Another legendary performer & one of our favorites, was Eric Clapton. 

Clapton who had been in Cream one of all time favorite bands, Blind Faith, Derek & the Domino's & an incredible solo career. Clapton had once again revived his career in the 80's & was on top of his game. For this show he did a Cream song, a new song & the classic Derek & the Domino's song- Layla.

Eric Clapton set (White Room, She's Waiting & Layla)






This incredible concert in Philadelphia, also featured great bands like:

The Cars set (You Might Think, Drive, Just What I Needed & Heartbeat City) 

The Cars were always one of 
my favorites from the New Wave era. After Live Aid they pretty much fell out of popularity.






Crosby Stills & Nash set (Southern Cross- Teach Your Children & Suite Judy Blue Eyes)

Crosby Stills Nash & Young set (Only Love Can Break Your Heart & Daylight Again/ Find the Cost of Freedom) This was also a reunion, first time in 11 years CSN played w/ Young.

Again, another one of me & Billy's favorites from the sixties (especially Billy). So we were pretty exited about these guys too. I remember the beauty of their harmonies seeing them in person for the first time, it was special. 




The set list was great too, since Southern Cross still one of my favorite Stills songs was new at the time & of course Suite Judy Blue Eyes! It was our Woodstock!

The Beach Boys set (California Girls, Help Me Rhonda, Wouldn't It Be Nice, Good Vibrations& Surfing USA) 

This was a killer set in the hot sun & had everybody dancing. Everyone loved the Beach Boys then too. 




Keep in mind, although they weren't getting along, this was mostly the original band, with the exception of Dennis Wilson who had passed two years earlier. I remember we saw them at Jones Beach again a few weeks later. One of last shows with Brian Wilson.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers set (American Girl, The Waiting, Rebels & Refugee)
I wasn't the biggest Petty fan back then, but he was popular & put on a great show. Apparently, he was the first act to go on after the grand finale in England. So he threw American Girl in there (in America) to start the set, even though it wasn't scheduled. 








Phil Collins (solo set) (Against All Odds & In the Air Tonight)

Not a big fan of his music, but I do respect all he has done. On this day especially, he flew on the Concord to play live at both shows. He did a solo set in America, as well as played drums with Led Zeppelin & Eric Clapton. Not a bad day!






The Pretenders set (Time of the Avenger- Message of Love- Stop Your Sobbing- Back on Chain Gang& Middle of the Road) 

A Good set from a good very popular band at the time, Chrissy Hynde always sings well.

George Thorogood & the Destroyers set (Who Do You Love- The Sky Is Crying & Madison Blues with Albert Collins)

Madonna set (Holiday-Into the Groove & Love Makes the World Go Round w/ the Thompson Twins & Nile Rogers)

Madonna had only been around 2 years at the time & a tough ticket to get for a concert. I did like some of her stuff when she came out & wanted to see her live performances. So this was pretty kool for me too. Into the Groove was the biggest song back then & all the girls loved it so you had to listen.

Power Station set (Murderess & Get It On (T-Rex cover)

This was a supergroup featuring Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson & Duran Duran brothers John & Andy Taylor. Robert Palmer did not perform live with the group. I liked this album a lot when it was out. 

The hit Some Like It Hot & the T-Rex cover of Bang a Gong were highlights. Good performance. Thompson & The Taylor brothers also had a busy day performing at least twice.



Bob Dylan Keith Richards & Ron Wood set (Ballad of Hollis Brown- When the Ship Comes In - Blowin In the Wind)

Dylan's set was the last before the We Are the World grand finale, that included a cast that filled the stage.

Trivia: Dylan & Ronnie Wood drove down from Woodstock NY in Dylan's pick up truck. Imagine that.

Duran Duran set (A View to A Kill- Union of the Snake- Save a Prayer- The Reflex) 

It was the last time they played live & broke until until brief reunions in the 90's.

Neil Young set (Sugar Mountain- the Needle & the Damage Done- Nothing Is Perfect & Powderfinger)

REO Speedwagon set (Cant Fight This Feeling & Roll with the Changes (w/ Beach Boys)

Bryan Adams set (Kids Wanna Rock- Summer of '69- Tears Are Not Enough- Cuts Like a Knife)

Santana with Pat Methany set (Brotherhood-Primera Invasion-Open Invitation- By the Pool & Right Now)

Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin of the Temptations set (Man Eater, Aint to Proud to Beg- The Way You Do The Things That You Do- Get Ready & My Girl) 

I was not a big Hall & Oates fan but did like some of their songs & did like the Temptations. 

So this set with former Temptations Kendricks & Ruffin, was a real pleasant surprised & a crowd pleaser. 


The Four Tops set (Bernadette, Reach Out I'll Be There, I Cant Help Myself & Shake Me Wake Me)

We were always fans of these songs but didn't know the Tops did them all. These guys really surprised us & had the whole place dancing, they were awesome. I specifically remember my friend Spanky, a true metal head, whispering to me, how kool these guys were.) 






Also that day, Joan Baez, (who opened the show with Amazing Grace) Kenny Loggins set (Footloose) Simple Minds (Don't You Forget About Me)

Philadelphia band, the Hooters set (And We Danced, All You Zombies) the Thompson Twins set (Hold Me Now & cover of the Beatles Revolution), Rick Springfield (Human Touch), Billy Ocean, Run DMC, Patti Labelle. Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass (who made his first appearance in wheel chair after his accident) (Reach Out & Touch).

MCs for the day, introducing the bands included Jack Nicholson, Chevy Chase, Joe Piscopo, Bill Grahm, George Segal, Grace Slick, Don Johnson, Bette Midler & Dionne Warwick.

At the time we thought it was the next Woodstock, and for our generation it was. But history seemed to forget all about Live Aid. There were controversies about where the money actually went, how much of it got siphoned away & to where. 

Due to bad recordings, many artist didn't like they way they sounded. Decisions to who & what would be included on an album or film added to the drama. A film for the concert, didn't come out until almost twenty years later. It is now out of print.

Finally in 2018 Live Aid got new life, it came from Queen & the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen's performance is now legendary & some of the magic has been relived. 

Queen set  (Bohemian Rhapsody intro- Radio Ga Ga- Hammer To Fall- Crazy Little Thing Called Love- We Will Rock You - We Are the Champions)




There were a lot of great reunions & performances at that event. Lots of great memories for those of us lucky to attend. Looking back it was a historic day, it was a great time & a concert for the ages.


Bob Geldof who put the whole thing together



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