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Live Aid

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Live Aid
Ethiopia, as its borders were in 1985.
Location(s) London, Philadelphia
Years active 1985
Founded by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure
Date(s) 13 July 1985
Genre(s) Pop, Rock music
Website Live 8 Site

Live Aid was a multi-venue rock music concert held on July 13, 1985 (1985-07-13). The event was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Billed as the 'global jukebox', the main sites for the event were Wembley Stadium, London (attended by 82,000 people) and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia (attended by about 99,000 people), with some acts performing at other venues such as Sydney and Moscow. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time: an estimated 1.5 billion viewers, across 100 countries, watched the live broadcast.


[edit] Origins

The concert was conceived as a follow-up to another Geldof/Ure project, the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", performed by a collection of British and Irish music acts billed as 'Band Aid' and released the previous winter.

The concert grew in scope, as more acts were added on both sides of the Atlantic. As a charity fundraiser, the concert far exceeded its goals: on a television programme in 2001, one of the organisers stated that while initially it had been hoped that Live Aid would raise £1 million, the final figure was £150 million (approx. $283.6 million). Partly in recognition of the Live Aid effort, Geldof received an honorary knighthood. Music promoter Harvey Goldsmith was also instrumental in bringing the plans of Geldof and Ure to fruition.

[edit] Collaborative effort

The concert started at 12:00 GMT (7:00, EST) at Wembley Stadium, England. It continued at JFK Stadium, U.S., starting at 13:51 (8:51, EST). The UK's Wembley performances ended at 22:00 (17:00, EST). The JFK performances and whole concert in the US ended at 04:05 (23:05, EST). (See the full schedule of the concert here). Thus, the concert continued for 16 hours, but since many artists' performances were conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert's length was much longer.

No previous concert had ever brought together so many famous performers from the past and present, whose names are shown here. However, some of the artists who had been announced earlier did not appear at the last minute, including Tears for Fears, Julian Lennon and Cat Stevens, while Prince provided a clip of "4 The Tears In Your Eyes". Stevens wrote a song for the Live Aid concert, which he never got to perform — had he done so, he would have made his first public concert appearance since converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam. Also a reunited Deep Purple were set to perform, but they didn't appear after guitarist Ritchie Blackmore refused to take part in the event.

It was the original intention for Mick Jagger to perform an intercontinental duet from the US, with David Bowie in London, but problems of synchronisation made it impossible. Instead, Jagger and Bowie created a video clip for the song they would have performed, a cover of "Dancing in the Street". Jagger still performed live with Tina Turner, at the Philadelphia portion of the concert.

Each of the two main portions 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 day's proceedings).

Since the concert, bootleg videos and CDs have circulated widely, and an official book was produced by Bob Geldof in collaboration with photographer Denis O'Regan. The concert was never supposed to have been released commercially, but in November 2004, Warner Music Group released a four-disc DVD edition of the concert (see more details below).

[edit] The broadcasts

The concert was the most ambitious international satellite television venture that had ever been attempted at the time.

In Europe, the feed was supplied by the BBC, whose broadcast was opened by Richard Skinner, co-hosted by Andy Kershaw, and included numerous interviews and chats in between the various acts. The BBC's television sound feed was mono, but the BBC Radio 1 feed was stereo and was simulcast in sync with the TV pictures. Due to the constant activities in both London and Philadelphia, the BBC producers omitted the reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from their broadcast. The BBC, however, did supply a 'clean' feed to various television channels in Europe.

ABC was largely responsible for the US broadcast (although ABC themselves only telecast the final three hours of the concert from Philadelphia, hosted by Dick Clark, with the rest shown in syndication through Orbis Communications, acting on behalf of ABC). An entirely separate and simultaneous US feed was provided for cable viewers by MTV, whose broadcast was presented in stereo, and accessible as such for those with special receivers of the time, as there were very few stereo sets in the summer of 1985, and few television stations were able to broadcast in stereo. While the BBC telecast was run commercial-free (as it is a public broadcaster), both the MTV and syndicated/ABC broadcasts included advertisements and interviews. As a result, many songs were omitted due to the commercial breaks, as these songs were played during such times.

The biggest caveat of the syndicated/ABC coverage is that the network had wanted to reserve some of the biggest acts that had played earlier in the day for certain points in the entire broadcast, particularly in the final three hours in prime time; thus, Orbis Communications had some sequences replaced by others, especially those portions of the concert that had acts from London and Philadelphia playing simultaneously. For example, while the London/Wembley finale was taking place at 22:00 (10:00 pm) London time, syndicated viewers saw segments that had been recorded earlier, so that ABC could show the UK finale during its prime-time portion.

The ABC Radio Network broadcast the domestic feed of the concert, and later broadcast many of the acts that were missing from the original live radio broadcast.

At one point midway through the concert, Billy Connolly announced he had just been informed that 95% of the television sets in the world were tuned to the event.

In 1995, VH1 and MuchMusic aired a re-edited ten-hour re-broadcast of the concert for its 10th Anniversary. On 19 November, 2005, the entire original 16 hour telecast, as aired on the BBC, was video-streamed via the Internet, through a Live Aid fan site.

[edit] Inspiration

[edit] Memorable moments at Wembley Stadium

Status Quo opened with "Rockin' All Over the World", also playing "Caroline" and fan favourite "Don't Waste My Time". This was to be the last appearance by the band of bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer Pete Kircher.

Queen opening to massive cheers with "Bohemian Rhapsody", and the antics of lead singer Freddie Mercury who got the entire Wembley crowd clapping in unison to "Radio Ga Ga" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" before singing along, word-for-word, to "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions". The band's performance, also including "Hammer to Fall", led to Queen's slot being voted in a recent poll (by fans and musicians alike) as the 'Greatest Live Gig Ever'.[1]

Co-founder Midge Ure wearing huge sunglasses and a long grey overcoat while performing with Ultravox

Elvis Costello singing a simple but touching version of the Beatles "All You Need is Love" which he introduced by asking the audience to "help (him) sing this old English folk song".

Another moment that garnered a huge crowd response was when David Bowie performed "Heroes" and dedicated it to his young son, as well as "all our children, and the children of the world".

U2's performance established them as a pre-eminent live group for the first time — something for which they would eventually become superstars. Bono jumped off the stage to join the crowd and danced with a girl. Because of this, the band only played two songs; the third, "Pride (In the Name of Love)", had to be ditched. In July of 2005, the girl with whom he danced revealed that he actually saved her life at the time. She was being crushed by the throngs of people pushing forwards; Bono saw this, and gestured frantically at the ushers to help her. They didn't understand what he was saying, and so he jumped down to help her himself.[2] This can be seen on the Live Aid DVD during "Bad".

The transatlantic broadcast from Wembley Stadium suffered technical problems and failed during The Who's performance of their song "My Generation", immediately after Roger Daltrey sang "Why don't you all fade..." (the last word was cut off when the generator exploded). The Who were playing with Kenney Jones on drums, who was still an official member of The Who at this time, although this was their first performance since they'd officially disbanded after their 1982 'farewell' tour. The Who's performance included an at times shambolic, but still blistering version of "Won't Get Fooled Again", which was extremely popular with the audience in Wembley Stadium. The band's performance was described as "rough but right" by Rolling Stone magazine, but they would not perform together again until the 1988 BPI Awards.

Concert organizers have subsequently said that they were particularly keen to ensure that 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 that it was "the management" — his children — that 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 was turned off 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 jokingly thought about changing the lyrics to "There will be some feedback, let it be".

Phil Collins performed at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, utilising Concorde to get him from London to Philadelphia. UK TV personality Noel Edmonds piloted the helicopter that took Collins to Heathrow Airport to catch his flight. Aside from his own set at both venues, he also provided drums for Eric Clapton and the reunion of Led Zeppelin at JFK - Led Zeppelin were not happy with the way they played. As such, they refused to let their songs be put on the DVD. Originally, Duran Duran were supposed to perform at both venues, but bowed out. On the flight, Collins bumped into Cher, who didn't know anything about the transatlantic events. She can be seen performing with the USA for Africa finale in Philadelphia.

At the conclusion of the Wembley performances, Bob Geldof was raised heroically onto the shoulders of The Who's guitarist Pete Townshend and McCartney — symbolising his great achievement in unifying the world for one day, in the spirit of music and charity.

[edit] Memorable moments at JFK Stadium

At the very beginning of the US portion, Joan Baez announced to the assembled crowd (and the viewing audience) that "this is your Woodstock, and it's long overdue."

When Madonna got on stage she proclaimed "I'm not taking shit off today!" referring to the recent release of early nude photos of her in Playboy and Penthouse magazines.

When Bob Dylan broke a guitar string, Ronnie Wood took off his own guitar and gave it to Dylan. Wood was left standing on stage guitarless. After shrugging to the audience, he played air guitar, even mimicking The Who's Pete Townshend by swinging his arm in wide circles, until a stagehand brought him a replacement. Although this moment was left off the DVD, the performance itself was included, featuring footage focusing solely on Keith Richards.

During their duet on "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", Mick Jagger ripped away part of Tina Turner's dress, leaving her to finish the song in what was, effectively, a leotard.

The JFK portion included reunions of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the original Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne, and surviving members of Led Zeppelin, with Phil Collins and Chic member Tony Thompson sharing duties on drums (although they were not officially announced by their group name from the stage, but were announced as Zeppelin on the VH1 10th Anniversary re-broadcast in 1995).

Teddy Pendergrass made his first public appearance since his near-fatal car accident in 1982 which paralysed him. Pendergrass, along with Ashford & Simpson, performed "Reach Out and Touch".

Also, Duran Duran performed a four-song set. The five original band members would not perform together publicly again until 2003. Their set is also memorable for an inadvertent falsetto note hit by frontman Simon Le Bon during "A View to a Kill", an error trumpeted by some media outlets as "The Bum Note Heard Round The World".

[edit] Raising money

Throughout the concerts, viewers were urged to donate money to the Live Aid cause. Three hundred phone lines were manned by the BBC, so that members of the public could make donations using their credit cards. The phone number and an address that viewers could send cheques to were repeated every twenty minutes.

Nearly seven hours into the concert in London, Bob Geldof enquired how much money had been raised; he was told £1.2 million. He is said to have been sorely disappointed by the amount and marched to the BBC commentary position. Pumped up further by a performance by Queen that he later called 'absolutely amazing', Geldof gave a famous interview in which he offended many millions of viewers by using the f-word. The BBC presenter David Hepworth, conducting the interview, had attempted to provide a list of addresses to which potential donations should be sent; Geldof interrupted him in mid-flow and shouted: "Fuck the address let's get the numbers!" Private Eye made great capital out of these outbursts, emphasising Geldof's accent which meant the profanities were heard as "fock" and "focking". After the outburst, giving increased to £300 per second.

Later in the evening, following David Bowie's set, a video, shot by CBC, was shown to the audiences in London and Philadelphia, as well as on televisions around the world, showing starving and diseased Ethiopian children set to the song "Drive" by The Cars. (This would also be shown at Live 8 in 2005.) The rate of giving became faster in the immediate aftermath of the moving video. Ironically, Geldof had previously refused to allow the video to be shown, due to time constraints, and had only relented when Bowie offered to cut short his own set as a trade-off.

As Geldof mentioned during the concert, the Republic of Ireland gave the most donations per capita, despite being in the throes of a serious economic depression at the time. The single largest donation came from the ruling family of Dubai. They donated £1m in a phone conversation with Geldof.

The next day, news reports stated that between £40 and £50 million had been raised. Now, it is estimated that around £150m has been raised for famine relief as a direct result of the concerts.

[edit] Criticisms and controversies

Bruce Springsteen could not play at Live Aid, despite his huge popularity in 1985, because he was doing his Born In the USA Tour which was obviously sold out but he allowed his stage to be used in London. Michael Jackson and Prince also did not play (although Prince did send a pre-taped video of an acoustic version of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes, which was played during the concert. The original version appears on the We Are The World album, while the video version was released in 1993 on Prince's compilation The Hits/The B-Sides.) Springsteen has since expressed regret at turning down Geldof's invitations to appear at Live Aid stating how he could have played a couple of acoustic songs if there was no slot available for a full band performance. If he had appeared he would have been the only American artist on an otherwise UK-centric bill. Among other artists, Tears for Fears did not appear at the Philadelphia leg of the concert, though listed on the bill. According to band member Roland Orzabal, Bob Geldof "gave us so much gip for not turning up at Live Aid. All those millions of people dying, it was our fault. I felt terrible. I tell you, I know how Hitler must have felt." The group made up for the absence by contributing a re-recording of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (entitled "Everybody Wants to Run the World") for Geldof's Sport Aid charity event in 1986.

Bob Dylan's performance generated controversy for his comment:

"I hope that some of the money...maybe they can just take a little bit of it, or two million, maybe...and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks..."

He is often misquoted, as on the Farm Aid web site,[3] as saying:

"Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?"

In his best-selling autobiography, Is That It? (published in 1986), Geldof was extremely critical of the remark; he states:

"He displayed a complete lack of understanding of the issues raised by Live Aid.... Live Aid was about people losing their lives. There is a radical difference between losing your livelihood and losing your life. It did instigate Farm Aid, which was a good thing in itself, but it was a crass, stupid, and nationalistic thing to say."

Singer Pat Boone, while commenting that Live Aid was a noble cause to start, did comment how uncomfortable he felt with some of the lyrics. He especially noted that Duran Duran's performance of "A View to a Kill" (with its lyric "dance into the fire").

Although a professed admirer of Geldof's generosity and concern, Fox News television host Bill O'Reilly has been critical of the Live Aid producer's oversight of the money raised for starving Ethiopian people, noting (in June 2005) that much of the funds were siphoned off by Mengistu Haile Mariam and his army. O'Reilly believes that charity organisations, operating in aid-receiving countries, should control donations, rather than possibly corrupt governments.[4].

Tim Russert, when interviewing Bono on Meet the Press shortly after O'Reilly's comments, addressed this concern of O'Reilly and others to the singer. Bono responded that corruption, not disease or famine, was the greatest threat to Africa, agreeing with the belief that foreign relief organisations should decide how the money is spent. On the other hand, the singer said that it was better to spill some funds into nefarious quarters for the sake of those who needed it, than to stifle aid because of possible theft.[5]

Other critics have argued that donations to charity organisations often end up being used by corrupt governments as well. Much of the money raised by Live Aid went to NGOs in Ethiopia, some of which were under the influence or control of the Derg military junta. Some journalists have suggested that the Derg was able to use Live Aid and Oxfam money to fund its enforced resettlement and "villagification" programmes, under which at least 3 million people are said to have been displaced and between 50,000 and 100,000 killed.[6]

[edit] Live Aid performers and setlists

(In order of appearance, times given are British Summer Time and indicate the start time of the performance. Key: W - London Wembley Stadium, JFK - Philadelphia JFK Stadium)

[edit] London Wembley Stadium

[edit] Philadelphia JFK Stadium

[edit] Melbourne Live Aid

Main article: Oz for Africa

[edit] Japan Live Aid

[edit] Live Aid recordings/releases

When organiser Bob Geldof was persuading artists to take part in the concert, he promised them that it would be a one-off event, never to be seen again. That was the reason why the concert was never recorded in its complete original form, and only secondary television broadcasts were recorded. Following Geldof's request, ABC even erased its own broadcast tapes. However, before the syndicated/ABC footage was erased, copies of it were donated to the Smithsonian Institution and have now been presumed lost. MTV decided to keep recordings of its broadcast and recently located more than 100 tapes of Live Aid in its archives, but many songs in these tapes were cut short by MTV's ad breaks and presenters (according to the BBC).[7] The BBC also decided to keep its broadcast recordings, but many performances from the US were not shown on the BBC, and recordings of these performances are missing.

[edit] Official Live Aid DVD

Madonna at Live Aid at JFK Stadium
Madonna at Live Aid at JFK Stadium

An official four-disc DVD set of the Live Aid concerts was released on November 8, 2004. It contains 10-hour partial footage of the 16-hour length concert. The DVD was produced by Geldof's company, Woodcharm Ltd., and distributed by Warner Music Group.

The decision to finally release it was taken by Bob Geldof nearly 20 years after the original concerts, after he found a number of pirate copies of the concert on the Internet (see full story here). There has been controversy over the DVD release because a decision had been taken for a substantial number of tracks not to be included in this edited version.

The most complete footage that exists is from the BBC, and it was the main source of the DVD. During production on the official DVD, MTV lent Woodcharm Ltd. their B-roll and alternate camera footage; this was an additional source of the US footage that appears on the official DVD. While performing it had to stop in the middle of the show because of an outbrake.

Working from the BBC and MTV footage, several degrees of dramatic license were taken, in order to release the concert on DVD. For example, many songs on the official DVD had their soundtracks altered, mainly in sequences where there were originally microphone problems. In one of those instances, Paul McCartney had to re-record his failed vocals for "Let It Be" in a studio, nearly twenty years after the event, expressly for the DVD, as otherwise both "Let It Be" and the UK finale that followed would have been left off the official DVD for continuity reasons. Also, in the USA finale, the original 'USA for Africa' studio track for "We Are the World" was overlaid in places where the microphone was absent (in fact, if you listen closely, you can hear the vocals of Kenny Rogers and James Ingram, two artists who did not even take part in Live Aid).

Judicious decisions were also made on which acts would be included and which ones would not, due to either technical difficulties in the original performances, the absence of original footage, or for music rights reasons. For example, Rick Springfield, The Four Tops, The Hooters, Power Station, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were among those acts that were left off the DVD. Many of the artists' songs that were performed were also omitted. For example, Madonna performed three solo songs in the concert, but only two were included on the DVD ("Love Makes the World Go Round" was omitted).

There were also issues with the artists themselves. Two such performers were left off at their own request: Led Zeppelin and Santana. The former defended their decision not to be included on the grounds that their performance was 'sub-standard', but to lend their support, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have pledged to donate proceeds from an upcoming DVD release of Led Zeppelin to the campaign, and John Paul Jones has pledged proceeds from his current American tour with Mutual Admiration Society.

In 2007, Queen released a special two-disc DVD set Queen Rock Montreal. Disc one is their 1981 concert from The Forum in Montreal, Canada, and disc two is their complete Live Aid performance, along with Freddie Mercury and Brian May performing Is This The World We Created...? from the UK finale, all of which is mixed into DTS 5.1 by Justin Shirley-Smith. Also on the disc is their Live Aid rehearsal, and an interview with the band, from earlier in the week.

On its release, the then British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, decided the VAT collected on the DVD would be given back to the charity, which would raise an extra £5 for every DVD sold.

[edit] Unofficial recordings

Because the Live Aid broadcast was watched by billions of people, most of the footage was recorded on home consumer video recorders all around the world, in various qualities. Many of these recordings were in mono, because in the mid 1980s most home video machines could only record mono sound, and also because the European BBC TV broadcast was in mono. (As mentioned previously, the US MTV broadcast, the ABC Radio Network and BBC Radio One simulcasts were stereo). These recordings started to circulate among collectors 20 years ago, and in recent years have also appeared on the Internet in file sharing networks. Since the official DVD release of Live Aid includes only partial footage of this event, unofficial distribution sources continue to stay the one and only source of the most complete recordings of this important historical music event.

The official DVD is the only authorized video release in which proceeds go directly to famine relief, the cause that the concert was originally intended to help.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  • Live Aid: Rockin' All Over the World - BBC2 documentary, recalling the build-up to the day, and the day itself; viewed 18th June 2005.
  • Live Aid: World Wide Concert Book - Peter Hillmore with Introduction by Bob Geldof, ISBN 0-88101-024-3, Copyright 1985, The Unicorn Publishing House, New Jersey.
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