July 13 – Music Tried To Change The World 35 Years Ago

35 years ago today the world of music changed forever with one big event taking place on two continents. This day in 1985 was Live Aid day.

While there’d been plenty of big music festivals before – Woodstock, Monterrey Pop, Glastonbury, Canada Jam, Texas Jam and on and on – which featured all-star lineups of a number of hot acts, Live Aid was different in two ways. First, it was an all-day even t which took place both in London, England and Philadelphia in the USA. Secondly, this was the first big music event which had a philanthropic side to it. Sure it was a showcase of some of the most popular rock and pop acts in the world, but it was also a fund-raiser for charities helping the starving in Africa. the public began to see musicians in a slightly different, more positive light, Bob Geldof went from an obscure Irish punk rocker to a world-famous statesman and advocate and before long Willie, Neil and John would be putting together similar concerts to help small farmers and we’d see music respond to everything from tsunamis to mass shootings with fund-raisers. At the time though, Live Aid was pretty unique.

Pages have been written about the concert, and rightly so. Over 160 000 were there in person between the two stages and hundreds of millions more watched in on TV in the majority of the nations around the globe. Some of the performances are now the things of legend. Queen were on the downswing of their career commercially until Freddie took the stage in one of the most dynamic concert performances ever. U2 elevated their game and profile in North America with a great set. We remember Madonna being there, and Duran Duran, possibly the two hottest pop acts in the world at that time. And of course, Phil Collins was everywhere, just like on the radio! He managed to play in both London and Philly courtesy the Concorde jet. He even sat in with Led Zeppelin, who performed for the first time since the death of John Bonham. A set which convinced them, and their fans that maybe they should stay retired.

But the day was chockful of great music, much of which most seem to have forgotten. Today, just a few reminders. Like, who remembers the great pairing of “blue-eyed soul” and Motown soul in Pennsylvania. Hall and Oates did a six-song set, three of them being joined by members of the Temptations, including the finale of “My Girl.”

Elvis Costello asked the crowd in the UK to “help me sing this old Northern folk song”, before kicking into a rousing version of the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.” Speaking of them, while a rumored reunion of the (then) three remaining Beatles didn’t take place, do you remember that Paul did the penultimate number in London, a version of “Let it Be” with the Who’s Pete Townshend, David Bowie and Alison Moyet joining him?

Eric Clapton was there, so were Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Howard Jones. And how about Simple Minds (featuring Jim Kerr), recently atop the American charts for the first time with “Don’t You Forget About Me” followed to the stage by the Pretenders (featuring Chrissie Hynde, or as she called herself then, Chrissie Kerr as she’d just married Jim!).

It was a day to remember. One wonders if when this pandemic begins to finally wane if some savvy promoters won’t try to put together a similar event. It would be a good idea…. but it will never quite match the magic that was Live Aid.

9 thoughts on “July 13 – Music Tried To Change The World 35 Years Ago

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    I was watching Paul wondering if George and Ringo would come out…for a split second, I thought it was…I do remember the ragged closing act… Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Ron Wood…just acoustic and it wasn’t the place for just acoustic.

    Yea Zep was awful but it was so under-rehearsed. Having two drummers was crazy at short notice. It had been 5 years since they played… It also had been 5 years since Paul M. played in front of people…he said he was incredibly nervous.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Turns out Queen probably should have been the finale, but at the time who knew? they were pretty cold in North America and even in Britain they were waning, so it would have been odd to have them “star”. Would’ve been something to remember if George and Ringo had come on with Paul (and Julian maybe?)
      I don’t specifically recall Zep, but seems like they were their own worst critics. But whole thing wasn’t well-thought out , like you say, with little practise and two diff drummers.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: July 2 – Geldof’s Benevolent Encore – A Sound Day

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