BootLeg Betty

BetteBack July 15, 1995: Remembering Live Aid

Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
July 15, 1995

American singer Bette Midler performs at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia Pa. during the Live Aid famine relief concert July 13, 1985. (AP Photo/ Amy Sancetta)

If you’re old enough to remember “Live Aid,” then you know exactly where you were July 13, 1985.

In front of a TV set.

A 16-hour all-star concert simultaneously staged at London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium, “Live Aid” was carried live on MTV while ABC and a network of independent outlets aired segments throughout the day. VH1 will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the event today by airing eight hours of musical highlights beginning at 1 p.m.

Taking phone-in pledges from more than 1.5 billion viewers worldwide, the “Global Jukebox” featuring Bob Dylan, Neil Young, David Bowie, Madonna, Phil Collins, U2, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and others raised $82 million for African famine relief and served as a wake-up call to the socially unconscious. The concert made it cool to care.

Many rock stars still needed a dictionary to understand “commitment” in the early ’80s: Rock ‘n’ roll had reached a drug-fueled, alcohol-soaked pinnacle of hedonism in the late ’70s, when success was measured in excess. Van Halen’s contract with concert promoters didn’t mandate the removal of brown M&Ms from the backstage catering menu because the band members could taste the difference – they demanded it because they could.

Since punk and new wave represented the backlash against rock ‘n’ roll extravagance, it was only fitting that the rallying cry for compassion came from Bob Geldof, the scruffy, sardonic leader of the Irish band the Boomtown Rats.

Mortified by pictures of starving Ethiopian children and horrified at what he viewed as uncaring governments, Geldof recruited members of such British bands as Ultravox, Duran Duran, Culture Club and Wham! to record the benefit single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” under the banner of Band Aid, the 1984 inspiration for USA for Africa’s “We Are the World.”

Reunions of the Who, Ozzy Osbourne with Black Sabbath, Neil Young with Crosby, Stills and Nash and the surviving members of Led Zeppelin were the marquee ringers (the much-rumored Beatles reunion – with Julian Lennon taking his father’s place – never happened). But the most memorable moments of “Live Aid” couldn’t have been predicted.

On a bill that featured Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant and Pete Townshend, who would have thought that 25-year-old Bono of U2 would steal the show with a galvanizing performance that ended with his jumping off stage during “Bad” and encouraging fans to climb over the barricades, much to the chagrin of security guards?

Some performers chose songs that were significant to the event: Status Quo romped through John Fogerty’s “Rockin’ All Over the World”; Patti LaBelle belted John Lennon’s “Imagine”; Madonna danced to “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round”; David Bowie offered “Heroes”; and the Thompson Twins delivered a scorching version of the Beatles’ “Revolution,” changing “we all want to change the world” to “we all want to feed the world.”

Many used the occasion to team with other artists: Daryl Hall and John Oates – who doubled as Jagger’s backing band – capped their stunning, surprisingly hard-rocking set by knocking out some Temptations classics with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks; Sting let his hair down and screeched his high-pitched “I want my MTV” prelude to Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”; Paul Young and Alison Moyet delivered a devastating duet on Marvin Gaye’s “That’s the Way Love Is”; George Thorogood brought the legendary Albert Collins out to jam with him on “Madison Blues”; George Michael, still part of Wham! at the time, showed off his underrated pipes on Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”; and Mick Jagger invited Tina Turner on stage to sing a medley of “State of Shock” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll,” capping a salacious duet by playfully stealing her leather skirt.

Most of these moments are scheduled to be included in the eight-hour anniversary special on VH1. The truncated presentation means you’ll miss some of the music – the Thompson Twins’ “Revolution,” Sting and Branford Marsalis’ guitar-saxophone rendition of “Roxanne,” Joan Baez’s clumsy a cappella medley of “Amazing Grace” and “You (We) Are the World” – but you’ll also be spared most of the running commentary from then-MTV VJs Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter and Mark Goodman that marred the original experience.

MTV’s presence was certainly a milestone. The then-fledgling network was still flexing its muscles 10 years ago – Live Aid validated the power and possibilities of a 24-hour all-music cable channel. Roaming cameras backstage and on stage let TV viewers see shots that nobody in the stadiums witnessed, from the lyrics of “All You Need Is Love” that Elvis Costello had scribbled on his right hand to Madonna’s snubbing of mistress of ceremonies Bette Midler as the two passed each other before the curtain opened.

But few will ever forgive the network for cutting away from Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be” to show glimpses of Quinn and Goodman swaying and singing along, or for virtually ignoring the sets by such African-American performers as Billy Ocean, Sade, Teddy Pendergrass and Run-DMC.

“Live Aid” did not rid the world of hunger, but then Geldof – who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and nominated for the Nobel Prize for his efforts – was not naive enough to think it would.

But Live Aid’s impact resonates today: In addition to the still-active Farm Aid and Comic Relief, dozens of rock stars now lend their support to organizations dedicated to the preservation of the rain forests, AIDS research, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the homeless and abortion-rights movements. At concerts, some acts ask fans to bring canned goods to donate to food banks; others allow organizations to set up information booths alongside their T-shirt stands. The songs, snafus and other trivia

How much do you remember about Live Aid? The answers to these 12 trivia questions are printed at the bottom.

1. Which was the first act to play at Live Aid?

2. Which actor served as master of ceremonies in Philadelphia?

3. Who greeted the Philadelphia crowd with, “Good morning, children of the ’80s – this is your Woodstock, and it’s long overdue”?

4. Ron Wood and Keith Richards served as the backup band for which singer-songwriter?

5. How was Phil Collins able to perform in both London and Philadelphia?

6. In addition to joining Sting in a duet, who else did Collins perform with?

7. Which famous talk-show sidekick joined REO Speedwagon during “Roll With the Changes”?

8. Which three classic rock songs did Bono of U2 quote from at the end of “Bad”?

9. During Live Aid, a video debuted featuring Mick Jagger and David Bowie singing what Motown classic?

10. Why didn’t viewers hear most of Paul McCartney’s rendition of “Let It Be”?

11. Which three songs did the reunited Led Zeppelin perform?

12. What was the most noticeable feature on Tom Petty’s face?

Answers: (1) Status Quo; (2) Jack Nicholson; (3) Joan Baez; (4) Bob Dylan; (5) he took the Concorde; (6) Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton; (7) Paul Shaffer; (8) “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Ruby Tuesday” and “Sympathy for the Devil”; (9) “Dancing in the Streets”; (10) his microphone went out; (11) “Rock and Roll,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Stairway to Heaven”; (12) sideburns (sunglasses also would be correct). Source: – Dallas Morning News

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