Live Aid took place 35 years ago Monday — July 13th, 1985 — simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia.
The first cause-driven, satellite-delivered mega event, it was broadcast to a global audience of approximately 1.5 billion in 150 countries and raised an estimated $230 million overall for famine relief.
Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof, who co-produced Live Aid with Midge Ure of Ultravox, explains the thinking behind the shows.
“It was an attempt to address clearly one of the great wounds of our time, which was the imminent death of 30 million people through starvation in a famine in Africa. And that struck me as being unacceptable and untenable that people should die of want in a world of surplus. And so you had to address the world, this was the logic. And I assumed just there were enough satellites and it turned out there was.”
Philadelphia magazine interviewed several of the artists who performed in the City of Brotherly Love and found a wide variety of memories.
Phil Collins did a set in England and then caught the Concorde to perform in Philadelphia, backing Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton.
“I didn’t want to be the only one when I did it. I didn’t want to show off. I just thought other people would be there with me, but they weren’t. They bottled out in the end, so it was just me.”
Also on the bill in Philly were Bob Dylan with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, The Cars, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Hall and Oates, Duran Duran, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Pretenders, The Beach Boys with Brian Wilson, Bryan Adams, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, in a reunion with Ozzy Osbourne.
“It was great, but it was just all over the place. We all flew in from different places. And so we hadn’t seen each other for such a long time, nobody…we didn’t really get any sleep because we were up all night in the bar talking and drinking and having a laugh and God knows what else. And of course the next day we’re supposed to have been rehearsing and it was just chaos. We never actually rehearsed. We were there, ‘Oh yeah, remember that time…’ So we didn’t get a fat lot done, you know.”
Over in London, the line-up included Paul McCartney, Elton John, The Who, David Bowie, U2, Bryan Ferry with Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, Sting and Phil Collins (together), Elvis Costello, Queen and Dire Straits.
“Well I don’t think we felt we stole it, but yes I suppose something special did happen. We were blown away actually by the response. We took it pretty seriously. You know, when it came up [Bob] Geldof said, ‘What we want here is a global jukebox.’ We kind of took it to heart and thought, ‘Well he’s absolutely right.’ You’re not gonna go on this stage and kind of convert people to your new material. You go on there and you play the hits, the most accessible stuff, and you get off.”
“There’s two venues at Wembley. There’s the stadium and there’s this arena where they have other shows, which is just right next door, and we were doing a few nights at the arena at the time of Live Aid. So we had a gig that night in the arena. And we turned up at the arena for a soundcheck, whatever it was, just walked across the road, walked into the stadium for Live Aid, got up there, got on and did it, came off again, walked back across the car park and went and did the show in the arena. So it was two gigs in one day.”