On 13 July 1985, all music omnivores were eagerly anticipating Live Aid, the largest concert event ever put on, covering two continents about 53 bands and 16 hours broadcast live via satellite. In addition to this, there were several other concerts in places like Australia, Germany, Austria, the Soviet Union, and Japan.
Somehow, I missed most of the day. I didn’t have a TV or VCR and my friends at the time weren’t as into music as me. Also, I’ve always had a hard time watching TV when it’s nice outdoors. (I always miss the first 4 or 5 weeks of the NFL games too.) I figured someone would tape it, or certainly, it would be out on video soon, so I didn’t worry about it too much. Though I really wished I was in front of a TV watching history rather than playing horseshoes. Much to my surprise, no one I knew had taped it! To me, this was an eye-opener: most people are not obsessive about music. Then, much to my chagrin, Live Aid not was released on video and I found out many stations destroyed their tapes by request of Bob Geldof, the driving force behind Band Aid (Do They Know It’s Christmas) and Live Aid. This seemed absolutely ridiculous, as selling videos would bring in millions more for the cause of feeding Africa. Twenty years later, Geldof decides that it’s OK to release the videos.
Due to a number of factors, not everyone or every song is on the 4-disk DVD collection. One of these factors is places that did destroy their tapes. Another is that songs played during commercial breaks didn’t get taped. Read more here and see what’s not on the DVDs. Pretty much the whole Wembly set is included, I suppose because the BBC showed it all and it doesn’t have commercials.
The 4-disk Live Aid set begins with a BBC news story on the drought and famine in Ethiopia to set the context, followed by the Band Aid video “Do They Know it’s Christmas.” This was Bob Geldof’s gathering of British stars (many of whom I had not heard of in 1984) to raise money and awareness of the famine. After this, the Americans got in on the act with USA for Africa and did “We Are the World,” overseen by Quincy Jones. This video is also included in the DVD. Then the concert, the reason most people buy this set. The dual continent all-day concert begins at Wembly Stadium in London with the band Status Quo singing “Rock The World.”
Sting does a great version of “Roxanne” with just an electric guitar and Branford Marsalis on tenor sax. If I had heard Adam Ant on that day, I probably would have bought some of his albums. The Irish band U2, however, is far and away the best of the day though Queen commands the audience like few others could. Not too much jamming on this day, The Dire Straits and Eric Clapton are about it. Of course, jamming wasn’t much in vogue in the 1980s. Pattie LaBelle gave a dynamic performance and along with Hall and Oats with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin of The Temptations and Teddy Pendergrass singing with Ashford and Simpson (unfortunately the Four Tops did not make it onto the DVDs) makes one wonder what happened to Black music in the last 20 years. Instead of songs of love and togetherness, now we hear aggressive and degrading songs about hos. Someone named Paul Young gets four songs. Who the heck is Paul Young? The British closing song was much better miked than the Philadelphia closing song where several people were hard to hear. Overall, this is an excellent, excellent day of music and glimpse into 1985 fashion.
Disk 4 has some extras which include the excellent INXS in Australia, the phenomenal B. B. King in Norway, and other countries’ group songs similar to Band Aid and USA for Africa. Austria’s is the most political “we send some money so we don’t feel so bad” and “famine plays into your leader’s hands” and “Ethiopia you used to be a queen, now you’re a beggar.” The German song includes Nina of “99 Red Balloons” fame.
If you buy the concert DVDs by clicking hereor below, proceeds go to relief organizations. (with a few pennies proceeding to me also).