Live Aid took place 35 years ago today — 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.
Philadelphia magazine interviewed several of the artists who performed in the City of Brotherly Love and found a wide variety of memories.
George Thorogood says he and the Destroyers were a last-minute fill-in for an unnamed band that couldn’t make it. He remembers “It was very hot and I was very sleepy, but that’s what we do. Professionals make it look smooth. When Gene Kelly was in Singin’ in the Rain, he had a temperature of 105. … It was a really great reception, because they weren’t expecting to see us and this was our home turf.”
Thompson Twins frontman Tom Bailey remembers a chaotic scene, saying, “Things were running late, so we had to cut one of our three songs. We did ‘Hold Me Now’ and the Beatles song ‘Revolution’ with Madonna. We had some sort of backstage deal where we agreed to sing backing vocals on each other’s set. Keep in mind that Madonna wasn’t quite the elder stateswoman of American pop music that she is today.”
Eric Bazilian of the hometown Hooters has a very vivid recollection that “Jack Nicholson was there and gave us a thumbs-up and said, ‘Go get ’em.’ We played ‘All You Zombies’ and ‘And We Danced.’ We nailed it. We really did.”
And at least one member of the cast would do it all over again. When asked, Patti LaBelle said, “It should happen again. Why not? Bring it back for peace. Peace all over the world.”
Phil Collins did a set in England and then caught the Concorde to perform in Philadelphia, backing Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton.
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.
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.