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Live Aid

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Live Aid
Live Aid logo
The Live Aid logo
Location(s) Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom
John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Years active 1985
Founded by Midge Ure
Bob Geldof
Date(s) July 13, 1985 (1985-07-13)
Genre Rock music
Pop music
Website Live 8 and aid Site

Live Aid was a dual-venue concert held on 13 July 1985. The event was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the "global jukebox", the event was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom (attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States (attended by about 100,000 people). On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries, such as Australia and Germany. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time: an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcast.


The 1985 Live Aid concert was conceived as a follow-on to another Geldof/Goldsmith project, the successful charity single " Do They Know It's Christmas?". In October 1984, images of millions of people starving to death in Ethiopia were shown in the UK in Michael Buerk's BBC News reports on the 1984 famine. Bob Geldof saw the report, and called Midge Ure from Ultravox, and together they quickly co-wrote the song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in the hope of raising money for famine relief. Geldof then contacted colleagues in the music industry and persuaded them to record the single under the title ' Band Aid' for free. Performed by a collection of British, Irish and American musicians, the song was released on 7 December 1984 and became the fastest-selling single ever in Britain and raised £8 million, rather than the £70,000 Geldof had expected. Geldof then set his sights on staging a huge concert to raise further funds.

Hal Uplinger was the producer of the "Live Aid Concert", the United States event. For his contributions to Live Aid, Hal Uplinger won a 1989 Computerworld Smithsonian Award in the Media, Arts & Entertainment Category.

The concert grew in scope, as more acts were added on both sides of the Atlantic. As a charity fundraiser, the concert far exceeded its goals: on a television programme in 2001, one of the organisers stated that while initially it had been hoped that Live Aid would raise £1 million with the help of Wembley tickets costing £25.00 each, the final figure was £150 million (approx. $283.6 million). Partly in recognition of the Live Aid effort, Geldof received an honorary knighthood. Music promoter Harvey Goldsmith also helped in bringing the plans of Geldof and Ure to fruition.

Collaborative effort

The concert began at 12:00 BST (7:00 EST) at Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom. It continued at JFK Stadium in the United States, starting at 13:51 BST (8:51 EST). The UK's Wembley performances ended at 22:00 BST (17:00 EST). The JFK performances and whole concert in the US ended at 04:05 BST July 14 (23:05 EST). (See the full schedule of the concert here.) Thus, the concert continued for 16 and 1 halfhours, but since many artists' performances were conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert's length was much longer.

It was the original intention for Mick Jagger and David Bowie to perform an intercontinental duet, with Bowie in London and Jagger in Philadelphia. Problems of synchronization meant that the only remotely practical solution was to have one artist, likely Bowie at Wembley, mime along to prerecorded vocals broadcast as part of the live sound mix for Jagger's performance from Philadelphia. Veteran music engineer David Richards (Pink Floyd and Queen) was brought in to create footage and sound mixes that Jagger and Bowie could perform to in their respective venues. The BBC would then have had to ensure that those footage and sound mixes were in synch while also performing a live vision mix of the footage from both venues. The combined footage would then have had to be bounced back by satellite to the various broadcasters around the world. Due to the time lag (the signal would take several seconds to be broadcast twice across the Atlantic Ocean) Richards concluded there would be no practical way for Jagger to be able to hear or see Bowie's performance, meaning there could be no interaction between the artists, which would defeat the whole point of the exercise. On top of this both artists objected to the idea of miming at what was perceived as an historic event. Instead, Jagger and Bowie worked with Richards to create a video clip for the song they would have performed, a cover of " Dancing in the Street". The video was shown on the screens of both stadiums and also broadcast as part of many TV networks coverage.

Each of the two main portions of the concert ended with their particular continental all-star anti-hunger anthems, with Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" closing the UK concert, and USA for Africa's "We Are the World" closing the US concert (and thus the day's proceedings).

Concert organizers have subsequently said that they were particularly keen to ensure that at least one surviving member of The Beatles, ideally Paul McCartney, took part in the concert as they felt that having an 'elder statesman' from British music would give it greater legitimacy in the eyes of the political leaders whose opinions the performers were trying to shape. McCartney agreed to perform and has said that it was "the management" – his children – that persuaded him to take part. In the event, he was the last performer (aside from the Band Aid finale) to take to the stage and one of the few to be beset by technical difficulties; his microphone was turned off for the first two minutes of his piano performance of " Let It Be", making it difficult for television viewers and impossible for those in the stadium to hear him. He later jokingly thought about changing the lyrics to "There will be some feedback, let it be".

Phil Collins performed at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, utilising Concorde to get him from London to Philadelphia. UK TV personality Noel Edmonds piloted the helicopter that took Collins to Heathrow Airport to catch his flight. Aside from his own set at both venues, he also provided drums for Eric Clapton and the reunion of the surviving members of Led Zeppelin at JFK. On the Concorde flight, Collins encountered actress and singer Cher, who later claimed not to know anything about the Live Aid concerts. Upon reaching the US however she did attend the Philadelphia concert and can be seen performing as part of that concert's " We Are the World" finale.

An official book was produced by Bob Geldof in collaboration with photographer Denis O'Regan.

The broadcasts

"It's twelve noon in London, seven AM in Philadelphia, and around the world it's time for: Live Aid ...." Richard Skinner opening the show.

The concert was the most ambitious international satellite television venture that had ever been attempted at the time. In Europe, the feed was supplied by the BBC, whose broadcast was opened by Richard Skinner, co-hosted by Andy Kershaw, and included numerous interviews and chats in between the various acts. The BBC's television sound feed was mono, as was all UK TV audio before NICAM was introduced, but the BBC Radio 1 feed was stereo and was simulcast in sync with the TV pictures. Unfortunately, in the rush to set up the transatlantic feeds, the sound feed from Philadelphia was sent to London via transatlantic cable, while the video feed was bounced the much longer distance via satellite, which meant a gross lack of synchronisation on British television receivers. (Though there is no actual evidence of this when watching the original broadcasts, part of The Who's performance appeared on UK screens with the sound directly from Wembley, but with the video feed taken from the American feed after the video footage had been passed via satellite, converted from PAL to NTSC and vice versa, back to the UK, leading to the video feed of this performance being delayed behind the audio feed by around 3 seconds on the UK TV feed. The UK video feed was switched to a direct video feed from Wembley after around a minute of the concert returning after another technical fault during The Who's performance). Due to the constant activities in both London and Philadelphia, the BBC producers omitted the reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from their broadcast. The BBC, however, did supply a 'clean feed' to various television channels in Europe.

ABC was largely responsible for the US broadcast (although ABC themselves only telecast the final three hours of the concert from Philadelphia, hosted by Dick Clark, with the rest shown in syndication through Orbis Communications, acting on behalf of ABC). An entirely separate and simultaneous US feed was provided for cable viewers by MTV, whose broadcast was presented in stereo, and accessible as such for those with special receivers of the time, as there were very few stereo sets in the summer of 1985, and few television stations were able to broadcast in stereo. While the BBC telecast was run commercial-free (as it is a public broadcaster), both the MTV and syndicated/ABC broadcasts included advertisements and interviews. As a result, many songs were omitted due to the commercial breaks, as these songs were played during these slots.

The biggest caveat of the syndicated/ABC coverage is that the network had wanted to reserve some of the biggest acts that had played earlier in the day for certain points in the entire broadcast, particularly in the final three hours in prime time; thus, Orbis Communications had some sequences replaced by others, especially those portions of the concert that had acts from London and Philadelphia playing simultaneously. For example, while the London/Wembley finale was taking place at 22:00 (10:00 pm) London time, syndicated viewers saw segments that had been recorded earlier, so that ABC could show the UK finale during its prime-time portion.

The ABC Radio Network broadcast the American domestic feed of the concert, and later broadcast many of the acts that were missing from the original live radio broadcast.

At one point midway through the concert, Billy Connolly announced he had just been informed that 95% of the television sets in the world were tuned to the event, though this can of course not be verified. In 1995, VH1 and MuchMusic aired a re-edited ten-hour re-broadcast of the concert for its 10th Anniversary.

The Live Aid concert in London was also the first time that the BBC outside broadcast sound equipment had been used for an event of such a scale. In stark contrast to the mirrored sound systems commonly used by the rock band touring engineers, with two 40–48 channel mixing consoles at the Front of house, and another pair for monitors, the BBC sound engineers had to use multiple 12 channel desks. Some credit this as the point where the mainstream entertainment industry realised that the rock concert industry had overtaken them in technical expertise.

Memorable moments at Wembley Stadium

Overhead view of Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in London

The Coldstream Guards band opened with the "Royal Salute", " God Save the Queen". Status Quo started their set with " Rockin' All Over the World", also playing "Caroline" and fan favourite "Don't Waste My Time". This was to be the last appearance by the band to feature bassist and founder member Alan Lancaster, and drummer Pete Kircher who had joined the band three years earlier.

Queen galvanised the stadium with some of their greatest hits, in which lead singer Freddie Mercury at times led the entire crowd of 72,000 in thundering unison refrains. In their 20 minute set the band opened with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and closed with " We Are the Champions". They extensively rehearsed their performance at London's Shaw Theatre. Prior to their taking the stage, Queen's sound engineer covertly switched out the limiters that had been installed on the venue's sound system so the performance would be louder than the others. Queen's performance on that day has since been voted by more than 60 artists, journalists and music industry executives as the greatest live performance in the history of rock music. Mercury and fellow band member Brian May later sang the first song of the three-part Wembley event finale, "Is This The World We Created...?".

Bob Geldof himself performed with the rest of the Boomtown Rats, singing " I Don't Like Mondays". He stopped just after the line: "The lesson today is how to die" to loud applause with the lyrics taking on a whole other meaning. He finished the song and left the crowd to say the final words.

Elvis Costello appeared singing a simple but touching version of The Beatles' " All You Need Is Love", which he introduced by asking the audience to "help [him] sing this old northern English folk song".

U2's performance established them as a pre-eminent live group for the first time – something for which they would eventually become superstars. The band played a 14-minute rendition of " Bad", during which lead vocalist Bono jumped off the stage to join the crowd and dance with a girl. The length of their performance of "Bad" limited them to playing just two songs; the third, " Pride (In the Name of Love)", had to be ditched. In July 2005, the girl with whom he danced revealed that he actually saved her life at the time. She was being crushed by the throngs of people pushing forwards; Bono saw this, and gestured frantically at the ushers to help her. They did not understand what he was saying, and so he jumped down to help her himself.

Another moment that garnered a huge crowd response was when David Bowie performed " Heroes" and dedicated it to his son, as well as "All our children, and the children of the world".

The UK reception of the US feed failed several times and was dogged throughout the US concert by an intermittent regular buzzing on the audio from the US (see the JFK Stadium section for more detail) and also failed during their relay of Japan's concert, which blacked out most of Off Course's song "Endless Nights".

In addition, the transatlantic broadcast from Wembley Stadium suffered technical problems and failed during The Who's performance of their song " My Generation", immediately after Roger Daltrey sang "Why don't you all fade..." (the last word was cut off when a blown fuse caused the Wembley stage TV feed to temporarily fail). The Who were playing with Kenney Jones on drums, who was still an official member of The Who at this time, although this was their first performance since they'd officially disbanded after their 1982 'farewell' tour. The Who's performance included an at times chaotic but still blistering version of " Won't Get Fooled Again", which was extremely popular with the audience in Wembley Stadium. The band's performance was described as "rough but right" by Rolling Stone magazine, but they would not perform together again until the 1988 BPI Awards.

While performing " Let it Be" near the end of the show, the microphone mounted to Paul McCartney's piano failed for the first two minutes of the song, making it difficult for television viewers and the stadium audience to hear him. During this performance, the TV audience were better off, audio-wise, than the stadium audience, as the TV sound was picked up from other microphones near Paul McCartney as a disappointing, but preferable choice to no sound at all from Paul. The stadium audience, who could obviously not hear the electronic sound feed from these mikes, unless they had portable TV sets and radios, completely drowned out what little sound from Paul could be heard during this part of his performance. As a result, organiser and performer Bob Geldof, accompanied by earlier performers David Bowie, Alison Moyet, and Pete Townshend, returned to the stage to sing with him and back him up (as did the stadium audience despite not being able to hear much), by which time, Paul's microphone had been repaired.

At the conclusion of the Wembley performances, Bob Geldof was raised heroically onto the shoulders of The Who's guitarist Pete Townshend and Paul McCartney – symbolising his great achievement in unifying the world for one day, in the spirit of music and charity.

Memorable moments at JFK Stadium

Stage view of Live Aid at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia

At the very beginning of the televised portion of the Philadelphia concert, Joan Baez announced to the assembled crowd (and the viewing audience) that "this is your Woodstock, and it's long overdue", before leading the crowd in " Amazing Grace" (paired with a couple of verses of "We Are the World").

When Madonna got on stage, despite the 95°F ambient temperature, she proclaimed "I'm not taking shit off today!" referring to the recent release of early nude photos of her in Playboy and Penthouse magazines.

During his opening number, " American Girl", Tom Petty flipped the middle finger to somebody off stage about one minute into song. Petty stated the song was a last minute addition when the band realised that they would be the first act to play the American side of the concert after the London finale and "since this is, after all, JFK Stadium".

When Bob Dylan broke a guitar string, Ronnie Wood took off his own guitar and gave it to Dylan. Wood was left standing on stage guitarless. After shrugging to the audience, he played air guitar, even mimicking The Who's Pete Townshend by swinging his arm in wide circles, until a stagehand brought him a replacement. Although this moment was left off the DVD, the performance itself was included, featuring footage focusing solely on Keith Richards.

During their duet on "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", Mick Jagger ripped away part of Tina Turner's dress, leaving her to finish the song in what was, effectively, a leotard.

The JFK portion included reunions of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the original Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne, and former members of Led Zeppelin, with Phil Collins and Chic member Tony Thompson sharing duties on drums (although they were not officially announced by their group name from the stage, but were announced as Led Zeppelin on the VH1 10th Anniversary re-broadcast in 1995).

Teddy Pendergrass made his first public appearance since his near-fatal car accident in 1982 which paralysed him. Pendergrass, along with Ashford & Simpson, performed "Reach Out and Touch".

Also, Duran Duran performed a four-song set. The five original band members would not perform together publicly again until 2003. Their set is also memorable for an incredibly weak, off-key falsetto note hit by frontman Simon Le Bon during " A View to a Kill". The error was trumpeted by some media outlets as "The Bum Note Heard Round The World", in contrast to Freddie Mercury's powerful, sustained note during the a cappela section of Queen's Wembley set, which was dubbed as "The Note Heard Round The World". Simon later recalled that it was the most embarrassing moment of his career.

The UK TV feed from Philadelphia was dogged by an intermittent regular buzzing on the sound during Bryan Adams' turn on stage and continued less frequently throughout the rest of the UK reception of the American concert and both the audio and video feed failed entirely during that performance and during Simple Minds's performance.

Phil Collins, who had performed in England earlier in the day, began his set with the quip, "I was in England this afternoon. Funny old world, innit?", to cheers from the Philadelphia crowd.

Live Aid under the lights at JFK Stadium

Raising money

Throughout the concerts, viewers were urged to donate money to the Live Aid cause. Three hundred phone lines were manned by the BBC, so that members of the public could make donations using their credit cards. The phone number and an address that viewers could send cheques to were repeated every twenty minutes.

Nearly seven hours into the concert in London, Bob Geldof enquired how much money had been raised; he was told £1.2 million. He is said to have been sorely disappointed by the amount and marched to the BBC commentary position. Pumped up further by a performance by Queen that he later called "absolutely amazing", Geldof gave an infamous interview in which he used the word 'fuck'. The BBC presenter David Hepworth, conducting the interview, had attempted to provide a list of addresses to which potential donations should be sent; Geldof interrupted him in mid-flow and shouted: "Fuck the address, let's get the numbers!" It has passed into folklore that he yelled at the audience, "Give us your fucking money!" although Geldof has stated that this phrase was never uttered. Private Eye magazine made great capital out of these outbursts, emphasising Geldof's accent which meant the profanities were heard as "fock" and "focking". After the outburst, giving increased to £300 per second.

Later in the evening, following David Bowie's set, a video shot by the CBC (Video Editor: Colin Dean) was shown to the audiences in London and Philadelphia, as well as on televisions around the world (though notably neither US feed, ABC or MTV chose to show the film), showing starving and diseased Ethiopian children set to the song " Drive" by The Cars. (This would also be shown at the London Live 8 concert in 2005.) The rate of giving became faster in the immediate aftermath of the moving video. Ironically, Geldof had previously refused to allow the video to be shown, due to time constraints, and had only relented when Bowie offered to drop the song " Five Years" from his set as a trade-off.

As Geldof mentioned during the concert, the Republic of Ireland gave the most donations per capita, despite being in the throes of a serious economic recession at the time. The single largest donation came from the ruling family of Dubai. They donated £1m in a phone conversation with Geldof.

The next day, news reports stated that between £40 and £50 million had been raised. Now, it is estimated that around £150m has been raised for famine relief as a direct result of the concerts.

Notable absences

Bruce Springsteen declined an invitation to appear at the Wembley Live Aid concert despite his huge popularity in 1985, later stating that he "simply did not realise how big the whole thing was going to be". He has since expressed regret at turning down Geldof's invitation to appear at Live Aid stating that he could have played a couple of acoustic songs had there been no slot available for a full band performance.

Michael Jackson and Prince also did not play (although Prince did send a pre-taped video of an acoustic version of "4 the Tears in Your Eyes", which was played during the concert. The original version appears on the We Are the World album, while the video version was released in 1993 on Prince's compilation The Hits/The B-Sides.)

Billy Joel, Boy George, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Tears for Fears, and Stevie Wonder, along with Huey Lewis and the News and Paul Simon, were all included in the initial promotional material for the Philadelphia concert, but failed to appear at the show itself. The final poster for the Philadelphia show features the acts Peter, Paul and Mary and Rod Stewart (who also featured in the Philadelphia concert programme). Peter, Paul and Mary were to have joined Bob Dylan for a rendition of "Blowing In The Wind" which on the day failed to happen (though they can be spotted taking part in the concert's finale), while Rod Stewart was not touring at the time and was ultimately unable to put together a band in time for the concert.

Cliff Richard was unable to perform as he was committed to a gospel charity concert in Birmingham.

Regarding Tears for Fears' absence, band member Roland Orzabal remarked that Bob Geldof "gave us so much gip for not turning up at Live Aid. All those millions of people dying, it was our fault. I felt terrible. I tell you, I know how Hitler must have felt." The group made up for their absence by donating the proceeds from several shows of their world tour that year, and also contributed a re-recording of " Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (entitled " Everybody Wants to Run the World") for Geldof's Sport Aid charity event in 1986. The single reached the Top 5 in the UK, even though the band's original version had been a hit only a year earlier.

Cat Stevens wrote a song for the Live Aid concert, which he never got to perform – had he done so, he would have made his first public concert appearance since converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam. However according to the official book that was released after the event, he arrived at Wembley Stadium on the day without prior warning, and Geldof was unable to fit him into the schedule.

Liza Minnelli, Yoko Ono, and Cyndi Lauper were tapped to present at JFK Stadium, but due to scheduling conflicts the singers backed out. Lauper did appear in a commercial for the "Live Aid Book" that aired during the concert.

A reunited Deep Purple were also due to appear from Switzerland via satellite, but pulled out after guitarist Ritchie Blackmore refused to take part in the event. Eurythmics were scheduled to play Wembley but cancelled after Annie Lennox suffered serious throat problems. Huey Lewis and the News and Paul Simon both accepted requests to play the Philadelphia concert but later issued press statements stating they had chosen not to appear after all, citing disagreements with promoter Bill Graham. Deep Purple (minus Blackmore, who left the band in 1993) appeared at Geldof's Live 8 sequel 20 years later, performing at the Toronto leg of the event while Annie Lennox appeared at the London and Edinburgh Live 8 concerts.

Wild rumours swirled about that former Beatles George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr would reunite for the first time since the band's dissolution in 1970, joined by Julian Lennon. There were no grounds for the rumours or speculation from any of the musicians referred to and there is no evidence that the rumours were anything but fan fantasy. Paul McCartney appeared at the event in his own right.

Bob Geldof also invited Def Leppard to perform at the event, but due to Rick Allen's car accident and uncertain future of the next album, they turned it down. Def Leppard appeared at the Philadelphia leg of Geldof's Live 8 sequel 20 years later.

Talking Heads was to have appeared, but David Byrne was currently busy with his film True Stories at the time of the concert.

AC/DC were also invited to play at the event, however they declined the invitation.

Frank Zappa was invited to perform, but refused because he believed that the money raised by Live Aid did not address the core problems facing the developing world and instead aided the developed world by providing ways to get drugs, calling the concert "the biggest cocaine money laundering scheme of all time."

Criticisms and controversies

Bob Dylan's performance generated controversy for his comment:

"I hope that some of the money…maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe…one or two million, maybe…and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks…"

He is often misquoted, as on the Farm Aid website, as saying:

"Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?"

In his best-selling autobiography, Is That It? (published in 1986), Geldof was extremely critical of the remark; he states:

"He displayed a complete lack of understanding of the issues raised by Live Aid…. Live Aid was about people losing their lives. There is a radical difference between losing your livelihood and losing your life. It did instigate Farm Aid, which was a good thing in itself, but it was a crass, stupid, and nationalistic thing to say."

Geldof was apparently not happy about The Hooters being tacked onto the bill as the opening band in Philadelphia. He felt pressured into it by Graham and local promoter Larry Magid. Magid, promoting the concert through Electric Factory Concerts, argued that the band was hugely popular in Philadelphia, despite their first major label album Nervous Night being released less than three months beforehand. Geldof let his feelings be known during an interview for Rolling Stone saying: "Who the fuck are The Hooters?" The Hooters did get their revenge in December 2004, when Geldof appeared on the bill with the Hooters in Germany as their opening act.

Adam Ant subsequently criticised the event and expressed regrets about playing it, saying, "I was asked by Sir (sic) Bob to promote this concert. They had no idea they could sell it out. Then in Bob's book he said, 'Adam was over the hill so I let him have one number.' ... Doing that show was the biggest f**king mistake in the world. Knighthoods were made, Bono got it made, and it was a waste of f**king time. It was the end of rock 'n' roll."

Andy Kershaw, one of the presenters of the BBC's coverage, criticised the event in his autobiography No Off Switch, stating, "Musically, Live Aid was to be entirely predictable and boring. As they were wheeled out – or rather bullied by Geldof into playing – it became clear that this was another parade of the same old rock aristocracy in a concert for Africa, organised by someone who, while advertising his concern for, and sympathy with, the continent didn’t see fit to celebrate or dignify the place by including on the Live Aid bill a single African performer." Kershaw also described the attitude of Geldof and his showbusiness associates as "irritating, shallow, sanctimonious and self-satisfied."

Fund use in Ethiopia

Although a professed admirer of Geldof's generosity and concern, Fox News Channel television host Bill O'Reilly has been critical of the Live Aid producer's oversight of the money raised for starving Ethiopian people, claiming (in June 2005) that much of the funds were siphoned off by Mengistu Haile Mariam and his army. O'Reilly believes that charity organizations, operating in aid-receiving countries, should control donations, rather than possibly corrupt governments.

Arguing that Live Aid accomplished good ends while inadvertently causing harm at the same time, David Rieff gave a presentation of similar concerns in The Guardian at the time of Live 8. Tim Russert, in an interview on Meet the Press shortly after O'Reilly's comments, addressed these concerns to Bono. Bono responded that corruption, not disease or famine, was the greatest threat to Africa, agreeing with the belief that foreign relief organizations should decide how the money is spent. On the other hand, Bono said that it was better to spill some funds into nefarious quarters for the sake of those who needed it, than to stifle aid because of possible theft.

Performers and setlists

London Wembley Stadium

Performer(s) Performed song(s) Time
( UTC±00:00)
Coldstream Guards "Royal Salute"
" God Save the Queen"
Status Quo " Rockin' All Over the World"
"Don't Waste My Time"
The Style Council "You're the Best Thing"
"Big Boss Groove"
"Walls Come Tumbling Down"
The Boomtown Rats " I Don't Like Mondays"
"Drag Me Down"
" Rat Trap"
" For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"
Adam Ant "Vive Le Rock" 13:00
Ultravox " Reap the Wild Wind"
" Dancing with Tears in My Eyes"
" One Small Day"
" Vienna"
Spandau Ballet "Only When You Leave"
" True"
Elvis Costello " All You Need Is Love" 14:07
Nik Kershaw " Wide Boy"
" Don Quixote"
" The Riddle"
" Wouldn't It Be Good"
Sade " Why Can't We Live Together"
" Your Love Is King"
"Is It a Crime"
Phil Collins
Branford Marsalis
" Roxanne"
" Driven to Tears"
" Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)"
" Message in a Bottle"
" In the Air Tonight"
" Long Long Way to Go"
" Every Breath You Take"
Howard Jones " Hide and Seek" 15:50
Bryan Ferry
David Gilmour (on guitar)
"Boys And Girls"
" Slave to Love"
" Jealous Guy"
Paul Young " Do They Know It's Christmas?" (intro)
" Come Back and Stay"
" That's the Way Love Is" (with Alison Moyet)
" Every Time You Go Away"
U2 " Sunday Bloody Sunday"
" Bad" (with snippets of " Satellite of Love", " Ruby Tuesday",
" Sympathy for the Devil" and " Walk on the Wild Side")
Dire Straits " Money for Nothing" (with Sting)
" Sultans of Swing"
Queen "Bohemian Rhapsody"/" Radio Ga Ga"
" Hammer to Fall"
" Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
" We Will Rock You"/" We Are the Champions"
David Bowie
Thomas Dolby (on keyboards)
" TVC 15"
" Rebel Rebel"
" Modern Love"
" Heroes"
The Who " My Generation"/" Pinball Wizard"
" Love, Reign o'er Me"
" Won't Get Fooled Again"
Elton John " I'm Still Standing"
" Bennie and the Jets"
" Rocket Man"
" Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (with Kiki Dee)
" Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (with George
Michael & backing vocals by Andrew Ridgeley)
" Can I Get a Witness"
Freddie Mercury
Brian May (on guitar)
" Is This the World We Created?" 21:48
Paul McCartney " Let It Be" (with backing vocals for the ending by Bob
Geldof, David Bowie, Pete Townshend & Alison Moyet)
Band Aid " Do They Know It's Christmas?" 21:54


  • Noel Edmonds introduced Sting, Phil Collins and Branford Marsalis
  • Jack Nickolson introduced U2
  • Mel Smith & Griff Rhys Jones introduced Queen
  • Jack Nickolson introduced The Who
  • Billy Connolly introduced Elton John

Philadelphia JFK Stadium

Performer(s) Performed song(s) Time
( UTC-5:00)
Bernard Watson " All I Really Want to Do"
Joan Baez " Amazing Grace"/" We Are the World" 9:02
The Hooters "And We Danced"
" All You Zombies"
Four Tops " Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)"
" Bernadette"
" It's the Same Old Song"
" Reach Out I'll Be There"
" I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)"
Billy Ocean " Caribbean Queen"
" Loverboy"
Black Sabbath " Children of the Grave"
" Iron Man"
" Paranoid"
Run–D.M.C. "Jam Master Jay"
" King Of Rock"
Rick Springfield "Love Somebody"
" State of the Heart"
" Human Touch"
REO Speedwagon " Can't Fight This Feeling"
"Roll With the Changes"
Crosby, Stills and Nash " Southern Cross"
" Teach Your Children"
" Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
Judas Priest " Living After Midnight"
" The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)"
" You've Got Another Thing Comin'"
Bryan Adams "Kids Wanna Rock"
" Summer of '69"
" Tears Are Not Enough"
" Cuts Like a Knife"
The Beach Boys " California Girls"
" Help Me, Rhonda"
" Wouldn't It Be Nice"
" Good Vibrations"
" Surfin' U.S.A."
George Thorogood and the Destroyers " Who Do You Love" (with Bo Diddley)
" The Sky Is Crying"
" Madison Blues" (with Albert Collins)
Simple Minds "Ghost Dancing"
" Don't You (Forget About Me)"
"Promised You a Miracle"
The Pretenders "Time the Avenger"
"Message of Love"
"Stop Your Sobbing"
" Back on the Chain Gang"
" Middle of the Road"
Pat Metheny
"Primera Invasion"
"Open Invitation"
"By the Pool"/"Right Now"
Ashford & Simpson " Solid"
" Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)"
(with Teddy Pendergrass)
Madonna " Holiday"
" Into the Groove"
"Love Makes The World Go Round"
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers " American Girl"
" The Waiting"
" Rebels"
" Refugee"
Kenny Loggins " Footloose" 17:30
The Cars " You Might Think"
" Drive"
" Just What I Needed"
"Heartbeat City"
Neil Young " Sugar Mountain"
" The Needle and the Damage Done"
" Helpless"
"Nothing Is Perfect (In God's Perfect Plan)"
" Powderfinger"
The Power Station "Murderess"
" Get It On"
Thompson Twins " Hold Me Now"
" Revolution" (with Madonna, Steve Stevens & Nile
Eric Clapton
Phil Collins
" White Room"
"She's Waiting"
" Layla"
Phil Collins " Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)"
" In the Air Tonight"
Led Zeppelin
Jimmy Page
Robert Plant
John Paul Jones
Tony Thompson
Paul Martinez
Phil Collins
" Rock and Roll"
" Whole Lotta Love"
" Stairway To Heaven"
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young " Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
" Daylight Again/Find The Cost of Freedom"
Duran Duran " A View to a Kill"
" Union of the Snake"
" Save a Prayer"
" The Reflex"
Patti LaBelle " New Attitude"
" Forever Young"
" Stir It Up"
" Over the Rainbow"
"Why Can't I Get It Over"
Hall & Oates " Out of Touch"
" Maneater"
" Get Ready" (with Eddie Kendricks)
" Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (with David Ruffin)
" The Way You Do the Things You Do"
" My Girl" (with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin)
Mick Jagger
Hall & Oates
Eddie Kendricks
David Ruffin
"Lonely At the Top"
"Just Another Night"
" Miss You"
" State Of Shock"/" It's Only Rock 'n Roll
(But I Like It)" (reprise) (with Tina Turner)
Bob Dylan
Keith Richards
Ronnie Wood
" Ballad of Hollis Brown"
" When the Ship Comes In"
Blowin' in the Wind"
USA for Africa " We Are the World" 22:55


  • Jack Nickolson introduced Joan Baez
  • Chevy Chase introduced Black Sabbath
  • Jack Nickolson introduced Bryan Adams
  • Marilyn McCoo introduced The Beach Boys
  • Bette Midler introduced Madonna
  • Don Johnson introduced Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • Chevy Chase introduced Kenny Loggins
  • Jack Nickolson & Bette Midler introduced Phil Collins

Live Aid recordings/releases

When organiser Bob Geldof was persuading artists to take part in the concert, he promised them that it would be a one-off event, never to be seen again. That was the reason why the concert was never recorded in its complete original form, and only secondary television broadcasts were recorded. Following Geldof's request, ABC even erased its own broadcast tapes. However, before the syndicated/ABC footage was erased, copies of it were donated to the Smithsonian Institution and have now been presumed lost. It should be noted here that the ABC feed of the USA for Africa/"We Are The World" finale does exist in its entirety, complete with the network end credits, and can be found as a supplemental feature on the We Are The World: The Story Behind The Song DVD.

Meanwhile, MTV decided to keep recordings of its broadcast and recently located more than 100 tapes of Live Aid in its archives, but many songs in these tapes were cut short by MTV's ad breaks and presenters (according to the BBC). The BBC also decided to erase fragments of the performance due to storage limitations, to pave the way for newer programmes (this was common practise, and lead to 'missing' episodes of many shows, including popular programmes such as Porridge, Dad's Army, and Doctor Who, the latter has had some recovered). However, many performances from the US were not shown on the BBC, and recordings of these performances are missing.

Official Live Aid DVD

An official four-disc DVD set of the Live Aid concerts was released on November 8, 2004. It contains 10-hour partial footage of the 16-hour length concert. The DVD was produced by Geldof's company, Woodcharm Ltd., and distributed by Warner Music Vision.

The decision to finally release it was taken by Bob Geldof nearly 20 years after the original concerts, after he found a number of pirate copies of the concert on the Internet (see full story here ). There has been controversy over the DVD release because a decision had been taken for a substantial number of tracks not to be included in this edited version.

The most complete footage that exists is used from the BBC source, and this was the main source of the DVD. During production on the official DVD, MTV lent Woodcharm Ltd. their B-roll and alternate camera footage where MTV provided extra footage of the Philadelphia concert (where ABC had erased the tapes from the command of Bob Geldof), and those songs that were not littered with ads were used on the official DVD.

Working from the BBC and MTV footage, several degrees of dramatic license were taken, in order to release the concert on DVD. For example, many songs on the official DVD had their soundtracks altered, mainly in sequences where there were originally microphone problems. In one of those instances, Paul McCartney had re-recorded his failed vocals for "Let It Be" in a studio the day after the concert (14 July 1985) but it was never used until the release of the DVD. Also, in the US finale, the original 'USA for Africa' studio track for "We Are the World" was overlaid in places where the microphone was absent (in fact, if you listen closely, you can hear the vocals of Kenny Rogers and James Ingram, two artists who did not even take part in Live Aid).

Judicious decisions were also made on which acts would be included and which ones would not, due to either technical difficulties in the original performances, the absence of original footage, or for music rights reasons. For example, Rick Springfield, The Four Tops, The Hooters, The Power Station, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were among those acts that were left off the DVD. Many of the artists' songs that were performed were also omitted. For example, Madonna performed three solo songs in the concert, but only two were included on the DVD ("Love Makes the World Go Round" was omitted). Phil Collins played "Against All Odds" and "In the Air Tonight" at both Wembley and JFK, but only the London performance of the former and the Philadelphia performance of the latter were included on the DVD. The JFK performance of "Against All Odds" was later included on Phil Collins' Finally...The First Farewell Tour DVD.

There were also issues with the artists themselves. Two such performers were left off at their own request: Led Zeppelin and Santana. The former defended their decision not to be included on the grounds that their performance was 'sub-standard', but to lend their support, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have pledged to donate proceeds from an upcoming DVD release of Led Zeppelin to the campaign, and John Paul Jones has pledged proceeds from his current American tour with Mutual Admiration Society.

In 2007, Queen released a special edition of Queen Rock Montreal on Blu-ray and DVD formats containing their 1981 concert from The Forum in Montreal, Canada, and their complete Live Aid performance, along with Freddie Mercury and Brian May performing " Is This The World We Created...?" from the UK Live Aid finale, all re-mixed in DTS 5.1 sound by Justin Shirley-Smith--this marked the first Live Aid material officially released in a high definition/Blu-ray format. Also included is their Live Aid rehearsal, and an interview with the band, from earlier in the week.

On its release, the then British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, decided the VAT collected on sales of the Live Aid DVD would be given back to the charity, which would raise an extra £5 for every DVD sold.

Unofficial recordings

Because the Live Aid broadcast was watched by 1.5 billion people, most of the footage was recorded on home consumer video recorders all around the world, in various qualities. Many of these recordings were in mono, because in the mid-1980s most home video machines could only record mono sound, and also because the European BBC TV broadcast was in mono. (As mentioned previously, the US MTV broadcast, the ABC Radio Network and BBC Radio 1 simulcasts were stereo). These recordings started to circulate among collectors 20 years ago, and in recent years have also appeared on the Internet in file sharing networks. Since the official DVD release of Live Aid includes only partial footage of this event, unofficial distribution sources continue to stay the one and only source of the most complete recordings of this important historical music event.

The official DVD is the only authorized video release in which proceeds go directly to famine relief, the cause that the concert was originally intended to help.

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