As part of my research for VJ, I rewatched Live Aid (or more precisely, the DVD box of it). A few aspects of the show that seemed notable twenty-eight years down the road:
1. The wittiest song selection of the day was Elvis Costello with his cover of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Not because he charmingly introduced it as an “old northern English folk song,” but because he consciously paid homage to the Beatles’ 1967 debut of the song on Our World, the planet’s first live global television event (and hence Live Aid’s spiritual predecessor).
2. Bob Geldof fearlessly commandeered the microphone whenever he felt like it–Brits remember him cursing on-air and telling the BBC viewing audience they weren’t donating enough, but I was particularly struck by how he walked out onstage the moment Paul Young finished his set, determined to make his fundraising pitch, not caring that he was stepping on Young’s applause.
3. Career-making performance of the day: U2 with “Bad.” Watching it sent me on a major “Bad” jag–I’ll write a separate entry about it soon.
4. One of the pleasures of the day was the abundance of one-time reenactments of old collaborations: Dire Straits bringing out Sting for “Money for Nothing,” most of the lineup of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” reprising their parts. My favorite: Elton John resurrecting Kiki Dee for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” Biggest missed opportunity: Queen and David Bowie could have done “Under Pressure.”
5. I remembered Phil Collins had performed a set on each side of the Atlantic (and run into Cher on the Concorde), and played with Eric Clapton, and Sting, and Led Zeppelin, but I didn’t realize his solo sets consisted of the same two songs in both London and Philadelphia.
6. A cool early-morning collaboration I had forgotten about: David Gilmour playing guitar with Bryan Ferry.
7. For the most part, the official Live Aid DVD does a good job distilling the day. A few acts are missing (e.g., Zeppelin), and many performances are minus a song or two, but editing the day from 16 hours down to 12 is for the most part, a boon. (Or you can do the YouTube smorgasbord.)
8. Queen just stomped.
9. The day’s music included the debut of a number-one single (albeit one that wouldn’t chart until six years later): Elton John and George Michael dueting on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
10. My favorite set: David Bowie in the British twilight. He had Thomas Dolby in keyboards, he kicked off the set with “TVC 15,” was effortlessly cool, and at the end, seamlessly transitioned into introducing a fundraising film.