July 13, 1985

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.

posted 13 July 2013 in Tasty Bits and tagged , , . 5 comments

5 Comments on July 13, 1985

  1. Chris Molanphy Says:

    Just noticed this, sorry. Nice writeup. I too own the DVD set and enjoyed bathing in it a few years back.

    I’ll agree with you that U2 had that “career-making performance of the day” (insofar as, at this point, they’d only scored one U.K. Top 10 hit and one U.S. Top 40 hit) as long as we agree that the long-established Queen had the performance of the day, period. What command by Freddie. I look forward to seeing how Sacha Baron Cohen recreates that moment in the biopic.

  2. Gavin Says:

    Yeah, I would find it hard to argue with that. As I said above, Bowie was my favorite set of the day, but objectively, Queen owned the day.

    I think that was probably the best performance of Queen’s career, in fact. (Which would be a good example of peaking at the right time, with the biggest audience they would ever have.) Are there any other acts that day you could say the same for?

    (U2, possibly. Certainly not Dylan. Anyone else?)

  3. Chris Molanphy Says:

    I don’t know about “peaking” exactly, but in terms of big audiences and serendipity, Daryl Hall and John Oates had to have been psyched not only that they were still stars on U.S. radio in the summer of ’85 (with 20/20 hindsight, on the way down, however), but that the American show was happening not in New York but Philly. I’m convinced they got a very late, peak-hour slot partially reflecting their first-half-of-decade dominance on U.S. radio, but also partially reflecting their status as hometown heroes.

  4. Gavin Says:

    And they stepped up, starting with that backstage a cappella bit, doing the hits, and bringing Ruffin and Kendricks onstage for the Temptations sequence (complete with dance moves)!

    I remember the final hours of Live Aid as a bit of a slog (subpar sets from Duran Duran, Patti LaBelle, and Dylan), but H&O were hugely entertaining (as were Mick Jagger and Tina Turner).

  5. ken Says:

    I’m going through all yr highlights–just fell down the “Bad” hole. Prolly my favorite track from my favorite U2 album, though they really didn’t pay their hair stylist enough.

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