Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Live Aid: 25 Years Later

I'm not one given to nostalgia, and maybe it's just my brain slowly slipping into vacation mode, but I saw a mention of this over on Twitter: 25 years ago today the first Live Aid concert was held.

I actually remember watching this from the roller skating rink where I was a DJ (insert guffawing and "waaaa?" here). Here's a look back, bad hair styles (above) and all, from MTV:

Twenty-five years ago today (July 13), Bob Geldof and Midge Ure moved mountains, arranged satellites and assuaged rock-star egos to pull off one of the most monumental concerts in history. Live Aid, the transatlantic charity bash, brought together the biggest names in music — all of whom played for free — on two massive stages in London and Philadelphia, beamed their performances out to the entire world (including here in the U.S. on a fledgling cable network called MTV) and managed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia.

1.5 billion: The estimated number of viewers who tuned in to watch the concerts, in 100 different countries.

150 million pounds: The amount that Live Aid raised for famine relief in Ethiopia. It works out to some $245 million U.S.

162,000: The number of people who attended the two main Live Aid concerts — 72,000 in London's Wembley Stadium and 90,000 in Philadelphia's JFK Stadium.

70: As best as we can count, this was the total number of acts/artists that performed on the stages in London and Philadelphia. It's a list that includes Madonna, U2, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, Black Sabbath, Run-DMC, Santana, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Neil Young, the remaining three members of Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, Bob Dylan and Tina Turner.

16 hours: The continuous length of the entire Live Aid concert. The show in London started at noon and ended at 11 p.m. In Philadelphia, things got under way at 8:51 a.m. and ended at 11:05 p.m. (4:05 a.m. in London), meaning that the entire thing ran for 16 hours. Though, as you can see, between London and Philly, there were actually more than 27 hours of total performances.

1: The total number of artists who appeared at both the London and Philadelphia concerts. It was Phil Collins, who, after performing at Wembley, took a helicopter to Heathrow Airport, hopped on the Concorde and made it to JFK Stadium to do a second set — and play drums for Eric Clapton and the reunion of the former members of Led Zeppelin. He also reportedly convinced Cher — whom he met on the Concorde — to take the stage in Philly.

Ah, the ubiquitous 1980's Phil Collins, destroying music on two continents while trying to help people on a third. Impressive indeed.

I dug around on Youtube and found what was probably the highlight of the 16 hour event (and has now, apparently, been voted one of the greatest rock n roll live performances ever). It turned out to be one of Queen's last gigs with the late, great Freddie Mercury, who would succumb to AIDS five years later. I was never much of a Queen fan, then or now, but I can still remember watching this 25 years ago.

Of course, the event itself wasn't without its problems and controversies (most memorably, in a true WTF moment, Bob Dylan saying he'd like for some of the money raised to go to American farmers); and the memory of the concert itself would be somewhat sullied 20 years later by the Live 8 concert in 2005.

But back then, 25 years ago, all that mattered was the music, and there was some great music performed that day.

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