Saturday, July 11, 2015

Live Aid, 30 Years On

Here we are, on a sunny Saturday at Kate & Nick's in north-west London, not far from Wembley stadium - our base for the next week.
Almost 30 years ago to the day* on an even sunnier Saturday, 72,000 people squeezed themselves into a pre-arch version of that stadium, and another 2 billion people worldwide switched on the TV to watch Live Aid, the biggest pop-rock-charity event ever staged. I was living in Cricklewood at the time, a few miles the other side of the stadium, and watched the whole thing (including some of the US event in Philadelphia, though to be frank it wasn’t a patch on Wembley) on the box pausing only for food, beer and loo breaks. 
A lot of things have been written about Live Aid since - that it was a turning point in 80s music (the end of the brilliant, alternative first half of the decade and the beginning of the largely uninspiring second half); the futility of pop stars trying to change the world, the egos, the ‘greatest 18 minute set ever performed by a rock group’ (Queen), the making of U2, and the lack of black/African artists… all of which is largely true. But whatever one thinks of the choice of artists and the music they played on the day - some of it good, much of it indifferent - I don’t think anyone can deny that it was A Good Thing. What most people forget is that it was first and foremost designed to be a money-making event for TV, with as strong a line-up as possible to get people to switch on and give money. The 172,000 who attended the concerts in both cities was one thing but the millions of people who wrote cheques or phoned in cash (a phenomenon then in its infancy) was quite another. It is estimated that well over 100m was raised as a direct result of the concerts.
I have just been reading Dylan Jones’s The Eighties: One Day, One Decade which has brought it all back, although strangely I can pretty much remember it all anyway. I don’t have any particular favourite moments - just the overall ‘feelgood’ thing of fortunate humans from all over the world, musicians and spectators, for one day, getting together and trying to help less fortunate humans.    

(* actually 13 July)

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