The Guitar Train Revisits Live Aid
Continuing on the 1985 track, the Guitar Train is stopping to revisit Live Aid thirty years after the epic charity concert. Musician Bob Geldof arranged the concert which was held on July 13, 1985 at both Wembley Stadium in London, England and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many of the top musicians of the time, including a few women, performed at the two stadiums. I watched the concert live in 1985 on MTV. All these years later, I still remember the performances of Phil Collins, The Cars, Madonna, and the group sing along of “We Are the World”.
Upon recently watching the 2004 DVDs from the concert, my overwhelming thought was so many male musicians, so many mullets. There were too many mulleted men to mention but they included Bryan Adams, Bono, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, and Kenny Loggins. My other thought was how much the TV show “Miami Vice” influenced the male musicians’ fashion style. I saw many pants with rolled up cuffs as if the musicians were going to be wading in the ocean rather than standing on a dry stage.
Now it’s time to take a look at Live Aid from the perspective of my favorite musicians. Huey Lewis and the News had participated in the recording of the charity single “We Are the World” months before and were scheduled to perform at Live Aid in Philly. They had concerns over whether the food bought from the money raised from the song actually got to the needy people in Africa. The band wanted these concerns addressed and fixed before Live Aid so that any money raised from this concert would get to the people who needed it. Since they felt that the issues were not solved, the band cancelled their performance. (They were still listed on the promotional material for the concert). It’s doubly unfortunate both if the food wasn’t getting to the hungry people and the fact that Huey Lewis and the News didn’t perform. It would be great to have seen them at the time and now have their performance on DVD to watch again. Although who knows if their performance would have made the DVD. I have the 4 DVD set of the concert released in 2004 and it doesn’t include all the performances of the 16 hour concert. Back then, they only thought of the one time live performance, not recording the concert for future viewings and for technology that didn’t yet exist.
The Beatles obviously did not perform at the 1985 concert but their music was performed there. In London, Elvis Costello sang “All You Need is Love” while Bryan Ferry sang John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”. In Philly, The Thompson Twins, Nile Rodgers, and Madonna sang “Revolution” and Patti LaBelle sang “Imagine”. Paul McCartney was at Wembley Stadium where he played piano and sang “Let It Be”. I am surprised that he only sang one song. He certainly had many to choose from between The Beatles and Wings. I definitely would have liked to have heard more from him as I’m sure the audience would have as well.
Phil Collins was the talk of Live Aid because he was the only musician to perform at both stadiums as he played at Wembley and then flew on the Concorde to play in Philly hours later. In both countries, he played the same two songs, “Against All Odds” and “In the Air Tonight”. I don’t understand why with three solo albums of songs to choose from, he would repeat songs. Obviously, “I Don’t Care Anymore” and “Do You Know, do you care?” would not be good choices for a concert raising money to help suffering people but he had plenty of other songs to choose from.
In London, Phil Collins played piano for “Against All Odds” and “In the Air Tonight” which struck me as odd because he’s never played piano at any of the solo and Genesis concerts I‘ve attended. He then sang “Long Long Way to Go” from his at the time newly released third solo album “No Jacket Required”. This is the song I really remember from watching the concert at the time; the chorus of the song stuck in my head as a child. Sting joined Phil on that song and Phil joined Sting on his song, “Every Breath You Take”. I thought they were very good together and I wonder why they haven’t done more songs together. Overall Phil’s performance was subdued and not as rocking as it could have been with other songs or with Genesis.
Hours later in Philly, Phil Collins played drums for Eric Clapton for three Eric Clapton songs. Phil then did “Against All Odds” and “In the Air Tonight”. It was odd again to see him playing the piano especially on “In the Air Tonight” which is known for his drumming and is always the instrumental highlight in his concerts. I found this version to be too slow and ballady and I felt it needed the drums. It’s also ironic that he wasn’t playing the drums since he just played them for Eric Clapton’s songs and then played them for Led Zepplin. Here’s been much written about how disastrous the reunion of Led Zepplin was at Live Aid. I don’t understand why Phil was blamed for that since he wasn’t the only drummer playing for the band and he didn’t have much time to practice with them. Led Zepplin would not allow the performance to appear on the DVD of the concert so it’s not included.
I was familiar with most of the musical acts who played in Philly. However, there were many acts in London that I did not know such as Status Quo, The Style Council, Ultravox, Nik Kershaw, and Alison Moyet. To the British Guitar Train passengers, can you tell me if these musicians were famous in 1985 and did they deserve to perform at Live Aid? Have any of them retained their fame 30 years later?
To all Guitar Train passengers, what do you remember from watching Live Aid? What were the highlights and the lowlights for you?