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The Guitar Train Revisits Live Aid

Live Aid DVD cover

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.

Live Aid Performers List

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?



Beatles’ Movies Month – “Help!”

Help! CD cover

All this month on The Guitar Train, Quirky T will be looking at The Beatles’ movies. This station stop looks at The Beatles’ second movie, “Help!”. As with all the movies I am looking at this month, they have been analyzed so much so I’m going to just take a quick look at the film. “Help!” was released in 1965 and directed by Richard Lester who also directed The Beatles’ first film, “A Hard Day’s Night”. Since that film had depicted the Fab Four’s chaotic work lives and their personal lives were not going to be depicted, this movie had them as “passive recipients of an outside threat”. Ringo Starr called it “a chase film” which is appropriate especially since he was the one being chased for the sacrificial ring he is unable to remove from his finger. The fact that The Beatles were more passive in this film has been criticized but I still enjoyed the film. In the end, it’s still John, Paul, George, and Ringo. It’s still their witty personalities and their amazing music. I may be a little biased since “Help!” is my favorite Beatles album.


Again like “A Hard Day’s Night”, this is a movie I had last seen decades ago. One scene that I remembered from my first viewing that is still a favorite occurs in the beginning of the film. The band members each enter separate doors of row houses only to reveal once inside that it is one large connected house. What a cool interior it is with a grass floor, snack machine, drink machine, organ, revolving bookcase, and John’s bed in the floor. I could live there.


Another favorite scene is when The Beatles are sledding and skiing while “Ticket to Ride” plays. It has the look of a music video. In fact, in the DVD’s “Special Features”, Richard Lester said MTV proclaimed him as the “Father of MTV” because of scenes such as this one. I love the coats the musicians are wearing as well as George’s top hat. On another fashion note, according to one of the special features, the khakis The Beatles wore in the Salisbury Plain sequence were sold out for months in stores around the world after the movie premiered. It is just another example of their enormous popularity and position as trendsetters.


Guitar Train passengers, what is your favorite scene from “Help!”?


Hop back aboard for the next stop on The Guitar Train’s Beatles’ Movies Month as Quirky T looks at the “Magical Mystery Tour”.


MTV, VH1, and Quirky T

This month the Guitar Train is making several stops for Music Video Month.  Quirky T missed the beginning of MTV because she didn’t have cable television until 1990, nine years after the debut of the music video channel.  So every time I was at a friend or relative’s house who had MTV, I had to watch it.  Of course the must see video was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.  Having watched it recently for a post I wrote about Halloween,  it still holds up as an amazing video.

Besides the few videos I saw at other people’s houses, my only other music video viewing was NBC’s “Friday Night Videos” which aired late Friday night into Saturday morning.  By the time I got cable TV in 1990, I had moved on from the more harder edged MTV to the more pop orientated VH1.  The minute the cable was installed (after a half day of being on hold on the telephone with the cable company), I pretty much watched VH1 non-stop.  My favorite shows were the weekly countdown show, “Top 21 Video Countdown” and “My Generation” hosted by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits.

Much has been written and lamented about how MTV no longer airs music videos.  The same is true for VH1.  The only show I now watch on MTV is the excellent reality show, “Catfish: The TV Show”.  It is based on the movie “Catfish” about people misrepresenting themselves online.  I like how the show is done in such a way that it is empathetic to everyone involved.  The show does contain background music with the song title and artist listed on screen to maybe justify in some way why it is airing on a music TV channel.

Since I missed the early days of MTV, I recently read the book “VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave”.  The book is an interesting inside account of the beginning of MTV to its status as a cultural phenomenon.  Reading the book made me wish that in addition to MTV’s many channels, there was an MTV Throwback channel which re-aired the first videos complete with the VJs’ comments as if it was all happening for the first time.  If it wasn’t for You Tube, these videos would be lost completely.  What a better way to showcase these videos and allow the artists to get royalties than to legally air them on a MTV Throwback channel?  I would definitely watch this channel.

Guitar Train passengers, would you watch a MTV Throwback channel?  Or is it just easier for you to watch You Tube?

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