Live Aid Memories: 'It was life-changing: my life was not all about just me anymore'
Tuesday 13 July 2010
Midge Ure: Co-wrote the 1984 Band Aid single
Do They Know It's Christmas? and helped to organise Live Aid
I remember the climax: lots of pop stars elbowing each other to get to the microphone. I stayed in the background, quite happily singing the chorus. Bob [Geldof] was grabbing my arm and pointing at the sky.
My memories are of immediately afterwards, when handfuls of rock stars got scooped up into the arms of security and shoved into minibuses to the backstage area. And the elated feeling that everybody had, because it had been such a buzz that had gone off reasonably unscathed technically. We managed to scrape through, while taking feeds in from all round the world.
But it's not something you can walk away from. You can't breathe the dust and smell the smells and taste the air in Ethiopia and see that level of poverty as I had and go back to your garage full of classic sports cars and just get on with your life. A bit of a seismic shift happens.
I didn't give up all my worldly goods and chattels and live in a priory. But it is life-changing stuff. You rethink why you do things. Is everything just about me and how I wanted a record to sound? Because that's what life was up until that point. And it just became irrelevant to me.
Paul Gambaccini, Part of the BBC broadcasting team at Live Aid
We had our first meeting of the broadcasters only eight days before the event. It didn't leave us much time, but we knew even then that we had been picked by the fickle finger of fate to be involved with the greatest leap forward in music broadcasting there would ever be.
There had been live national concerts, but this was global and we knew we would instantly get the largest audience of our careers – more than 1.5billion people watched the concerts worldwide. But there could be no rehearsals, no run-throughs. The pressure was enormous.
As it happened, it went well and there were no "dries", as we say when a presenter "dries up". Originally I was going to be in the broadcast team working in rotation in the commentary booth at Wembley. It had been built for winter, but was torrid in the heat and we were sweating buckets. When they asked for someone to do the interviews backstage, I was there in a flash and got to talk to a lot of the artists as they came off, including Bono and Mark Knopfler.
There was a great buzz and Bob Geldof's can-do attitude had infected everybody. By far the most extraordinary feeling came with the arrival on stage of Queen. You could sense a frisson backstage as heads rose towards the monitors like dogs hearing a whistle. They were stealing the show and they would regain a stature they would never lose again. David Bowie was there and told me we should do this every year.
The whole thing is branded on my brain. My night didn't end until 5am at Legends nightclub on Bond Street, where the party moved as the broadcasts continued in America. I remember Cliff Richard coming down to sing and to be interviewed. He had done more charity work, quietly, than many of the people on the Live Aid bill, but wanted to show his support, despite not having been asked to perform.
It was huge and just as Band Aid the record inspired a series of disaster relief records, so Live Aid inspired a series of global concerts. A lot of us on the broadcasting team went through baptisms of fire on that day, but when it was all over I thought: "Well, that was the highlight of my career." It still is.
Nick Harris, staff writer at 'The Independent' who attended the Live Aid concert at Wembley
I was 15 at time. The tickets went on sale at this record shop in Nottingham and me and three of my mates managed to get some. It was £25 which was quite a lot of money at the time, but we knew it was for a good cause. We had to get a bus at 5am to reach London in time.
I wouldn't say that the whole political side of it was irrelevant to us, but at that age we weren't particularly switched on to it – it was more about going to see loads of top bands in one place.
We got in quite early and everyone else charged to the front, but it was a scorchingly hot day and we didn't fancy standing there for 10 hours, so we set up camp near the back of the stadium where we could see everything.
When the first few bars of Rocking All Over The World were played, the whole stadium of 80,000 people was just bouncing. I remember when Elton John came on in the late afternoon and opened his set with I'm Still Standing, because suddenly this huge thunderstorm broke, which was such a relief for everyone who had been sweltering in the stadium all day.
The main highlight was obviously Queen in the evening: they had everyone in the stadium going, regardless of their musical taste. Adam Ant was very embarrassing, because he came on and said: "This is my new single", which wasn't really in the spirit of things.
I don't even remember the name of it but it just died a death. U2 went down pretty well though. I remember getting home, turning on the TV and seeing the last two hours of the JFK concert in America, which went on until 3am our time.
At 15, I was too young to be cynical. Live Aid was the first rock-charity movement on that scale, and it has spawned a million imitations. But at the time I felt fairly idealistic about it. Subsequently I went to university and studied African politics and international development, and from that point of view I don't think it changed much in Africa fundamentally, but that's not to say the work Bob Geldof and Bono have done shouldn't be applauded. It's a much more complex debate than a pop concert.
Harvey Goldsmith, Helped to organise Live Aid
I was in the middle of taking Wham! to China and looking after Roger Waters when Geldof kept calling me and saying: "We're going to do Live Aid and we're going to do Wembley Stadium."
I kept saying "Look, I can't do this until I get back because I'm knee deep in a quagmire." When I got back, he was the first person sitting outside my office. He was the visionary and I was the engine.
Doing a concert at Wembley Stadium was down to finding sufficient artists that could sell it – the rest was easy. But then Bob threw out one afternoon that we had to do one in America, otherwise it wouldn't have any traction.
In 1985 there weren't fax machines, let alone computers, mobile phones or anything else. We were working on telex and landlines and so on. We were sitting in my office one afternoon with a big satellite map and a pair of callipers trying out to map out where the satellite's going to be at a certain time – that's how precise it was.
The other thing that really changed the whole face of Live Aid was this television idea. When we went to the BBC and Bob suddenly stood up and thumped the table and said, "I want 17 hours of television" – that was seriously revolutionary. Once the BBC had committed, we could use that as leverage to persuade TV broadcasters all over the world to do it. That was the first time that had ever happened. It was my job to pick up the pieces and make it work.
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