Was Live Aid the greatest gig ever? Or the most cringeworthy?

18 February 2019, 21:20

Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, 13 July 1985
Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, 13 July 1985. Picture: Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On Saturday, 13 July 1985, rock and pop music’s top table came together to raise money and awareness for the famine crisis then taking place in Ethiopia. Radio X looks back at the hugely influential gig... and some of its messier moments.

  1. Why did Live Aid happen?

    Of course, it all began at the end of 1984, when the Boomtown Rats frontman responded to a BBC news report about the famine in Ethiopia by making a star-studded charity record, Do They Know It's Christmas?

    Bob Geldof onstage with The Boomtown Rats,
    Bob Geldof onstage with The Boomtown Rats,. Picture: PA Archive/PA Images
  2. When did Live Aid take place?

    It was only a matter of time before the idea of a one-off fund-raising show was floated and it quickly became a reality. The gig took place at London's Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia's JFK Stadium on Saturday 13 July 1985.

    Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, 13 July 1985
    Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, 13 July 1985. Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
  3. How much were tickets for Live Aid?

    Tickets for the Wembley show were priced at a very reasonable £5 - with a £20 chaity donation added on, of course. The crowds arrived at midday to watch Status Quo kick off proceedings. Hey, they were still quite big in '85.

    Thousands of fans begin arriving for what has been described as the biggest event in the history of rock music.
    Thousands of fans begin arriving for what has been described as the biggest event in the history of rock music. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images
  4. Who were the royals at Live Aid?

    Of course, the "square" royals couldn't be seen at such a hugely important event, so Charles and Di stepped up. Diana's favourite Elton John was on hand to perform, thank goodness.

    The Princess of Wales, the Prince of Wales and Sir Bob Geldof, organiser of the Live Aid music concert, which raised millions of pounds for famine relief and his former wife, the late Paula Yates (far right), at Wembley Stadium, London.
    The Princess of Wales, the Prince of Wales and Sir Bob Geldof, organiser of the Live Aid music concert, which raised millions of pounds for famine relief and his former wife, the late Paula Yates (far right), at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture: RON BELL/PA Archive/PA Images
  5. How did Phil Collins appear at both the UK and USA Live Aid?

    We're trying to think of a photo that screams "1985" more than this shot of Phil and Gordon, but we admit - we're stumped. Collins, of course, would epitomise 1980s excess that day by jumping on Concorde and flying to the American leg of the show on the same day. Why not donate the ticket fare instead, Phil?

    Phil Collins and Sting at Live Aid, 13 July 1985
    Phil Collins and Sting at Live Aid, 13 July 1985. Picture: Phil Dent/Redferns/Getty Images
  6. What did U2 play at Live Aid?

    Hard to imagine now, but Live Aid really put U2 on the world map. The band were due to play three songs kicking off with Sunday Bloody Sunday, but during Bad, the magnificently be-mulleted Bono went into the audience to dance with a female member of the crowd and they ran out of time. Oh, Bono.

    Bono performs with U2 at Live Aid
    Bono performs with U2 at Live Aid. Picture: Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  7. Live Aid was a scorcher!

    That weekend was very sunny in London, so someone had to break out the hosepipe.

    Live Aid Wembley Stadium - hosing down the crowds
    Live Aid Wembley Stadium - hosing down the crowds. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images
  8. Dire Straits played at Live Aid

    Well, it WAS 1985, and pretty much every household had a copy of Brothers In Arms. Do you think headbands for men will ever come back?

    Dire Straits at Live Aid, 1985
    Dire Straits at Live Aid, 1985. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images
  9. What's the true story of Queen at Live Aid?

    Contrary to what the Bohemian Rhapsody film claims, Queen were not “rusty” and had just come off an enormous world tour in support of their album The Works. Playing Wembley was a walk in the park for Freddie Mercury, but the band surprised everyone by reminding them what a great live act Queen were and how many huge hits they had. Classic.

    Freddie Mercury of Queen at Live Aid
    Freddie Mercury of Queen at Live Aid. Picture: Jacques Langevin/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images
  10. All together now: "DAAAAY-O!"

    The crowd at Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, 1985
    The crowd at Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, 1985. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images
  11. What did David Bowie play at Live Aid?

    Our hero, then in his "Serious Moonlight" bleached-blonde pomp, played an impeccable set of TVC15, Rebel Rebel, Modern Love and the all-time anthem, "Heroes".

    David Bowie onstage at Live Aid, 13 July 1985
    David Bowie onstage at Live Aid, 13 July 1985. Picture: Phil Dent/Redferns
  12. The Who played at Live Aid

    An appearance by the surviving members of The 'Oo was a big deal at the time as they hadn't played in three years, although these days they seem to be a constant presence. However, technical difficulties marred their set and the TV feed cut out just as Roger Daltrey sang "Why don't you all fade away..."

    Roger Daltrey performs with The Who at Live Aid, 1985
    Roger Daltrey performs with The Who at Live Aid, 1985. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images
  13. What was Paul McCartney's technical problem at Live Aid?

    Fab Macca also had a technical hitch - his microphone didn't work properly for the first verse of his version of the Beatles classic Let It Be. In fact, there were strong rumours the surving Beatles would get back together, but George Harrison sourly noted: "Paul didn't want me to sing on Let It Be ten years ago, why should he want me to sing on it now?"

    Paul McCartney salutes the Live Aid audience
    Paul McCartney salutes the Live Aid audience. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images
  14. What was played at the Live Aid finale?

    Despite the egos, the technical challenges and dropping the F-bomb on live TV, Bob Geldof pulled it off and the Wembley leg ended with a rousing chorus of Do They Know Its Christmas? In July.

    Musicians gather on stage during the Live Aid concert held in London
    Musicians gather on stage during the Live Aid concert held in London. Picture: Jacques Langevin/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images
  15. Black Sabbath played the US leg of Live Aid

    Meanwhile, over in Philadelphia... Sabbath crawled onstage at the unholy hour of 10am for a set of classics, clad in pure Spinal Tap threads.

    Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath at Live Aid
    Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath at Live Aid. Picture: Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty Images
  16. Did Madonna play Live Aid?

    Ms Ciccone's star was in the ascendent when Live Aid happened and she rolled out the hits Holiday and Into The Groove to prove it. Less successful at the time were off-the-boil Brit act The Thompson Twins, who Madge later joined for a cover of The Beatles' Revolution. Nile Rodgers also showed up, which was nice.

    Madonna performs for a sold out crowd at the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 13, 1985.
    Madonna performs for a sold out crowd at the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 13, 1985. Picture: Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect/Getty Images
  17. Led Zeppelin reformed for Live Aid

    Perhaps the most notorious Live Aid set was for the reformed Led Zep, who enlisted a nervous Phil Collins to replace their late drummer John Bonham. Robert Plant was hoarse, Jimmy Page was out of tune and the band were under-rehearsed. They've never allowed the footage to be officially released. Ooops.

    Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at Live Aid, July 1985
    Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at Live Aid, July 1985. Picture: Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images
  18. Did Mick Jagger perform with David Bowie at Live Aid?

    Sadly, Mick didn't team up with David Bowie for a chorus of Dancing In The Street, as he was on another continent entirely, but he did drag Tina on for an embarrassing version of the Stones standard It's Only Rock And Roll.

    Mick Jagger and Tina Turner at Live Aid, 1985
    Mick Jagger and Tina Turner at Live Aid, 1985. Picture: Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images
  19. Did The Rolling Stones play Live Aid?

    The Stones were out of action, so while Mick teamed up with Tina, Keef 'n' Ronnie backed the legendary Bob Dylan. Old Zimmerman made some comments criticising the event, inviting the Wrath Of Geldof, but the show ended nicely with a chorus of We Are The World.

    Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood at Live Aid, 1985
    Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood at Live Aid, 1985. Picture: Bettmann/Getty Images
  20. Was Live Aid a success?

    Despite bruised egos, controversy and several notable no-shows (Prince and Michael Jackson to name but two), the event was a huge success and set the template for subsequent fund-raisers. Geldof's own website estimates that the shows raised £150 million for famine relief.

    Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, 13 July 1985
    Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, 13 July 1985. Picture: PA/PA Archive/PA Images