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The stage was still dark when Paul McCartney slipped almost unnoticed onto the piano stool. The first, familiar chords of ‘Let It Be’ drew an instant reaction, but delight turned to frustration as, like Bob Geldof and Roger Daltrey before him, Paul suffered microphone failure. This was luckily rectified in time for all to hear the lyrics’ eloquent rejection of despair. The crowd sang along tentatively at first, then with gusto once the unlikely chorus of Bowie, Geldof, Alison Moyet and Pete Townshend took the stage. When Paul played the final concert for Kampuchea, he can have little dreamt his next gig would be like this.From Club Sandwich N°37/38, 1985
Live Aid was a dual-venue concert held on 13 July 1985. The event was organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the “global jukebox”, the event was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom (attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States (attended by about 100,000 people). On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries, such as Australia and Germany. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time: an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcast.
The 1985 Live Aid concert was conceived as a follow-on to the successful charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which was also the brainchild of Geldof and Ure. In October 1984, images of millions of people starving to death in Ethiopia were shown in the UK in Michael Buerk’s BBC News reports on the 1984 famine. Bob Geldof saw the report, and called Midge Ure from Ultravox, and together they quickly co-wrote the song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in the hope of raising money for famine relief. Geldof then contacted colleagues in the music industry and persuaded them to record the single under the title ‘Band Aid’ for free. On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, and was released four days later. It stayed at number-one for five weeks in the UK, was Christmas number one, and became the fastest-selling single ever in Britain and raised £8 million, rather than the £70,000 Geldof had expected. Geldof then set his sights on staging a huge concert to raise further funds.
The idea to stage a charity concert to raise more funds for Ethiopia originally came from Boy George, the lead singer of Culture Club. George and Culture Club drummer Jon Moss had taken part in the recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by the supergroup Band Aid, and during December 1984 while the Band Aid single was at number one in the UK Singles Chart Culture Club were undertaking a tour of the UK, which culminated in six nights at Wembley Arena. On the final night at Wembley, Saturday 22 December 1984, an impromptu gathering of various stars of the Band Aid record joined Culture Club on stage at the end of the concert for an encore of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. George was so overcome by the occasion he told Geldof that they should consider organising a concert. Speaking to the UK music magazine Melody Maker at the beginning of January 1985, Geldof revealed his enthusiasm for George’s idea, saying, “If George is organising it, you can tell him he can call me at any time and I’ll do it. It’s a logical progression from the record, but the point is you don’t just talk about it, you go ahead and do it!”
It was clear from the interview that Geldof had already had the idea to hold a dual venue concert and how the concerts should be structured:
“The show should be as big as is humanly possible. There’s no point just 5,000 fans turning up at Wembley; we need to have Wembley linked with Madison Square Gardens and the whole show to be televised worldwide. It would be great for Duran to play three or four numbers at Wembley and then flick to Madison Square where Springsteen would be playing. While he’s on, the Wembley stage could be made ready for the next British act like the Thompsons or whoever. In that way lots of acts could be featured and the television rights, tickets and so on could raise a phenomenal amount of money. It’s not an impossible idea, and certainly one worth exploiting.” […]
While performing “Let it Be” near the end of the [Wembley] show, the microphone mounted to Paul McCartney’s piano failed for the first two minutes of the song, making it difficult for television viewers and the stadium audience to hear him. During this performance, the TV audience were better off, audio-wise, than the stadium audience, as the TV sound was picked up from other microphones near Paul McCartney as a disappointing, but preferable choice to no sound at all from Paul. The stadium audience, who could obviously not hear the electronic sound feed from these mikes, unless they had portable TV sets and radios, completely drowned out what little sound from Paul could be heard during this part of his performance. As a result, organiser and performer Bob Geldof, accompanied by earlier performers David Bowie, Alison Moyet, and Pete Townshend, returned to the stage to sing with him and back him up (as did the stadium audience despite not being able to hear much), by which time, Paul’s microphone had been repaired.
At the conclusion of the Wembley performances, Bob Geldof was raised heroically onto the shoulders of the Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend and Paul McCartney – symbolising his great achievement in unifying the world for one day, in the spirit of music and charity. […]
From paulmccartney.com, July 13, 2015:
Today in 1985 musicians from around the globe were brought together by Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure to help raise relief funds for the devastating famine taking place in Ethiopia. The event was affectionately referred to as a “global jukebox” as concerts took place in both London and Philadelphia.
The concerts were a roaring success with over 70,000 people attending at Wembley Stadium in London, and 100,000 at the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia and with satellite link ups it is estimated a further 1.9 billion watched the broadcasts across 150 countries!
The line ups at both events read like a who’s who featuring appearances by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Queen, Eric Clapton, U2, The Four Tops, BB King, Billy Ocean, Ozzy Osbourne, Sting; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Duran Duran, Judas Priest, The Beach Boys, Dire Straits, The Who, The Pretenders, Santana, Elton John and Kiki Dee and Madonna.
Paul headlined the Wembley concert with a rousing rendition of ‘Let It Be’, and was also his first live performance since Wings’ 1979 tour of the UK.
Last updated on February 21, 2021
This was the 5th concert played at Wembley Arena.
A total of 17 concerts have been played there • 1979 • Dec 7th • Dec 8th • Dec 9th • Dec 10th • 1985 • Jul 13th • 1986 • Jun 20th • 1990 • Jan 11th • Jan 13th • Jan 14th • Jan 16th • Jan 17th • Jan 19th • Jan 20th • Jan 21st • Jan 23rd • Jan 24th • Jan 26th
Setlist for the concert
Album Available on Live Archives Vol. 1 (1984-1990)
Album Available on Tripping The Live Fantastic - Ultimate Archive Collection