OK, this is a long tape. A rare LP recording, but it was rather a long evening, as BBC2 looked back to Live Aid on the 10th anniversary.
I regret not having recorded the original concert. At the time I was very sniffy about pop music, so I was only really dipping in to it. It was early on in my VHS recording life, so I didn’t have the same sense of TV history that I later developed.
But, this one is to make some small amends, and opens with the very end of The Nun’s Story.
There’s a trailer for Big Science. And a trailer for Tim Westwood’s Rap Show.
Then, the Live Aid Tenth Anniversary. Astonishingly, according to the continuity announcer, this is the first time since the original broadcast, that the concert footage has been seen. I know music rights are a nightmare to deal with, but you’d think this would have been exploited to death, given how much money might have been raised.
As well as the concert footage, there’s also some post-concert interviews for some behind the scenes stories and context, which is always nice.
But I really don’t like the ‘pop facts’ style captions they’ve chosen. Really tacky.
The same treatment is used for the interview captions. Yuck.
I’m going to get sad about the number of people on stage who have died since. Most of them in 2016, of course, including Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt.
At least Francis Rossi is still with us.
The BBC Presenting team was pulling out all the stops. Here’s Richard Skinner.
Paul McCartney talks about not wanting to do the show, as he didn’t have a band, and wasn’t touring at the time.
Midge Ure talks about Geldof’s ability to bullshit to persuade all the big names to take part.
The next act on stage is Paul Weller and The Style Council. I never really felt the Style Council. I always preferred the angrier music of The Jam. I once stood behind Paul Weller in an immigration queue in an American airport. He didn’t get an VIP treatment.
We only get one song from the Council, and the BBC have opted for ‘You’re The Best Thing’ and not the rockier ‘Walls Came Tumbling Down’ sadly.
Next on stage, Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats. Isn’t it really odd that the most famous song ever written about a mass shooting was written about one of the only mass shootings by a woman?
They also perform ‘Rat Trap’, and it looks like we lose Geldof’s mic halfway through the performance.
After this, the programme has an interlude, going back to 1984 and the original Michael Buerk news report that triggered Geldof to organise the Band Aid single that eventually led to Live Aid.
Bob Geldof returns to the location of the report for the first time since he came with supply trucks.
Back to 1985, and it’s Adam Ant, who chooses to do Vive le Rock.
Concert Promoter Harvey Goldsmith talks about the third leg of the concert, from Australia.
Their concert, which started 6 hours before the UK leg, featured Michael Hutchence and INXS, another one no longer with us.
Next on stage in the UK, Band Aid co-composer Midge Ure, with Dancing with Tears in my Eyes. He also does Vienna, of course.
Waitress Rita Gilligan was part of the catering backstage. All the food was free, but you were expected to make a donation, so everyone ended up paying much more for the food, because they didn’t want to look stingy.
Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet talks about the lack of ego.
They’re next on stage, opening with True, of course.
Here’s Elvis Costello.
He does All You Need is Love. “I didn’t have any songs that would be recognised internationally” has says. Elvis Fucking Costello. Now that is a lack of ego.
I particularly like the way that audience provides the horn section bits of the chorus, because it’s just Elvis on a guitar.
I’ll be honest here. I’m starting to think I’ve seen enough of Bob Geldof’s return to Africa. He’s now reading from the story of the Queen of Sheba meeting King Solomon. We could be using this time for another song.
Next on stage, Nik Kershaw. I really liked Nik Kershaw, particularly his first album, Human Racing. Of course, he does Wouldn’t It Be Good? but I would have preferred Dancing Girls.
Noel Edmonds tell the amusing story of how the closest place to land a helicopter, to ferry the stars to and from the stadium, was a cricket ground, and the cricket club point blank refused to cancel the game that was scheduled to take place that day, so every time a helicopter arrived the players had to leave the pitch.
Blues legend BB King appears live by satellite from the Netherlands.
It’s Sade’s turn next.
Here’s Noel Edmonds describing Phil Collins as one of the finest ambassadors of the British music industry.
He even manages to screw up the intro, as he introduces Phil Collins, but it’s Sting first. Haha. He does Message in a Bottle.
Phil Collins does the two songs he can play on the piano (a joke he himself makes later in the concert).
Here’s Howard Jones saying that some of the keys on the piano (it was Freddie Mercury’s Steinway) were a bit sticky. He performs Hide and Seek, not one of his biggest hits.
Phil Chilvers, the BBC director, explains what happened when they cut to a feed from the Soviet Union of their top band Autograph. They could hear the band, but the pictures were of a group of young people picking cherries in an orchard. At first they assumed this was the video for a song, but when people on screen were interviewing other people with a microphone they realised they’d got the wrong video feed, and had to get on the phone to Moscow to get the right feed patched in.
There’s a brief clip of an unnamed Japanese band broadcast from Tokyo. performing their big hit, probably the theme song to an anime about collectible card games. We’re never told.
At least the Austrian contribution has subtitles.
As does Yugoslavia’s entry
The German Band Aid single is cheery and uplifting as expected
Nice to see the Old Grey Whistle Test represented in the presenters, with David Hepworth
Sweden’s entry is performed on a beach.
Back to the concert proper, with Bryan Ferry, who does Slave to Love.
You can’t quite see from this angle, but he’s carrying two microphones. I presume this is to prevent a repeat of Bob Geldof’s dead mic.
Looks like Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour on guitar for Ferry.
Oh good, it’s Paul Young. I hope he does Toast.
No, it’s Come Back and Stay. It sounds like the drum machine is slightly malfunctioning on this.
Perhaps this is the reason they never did any commercial releases – because it wasn’t possible for the bands to ensure the best possible result, so they were happy to do it for a one-off, but didn’t want those performances to hang around.
Joining Paul Young is Alison Moyet, and they sing That’s The Way Love Is.
And that’s the end of part one of the programme.
There’s trails for African Footsteps and British Grand Prix.
And, because there’s nothing great that can’t be made shitter by sport, an hour’s highlights of a cricket match.
My recording skips most of that, thankfully. There’s a trailer for Big Science and for more African Summer programmes.
Then, back to the concert. American joins the fray, late as usual, and they lead with a Canadian, Brian Adams, and Summer of 69.
Back to London, and, in the words of Tommy Vance, “here are a band from the Republic of Ireland with international respect and appeal. Ladies and Gentlemen, U2.” Was that written with an eye to the US viewers? Were U2 big in the US at the time?
To appeal to the American audience, they do their crowdpleaser about a massacre of Irish protesters by British troops, Sunday Bloody Sunday.
They also do Bad. But not the Michael Jackson one. I often can’t tell the difference between U2 and Simple Minds. It’s not a problem I worry about too much.
On the American side, they have the Beach Boys, but I think this was without Brian Wilson. They’re doing Good Vibrations, tying in with A Very Peculiar Practice just a couple of days ago.
Another African interlude is followed by Dire Straits (and Sting) doing Money for Nothing.
They also do Sultans of Swing.
From Philadelphia, George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
Here’s Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones.
They were there to introduce Queen.
Let’s face it, Queen won Live Aid, and it’s easy to work out why. First, Freddie Mercury can work a crowd like nobody else. Second, their hits are all footstomping, hand clapping anthems, and third, their songs are so good that they can open their set with their greatest hit, Bohemian Rhapsody, and yet it goes up from there.
The sight of the entire crowd doing the synchronised hand claps above their heads is amazing. This isn’t a crowd of Queen fanatics, this is a cross section of music fans, and yet every person there, it looks like, is dong the handclap gesture for Radio Gaga. It’s quite spinetingling.
They were also very canny in not doing two or three songs at full concert length, but they squeezed in six numbers. Unfortunately, this broadcast omits Hammer to Fall and Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
After the video for Dancing in the Streets, and a digression about Geldof swearing on live TV, it’s over to Philadelphia for Simple Minds.
And in London, David Bowie.
Bowie takes the time to introduce his band by name, including Thomas Dolby on synths. Bowie really looks like he’s enjoying himself.
This is followed by the video of famine victims set to The Cars’ Who’s going to drive you home. Blimey, it’s strong stuff.
It’s followed by an interview with the editor who put it together, Colin Dean.
Back to the music, and in Philadelphia, it’s Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, with Stop Your Sobbing.
Next, it’s The Who singing My Generation. At the point at which Daltrey is singing “Why don’t you all F-F-F-F-Fade Away” the power went out at the Stadium, due to a fuse blowing. Given that this was the first time the Who had played together in a long time, this was more than a little unfortunate.
Another comedian doing an introduction – much less pretentious than Tommy Vance’s ludicrous intros. Here’s Billy Connolly.
Introducing Elton John.
The programme chooses to open his set with Bennie and the Jets rather than his actual first song, I’m Still Standing which I vastly prefer. I’ve always found BatJ a little dull.
Noel Edmonds tells an ‘amusing’ story about Elton John, and how they had to shut down the helicopter when it landed with him, so the wind from the rotors wouldn’t blow his ‘particularly dodgy’ wig away.
Elton then does Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Kiki Dee, a guaranteed crowdpleaser.
After another Geldof African story, Elton is joined by George Michael, who sings Don’t Let The Sun Go Down. He was still part of Wham! at the time (and, indeed, Andrew Ridgeley also came on stage, seemingly to Elton’s surprise) and I think this performance did a lot to set the foundations of his solo career.
Bob Geldof’s PA tells the story of being backstage, with Tony Hadley and George Michael, “and Tony Hadley saying ‘My God, look, Paul McCartney’s just walked in, don’t look now’ and of course 50 heads all go to have a look at him and George is like ‘Oooh, Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney’ and I’m thinking ‘But you’re George Michael.'”
From Philadelphia, Bette Midler introduces Madonna.
Madonna asks the crowd “Hot enough for you? I’m sympathising by keeping my coat on.” and when some of the crowd actually boo that remark she says “No, I ain’t taking shit off today. You might hold it against me ten years from now.”
Then, it’s Paul McCartney, and the most famous dead mic of the night. For the first two minutes, nobody can hear his vocal, and (according to Geldof) the crowd are getting a bit angry. McCartney, the Pro, just keeps going, sure that someone backstage will sort it out. And when it does, the cheer from the crowd is incredible.
Followed by another huge cheer a minute later, when Geldof, Pete Townshend, Alison Moyet and David Bowie come onstage to busk with McCartney. It’s all a bit of a shambles, really, but I don’t think it matters at this point.
Then, the whole ensemble shuffles onstage to do Do They Know It’s Christmas and that’s it for London.
Bob Geldof tells of going out to find that all the cars have gone, so some random person in a volkswagen gives him a lift home.
Cut to Philadelphia with The Cars, and Who’s Going to Drive You Home?
Next, incongruously for the American stage, it’s The Thompson Twins. Were they huge in America?
Another British act, Eric Clapton
(supported on drums by Phil Collins, newly arrived from London).
The story of the corporate sponsorship of the event is interesting. No, it really is.
Phil Collins does his songs again, this time in America. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I quite like Against All Odds.
There’s a shot in his set where the camera is trying to get an arty closeup, and the cameraperson’s hand sneaks into shot trying to get rid of the scarf that’s on the piano. Smooth.
The British theme continues with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page doing the Theme to Top of the Pops.
At last, an American act, in the shape of Tom Petty.
But it’s back to the Brits with Duran Duran, who do A View To A Kill. Simon le Bon recounts the moment when his voice cracks rather badly on one of the notes.
And Hall and Oates doing Maneater
Back the the BBC here’s Mike Smith presenting.
He introduces Mick Jagger and Tina Turner.
Another Geldof African film, and he’s wearing a Biker Mice from Mars jacket.
The programme ends with the US contingent singing We Are the World and some reminiscences from the people involved with the whole concert.
Yep, that does look like Mick Jagger and Joan Baez just rocking out at the back.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th July 1995 – 18:00
After this programme, there’s a trailer for The Radical Option: Reparations to Africa. Then the tape ends.