By Lyndsey Parker
They were the world. They were the rock ‘n’ children. Hard as it may be to believe, it was 30 long years ago, on July 13, 1985, that more than 75 artists, 170,000 concertgoers, and a whopping 1.5 billion television viewers across 150 nations gathered for Sir Bob Geldof’s massive Live Aid “superconcerts” — held jointly at London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium, and inspired by the all-star charity singles “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World,” to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief.
Three decades later, where those funds went, exactly, is still a hot topic of debate. However, every ’80s child remembers tuning in to MTV, and every artist that graced those two revolving stages agrees that music history was made that day. Prince Charles and Princess Diana rubbed epauletted shoulders with David Bowie; Sean Penn (aka Mr. Madonna Ciccone at the time) hung out in a trailer with Simple Minds; Mick Jagger de-skirted Tina Turner on live television; the original “Fab Five” Duran Duran lineup played its last show for the next 18 years; Phil Collins hopped on the Concorde in order to appear at both concerts; Queen and U2 played gigs of a lifetime; and everyone from elder statesmen Page & Plant, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young to new wave newbies Thomas Dolby and Howard Jones joined forces for a singalong heard ’round the world.
Below, a dozen or so Live Aid alumni from both sides of the pond reflect on that momentous day: the surreal star sightings, the nerves, the backstage shenanigans, the onstage mishaps, the misplaced money, and more.
MARTHA QUINN, MTV VJ (Philadelphia): My contention is Live Aid 1985 was probably the pinnacle of rock ‘n’ roll.
JOHN TAYLOR, DURAN DURAN/POWER STATION (Philadelphia): When I think back on Live Aid, I am almost overwhelmed by the glory of it all. Pop culture would never be the same again.
STEVE NORMAN, SPANDAU BALLET (London): It was an incredible atmosphere in Wembley Stadium. It was a very sunny day. Our singer had a full-length leather coat on! Even though it was a beautiful, sunny July day.
ADAM ANT (London): I did “Viva La Rock,” because I thought it was in the spirit of the day. But in retrospect, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience for me — because people would come up to me endlessly for 30 years saying, “Why didn’t you do ‘Stand and Deliver’?” Initially, I was asked to do four songs, and then I think what happened is big bands started to show interest — Queen, Bowie — and late in the day through Harvey Goldsmith, the promoter, I was told, “You’re off the show, you’re not doing it.” Fortunately, I was managed by Miles Copeland, who managed Sting, who said, “If you don’t put Adam on, you’re not having Sting.” So I got one song.