Live Aid was a multi-venue rock music concert held on July 13, 1985 (1985-07-13). The event was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Billed as the 'global jukebox', the event was held simultaneously in Wembley Stadium, London (attended by 82,000 people) and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia (attended by about 99,000 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 400 million viewers, across 60 countries, watched the live broadcast.
The concert was conceived as a follow-on to another Geldof/Ure project, the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", performed by a collection of British and Irish music acts billed as 'Band Aid' and released the previous winter.
The concert grew in scope, as more acts were added on both sides of the Atlantic. As a charity fundraiser, the concert far exceeded its goals: on a television programme in 2001, one of the organisers stated that while initially it had been hoped that Live Aid would raise Â£1 million with the help of Wembley tickets costing Â£25.00 each, the final figure was Â£150 million (approx. 3.6 million). Partly in recognition of the Live Aid effort, Geldof received an honorary knighthood. Music promoter Harvey Goldsmith was also instrumental in bringing the plans of Geldof and Ure to fruition.
The concert began at 12:00 BST (7:00, EST) at Wembley Stadium, England. It continued at JFK Stadium, U.S., starting at 13:51 BST (8:51, EST). The UK's Wembley performances ended at 22:00 BST (17:00 or 5:00 PM, EST). The JFK performances and whole concert in the US ended at 04:05 BST July 14 (23:05 or 11:05 PM, EST). (See the full schedule of the concert here). Thus, the concert continued for 16 hours, but since many artists' performances were conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert's length was much longer.
It was the original intention for Mick Jagger and David Bowie to perform an intercontinental duet, with Bowie in London and Jagger in Philadelphia. Problems of synchronization meant that the only remotely practical solution was to have one artist, likely Bowie at Wembley, mime along to prerecorded vocals broadcast as part of the live sound mix for Jagger's performance from Philadelphia. Veteran music engineer David Richards (Pink Floyd and Queen) was brought in to create footage and sound mixes that Jagger and Bowie could perform to in their respective venues. The BBC would then have had to ensure that those footage and sound mixes were in synch while also performing a live vision mix of the footage from both venues. The combined footage would then have had to be bounced back by satellite to the various broadcasters around the world. Due to the time lag (the signal would take several seconds to be broadcast twice across the Atlantic Ocean) Richards concluded there would be no practical way for Jagger to be able to hear or see Bowie's performance, meaning there could be no interaction between the artists, which would defeat the whole point of the exercise. On top of this both artists objected to the idea of miming at what was perceived as an historic event. Instead, Jagger and Bowie worked with Richards to create a video clip for the song they would have performed, a cover of "Dancing in the Street". The video was shown on the screens of both stadiums and also broadcast as part of many TV networks coverage.
Each of the two main portions of the concert ended with their particular continental all-star anti-hunger anthems, with Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" closing the UK concert, and USA for Africa's "We Are the World" closing the US concert (and thus the day's proceedings).
Concert organizers have subsequently said that they were particularly keen to ensure that at least one surviving member of The Beatles, ideally Paul McCartney, took part in the concert as they felt that having an 'elder statesman' from British music would give it greater legitimacy in the eyes of the political leaders whose opinions the performers were trying to shape. McCartney agreed to perform and has said that it was "the management" â€” his children â€” that persuaded him to take part. In the event, he was the last performer (aside from the Band Aid finale) to take to the stage and one of the few to be beset by technical difficulties; his microphone was turned off for the first two minutes of his piano performance of "Let It Be", making it difficult for television viewers and impossible for those in the stadium to hear him. He later jokingly thought about changing the lyrics to "There will be some feedback, let it be".
Phil Collins performed at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, utilising Concorde to get him from London to Philadelphia. UK TV personality Noel Edmonds piloted the helicopter that took Collins to Heathrow Airport to catch his flight. Aside from his own set at both venues, he also provided drums for Eric Clapton and the reunion of the surviving members of Led Zeppelin at JFK. On the Concorde flight, Collins encountered actress and singer Cher, who later claimed not to know anything about the Live Aid concerts. Upon reaching the USA however she did attend the Philadelphia concert and can be seen performing as part of that concert's We Are the World finale.
An official book was produced by Bob Geldof in collaboration with photographer Denis O'Regan.
The concert was the most ambitious international satellite television venture that had ever been attempted at the time.
In Europe, the feed was supplied by the BBC, whose broadcast was opened by Richard Skinner, co-hosted by Andy Kershaw, and included numerous interviews and chats in between the various acts. The BBC's television sound feed was mono, but the BBC Radio 1 feed was stereo and was simulcast in sync with the TV pictures. Due to the constant activities in both London and Philadelphia, the BBC producers omitted the reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from their broadcast. The BBC, however, did supply a 'clean' feed to various television channels in Europe.
ABC was largely responsible for the US broadcast (although ABC themselves only telecast the final three hours of the concert from Philadelphia, hosted by Dick Clark, with the rest shown in syndication through Orbis Communications, acting on behalf of ABC). An entirely separate and simultaneous US feed was provided for cable viewers by MTV, whose broadcast was presented in stereo, and accessible as such for those with special receivers of the time, as there were very few stereo sets in the summer of 1985, and few television stations were able to broadcast in stereo. While the BBC telecast was run commercial-free (as it is a public broadcaster), both the MTV and syndicated/ABC broadcasts included advertisements and interviews. As a result, many songs were omitted due to the commercial breaks, as these songs were played during such times.
The biggest caveat of the syndicated/ABC coverage is that the network had wanted to reserve some of the biggest acts that had played earlier in the day for certain points in the entire broadcast, particularly in the final three hours in prime time; thus, Orbis Communications had some sequences replaced by others, especially those portions of the concert that had acts from London and Philadelphia playing simultaneously. For example, while the London/Wembley finale was taking place at 22:00 (10:00 pm) London time, syndicated viewers saw segments that had been recorded earlier, so that ABC could show the UK finale during its prime-time portion.
The ABC Radio Network broadcast the American domestic feed of the concert, and later broadcast many of the acts that were missing from the original live radio broadcast.
At one point midway through the concert, Billy Connolly announced he had just been informed that 95% of the television sets in the world were tuned to the event, though this can of course not be verified.
In 1995, VH1 and MuchMusic aired a re-edited ten-hour re-broadcast of the concert for its 10th Anniversary.