On the 25th anniversary of Live Aid, a look at the most '80s moments from the mega-concert
On July 13, 1985, Live Aid -- an effort to raise money for starving Ethiopians by harnessing the persuasive musical powers of everyone from David Bowie to the Thompson Twins -- rocked two continents with performances that lasted 16 hours, were broadcast on multiple television networks and seen by an estimated 1.5 billion TV viewers worldwide.
For those of us hitting the cusp of our teen years at that time, Live Aid was a huge deal. Like, huger than the debut of a Duran Duran video and a new Molly Ringwald movie combined. I remember waking up and tuning in at 7 a.m. on the dot to ensure I didn't miss a minute of those 16 hours and the anticipated sets they would bring from U2, the aforementioned Duran Duran and, perhaps most awesomely, Queen.
The obsession with Live Aid in my house didn't end after July 13th was over. Because we recorded the entire concert on a series of VHS tapes -- at SLP speed, to maximize the amount of music we could cram onto those crummy TDKs -- it was not uncommon years later to walk into the living room and find my mom rocking happily in her La-Z-Boy while viewing Eric Clapton's JFK Stadium performance of "She's Waiting" for, approximately, the 875th time.
Clearly, Live Aid had a personal impact on me. But it also had a major cultural impact. It set a new standard for high-profile benefit concerts, one that events like Farm Aid, the post-9/11 "America: A Tribute to Heroes" and, of course, Live 8 have since attempted to match. It laid the groundwork for the celebrity-fueled fundraiser, something so commonplace that we now feel like the Earth is off its axis when a tragedy occurs and a telethon doesn't immediately follow.
And Live Aid also gave us a number of memorable pop music moments, including a few that, in retrospect, are both hilarious and charming in their undeniable '80s-ness. In honor of that 25th anniversary, let's revisit a few of them.
For those who didn't already know how powerful U2 could be in concert, Live Aid served as undeniable evidence. When Bono plucked several women from the crowd and brought them on stage -- behavior that has become one of his signature concert moves -- it was a stunning moment. The only thing more stunning? Bono's magnificent, moussed-up mullet, a 'do that was clearly aiming to outperform the one sported earlier in the day by Nik Kershaw. The fact that Bono complemented his bipolar hair with a pair of tight leather pants, a bolero tie and a flouncy shirt that clearly looks like a precursor to that puffy one Jerry Seinfeld didn't want to wear on the "Today" show definitely gave him the '80s fashion -- pardon the pun -- edge.
The royal funkmaster didn't appear live at Live Aid. Instead he pre-recorded a video, alongside Revolution bandmates Wendy and Lisa, in which he sang this number while strumming an acoustic guitar and gazing ultra-seriously into the camera. I would share a clip, but there isn't one on YouTube. Presumably Prince pulled it from the Web since, you know, the Internet is completely over.
Simon Le Bon's off note:
Duran Duran's final performance as a Fab Fivesome -- at least until they regrouped in 2003 to sell reunion tour tickets to Duranie suckers such as myself -- took place at Live Aid. The band intended to get back together after a break that involved side projects Arcadia and Power Station (who also played Live Aid), but it never happened. And some say the glass-shattering bad note hit by Simon Le Bon during their Philadelphia performance of "A View to a Kill" was the reason. On the plus side, Simon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor kept the band together and went on to record "Notorious," and that, in turn, helped give us the greatest Sparkle Motion moment ever.
Madonna, circa 1985
Madonna. Singing "Holiday." While wearing floral pants. That is all.
Some of the artists earned the privilege of being announced by some of the finest actors and comedians of the era: Jack Nicholson (stll relevant), Bette Midler (still relevant), Chevy Chase (still semi-relevant), Joe Piscopo (no longer relevant at all). And, of course, Don Johnson (still relevant only because he's Sonny Crockett, and Sonny Crockett remains relevant for eternity, as long as he's not the Colin Farrell movie version.)
Phil Collins on two continents:
Phil Collins performed for the crowd at London's Wembley Stadium, then boarded a flight on the Concorde just in time to do a set for the audience at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium. This was considered pretty awesome at the time because, believe it or not, hearing "Against All Odds" on two continents was once a cause for celebration, as opposed to a reason to gauge out one's ear drums with a sharp letter opener.
The David Bowie-Mick Jagger duet
The Thin White Duke and Lippy McPuckerstein were supposed to do a cross-continental live duet from their respective stage posts in London and Philadelphia. Logistically, it proved impossible. So instead, they recorded this cover of "Dancing in the Street," complete with a music video in which it seems like they might, at some point, kiss.
MTV VJs who actually gave a crap about the music
I know, I know. It's a Generation X cliche to complain about how MTV isn't like it was in the good 'ol days. But seriously, try to imagine a current MTV announcer getting as excited to see Bob Dylan live or a Led Zeppelin reunion as our Martha Quinn and Mark Goodman did back in the day.
Mick meets Tina
As Mick Jagger duets go, the one he did with Comeback Queen Tina Turner completely trumps the Bowie one. Not sure there's anything particularly '80s about this. On the 25th anniversary of Live Aid -- or any day -- it's just immense fun to watch.
| July 13, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
Categories: Music, Pop Culture
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