5 amazing facts about Live Aid as charity concert celebrates 38th anniversary

Virgin Radio

13 Jul 2023, 11:06

Credit: Getty

Live Aid didn’t just alter the course of music history, but it also left a legacy that has proven difficult to replicate. 

38 years ago, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure came together with a host some of music’s biggest names of the era, all to help fund the relief efforts in Ethiopia, which at the time was gripped by a famine crisis. When the final totals were tallied, Live Aid has raised $127 million (£100,247,450) and was watched 1.9 billion people around the world. 

Live Aid focused on two major outputs - one huge concert at Wembley Stadium, and the other at the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. Other concerts inspired by the events took place in the Soviet Union, Japan and Australia. 

Live Aid followed the incredible efforts of the charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas?, and it wasn’t just one concert hosted in one place, but instead a fully orchestrated effort across countries, continents and time zones. 

As we celebrate Live Aid all day on Virgin Radio 80s Plus with some of the massive names who took part, here are some of the moments that made the international fundraising event so legendary. 

Phil Collins made history 

As evident in his own back catalogue, Phil Collins doesn’t really do things by halves, and the same was true for his Live Aid appearance, or should we say, appearances plural!

In an amazing feat, Phil decided to do the impossible - play at the same concert twice in one day, meaning he would have to be in the UK and US in the same 24 hours. 

Former Genesis member Phil performed in London in the early afternoon, banging out his massive hits Against All Odds and In The Air Tonight. He even performed with Sting on vocals for Long Long Way To To and No Jacket Required, before hopping on a Concorde to land in Philadelphia. 

Upon racing across the Atlantic, Phil then joined pals Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin in front of the American crowd, no doubt slightly jet-lagged!

Boy George had the original idea

We all know Geldof and Ure were the faces behind putting Live Aid together, but it was another 80s icon who initially had the lightbulb moment about a benefit concert. 

Despite deciding not to perform on the night itself, Band Aid member and Culture Club frontman Boy George was the original mastermind behind the idea of putting on a charity concert for Ethiopia. 

After taking part in Do They Know It’s Christmas?, Boy George and the band took part in a UK tour which ended at Wembley Arena. 

The final night in December 1984 had a number of Band Aid members on stage for a rendition of the festive single, and George, so overwhelmed with emotion, asked Geldof to consider organising a full concert benefiting those in need in Ethiopia. 

Speaking to Melody Maker in 1985, Geldof admitted that George’s idea couldn’t be ignored. 

He explained: “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!"

Mick Jagger and David Bowie’s ill-fated duet 

Not to be outdone by the sheer scale of Live Aid, music heavyweights Mick Jagger and David Bowie decided they wanted to do something equally as extraordinary - and equally as logistically difficult!

The Rolling Stones rocker and Bowie wanted to perform a transatlantic duet, with the Starman in London and Jagger in Philadelphia. 

Already a massive task, engineers behind the scenes quickly learnt that the only way to do such a thing was to have one artist mime along with pre-recorded vocals while mixing with the other's live singing. 

In details that make the head spin, the BBC had to figure out a way to have footage and sound in sync while in live vision from both venues. That footage then had to be bounced back to satellites around the world, but of course, it wasn’t without complications. 

The extreme time lag meant that neither Jagger nor Bowie would be able to see or hear what was going on, which defeated the idea, and neither legend was up for miming either. Instead, the pair agreed to make a music video for Dancing in the Street, which was shown on screen at the concert itself (much to the utter delight of all tech people involved!).

Elton John was the record-breaker

Sure, he didn’t travel across the ocean to perform twice, but Sir Elton John also refused to be one-upped by his musical counterparts. 

At 25 minutes long, the Rocket Man singer had the longest set on the day, which included the very first performance of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me with the late, great George Michael. 

Sir Elton was also on the keys for I’m Still Standing, Bennie and The Jets and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Kiki Dee. 

The 'Bum Note' Heard Around The World

Duran Duran were among the artists who gave their all for a good cause, and while the performance would be their last as the original five for another 20 years, it wasn’t without fault. 

After frontman Simon Le Bon hit an off-key falsetto note while belting out A View To A Kill, the band seemingly faced intense criticism from those watching at home, with the media calling it “The Bum Note Heard Around The World.”

Unfortunately for the band, they also played alongside Queen and Freddie Mercury, who delivered what would also be dubbed the “Note Heard Around the World.” That landmark performance would go on to be considered one of the greatest moments in rock history. 

Celebrate Live Aid all day on Virgin Radio 80s Plus today (13th July). You can listen to Virgin Radio 80 Plus HERE. You can also listen on DAB+ in London and Central Scotland and onsmart speakers across the UK, as well as via the Virgin Radio UK app.