Live Aid Wembley Stadium 13th July 1985

Live Aid Wembley Stadium 13th July 1985
liveaidtixI went with a couple of mates. We missed out on tickets when they went on sale and the only way we could get there was to buy tickets for a coach trip from Middlesbrough. So we were up at 4am, drove to Middlesbrough and joined a coach which left at 5am for London. We arrived well before noon, had a couple of drinks and entered the stadium, which was of course completely packed so we found a spot in the stands right at the back. A few minutes later Status Quo took to the stage with “Rockin’ All Over The World” and the day started. This was Quo reunited one year after the split, with Alan flying over from Oz to join Francis and Rick. Their short set also featured Caroline” and “Don’t Waste My Time”. A fitting start to the day. I have so many great memories of that day.
Queen’s performance is, of course, often rated as the greatest live performance by any band. Freddie certainly commanded the crowd the day and it propelled them to super stardom. Their well planned set was a medley with short sections of their anthems: “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Ga Ga”, “Hammer To Fall”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions”. They had apparently been rehearsing their short set for days, to ensure perfection, and it showed, and worked. U2 weren’t far behind them, though, in terms of performance, with Bono showing how great a front man he was. U2 played two songs: “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and a lengthy version of “Bad” during which Bono dragged a girl from the rush down front to dance with him on stage, and which also included snippets from Lou Reed’s “Satellite of love” and “Walk On The Wild Side”, and The Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” and “Sympathy for the Devil”. Electric.
liveadiprogFor me, however. the highlights were The Who and David Bowie, as I was, and remain, a big fan of both acts. Bowie started with “TVC15” (a strange and poor choice I felt, and remember being disappointed on the day), “Rebel Rebel” (great, good choice), “Modern Love” (well, ok) and then “Heroes” (we all sag along and it was pure magic). I still feel that with a better choice of songs Bowie could have eclipsed Queen and U2.
The Who performed “My Generation”, “Pinball Wizard”, “Love Reign O’er Me” (another strange song choice given the magnitude of the event) and a blistering “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with much mike swinging by Daltrey and lots of arm twirling by Townshend.
Other memories: Elton and Kiki sang “Don’t go Breaking my Heart” (great!). Paul McCartney suffered from sound problems and we couldn’t hear him at all for much of “Let It Be” although I gather it was fine on TV. Geldof drew massive cheers every time he set foot on stage, and he deserved every one of them. The scheduling worked amazingly, with very few hitches. Seeing the cameras pick out Charles and Diana over in their enclosure. The amazingly camp Bowie and Jagger video. The awful, sad and moving video of starving children played to the Cars’ “Drive”. Phil Collins playing Wembley and JFK courtesy of Concorde (show off).
But the truly unforgettable moment came at the end, and will stay in my mind for ever. That was the finale, with the entire stadium singing along to “Do They Know It’s Christmas ?” with Bob Geldof leading us, and everyone else on stage. I’ve never seen, felt, or heard anything like it before or since. We walked out of that stadium to the coach park, all of us still singing…..”Feed The World”…..
Then it was a long coach ride back to Middlesbrough. We arrived back around 5 or 6am, then drove home. 24 hours with hardly any sleep, just an hour or so caught on the bus, but a day I will remember forever.
Line-up: Status Quo; The Style Council; The Boomtown Rats; Adam Ant; Ultravox; Spandau Ballet; Elvis Costello; Nik Kershaw; Sade; Sting; Phil Collins; Howard Jones; Bryan Ferry (with David Gilmour on guitar); Paul Young/Alison Moyet; U2; Dire Straits/Sting; Queen; Video “Dancing in the Streets” by David Bowie/Mick Jagger; David Bowie; The Who; Elton John (Kiki Dee and George Michael join Elton); Mercury and May; Paul McCartney; Finale

5 responses to this post.

  1. At the time I remember thinking the line-up all seemed a bit too pop-orientated to be of interest to me, but over the years I have some to realise I missed out on attending perhaps the greatest musical event of the 20th Century.


    • Yes, agreed. I was camping with friends in the Lake District that weekend and we didn’t bother to watch it on TV, our view being that it was an over-hyped, corporate, ego fest for a bunch of has-been bands trying to kick-start their flagging careers, or up-and-coming bands attempting to get some international exposure.

      Mind you we were 15 and had all the answers to everything 🙂

      I’ve since come to realise that it was a defining cultural moment, both musically and politically. Still of the opinion that not all the acts were doing it for the right reason though!


      • Posted by vintagerock on May 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm

        Was a pretty special day. Very different to the festivals I attended in the 70s. Much more a mass media, almost corporate, organised, event. I began to realise that rock was moving more into the mainstream, and while I feel rock gained a lot that day, in opening it up to the world it also lost something. Cheers Peter

  2. Enjoyed reading your take on the day, I was there, and also travelled from the North East, we drove down, the day after my 21st birthday! I remember me and my mate Paul were laughing about a huge number of the acts that we absolutely couldn’t stand such as Spandau Ballet and all those lot, we’d bought tickets before the bands were announced and to be honest the final tally seemed a bit underwhelming, as I say loads of bands and artists I genuinely loathed such as Phil Collins, Howard Jones etc. I think what nobody was prepared for was just the atmosphere, unlike any gig I’ve been too. I’d always quite liked Quo and when they launched into RAOTW you just knew it was going to be a great day. I remember being really disappointed as a huge Elvis Costello fan that he did one song only, at that a cover, and we wondered why he didn’t do a 20 minute set with the Attractions, I still think they’d have gone down a storm. I also seem to recall the word being that the Police were going to play, instead Sting appeared with the hideous Phil Collins! No one really mentions him but I remember really enjoying Bryan Ferry’s set, being a huge Roxy fan, but he did a really slick soulful few numbers, with Dave Gilmour on guitar. Me and Paul were most excited about seeing the Who, my fav band of all time, and they were fantastic, for me the best of the day, but because of the transmission issues most of their set has never been properly seen, which is a huge shame because in the stadium they went down a storm. Bowie was great as well, he was the other artist we were really looking forward to having been an idol of mine growing up and Heroes sounded absolutely epic booming around Wembley. I think only second to the Who were U2, who were storming, I was well into that Unforgettable Fire album at the time. I know its heresy and everyone goes on about Queen but I’ve just never been a fan, I did like some of the early stuff, but I can’t stand We will rock you/we are the champions, so whilst I concede they went down great, I just find all the bluster about it being the greatest performance of all time bizarre. Dire Straits were excellent as well, still love that first DS album, and Sultans of Swing sounded brilliant, they did a proper stretched out version, and Knofplers playing was amazing. And I don’t know if you recall, but all the whispers were the Beatles were going to close the show, but then Macca appeared with his famously malfunctioning mic, which we found dead funny for some reason. The DTKIC all star finale, I can honestly say I’ve never felt anything quite like it, you’d have to be made of stone not to get swept up. The staggering exhausted into the night, and an epic journey to find the car. Memories man…


    • Posted by vintagerock on January 8, 2023 at 6:18 pm

      Hi Adam thanks for sharing your take on the day. I am also a massive Who and Bowie fan so their sets were special for me. As you say the end of the day was unforgettable. I remember walking down into the car parks looking for our bus, everyone singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. I still get emotional thinking about it even now. I have never had a day, or a moment, like it. A moment in time that we will never see again. Peter


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