Live Aid actually was two concerts: one in London, England, and the other in Philadelphia, U.S.A. Generally speaking, one act would play on stage in, say, London and their performance would be broadcast live to the audience in Philadelphia. When that act finished their set, the next act in Philadelphia would play, and their performance would be broadcast live to the audience in London. In this way, both audiences were entertained by music nearly continuously, without the usual long waits between acts. And for the worldwide audience watching through TV, they also got a nearly continuous stream of music.
Even though that was the case, it basically was two different concerts (on different continents, even), and it works out better for me to present the Philadelphia concert all together, and then present the London concert all together. So here's the first of seven albums that makes up the Philadelphia portion of Live Aid.
I don't want to go into a big, long explanation about Live Aid. I hope most of you know the basics. If not, here's the Wikipedia article about it:
In short, a massive famine in Ethiopia was big news in 1984 and 1985. Bob Geldof, lead singer for the Irish band the Boomtown Rats, helped bring together a bunch of mostly British music stars for a charity single in late 1984 called "Do They Know It's Christmas." It was a huge hit in late 1984, and all the profits went to charity aimed at bringing food to the famine victims. Then mostly US music stars got together for a similar charity single, "We Are the World." Released in early 1985, it became one of the best selling singles of all time. This then led to the suggestion to put on a benefit concert for the same cause. Geldof again was the main one to put it together, along with Midge Ure of the British band Ultravox. The concert was a huge success in terms of the musical acts involved and the audience. Nearly two billion people watched, in 150 countries, representing about 40 percent of the world's population.
The concert's actual impact on the famine is more debated. About $40 to $50 million was immediately raised, and about $150 by the time the final counting was done. That seems like an impressive amount to me. However, there are questions about how the money was spent. At the time, Ethiopia was ruled by a dictator, Mengitsu Haile Mariam, and it is alleged that he used the food and supplies raised by Live Aid to help regions that supported him, while denying the regions that were against him. The evidence suggests this happened. Huey Lewis and the News didn't perform for fear that the money was misspent, and it seems they had a point.
However, in a bigger sense, I think the concert was a success in accomplishing its goal. Although the actual money raised was misused, the concert also raised awareness worldwide. As a result, many governments that had been ignoring the problem were pushed into taking action. The actions and money spent by these government was far larger than what was directly raised by Live Aid. And while some of this support was also misused by the Ethiopian government, there was so much of it that it was enough to stop the famine later that year. Furthermore, I would argue the concert had a cultural impact worldwide that went beyond that single crisis. It raised hope that people could make a difference through activism, even when governments weren't doing much. Also, there had been some benefit concerts prior to Live Aid, but it gave a renewed push to those sorts of efforts, arguably for decades thereafter.
Anyway, that's my relatively short summary. (I'm a verbose guy!) Now, let's get to the music on this album. The Philadelphia concert began at 9 A.M. local time. It would go on until 11 P.M. That's 14 hours. However, there were only about eight hours of actual music, due to time between sets (usually filled by video footage from London) and speeches and such.
Generally speaking, the less famous acts went early, and the acts got more famous as the day went on. The acts here definitely are a disparate bunch. For instance, I think it's safe to say this was the one and only time folk singer Joan Baez was on the same bill as the heavy metal band Black Sabbath!
Actually, that brings up the tricky issue of just who got to play Live Aid and who didn't. This is a very interesting article, listing many big acts that didn't play Live Aid, and why:
In short, there was a lot of favoritism and music politics that went into it. Generally, one either had to be super famous, or deemed cool by Bob Geldof, Midge Uge, Bill Graham, and other key decision makers behind the scenes. An interesting case in point is the Hooters. They were a Philadelphia band, but they weren't very well known at the time. Geldof didn't want to include them, asking "Who the f-ck are the Hooters?" But promoter Bill Graham wanted them, and there was additional pressure from a record company and a local promoter, so they were included. They had just released an album that was starting to break them, but the exposure they got at Live Aid was a huge boost.
Another controversy was the relative lack of Black performers. For instance, Stevie Wonder didn't take part because he felt there weren't enough other Black acts on the bill. Given all that, it seems curious to me that the Four Tops did play, when many other Black acts that were more popular at the time did not.
The performance of Black Sabbath was particularly notable because it was a reunion of the original band. Most crucially, Ozzy Osborne was the lead singer. This was his first show with the band since he'd left in 1985. After the concert, Osborne left again. He wouldn't fully rejoin the band until 1997.
Personally, as great as Live Aid was, I get pissed when I think about all the great acts that wanted to play but weren't deemed popular or cool enough, yet the likes of Rick Springfield and REO Speedwagon were allowed to play. For instance, Springfield is basically known for one really big hit, "Jessie's Girl," which he didn't even play at Live Aid. The Kinks, Foreigner, and Yes were just some of the acts that were rejected - all of them had hits in the early 1980s.
Anyway, it is what it is. On a different note, it took me a long time to put these albums together because every single song from the Philadelphia show needed work. (Luckily, the London show was better.) In my opinion, the lead vocals were low across the board, so I had to fix every song using the audio editing program UVR5. On top of that, there was a lot of trouble with the starts and ends of songs. Sometimes, DJs were talking over whatever was happening on stage, so introductions were missed, and sometimes even the starts of songs were missed. Similarly, the applause after the songs were often cut short for more DJ talking. The concert deliberately was not professionally recorded other than what was broadcast, because some artists wanted to be sure their music wouldn't make it onto any live album. As a result, the lost bits generally stayed lost. That means I have the introductions for some acts, but not for others. When it comes to the applause though, I usually was able to patch in some generic applause from elsewhere in the concert to make the missing bits less obvious.
This album is an hour and 14 minutes long.
001 talk (Jack Nicholson)
002 talk (Joan Baez)
003 Amazing Grace (Joan Baez)
004 We Are the World (Joan Baez)
005 talk (Chevy Chase & Joe Piscopo)
006 And We Danced (Hooters)
007 All You Zombies (Hooters)
008 talk (Hooters)
009 Shake Me, Wake Me [When It's Over] (Four Tops)
010 Bernadette (Four Tops)
011 It's the Same Old Song (Four Tops)
012 Reach Out, I'll Be There (Four Tops)
013 I Can't Help Myself [Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch] (Four Tops)
014 talk (Chevy Chase)
015 Children of the Grave (Black Sabbath)
016 Iron Man (Black Sabbath)
017 talk (Black Sabbath)
018 Paranoid (Black Sabbath)
019 King of Rock (Run-DMC)
020 talk (Joe Piscopo)
021 Love Somebody (Rick Springfield)
022 State of the Heart (Rick Springfield)
023 Human Touch (Rick Springfield)
024 talk (Chevy Chase)
025 Can't Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon)
026 Roll with the Changes (REO Speedwagon)
The cover photo is of the crowd in the Philadelphia concert. For the other Live Aid albums, I'm going with photos of famous acts. But I wanted one of the crowd, and this album doesn't have any super famous acts.
Oh, and as for the lettering at the top, I used the same font as on all the Live Aid promotional material. But I rotated the logo of Africa turning into a guitar neck 90 degrees so it would better fit the limited space.