Tuesday, 13 July 2010

It Was 25 Years Ago Today......

Where were you on the 13th July 1985? Do you even remember?. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was at home in front of the telly watching a concert that would change the world forever. That concert was called Live Aid.

It had never been done before. All of the greatest artists of the time were to perform at Wembley Stadium in one afternoon. There was also to be another concert the same day on the other side of the world in America. It was also going to be shown live on TV. All of it.  It was unprecedented. All these huge artists in one place, playing for free, to an audience that ran into the billions. The reason for this concert? The starving people of Ethiopia.

The previous summer the BBC had sent a reporter called Michale Burke to Ethiopia to report on the famine that had ravaged the country. People were dying and no-one knew. This was before 24hr news channels, the Internet was a dream and there were no mobile phones. I was a child of 12 years of age but it shocked me what I saw. I grew up clothed and fed. These children were dying from the lack of food. I asked so many questions of my parents, how? why? didn't anyone care?. They were as shocked as I was no-one had seen this before.

I watched children with bloated stomachs staring blankly at the screen, I saw babies so hungry their bones protruded through their skin. I watched mothers and fathers too weak to even stand. It shocked everyone who saw it and it made a lasting impression on me. Someone else who saw the news that night decided to do something about it. That man was Bob Geldof.

Bob Geldofs fame had taken a down turn over the preceding years he had tasted success with the Boomtown Rats but they had been over taken by the younger more trendier bands of the day, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Wham, Cultre Club to name a few. He watched the news and decided to do something about it. But what?

He got in touch with the lead singer of Ultravox, Midge Ure to see if they could work on something together, they decided the quickest way to raise money would be a single and Band Aid was born. This was another first, no-one had ever released a single with so many different artists before. It was a huge task to get it recorded and released for the coveted Christmas Number 1 but they did.

The press camped outside the studios in London as star after star arrived to record their lines for the song. Bono, Paul Young, Boy George, Duran Duran, Staus Quo they came from far and wide. They gave their time and expertise for free to help the starving people of Ethiopia. The song was recorded and released within 5 days. Another first. It shot straight to Number 1 and stayed there for weeks. It sold millions and you couldn't go into a shop or turn on the radio without hearing it. It was everywhere.

The money raised from the single bought much needed food and medicine for the people that were starving. It started to make a difference. However Bob Geldof wasn't satisfied so he set about trying to do the impossible. He wanted to stage the biggest concert the world had ever seen. Not just in the UK though, that would be hard enough, no he also helped organise the one in America as well. He then wanted people to phone in whilst watching this concert and donate money. This broke so many firsts. He was told he couldn't do it. He didn't care he set about proving people wrong.

I remember sitting there on that day 25 years ago not quite sure what to expect. To be honest I dont think anyone watching it or who was there did either. Then Richard Skinner announced "Its Tweleve noon in London, its 7AM in Philledelphia, and around the world its time for Live Aid" and then Status Quo appeared to open the concert with Rockin All Over The World. The crowd went mad. I watched it all day and night. U2, David Bowie, Elton John, Paul McCartney, you name it if they were a star of the time they appeared.

My two biggest memories of the day were watching the video that they played of the news footage with the Cars song Who's Going To Drive You Home? playing. It moved me to tears. I wasn't the only one my mum did as well as did most of the crowd. It was an incredibly moving moment that I even remember to this day.

As the night wore on and darkness fell a group took to the stage that would steal the show. No-one was supposed to be the star act. No-one told Queen that or rather Freddie Mercury. He had the crowd eating out of his hand. He owned that stage and he knew it. It was the best performance from an artist I had ever seen. I cant remember who came after him, but Im sure they didnt mind. He strode across the stage in a crown and a big cloak and owned Wembley. It was simply electric.

Live Aid was the first and the best of its kind. There have been many causes since then, Comic Relief, Sport Relief and Children In Need. They all do an amazing job of making peoples lives better that cant help themselves either through famine or civil war. For me I will never forget that day as long as I live. It opened my eyes to a world that I hadn't seen before. I'm sure I wasn't the only one either.

Live Aid hoped to raise £1 million pound it didnt do that, not even close. Estimates state the amount at north of £150 MIILION POUND. This was 1985 after all. The Thatcher goverment was in full swing. These were not affulent times for many people but they still gave what they could.

The one thing I learnt more than any other though was this. One man can make a difference if he puts his mind to it and doesn't take no for an answer. For all the ridicule he may he get now, Bob Geldof took his beliefs and decided to do something about it.

It was an amazing day I cant believe it was 25 years ago. One day. One vision. One man. A million lives saved. Well done Sir Bob Geldof.

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