12 pm – 2 pm | Wembley Stadium, London
As Live Aid geared up for its momentous series of concerts of both sides of the Atlantic, famous concert promoter Bill Graham compared it to Woodstock: “What we’re doing now is entirely different. The reason for the event is more important than the event itself.”
Three decades later, the memory of the event has eclipsed its reason (and one Queen performance has eclipsed most of the concert). It was a gathering of the best of mainstream ‘80s rock–still trying to justify itself alongside acts from the 60s and the ‘70s–and the zenith of the fundraising telethon: broadcast live in 140 countries to raise $50 million for victims of a relentless African famine. (Fun fact: the concerts raised about $560 million in 2019 money, about two days’ worth of Jeff Bezos’ current earnings!)
If you have a day to spare, you can recreate that amazing July 13th in 1985 with this series of YouTube playlists.
The day started at London’s Wembley Stadium (up top), with the Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards performing the Royal Salute for Queen and Country and all that, and then things really started with Status Quo, those grizzled ol’ blokes playing “Rockin’ All Over the World.” Yanks might have said “who?” but it was the Brits who either bopped along or said, “Not this bloody Dad rock!” (Okay, not true, the phrase hadn’t been invented, but something similar was uttered.)
2 pm – 4 pm | Wembley Stadium, London
The British side was indeed a mixed bag, reflecting the idiosyncrasies of its own singles chart compared to the more steadfast American charts. Elvis Costello sang “All You Need Is Love”; the Style Council sang their hits; Nik Kershaw played his chart-topper. Phil Collins performed “Against All Odds,” then jumped on a Concorde for New York, arriving to sing it again for a different audience.
4 pm – 6 pm | Wembley Stadium, London
There’s so much more to explore in these playlists: the Led Zeppelin reunion, The Cars at the height of their powers (RIP Ric Ocasek), Neil Young (and his reunion with Crosby, Stills, and Nash), Bob Dylan, The Four Tops, Run D.M.C., the list really goes on and on.
6 pm – 8 pm | Wembley Stadium, London
8 pm – 10 pm | Wembley Stadium, London
2 pm – 5 pm | John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia
5 pm – 8 pm | John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia
8 pm – 11 pm | John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia
Live Aid | 11 pm- 2 am | John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia
Live Aid | 2 am – 4 am | John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.