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July 13, 1985 - Live Aid

Live Aid was a multi-venue rock music concert held on July 13, 1985 (1985-07-13). The event was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Billed as the 'global jukebox', the main sites for the event were Wembley Stadium, London (attended by 82,000 people) and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia (attended by about 99,000 people), with some acts performing at other venues such as Sydney and Moscow. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time: an estimated 400 million viewers, across 60 countries, watched the live broadcast.

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The concert was conceived as a follow-up to another Geldof/Ure project, the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", performed by a collection of British and Irish music acts billed as 'Band Aid' and released the previous winter.The concert grew in scope, as more acts were added on both sides of the Atlantic. As a charity fundraiser, the concert far exceeded its goals: on a television programme in 2001, one of the organisers stated that while initially it had been hoped that Live Aid would raise 1 million, the final figure was 150 million (approx. $283.6 million). Partly in recognition of the Live Aid effort, Geldof received an honorary knighthood. Music promoter Harvey Goldsmith was also instrumental in bringing the plans of Geldof and Ure to fruition.

Collaborative effort

The concert started at 12:00 GMT (7:00, EST) at Wembley Stadium, England. It continued at JFK Stadium, U.S., starting at 13:51 (8:51, EST). The UK's Wembley performances ended at 22:00 (17:00 or 5:00 PM, EST). The JFK performances and whole concert in the US ended at 04:05 (23:05 or 11:05 PM, EST). Thus, the concert continued for 16 hours, but since many artists' performances were conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert's length was much longer.

No previous concert had ever brought together so many famous performers from the past and present, whose names are shown here. However, some of the artists who had been announced earlier did not appear at the last minute, including Tears for Fears, Julian Lennon and Cat Stevens, while Prince provided a clip of "4 The Tears In Your Eyes". Stevens wrote a song for the Live Aid concert, which he never got to perform had he done so, he would have made his first public concert appearance since converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam. Also a reunited Deep Purple were set to perform, but they didn't appear after guitarist Ritchie Blackmore refused to take part in the event.

It was the original intention for Mick Jagger to perform an intercontinental duet from the US, with David Bowie in London, but problems of synchronisation made it impossible. Instead, Jagger and Bowie created a video clip for the song they would have performed, a cover of "Dancing in the Street". Jagger still performed live with Tina Turner, at the Philadelphia portion of the concert.

Each of the two main portions of the concert ended with their particular continental all-star anti-hunger anthems, with Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" closing the UK concert, and USA for Africa's "We Are the World" closing the US concert (and thus the day's proceedings). Since the concert, bootleg videos and CDs have circulated widely, and an official book was produced by Bob Geldof in collaboration with photographer Denis O'Regan. The concert was never supposed to have been released commercially, but in November 2004, Warner Music Group released a four-disc DVD edition of the concert.

The broadcasts

The concert was the most ambitious international satellite television venture that had ever been attempted at the time.In Europe, the feed was supplied by the BBC, whose broadcast was opened by Richard Skinner, co-hosted by Andy Kershaw, and included numerous interviews and chats in between the various acts. The BBC's television sound feed was mono, but the BBC Radio 1 feed was stereo and was simulcast in sync with the TV pictures. Due to the constant activities in both London and Philadelphia, the BBC producers omitted the reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from their broadcast. The BBC, however, did supply a 'clean' feed to various television channels in Europe.ABC was largely responsible for the US broadcast (although ABC themselves only telecast the final three hours of the concert from Philadelphia, hosted by Dick Clark, with the rest shown in syndication through Orbis Communications, acting on behalf of ABC). An entirely separate and simultaneous US feed was provided for cable viewers by MTV, whose broadcast was presented in stereo, and accessible as such for those with special receivers of the time, as there were very few stereo sets in the summer of 1985, and few television stations were able to broadcast in stereo. While the BBC telecast was run commercial-free (as it is a public broadcaster), both the MTV and syndicated/ABC broadcasts included advertisements and interviews. As a result, many songs were omitted due to the commercial breaks, as these songs were played during such times.

The biggest caveat of the syndicated/ABC coverage is that the network had wanted to reserve some of the biggest acts that had played earlier in the day for certain points in the entire broadcast, particularly in the final three hours in prime time; thus, Orbis Communications had some sequences replaced by others, especially those portions of the concert that had acts from London and Philadelphia playing simultaneously. For example, while the London/Wembley finale was taking place at 22:00 (10:00 pm) London time, syndicated viewers saw segments that had been recorded earlier, so that ABC could show the UK finale during its prime-time portion.

The ABC Radio Network broadcast the domestic feed of the concert, and later broadcast many of the acts that were missing from the original live radio broadcast. At one point midway through the concert, Billy Connolly announced he had just been informed that 95% of the television sets in the world were tuned to the event.

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