The day Live Aid rocked our world

Thirteen was a pretty good age to be when the biggest concert in the history of the world was staged.

I had discovered music two years before when I was given my first record player for Christmas and got my first album (Status Quo – Twelve Gold Bars).

After that I had built up a collection of 30 or so singles ranging from Paul Young’s Love Of The Common People to King’s Love And Pride. Enough said.

As well as regular trips to Lotus Records up Hanley, like most people back then I relied on Radio One’s Sunday chart countdown and Top Of The Pops for my musical fix.

Then at 12 noon on July 13, 1985, a charitable phenomenon quite literally rocked the world.

Unless you were around at the time of Live Aid then it is difficult to appreciate the sheer scale and impact of the dual concert staged at Wembley Stadium and across The Pond at the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia.

Indeed, in comparison the Live 8 concerts – staged some thirty years later – felt like Live Aid light. They were simply duller reinventions for a new audience.

Back in 1985 the dual concert was all anyone was talking about.

Live Aid was a televisual first and one of the largest satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time.

Against all odds, a relatively minor punk rock artist managed to bring together a multitude of genuine superstars who performed at the same time in front of an estimated audience of 1.9 billion people in more than 150 countries.

Bob Geldof was that man – or Sir Bob, as he is now.

The scruffy and irreverent lead singer of Irish band The Boomtown Rats had been incredibly moved by BBC reporter Michael Buerk’s of the 1984 famine in Ethopia.

This led him to pick up the phone and call Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure and together they co-wrote the massive number one hit single Do They Know Its Christmas?

The Band Aid track, sung for free by a collection of British and Irish musicians, became the fastest-selling single ever in the UK and raised a staggering £8 million for the famine relief effort.

Overwhelmed by the public response, Geldof then set about organising a concert of epic proportions.

Although most of us were completely unaware of the logistics at the time, the Live Aid concert brought together TV networks ranging from the BBC in the UK to ABC and MTV in the U.S. as well as numerous channels on the continent.

It was also broadcast live on the radio in a technical accomplishment which, for its time, was quite remarkable.

The list of performers – with a few notable exceptions – read like a who’s who of the music world.

It’s like a snapshot of the mid-Eighties music scene and, looking at it, I defy anyone to tell me that the Nineties or Noughties were richer and possessed more talent.

At Wembley the Coldstream Guards band opened the show with a royal salute before veteran rockers Status Quo kicked us off with the very appropriate Rockin’ All Over The World.

Elvis Costello sang The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love and U2 established themselves as one of the great with an energetic set in which lead singer Bono leapt into the crowd to dance with a girl who he thought was being crushed by the throng.

Other artists included Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Alison Moyet, Dire Straits, Elton John, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Adam Ant, The Style Council, Bryan Ferry, The Who, Nik Kershaw, Sting, Sade and Bob Geldof himself who sang I Don’t Like Mondays with The Rats.

Phil Collins was unique in that he preformed on both stages – using a Concorde to make it to the U.S. show in time.

But, for me, the stand-out performance of the show was Queen’s astonishing set.

Genius frontman Freddie Mercury held the entire crowd of 72,000 in the palm of his hand during Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions – while the rest of us sang along at home.

It’s little wonder to me that various artists, music industry executives and journalists voted it the greatest live performance in the history of rock music.

Artists on the stage in front of 100,000 people in Philadelphia included The Four Tops, Billy Ocean, Black Sabbath, Run D.M.C., Reo Speedwagon, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Judas Priest, Bryan Adams, The Beach Boys, Simple Minds, The Pretenders, Madonna, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, The Thompson Twins, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppellin, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Lionel Richie.

All the while the music was playing 300 phone lines were being staffed by BBC personnel – allowing us to make donations to the Live Aid cause.

At one point, the yet-to-be Sir Bob, interrupted BBC presenter David Hepworth as he attempted to give out the address for potential donations.

Pumped up by Queen’s performance, Geldoff shouted: “F*ck the address, let’s get the (telephone) numbers!”

After his outburst the rate of donations rose to £300 per second.

It was estimated that Live Aid ultimately raised around £150 million for famine relief in Africa.

It was certainly the ‘Woodstock’ of my youth – even though I don’t even know anyone who was actually there!

Pick up a copy of the Weekly Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

College memories make the summer of ’89 ever golden

For Bryan Adams, it was the summer of ’69. For me it was the summer of ’89.

He got his first real six string, had a band and they tried real hard.

I got the PMT bus from Sneyd Green to Fenton five days a week, started playing pool for a pub team and first kissed a girl.

Granted, Bryan’s youth was a little more rock ‘n roll than mine. But I wouldn’t swap my golden memories of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College – even for a number one ballad.

When I read yesterday that college staff were clearing out the class rooms and lecture theatres ahead of the move to a new £33 million campus in Stoke, those memories came flooding back.

I knew the big day was imminent, but seeing it in print still left me feeling rather sad.

In 1989 I was 17 and the world was my oyster. The Stone Roses, the Inspiral Carpets and Depeche Mode were topping the Indie music charts and I had a part-time job in a fireplace showroom in Tunstall which provided my first disposable income.

You probably won’t remember but in 1989 the UK experienced an exceptional 12 months meteorologically.

It was a long, hot, dry summer which (to quote Bryan) “seemed to last forever.”

It was the summer which saw yours truly sunbathing at lunchtimes on the college’s football pitches while listening to cassettes on his cheapo version of a Walkman.

I’m sure someone somewhere can say just how many students have walked up those concrete steps at Fenton and passed through the doors since 1970.

The figure will doubtless be in the hundreds of thousands – the vast majority of whom were from North Staffordshire – and I am proud to say that I’m one of them.

For me, Sixth Form College – like university to many others – equalled freedom on many levels.

I was out of the high school bubble of friends – some of whom I’d known since playgroup. A few came with me but many more didn’t. It was time to meet new people.

I had to organise myself to catch buses every morning. There was no uniform and I sorted my own lunches.

I chose to study A-levels in European History, British Government and Politics and English Literature and, at times, it was bloody hard work.

I recall the Sixth Form library being a wonder to me. Split over two floors and boasting study cubicles and a number of PCs, it seemed vast and alluring.

I enjoyed lectures enormously because we were able to debate topics rather than simply being talked at.

“How would you describe Hamlet’s love for his mother?” That one went on a while, I can tell you.

What was more, the staff treated you like young adults which represented a big change from the school environment.

That meant it was up to you to motivate yourself to attend lectures or fall behind on the coursework. (At this point I’d like to apologise to my politics lecturer Mr Smith for bobbing off lessons with Richard Murphy so that we could play pool at Shipley’s Amusements).

Actually, nobody minded the work because college social life opened up a world of opportunities – especially to a wide-eyed teenager like me whose previous idea of a wild night was spending more than 20 pence at the outdoor.

The Sixth Form had its own radio station run by geeks who piped music into my favourite place – the common room.

Apart from being home to Pat’s Pantry (beef burgers: 35 pence each), it was the place where my mate Mark and I learned to play Blackjack while our pal Brian canoodled incessantly with his latest rock chick girlfriend.

It was there where tickets for discos (I’m afraid that was still the word, back then) at Chico’s by Hanley bus station exchanged hands for a quid.

I never went – preferring instead the dubious pleasures of indie night at Ritzy in Newcastle on Thursdays where I shoe-gazed for England.

Thanks to Fenton’s Sixth Form College I met my first and second girlfriends – one of whom dragged me to my first live rock concert in Milton Keynes.

I also developed a love of Shakespeare and I made one very good friend for life.

Such is the fondness with which I hold the college that I returned a couple of years ago to visit my old English teacher Nigel Mansfield to see how the place had changed and to thank him for inspiring me.

One thing is for sure – when they start to demolish the Sixth Form the ghost of a skinny 17-year-old with floppy curtain hair and a rucksack slung over one shoulder won’t be walking the grounds alone.