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

The perfect man to tell us why the Eighties remains so popular

Few names scream the Eighties like Mike Read. The evergreen DJ and presenter became a household name during the decade of decadence – long before the uncomfortable viewing of his time in the jungle during the 2004 version of I’m A celebrity (Get Me Out Of Here!).
It is, therefore, no surprise to discover him fronting a stage show called 80s Mania which is touring the UK.
Mike is the video host of the show – appearing on the big screen surrounded by girls (Top Of The Pops style) and introducing the various chart acts from back in the day.
He also slips in impersonations of former colleagues such as David ‘Kid’ Jensen and late greats such as John Peel OBE.
I caught up with Mike when the 80s Mania show called in at Hanley’s Victoria Hall.
His CV is extraordinary and spans more than 30 years in the entertainment industry as a DJ, TV presenter, songwriter, author, actor and writer of no less than eight stage musicals.
Through his time hosting the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and as a presenter of the station’s legendary Roadshow Mike rubbed shoulders with everyone who was anyone in music and regularly drew 17 million listeners.
As the host of Saturday Superstore he was a household name to youngsters while his Saturday night Pop Quiz – featuring many of his showbiz friends – attracted more than 10 million viewers at the peak of its powers.
To my mind, this breadth of knowledge and experience should make Mike Read the perfect man to explain why the Eighties enjoys such an enduring popularity in the UK.
“It’s actually a really difficult question to answer,” said the 64-year-old. “However, what I would say is that the Eighties is to many people what the Sixties was and is to many others.
“You have to understand I am biased but I would say the Eighties was stronger musically than the Seventies, the Nineties or the Noughties.
“It also coincided with the advent of music videos which were hugely important and innovative and basically changed the face of the industry overnight.
“Back then the top acts could afford to jet off two Mauritius for a couple of weeks to work on a wacky video to accompany their song.
“They had the money to do it. There was plenty of cash around at the time and we all thought it would last forever.”
Mike’s time at Radio 1 coincided with a golden era in pop music and he helped launch some of the biggest names – as well as famously taking the decision on-air in 1984 not to play the Frankie Goes To Hollywood single Relax because of its ‘obscene’ lyrics.
Mike said: “It’s hard to choose a favourite artist from the period. There were so many quality acts like Duran Duran, the Spandaus (Spandau Ballet), Paul Young, Adam And The Ants – the list is endless.
“I was privileged to be a part of this scene and it is something that, at the time, I’m not sure we all appreciated.
“Simply being able to work on a show like Top Of The Pops was a dream and so much fun.
“At the same time the Radio 1 roadshow was a juggernaut – just so popular all over the country.”
Of course, even the bespectacled, always smiley advocate of the Eighties has to admit that some of the fashions from the time were somewhat regrettable.
He said: “I distinctly remember thinking at the time that, compared to the Sixties and Seventies the clothes we we wearing weren’t in any way unusual.
“I thought that people would look back at the Eighties and think ‘blimey, they wore normal clothes back then’.
“However, nowadays I see how wrong I was because some of the fashions were absolutely horrendous!”’

Memories of the decade when music made a statement…

You know you’re getting old when you look around the pub table at the lads you grew up with and they’re all either bald, receding or have grey hair.
Back in the late Eighties, we always started our Christmas pub crawls at the Old Brown Jug in Newcastle and this year 10 of us made the annual reunion.
The only thing that hasn’t changed since those halcyon days is our pub of choice – complete with its wooden floors and proper ales.
This year yours truly was driving and so remembers everything and didn’t embarrass himself.
Now, maybe it’s my rose-tinted spectacles again but I remember Newcastle being busier back when I was young, free and single.
I remember the music being so much better. I also remember girls wearing skirts that didn’t resemble arm bands.
It seems I’m not the only one, either.
DJ Mark Porter has been entertaining crowds for more than a quarter of a century and, like me, he laments the good old days.
The 42-year-old, from Kidsgrove, learned his craft at the ‘Kids’ Night’ at The Place nightclub in Hanley – putting on records for the resident DJ when he nipped to the loo.
From such inauspicious beginnings Mark went on to DJ at The Place, as well as Maxim’s in Newcastle and at The Highlight (formerly Jollees) in Longton.
When asked the straight question: Which decade do you prefer for music, he is unequivocal.
“The Eighties, definitely,” said Mark. “So many of the tracks from back then are still popular. So many of the bands and artists from back then are either still going or have reformed.
“Yes, there was some proper cheese like Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face and Black Lace’s Agadoo and some of the fashions were – in retrospect – horrendous.
“For example, I remember seeing people wearing sweatbands round their heads and leg warmers.
“But the Eighties was a decade of great guitar bands and proper pop groups like Duran Duran, the Human League, Spandau Ballet and Heaven 17.
“Remember the likes of Joy Division/New Order. Look at what Queen and U2 achieved. Just think of the line up at the Live Aid concert.
“I like to think as the Eighties as the modern Sixties – a decade where musicians were making a real statement – along with the people who listened to them.
“Nowadays I look around and, to be honest, I despair at the manufactured acts which the music industry moguls inflict on us. These days, the sad truth is anybody can be a pop star.”
Mark, who currently DJs at the Bel Air nightclub at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, genuinely misses the Eighties and he’s not afraid to admit it.
He said: “I think it’s a case of you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.
“At the time I don’t think we realised just how good the music scene was and what a great time it was to be growing up.
“It’s certainly different these days. Back then going out on a Friday or Saturday night was a big deal. People got dressed up for it – none of this jeans and trainers business.
“Back then nightclubs were destination venues. People went out on the town and then rocked up at the nightclub at around 11am and stayed their until 2am. That was what everyone did.
“Nowadays I occasionally feel a similar buzz to all those nights back in the day but it’s pretty rare and depends very much on the crowd that’s in.”
After 25 years as a DJ, Mark also has an interesting theory on Potteries pop superstar Robbie Williams.
He said: “I can’t help but think that Robbie was heavily influenced by growing up in the Eighties and going to nightclubs like The Place.
“Like the rest of us he would have listened to the new romantics, the synth pop and the kind of sounds which emerged towards the end of the decade and I see lots of those influences coming through in the music that he has written and performed.”

The Eighties is the decade most of us remember fondly

The original Now That's What I Call Music album.

The original Now That’s What I Call Music album.

Sunday, December 25, 1983. Christmas Day. That’s when I officially fell in love with the Eighties.

I sat in my bedroom marvelling at my brand new copy of the original Now That’s What I Call Music album, my shiny new record player and the sturdy black singles box containing my first 45s.

I’ve still got that album and all the seven inches – Status Quo’s Margeurita Time, Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat, and Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, among others.

That day I played them from the moment we’d finished the turkey until I was ordered to bed.

Suddenly, at the age of 11, I realised music wasn’t the sole preserve of my parents.

Apparently, there was more to life than Elvis and Roy Orbison – despite years of brainwashing by my mum.

Money saved from my Sentinel paper round was soon being spent on singles and albums.

I walked up to Hanley on Saturdays and bought everything from Adam Ant, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran to Bruce Springsteen and the mighty Bon Jovi.

Through music I discovered that girls weren’t just things to make you flush red if they looked at you in class or, heaven forbid, spoke to you at break time.

I took umbrage with Michael J Fox because a certain girl in the top class at Holden Lane High called him ‘dreamy’ after watching Back To The Future.

I was mesmerised when Kim Wilde or Belinda Carlisle came on the telly – and fell hopelessly in love with Susannah Hoffs from The Bangles.

I am delighted to say that while the Eighties may be the ‘decade that taste forgot’ it is also the decade that has stubbornly refused to go away.

Of course, it helps that my generation of 30 and 40-somethings are now in control of so many TV remotes and perhaps have the most disposable income.

But it is a fact that, for some time now, there has been a genuine appetite for 1980s nostalgia.
An internet campaign brought the Wispa chocolate bar back from the dead.

Monster Munch crisps have been relaunched.

Hit 80s TV shows like Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard have, sadly, been turned into big-budget movies.

What’s more, you can’t move for Eighties bands and singers hitting the road again to relive past glories.

People like Rick Astley, Bananarama, Midge Ure and, er… Kim Wilde (blush), who all performed at Alton Towers’ 30th birthday party at the weekend.

We lap it up because of music’s wonderful talent for forcing us to don rose-tinted Ray-Bans and reminding us of a special time in our lives.

When my sister-in-law celebrated her 40th birthday earlier this year it has to be said that the highlight of her raucous party weekend was the 1980s music.

I danced – I use that term loosely – until 3am and, as I lay in bed that night it occurred to me that I couldn’t see children of the Nineties or Noughties yearning for their formative years with quite the same enthusiasm.

For some, the Eighties was a grim decade of industrial unrest, high unemployment, terrible hair and worse clothing.

But, to me, as a child growing up in the Potteries, it is a decade that will always be golden – a time of great certainties, household names and sunny optimism.

In the Eighties, our milk man delivered bottles of pop in a variety of radioactive colours and the ‘outdoor’ at the top of our road sold Black Jacks and Fruit Salad sweets for half a pence.

Royal Doulton and Wedgwood seemed like immortal employers and a job on ‘the Mich’ (Michelin) was a job for life.

It was a time when Hanley still had family businesses like Bratt and Dyke where I could spend hours just mooching around.

It was the decade when the Boothen End proper at the Old Victoria still roared its defiance and when a certain bloke with a flat cap took over the reins at Vale Park – promising nothing and delivering the best era in my football club’s history.

It was a time when this newspaper still produced the much-anticipated Football Final on Saturdays.

It was also the decade of the Garden Festival that transformed 180 acres of derelict land in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent into the thriving retail and business park we all now take for granted.

Yes, the Eighties may well be ‘the decade that taste forgot’.

It’s also the decade that I, and I suspect many others, are most happy remembering.