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"I think God gets annoyed with the gifted. We should know that our work is no more important than a plumber's or a carpenter's." — Bono

After the Music, The Memories

When '60s Idealism Met '80s Pragmatism
Washington Post
Some of the music was great. Some of it was not so great. But when you look back on Saturday's Live Aid rock-a-thons, two particular moments stand out from the globally televised concerts in London and Philadelphia.

Moment One: The Wembley Stadium concert neared its end and Paul McCartney sat at the piano alone, singing his late '60s anthem "Let It Be." There was a problem with the sound, but not with the spirit, as he was joined by Pete Townshend, David Bowie and Alison Moyet. Then two dozen of the day's superstars came out for a righteously ragged and apparently unrehearsed rendition of "Do They Know It's Christmas/Feed the World."

Moment Two: Six hours later, on the other side of the Atlantic, Bob Dylan closed a brief acoustic set (accompanied by Rolling Stones guitarists Keith Richard and Ron Wood) with his early '60s peace anthem "Blowin' in the Wind," before another righteously ragged group of Philadelphia concert stars joined Lionel Richie and Harry Belafonte in an equally unrehearsed "We Are the World."

And because the songs were unrehearsed-no one seemed to know who was going to sing what line, or where the mikes were, or exactly when the songs were going to end-there were some marvelous connections being made, not only between singers and musicians and fans around the world, but also between '60s idealism and '80s action.

"Sing to the world," Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof urged, pointing a mike at the Wembley Stadium crowd.

The world applauded in a hundred languages.

State of Shock I

Mick Jagger and Tina Turner's clothes must have been made of asbestos. Their late-night duet-actually, it was more like a cockfight-was the hottest performance of the Live Aid concerts and the Rolling Stones' strutting rooster definitely came off second best. The Jagger-Turner reading of "State of Shock"-a good subtitle would have been "Let's Get Physical"-was quite a bit different from the Jagger-Michael Jackson version. After segueing into "It's Only Rock and Roll," Jagger ended up shirtless, Turner skirtless, and some fans breathless.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and eventually Young were another matter entirely. Puffed and graying, they suggested that Woodstock was a lot longer than 16 years ago and that it may be better to be an old rocker than an old folker.

Musical highlights included performances by Hall and Oates, backing up Jagger and singing with ex-Temptations Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin; native daughter Patti La Belle (who stole the finale with some stratospheric exhortations to feed the world); the summit meeting of Sting, Phil Collins and Branford Marsalis in London. Madonna was the only artist to write a song especially for the concert ("Love Makes the World Go Round") while David Bowie and Jagger made a special video ("Dancing in the Streets") and Prince contributed a new recording and video version of the song he recorded for the USA for Africa album ("4 Tears in Your Eyes").

State of Shock II

Woodstock and Altamont were both marked by birth and death. Live Aid will be remembered mostly for the millions of lives saved in Africa, but also for one life saved in Philadelphia.

"I was sitting there with friends when Chevy Chase made this announcement for everyone to be quiet because he had a serious message to convey to Stephen Fallon," said Stephen Fallon.

It was a very serious message for the 25-year old Waltham, Mass., native, who had been undergoing dialysis since June: a new kidney was waiting for him at Massachusetts General Hospital and he was asked to get there as quickly as possible. Fallon and a friend left the stadium and were escorted by police to Philadelphia International Airport, where they boarded a flight back to Boston, arriving at Logan International Airport at about 2 p.m. Fallon went immediately to the hospital for admission and preparation for surgery transplant, according to Martin Bander, a spokesman for Massachusetts General.

"I was so surprised that it happened at a time like that," said a stunned Fallon at the hospital, where his parents waited with him. "I was shocked by the announcement."

The life-saving message came a couple of hours after his parents received a phone call from the hospital's transplant unit telling them there was a kidney available and waiting for their son. They immediately began calling state and local police in Philadelphia to find a way to reach him. Philadelphia police obtained a number at JFK Stadium where they spoke with a concert employe in a backstage trailer, who in turn contacted comedian Chase.

Fallon underwent the transplant yesterday, and after four hours of surgery he is in good condition and "the kidney's functioning well," according to hospital spokesman Martin Bander.

During the operation, Joseph Fallon said his son had been undergoing dialysis treatment three times a week and had been in great pain. He said his son's spirits were "very good" as he went into surgery and he was "cautiously optimistic" about the outcome of the operation.

"We're taking it one step at a time," he said.

On the Star Watch

All week, Philadelphia was a city of brotherly confusion and bureaucratic bedlam. With thousands of out-of-town fans, hundreds of reporters and scores of superstars converging at the same time as American Legion and Jehovah's Witnesses conventions, the city's hotels were filled. You couldn't rent a phone line and you couldn't escape the crowds outside the stars' hotels. You could clock their arrivals and departures, though. The teen idols-Duran Duran, Rick Springfield, Jagger-elicited fervent screams at all hours of the day and night. Less glamorous stars-Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Ocean-managed to garner a few "yeahs." Security everywhere was tight.

Sorry, That Line Is Busy

At concert's end, Lionel Richie announced that $40 million had been raised, but didn't indicate whether that was just through Saturday's telethon. During the first few hours of the 16-hour telecast, calls to 1-800-LIVEAID so overloaded the 1,126 circuits set up in 10 cities around the United States that it will take a week to tabulate the final number. AT & T was averaging 120,000 to 150,000 calls an hour, with each call taking about 75 seconds to process and averaging $25 a pledge.

Even then, so many callers got busy signals that Live Aid started publicizing a post office box to send donations in hopes of handling the overflow. An AT & T spokesperson reported that Live Aid had drawn the largest number of calls ever received during a one-day project. The previous largest, a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in 1983, drew 250,000 calls in 18 hours. The phone company is trying to make arrangements to keep the 800 number operable until next week.

The total raised so far has exceeded $70 million, according to Live Aid organizers. Pledges being mailed to the special address will undoubtedly swell that figure. Organizers in other nations reported pledges of $1.75 million from Australia, $1.8 million from New Zealand, nearly $1.43 million from Canada and $3 million from Ireland.

In Tokyo, more than 38,000 people and companies pledged more than $700,000 to African relief during a 15-hour televised fundraiser built around Live Aid. Unknown sums of money were pledged elsewhere in Japan, as excerpts from the concerts in Philadelphia and London were broadcast live on 24 major stations that covered virtually the entire country.

A detailed accounting from all donor nations was unavailable. Most of the remaining donations presumably were pledged by American donors.

Philip Rusted, Live Aid's accountant in charge of collections, said some of the money could be helping famine victims in Ethiopia, Sudan and sub-Saharan Africa within six weeks.

"The quicker you get the job done, the fewer people die," said Rusted.

The Big Break

Bernard Watson, the 18-year-old Miami Beach high school grad who persuaded famed rock impresario Bill Graham, who produced the Philadelphia concert, to let him open Live Aid there with an original song, was cheered more as an idea than as a performer.

"One of the strings on my guitar broke, then I dropped the pick and that wasn't very professional. But I felt happy that I got a chance. I'd like to make it in this business. It was the dream of a lifetime. That's what it was."

Behind the Scenes

The success of Live Aid was largely because of the volunteer crews that built the stages and set up the lighting and sound towers, all in record time. In Philadelphia, the stage-at 24,000 square feet the largest ever assembled for a temporary event-was created by more than 200 carpenters, electricians and sound technicians who worked round the clock for two weeks, finishing some parts just hours before show time. The towers were 107 feet tall, the 60-foot-diameter revolving stage a leftover from a mid-'70s Emerson, Lake and Palmer tour.

Behind the stage, the replica Hard Rock Cafe proved that one can still find a fast restaurant: crews started building it on Monday. And backstage, several dozen modest trailers served as dressing rooms. Tent leovered rugs, couches, palms and hanging plants, painted backdrops, televisions (no one wanted to miss anything) and lots and lots of food and drink, all of it for sale only. Graham devised a system of green rooms, so that as the performers' segments came up, they were shuffled into spaces closer to the stage.

"And we've eliminated the biggest human element {of possible delay}," Graham said. "For the first time ever, I put a porta-john on stage."

The Global Hookup

Tech World, the staging area for Live Aid's ambitious broadcasting alliance, consisted of 42 tightly packed trucks and trailers situated around four satellite dishes. More than 500 technicians clambered over and under 75 miles of electrical wires, seriously doing their business on the longest concert program ever televised. Beamed up 24,000 miles and then 25,000 miles around the world, and calculated at 14 hours, it came in three minutes over schedule.

The whole show cost $4 million to stage; one ABC exec said that without all the volunteered services, it would have been more than $20 million.

If God had had this crew when He was creating the world, He could have taken the whole weekend off.

Instant Impact

Immediacy. Impact.

These were the key words for Live Aid. Woodstock took a year to be transposed into a film of highlights. Same with the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, and in both cases you had to pay to see it.

Live Aid was free, available, undelayed. It was gavel-to-gavel coverage, and if those at home lost out on some things (the heat, concrete benches, long lines for food and later bathrooms, communal showers, the long distance from the stage), they also got a much clearer sense of the overall picture and a chance to hear all of the live music. And you didn't have to travel far to get to Live Aid. All you had to do was get up and turn on your television set and your VCR.

In fact, that's what a lot of people did. Tower Records and Washington Video both reported runs on blank tapes Friday and Saturday, while Erol's in Arlington had run out of rental recorders and color televisions by midday on Friday.

Bad Timing, Good Timing

England's Tears for Fears, owners of the No. 1 album in America and scheduled for Philadelphia, had to cancel when its band quit Thursday. Rod Stewart couldn't get his band together in time and Huey Lewis pulled out with questions about relief money reaching Africa.

One of the day's best lines, muttered by a longtime promoter at the end of the concert: "It proves what I've been saying for the last 20 years. Rock bands can show up and play on time."

Taking the Prize

"I just realized today is the best day of my life," said concert mastermind Bob Geldof as the London production wound down. It may get better. Tom Torney, a member of the British Parliament, had said Saturday that he would nominate Geldof for the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, which is announced in October and consists of a gold medal and $210,000.

Yesterday, a member of the Norwegian Parliament also nominated Bob Geldof. In a letter to the Nobel committee, Social Democratic parliamentarian Sissel Ronbeck Sunday nominated Bob Geldof for "his unique effort to save suffering Africans."

"He has engaged millions across the continents and over power blocs in a concrete effort for peace and development. He has mobilized the grownups of the future to realize the motto for the United Nations' international youth year: Participation, development and peace," Ronbeck wrote in her letter of nomination.

The Music's Power

If anyone ever doubted the power of rock, he had only to look at the overhead shots from Wembley and JFK stadiums, at the mass of fans, 160,000 of them, sweating daylong by sun and sound, yet swaying in unison, singing against hunger and for life.

This music spoke louder than words, raising not just money, but consciousness. One couldn't walk away from Philadelphia, London or the television set without having developed some sense of community, some level of concern.

There were frequent references to Woodstock, but that had been about love and peace. Live Aid was really more like the Concert for Bangladesh, except better thought out, better run and infinitely more effective. It's ironic that the most ambitious one-day humanitarian effort in history should originate not with a government or a foundation but with a community that is sometimes perceived as made up of social outlaws.

"The rock 'n' roll community has done this since the '60s, but many of the benefits have been on a local level," said Bill Graham. "The artists I've worked with through the years have all been involved, but because of the global impact, it's being given a lot of attention for the first time. It's a positive use of rock's drawing power. Our industry has been maligned a bit too much and I hope this helps balance that out."

"Woodstock was just a desire for a lot of young people to get together and discuss alternative life styles. This is not the issue here. It's not altering our life style, it's altering the life style of the people on another continent."

Washington Post correspondent John Burgess in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 1985 Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.