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"'Elevation' came from a sound, that abrasive guitar: 'We've really got to do something with that.'" — Adam, 2002

Live Aid Memories: 25 Years Later

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If you were alive and old enough to care, you probably remember quite well what happened on July 13, 1985: Live Aid. Many of our staffers certainly do. Joe Hebert already shared his memories in this week's OTR column. To mark the 25th anniversary of this momentous day for U2 (and music in general), we've collected our thoughts and memories below. There's a link to our fan forum at the end where you can join us in remembering Live Aid.


Michael W. Cummins
At 9:19 a.m. local time on July 13, 1985, my secret was out. Before Live Aid, people would ask what my license plate meant (U2 4MIKE), what the stickers were, why I kept playing songs from an obscure band from Ireland. Before Live Aid, I saw U2 in San Francisco in a building without seats that held just 7,000 people for $13.50. Before Live Aid, I handed a guy a $20 bill outside the L.A. Sports Arena and was handed a front row balcony ticket within touching distance of Bono as he stood on the stage left speakers. Before Live Aid, I had my favorite band to myself.

When U2 left the Wembley stage 20 minutes later after playing just two songs, after Bono broke the rules by jumping off the stage to dance with the girls, after they held the crowd of over 70,000 people in the palm of their hands during a song that lasted more than 13 minutes, the rest of the world finally got it. The band wasn't mine anymore. The worldwide viewing audience of two billion people that day had been let into the club, which on July 12th was far smaller.

I've been forced to share them ever since.

Sherry Lawrence
I was in my 68-year-old grandma's living room with the television on ABC.  She didn't have cable, and even if she did, she would have never allowed me to watch MTV. I was 12 and just beginning to get into popular music. Back then, the only band I wanted to see was Duran Duran. However, once the broadcast started, I found that there were more bands than what my local radio station was playing. I really liked what I was hearing. I didn't remember U2 too well, but I do recall it was crazy when this guy with a mullet jumped off a really tall stage. I had no idea how he would make it back up there, and from what I saw, his fellow bandmates did not look happy to lose him off the stage. It wasn't until 1988 when I was told that the person who jumped was Bono.

Live Aid was a global awakening for me.  It was the first time I recalled seeing Wembley Stadium and what over 70,000 people in one location looked like. I was pulling for Phil Collins to make it to Philadelphia in time and was in awe at how fast the Concorde could fly. In a time when the Internet wasn't available as it is now, Live Aid showed me there was a world out there with better music than what was on my local radio station, and fans who truly loved live music. It made me want to be a part of it someday. The issues in Africa still exist, but what it did do was lay the foundation for my generation to get involved.

Marylinn Maione
I had just turned 21 years old. In the '80s, no one seemed to care deeply about anything, and similarly, at that age my friends and I only worried about how studying would cut into our drinking time.

The anticipation had been torturous as more bands announced their involvement in the weeks preceding the event. For the most part, the concert lived up to the hype, but when it didn't, we riffed like Beavis and Butthead, or ran out to replenish dwindling beer and junk food supplies. We made our donations so we could watch with clear consciences.

Certain acts still stand out: Roger Daltrey (The Who) looked and sounded fierce (for an old geezer); we mocked Queen until Freddie Mercury's dramatic, searing performance; Madonna kept her clothes on (whew!); Sting, conspicuously without his bandmates; Elvis Costello's lovely Beatles cover. Led Zeppelin? Wow!

Truthfully, I was disappointed in U2's performance because I felt that Bono had squandered too much time, but it was an honest, giving act by an artist who wanted desperately to connect with his audience. When Bono leaped off that stage, he leaped into the hearts of new fans around the world who were ready to care about something.

Matt McGee
Live Aid was the day that I realized I would have to share U2 with the rest of the world. Sure, my high school classmates knew of U2 before then, but they looked at U2 as just another band; U2 was "those guys that McGee likes." They didn't get U2; I'm sure you know what I mean. U2 was played pretty regularly on Philadelphia radio, but there was still this sense that they only appealed to insiders. But after U2 played Live Aid, the secret was out. This was not just another band. Worldwide success was theirs for the taking. U2 would become one of the all-time greats.

Worldwide music charity gigs have become somewhat passé now, so there's no way to explain to my son how unique and special Live Aid was. I slept over at a friend's house the night before so we could wake up in the wee hours and watch the pre-show or whatever it was at the crack of dawn, and then we stayed in front of the TV for pretty much the next 18 hours or so, just drowning in music and feeling like we were part of something much bigger than ourselves. I'll never forget it.

Donal Murphy
In mid-July 1985, I was at summer camp with the scouts! I was well aware that Live Aid was coming up and, remarkably, I was at a two-week summer camp about 45 minutes from Wembley Stadium in Gilwell Park, Chingford London (northwest of London). That night, we listened to Live Aid in our tents on radios. Everyone was listening to it -- the scout leaders, everyone. There was a relaxed curfew that night!

I missed U2 when they performed live, as we were probably canoeing in the lake, or swimming, or doing something outdoors. I saw and heard the live footage on my return to Ireland at my cousin's house on a VHS recorder. U2 were mind-blowingly good. This, coupled with the fact that five weeks after Live Aid I was again blown away at my first gig (when U2 made a surprise appearance in Cork on the back of a truck and played an hourlong set), started a journey that still goes on today, 25 years later. I'm still hooked and, more importantly, still interested.

John Tuohy
Live Aid happened just four months after I saw U2 live for the first time in San Francisco. After that gig, I adopted them as my very own band. In short, they absolutely blew me away!

So now, four months later, the time has come. It's time to hit record on the VCR, and just sit back ... or more like sit forward. With the VHS tape rolling, I was so into the music, the moves, and then the infamous leap. Did he really do that? And how in the world was he going to get back up on stage to finish "Bad?" And a third song as well. That third song never happened, and for a good reason. Bono has often talked about becoming immersed in a song when he's performing it, and in this case of the super-duper, deluxe, extended version of "Bad," he most certainly did that. As one writer mentioned: Bono knew that he wasn't just performing for Wembley Stadium that day in July. He was also performing for the entire world through their televisions. And he did it well. Bono saw the bigger picture and absolutely made the most of it. And the leap was just so rock 'n' roll!

My feelings after the Live Aid performance were similar to the gig in San Francisco: They captured me in the Cow Palace, and then again 6,000 miles away. That VHS tape is long gone, but no matter. It's all still in my head.

Rashas Weber
I was still living at home and was already a huge U2 fan by then. We didn't have a VCR, however, I had an MTV stereo hookup, and am pretty sure I still have a bunch of cheap audio cassette tapes containing every single minute of Live Aid. Unfortunately, I don't recall anything that still stands out in my mind of what I watched, but I do remember just this sheer feeling of elation throughout it all. I went to a birthday party that night still feeling joyful and thinking that it truly was possible that we could change the world.

Lisa Zeitlinger
Two very significant things come to my mind when I think about July 13, 1985. I knew that something amazing would happen when U2 performed. The band that I had met in a small club setting in New York City just a few years before would finally have their proper introduction to the world. For me, "Bad" remains one of U2's crowning achievements in songwriting, but it wasn't until Live Aid that it was given the recognition it so richly deserved. I remember every moment of those 14 minutes like it was yesterday. I held my breath as Bono was set loose from the stage to roam free among his audience as he loved to do. What would happen? That day he saved a girl from being crushed by the crowd, though it wasn't until later that we found out it was more than just a dance with a fan. That was quintessential U2.

The other thing that changed my life that day was the very reason for the concert itself. I had been inspired by Bob Geldof's crusade for Africa in its earliest stages. The things I saw and learned during that concert changed the way I looked at the rest of world forever. Since then, I have tried to do my part for the world's poorest people and continue to do so to this very day. So, I thank the Live Aid concert for enriching my life in ways that I never imagined. July 13, 1985, truly was my Woodstock!

(c) @U2, 2010.