Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Live Aid

Go To
The day the music changed the world!

"It's 12 noon in London, seven a.m. in Philadelphia, and around the world it's time for Live Aid."
— Broadcaster Richard Skinner opening the Live Aid concert in London.

On July 13, 1985, the biggest musical event of The '80s, and possibly of all time, took place.

It was Live Aid, two concerts that took place in London and Philadelphia and watched by billions all over the world on TV.

The idea for the event began all the way back in October of 1984, when Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats saw images of the Ethiopian famine on TV, and decided to do something about it. So he called Midge Ure from Ultravox and decided to form a group called Band Aid. Their single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" hit #1 in the UK and all over the world, and became one of the best selling singles of all time.

So how do you follow up one of the biggest singles of all time? With one of the biggest concerts of all time!

During the production of Live Aid, everyone gave Geldof everything for free, including satellite time, lighting, and all the technical stuff.

Many famous stars arrived for the concert, such as Status Quo and U2, but the one everybody remembers is Queen, whose performance at this event is often considered to be not only their finest hour, but the finest hour of live rock and roll music as a whole, showcasing frontman Freddie Mercury's ability to unify stadium-sized audiences and give compelling, charismatic live performances of songs that were just plain fun. The performance also marked the band's UK comeback, following the poor fan and critical reception of Hot Space and a hectic tour for The Works that threatened to break them up; the US meanwhile would still be skeptical of the band until after Mercury's death in 1991.

Of course, not everyone who was asked to appear to the concerts were able to make it. Among others, both Michael Jackson and Talking Heads were wrapped up with film commitments (Captain EO and David Byrne's True Stories, respectively), Roger Waters refused to show up unless he could front Pink Floyd at the concert (having been in the middle of a legal battle with his former bandmates over the rights to the band's trademark), leading neither him nor the band to show up, Frank Zappa accused the organizers of trying to fund a cocaine-laundering scheme, and Tears for Fears ran into legal troubles as a result of some of their backing musicians' contracts expiring and had to pull out at the last minute (which led to a high-profile feud with a disgruntled Geldof). Still, it picked up enough performers for two simultaneous day-long concerts in two major stadiums on two different sides of the Atlantic, which is pretty impressive in and of itself.

At the time, Live Aid met with a somewhat mixed response. While many were enamored by the sheer size and scope of the event and that it was all going to charity, others criticized it as being more of a way for the big acts of the 80's to stroke their own ego, not helped by many of the performances being marred with technical issues (most notably with the broadcast signal cutting out midway through The Who's performance), some of the performers not being up to snuff for the event (most infamously the Led Zeppelin reunion, with Phil Collins in John Bonham's place as drummer, widely regarded as one of the worst live performances of their entire career), and the fact that the Ethiopian government ended up embezzling the donated money to fund their military efforts. In the decades since, however, the intent and effort behind Live Aid have come to be more broadly appreciated, in part because of the sheer acclaim of Queen's performance at the event (indeed, most of the retrospective publicity behind it focuses quite heavily on them), and nowadays the event is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in popular music history.

In 2005, Geldof attempted to hold a successor event to Live Aid: titled Live 8, this event aimed to more broadly tackle issues of worldwide poverty. The event was nowhere near as well-remembered as Live Aid, in part because of faulty media coverage and even more accusations of the move being an ego trip, but still sees some degree of notability for the fact that it marked the first Pink Floyd performance to feature the full 70's lineup of the band since 1981 (and the last, given Richard Wright's death just three years later).

The event wasn't initially going to be on home video, but then came the Turn of the Millennium, and due to increasing piracy and the Live 8 concert coming in 2005, Geldof finally released the concert on DVD. (Some songs are missing either due to copyright, technical problems during the performance, or refused clearances.)

Setlists and performances


Works that feature Live Aid:


Live-Action Television

  • The Goldbergs: In "George! George Glass!", Barry tries to get tickets to Live Aid and fails, while he rejects going with his mom to a lame Beach Boys concert, not realizing that it was Live Aid all along.
  • Quantum Leap (2022): The first episode features Ben leaping into a heist getaway driver who is watching David Bowie's set on a Sony Watchman on the day of the concerts.


  • The third single from Roger Waters' album Radio K.A.O.S., "The Tide Is Turning," makes reference to the event.
    Now the satellite's confused
    'Cause on Saturday night
    The airwaves were full of compassion and light
  • Anarchist punk band Chumbawamba's first album Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records was, in both title and content, a scathing criticism of the event, as the band felt that all it did was use the superficial aspects of famine in Ethiopia as a form of shameless self promotion.
  • Faith No More's "We Care A Lot" makes a sarcastic reference to the event:
    (We care a lot!) About starvation and the food that Live Aid bought
  • Queen were inspired by the concert and experience to write the song "One Vision" for the 1986 film Iron Eagle (later including it as the opening track of A Kind of Magic several months later).

Western Animation


Video Example(s):


"Bennie and the Jets"

The song tells of "Bennie and the Jets", a fictional band of whom the song's narrator is a fan. In interviews, Taupin has said that the song's lyrics are a satire on the music industry of the 1970s.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / RockstarSong

Media sources: