Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Live Aid, the 1985 trans-continent benefit concert held for Ethiopian famine relief. The first benefit of its kind on this scale,it had a tremendous roster of talent; to this day, it's rather mind-boggling how it was pulled off, but was it ever an incredible thing to watch. Bob Geldof, formerly of The Boomtown Rats, decided something had to be done after seeing a BBC documentary about the famine. If you can locate it, read Geldof's biography titled Is That It?. It was released in 1988, before the Paula Yates/Michael Hutchence triangle took place, but it gives you a great overview of Geldof, the Boomtown Rats, and how Live Aid was cobbled together into becoming one of the largest television broadcasts of all time to try to make a difference. Geldof has long been a smart Irish badass who saw a wrong and tried to right it-how can you not admire that?
Nearly seven hours into the concert in London, Bob Geldof enquired how much money had been raised; he was told £1.2 million. He is said to have been sorely disappointed by the amount and marched to the BBC commentary position. Pumped up further by a performance by Queen that he later called 'absolutely amazing', Geldof gave an infamous interview in which he used the word fuck. The BBC presenter David Hepworth, conducting the interview, had attempted to provide a list of addresses to which potential donations should be sent; Geldof interrupted him in mid-flow and shouted: "Fuck the address, let's get the numbers!". He also at one point got really angry and shouted "Give us your fucking money". Private Eye made great capital out of these outbursts, emphasising Geldof's accent which meant the profanities were heard as "fock" and "focking". After the outburst, giving increased to £300 per second.
Later in the evening, following David Bowie's set, a video (Edited by Colin Dean) shot by CBC, was shown to the audiences in London and Philadelphia, as well as on televisions around the world (though notably neither USA feed, ABC or MTV chose to show the film), showing starving and diseased Ethiopian children set to the song "Drive" by The Cars. The rate of giving became faster in the immediate aftermath of the moving video. Ironically, Geldof had previously refused to allow the video to be shown, due to time constraints, and had only relented when Bowie offered to drop the song Five Years from his set as a trade-off.
As Geldof mentioned during the concert, the Republic of Ireland gave the most donations per capita, despite being in the throes of a serious economic depression at the time. The single largest donation came from the ruling family of Dubai. They donated £1m in a phone conversation with Geldof.
The next day, news reports stated that between £40 and £50 million had been raised. Now, it is estimated that around £150m has been raised for famine relief as a direct result of the concerts. Source
The Guardian UK announced today that the BBC is developing a movie called "When Bob Met Harvey," the story of Geldof's relationship with pop promoter Harvey Goldsmith. Goldsmith was a big help to Geldof in getting the list of headline acts for both locations in the face of resistance from managers, acts and record companies. The movie will air on BBC 2 and Ireland's RTE in the autumn; no word on an American release.