Dublin: 14 °C Friday 2 June, 2023
Bob Geldof: Give us your f**king money! Photo: Joe Schaber/EMPICS
# Feed The World
Do They Know It's Christmas? Because it wasn't
Five things you may have forgotten about Live Aid, held 25 years ago today.

25 YEARS AGO today, the world joined hands and sang to raise money for Ethiopia in what still remains one of the most-watched TV events of all time.

But for those your whose memories are hazy of the day – or, if you weren’t born – here’s some things you may not have realised.

1. America didn’t really know who U2 were

LOOKING AT THEM NOW, it’s odd to think that U2 were once considered an average-at-best live band – but such was their perception before playing to a worldwide audience of two billion people at Live Aid.

U2 – who were then perceived to have lost some of their rock background – arguably stole the show with a 14-minute performance of ‘Bad’, which was extended because Bono had left the stage to help a girl being crushed at the front of the crowd.

Initially the singer had left the stage and tried to signal to crowds to move back – but the crowd security staff couldn’t get the message, so he jumped off stage and rescued the girl himself.

Their set was so long, they had to cut their scheduled performance of Pride (In The Name Of Love), their first single to make the US top 40 – but Bono’s evident personal appeal carried them through and onto greater things.

2. The Irish were the world’s biggest per-capita donors

So proud were we of our gig organiser, Bob Geldof, and his mangled South Dublin accent, that we donated in vast numbers – enough to make us rank as the highest donors per head worldwide. And so proud was he of us, that he interrupted TV broadcasts to make a declaration to that effect. The fact that the Republic was in the throws of a crippling recession, the likes of which it hadn’t seen before, and was wracked with emigration, made this stat all the more remarkable.

Not, of course, that we were the biggest donors – the Dubai royal family called up, spoke to Geldof personally, and instantly gave £1m in cash.

Which brings us nicely to…

3. If you’re raising money, swearing really works

Aside from being a major musical spectacle, the whole point of Live Aid was to raise money for the poor of Ethiopia. So, of course, Geldof was regularly checking in on the fundraising total. The BBC, on the day, had been repeating a phone number every 20 minutes, soliciting credit card donations, and had also been giving a postal address where viewers could send cheques.

Geldof, frustrated at a reported total of £1.2m after seven hours of gigging, interrupted BBC presenter David Hepworth as he was giving out the address, shouting:

F**k the address, let’s give the numbers!

Shortly afterwards, bubbling with frustration that viewers were simply leaning back to enjoy the spectacle and not bothering to donate, Geldof simply bellowed:

Give us your f**king money!

As soon as he did so, the rate of donations grew to £300 a second. By the end of the day, between £40m and £50m had been raised.

In Philadelphia, Madonna – who had recently appeared nude in Playboy – decided to spite the 35 degree heat and declared, “I’m not taking s*** off today!”

4. It was an extraordinary technical feat

And not just because Phil Collins took a Concord between the two gigs and played at both of them, despite their being 3,500 miles apart.

(Noel Edmonds flew the chopper that took him to Heathrow. On the way to the US, Collins met Cher – who had no idea the gigs were happening, but who followed him to JFK and sang there. A weird day.)

The show was an exceptionally ambitious project. In both Wembley and JFK, enormous revolving stages were built, so that while one act was playing on stage, another two could get their gear in order backstage.

Even the transatlantic satellite broadcasting was a rare feat, though it often succumbed to small glitches (such as The Who’s ‘My Generation’ being cut for some small time) in the travel.

While regular rock bands on tour would use mixing desks with two channels of 40 tracks each, the BBC’s outside broadcast unit had to make do with 12-channel desks. In a technological sense, Live Aid changed the world.

5. Geldof didn’t even want the gig recorded

So insistent was Bob that the gig be considered a one-off, he didn’t even want it to be recorded for future posterity. The gig, he felt, should be a one-off marvel that could live only in the memory.

The gig only survived because the BBC Radio 1 engineer on the day steadfastly refused to obey Geldof’s order that the gig not be recorded. Even ABC, the American broadcaster, deleted its tapes on Geldof’s request.

As a result, only about 10 hours of the 16 were saved and ultimately released on DVD. The rest of the gig, due to technical mishaps and ad breaks, remains lost to eternity.