How Live Aid was almost lost to time

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Fri Aug 27 08:55:47 CDT 2004

>From BBC News at:

How Live Aid was saved for history
By Ian Youngs 
BBC News Online entertainment staff  
Live Aid, the legendary 1985 charity concert featuring
stars from Paul McCartney and Queen to U2 and Madonna,
is being released on DVD for the first time.

It was one of the defining events of the 1980s, with
an unequalled musical line-up contributing to one of
the most memorable TV broadcasts ever made. 

But Live Aid's transatlantic 16-hour show was almost
not recorded at all. 

When organiser Bob Geldof was persuading artists to
take part, he promised it would be a one-off, never to
be seen again. 

That way, he said, they did not have to worry about
contracts or embarrassment if they messed up amid the
chaos of the day. 

If Geldof's plan had been followed, Live Aid would
have remained a fond but fading memory. 

But BBC Radio 1 concert co-ordinator Jeff Griffin
realised history was about to be made - so recorded it

Mr Griffin confronted Geldof at a meeting a month
before the event. "I collared him for about 30 seconds
afterwards and just looked him in the face," Mr
Griffin tells BBC News Online.

"I said 'Bob I hear what you're saying, but I have to
disagree with you - I just think it would be
irresponsible not to record it because this has all
the makings of something very, very special'." 

Geldof secretly acknowledged "it was silly not to do
it", Mr Griffin says: "So he left it up to me." 

Although video of the BBC One broadcast with
high-quality multi-track audio was kept, many
performances from the US were not shown in the UK and
so were still missing. 

The concert was split between Wembley Stadium, London,
and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia - and US broadcaster ABC
took Geldof more seriously and made its tapes

The DVD's producer Jill Sinclair says: "That was what
was so heartbreaking because I had no idea that they
would be so stupid. 

"Not that they thought they were being stupid, they
just thought they were following instructions."

Another set of tapes had been given to the Smithsonian
Institute - but were lost or stolen. 

Eventually, more than 100 Live Aid tapes were tracked
down in MTV's archives - albeit with songs cut short
by ad breaks and presenters. 

Ms Sinclair has not put incomplete songs on the DVD,
but the four-disc set, to be released in the UK on 8
November, still clocks in at 10 hours. 

Every person who appeared on stage - from backing
singers to big stars - has been contacted to get their
permission to be on the discs. 

The vast majority of artists agreed, saying: "We were
there on the day, we wanted to support the cause, we
still want to support the cause," Ms Sinclair says. 

"We may have been wearing some ridiculous fluorescent
yellow shirt or some ludicrous mullet hairstyle - but
it's a piece of history and we were part of it." 

The only artists to refuse were Led Zeppelin because
they said they put in a "sub-standard" performance. 

"I did feel cross because I felt like they were
letting me down as a fan of Led Zeppelin, I felt they
were cheating me," Ms Sinclair says. 

"But actually now I'm happy," she says, because Robert
Plant and Jimmy Page are giving all royalties from
their own forthcoming DVD to Band Aid. 

"I could never have imagined they would have come back
with something as generous as this," she says. 

Technical glitches on the day came when Sir Paul
McCartney and Freddie Mercury sang on although their
microphones were not working. 

Sir Paul re-recorded Let It Be a few days later, while
Mercury's vocals have been recovered from other
microphones that were working - so both performances
are on disc. 

'Can't be done' 

"[Mercury] didn't know it wasn't being recorded, so he
thought he was giving the performance of his life and
it seems very hard to not include him," Ms Sinclair

As well as the sound improvements, dodgy camera shots
have been replaced and the DVD has been finished in
record time. 

When Ms Sinclair took on the project in May, she says
she was "completely on the verge of passing out" when
told how soon organisers wanted it. 

"They said they wanted it for Christmas and I thought
I'm not sure if I can do it for Christmas - and I
thought Christmas was in December," she says.

"And then the distributor said 'when we say Christmas,
we mean October'. And I felt myself going a bit faint
and said 'I don't think it can be done'." 

So it has been an "extraordinary achievement", she
says - but that has been down to the fact it was Live
Aid. "Everybody just pulled out all the stops." 

In 1984, when Band Aid's Do You Know It's Christmas?
single came out, almost everybody gave their services
for free. 

This time, artists are still not being paid but DVD
company Warner and retailers will take a cut of the
£39.99 price. Warner paid a large lump sum to the
charity for rights to release the DVD, and will pay
more as sales go up. 

The DVD is expected to be the must-have gift for every
music fan this Christmas - even those who cannot
remember the show. 

"It seems to me that even very young kids know about
it," Ms Sinclair says. 

"It's become one of those things a bit like the Second
World War - you don't have to have lived through it to
know it happened."

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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