Live Aid was a dual-venue benefit concert held on 13 July 1985, and an
ongoing music-based fundraising initiative. The original event was
Bob Geldof and
Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the
ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the "global jukebox", the event
was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England
(attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in
United States (attended by about 100,000
On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other
countries, such as the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia,
Australia and West Germany. It was one of the largest-scale
satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time; an estimated
global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live
3 Collaborative effort
4 The broadcasts
5 Wembley Stadium
6 John F. Kennedy Stadium
8 Notable absences
9 Criticisms and controversies
Led Zeppelin reunion
9.2 Fund use in Ethiopia
10 Performances and setlists
10.1 London, Wembley Stadium
10.2 Philadelphia, John F. Kennedy Stadium
Live Aid recordings
Live Aid DVD
11.2 Unofficial recordings
12 See also
14 External links
Live Aid concert was conceived as a follow-on to the
successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which was
also the brainchild of Geldof and Ure. In October 1984, images of
millions of people starving to death in Ethiopia were shown in the UK
in Michael Buerk's
BBC News reports on the 1984 famine. The BBC
News crew were the first to document the famine, with Buerk's report
on 23 October describing it as "a biblical famine in the 20th century"
and "the closest thing to hell on Earth". The report shocked
Britain, motivating its citizens to inundate relief agencies, such as
Save the Children, with donations, and to bring the world's attention
to the crisis in Ethiopia.
Bob Geldof also saw the report, and
Midge Ure from Ultravox, and together they quickly co-wrote the
song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in the hope of raising money for
famine relief. Geldof then contacted colleagues in the music
industry and persuaded them to record the single under the title 'Band
Aid' for free. On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded at Sarm
West Studios in Notting Hill, London, and was released four days
later. It stayed at number-one for five weeks in the UK, was
Christmas number one, and became the fastest-selling single ever in
Britain and raised £8 million, rather than the £70,000 Geldof and
Ure had initially expected. Geldof then set his sights on staging a
huge concert to raise further funds.
The idea to stage a charity concert to raise more funds for Ethiopia
originally came from Boy George, the lead singer of Culture Club.
Culture Club drummer
Jon Moss had taken part in the
recording of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and in December 1984
Culture Club were undertaking a tour of the UK, which culminated in
six nights at Wembley Arena. On the final night at Wembley, Saturday
22 December 1984, an impromptu gathering of some of the other artists
from Band Aid joined
Culture Club on stage at the end of the concert
for an encore of "Do They Know It's Christmas?". George was so
overcome by the occasion he told Geldof that they should consider
organising a benefit concert. Speaking to the UK music magazine Melody
Maker at the beginning of January 1985, Geldof revealed his enthusiasm
for George's idea, saying, "If George is organising it, you can tell
him he can call me at any time and I'll do it. It's a logical
progression from the record, but the point is you don't just talk
about it, you go ahead and do it!"
It was clear from the interview that Geldof had already had the idea
to hold a dual venue concert and how the concerts should be
"The show should be as big as is humanly possible. There's no point
just 5,000 fans turning up at Wembley; we need to have Wembley linked
with Madison Square Gardens and the whole show to be televised
worldwide. It would be great for Duran to play three or four numbers
at Wembley and then flick to Madison Square where Springsteen would be
playing. While he's on, the Wembley stage could be made ready for the
next British act like the Thompsons or whoever. In that way lots of
acts could be featured and the television rights, tickets and so on
could raise a phenomenal amount of money. It's not an impossible idea,
and certainly one worth exploiting."
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Among those involved in organising
Live Aid were Harvey Goldsmith, who
was responsible for the Wembley Stadium concert, and Bill Graham, who
put together the American leg.
The concert grew in scope, as more acts were added on both sides of
the Atlantic. Tony Verna, inventor of instant replay, was able to
secure John F. Kennedy Stadium through his friendship with
Philadelphia Mayor Goode and was able to procure, through his
connections with ABC's prime time chief, John Hamlin, a three-hour
prime time slot on the ABC Network and, in addition, was able to
supplement the lengthy program through meetings that resulted in the
addition of an ad-hoc network within the USA, which covered 85 percent
of TVs in the United States. Verna designed the needed satellite
schematic and became the Executive Director as well as the
Co-Executive Producer along with Hal Uplinger. Uplinger came up with
the idea to produce a four-hour video edit of
Live Aid to distribute
to those countries without the necessary satellite equipment to
rebroadcast the live feed.
The concert began at 12:00 British Summer Time (BST) (7:00 Eastern
Daylight Time (EDT)) at Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom. It
continued at John F. Kennedy Stadium (JFK) in the United States,
starting at 13:51 BST (8:51 EDT). The UK's Wembley performances ended
at 22:00 BST (17:00 EDT). The JFK performances and whole concert in
the US ended at 04:05 BST 14 July (23:05 EDT). Thus, the concert
continued for just over 16 hours, but since many artists' performances
were conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert's
length was much longer.
Mick Jagger and
David Bowie intended to perform an intercontinental
duet, with Bowie in
London and Jagger in Philadelphia. Problems of
synchronization meant the only remotely practical solution was to have
one artist, likely Bowie at Wembley, mime along to prerecorded vocals
broadcast as part of the live sound mix for Jagger's performance from
Philadelphia. Veteran music engineer David Richards (
Pink Floyd and
Queen) was brought in to create footage and sound mixes Jagger and
Bowie could perform to in their respective venues. The
BBC would then
have had to ensure those footage and sound mixes were in synch while
also performing a live vision mix of the footage from both venues. The
combined footage would then have had to be bounced back by satellite
to the various broadcasters around the world. Due to the time lag (the
signal would take several seconds to be broadcast twice across the
Atlantic Ocean), Richards concluded there was no way for Jagger to
hear or see Bowie's performance, meaning there could be no interaction
between the artists, essentially defeating the whole point of the
exercise. On top of this, both artists objected to the idea of miming
at what was perceived as a historic event. Instead, Jagger and Bowie
worked with Richards to create a video clip of the song they would
have performed, a cover of "Dancing in the Street", which was shown on
the screens of both stadiums and broadcast as part of many TV networks
Each of the two main parts of the concert ended with their particular
continental all-star anti-hunger anthems, with Band Aid's "Do They
Know It's Christmas?" closing the UK concert, and USA for Africa's "We
Are the World" closing the US concert (and thus the entire event
Concert organizers have subsequently said they were particularly keen
to ensure at least one surviving member of The Beatles, ideally Paul
McCartney, took part in the concert as they felt that having an 'elder
statesman' from British music would give it greater legitimacy in the
eyes of the political leaders whose opinions the performers were
trying to shape. McCartney agreed to perform and has said it was "the
management" – his children – who persuaded him to take part. In
the event, he was the last performer (aside from the Band Aid finale)
to take to the stage and one of the few to be beset by technical
difficulties; his microphone failed for the first two minutes of his
piano performance of "Let It Be", making it difficult for television
viewers and impossible for those in the stadium to hear him. He later
joked by saying he had thought about changing the lyrics to "There
will be some feedback, let it be".
Phil Collins performed at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, travelling by
helicopter (piloted by UK TV personality Noel Edmonds) to Heathrow
Airport, then by
Concorde to New York, and by another helicopter to
Philadelphia. Aside from his own set at both venues, he also played
the drums for Eric Clapton, and played with the reuniting surviving
Led Zeppelin at JFK. On the
Concorde flight, Collins
encountered actress and singer Cher, who was unaware of the concerts.
Upon reaching the US, she attended the
Philadelphia concert and can be
seen performing as part of the concert's "We Are the World" finale.
Broadcaster Richard Skinner opened the
Live Aid concert with the
It's twelve noon in London, seven AM in Philadelphia, and around the
world it's time for Live Aid.
The concert was the most ambitious international satellite television
venture that had ever been attempted at the time. In Europe, the feed
was supplied by the BBC, whose broadcast was presented by Richard
Skinner, Andy Kershaw, Mark Ellen, David Hepworth, Andy Batten-Foster,
Steve Blacknell, Paul Gambaccini,
Janice Long and Mike Smith and
included numerous interviews and chats in between the various acts.
The BBC's television sound feed was mono, as was all UK TV audio
NICAM was introduced, but the
BBC Radio 1 feed was stereo and
was simulcast in sync with the TV pictures. Unfortunately, in the rush
to set up the transatlantic feeds, the sound feed from Philadelphia
was sent to
London via transatlantic cable, while the video feed was
via satellite, which meant a lack of synchronisation on British
television receivers. Due to the constant activities in both London
and Philadelphia, the
BBC producers omitted the reunion of Crosby,
Stills, Nash & Young from their broadcast. The BBC, however, did
supply a 'clean feed' to various television channels in Europe.
ABC was largely responsible for the US broadcast (although ABC
themselves only telecast the final three hours of the concert from
Philadelphia, hosted by Dick Clark, with the rest shown in syndication
through Orbis Communications, acting on behalf of ABC). An entirely
separate and simultaneous US feed was provided for cable viewers by
MTV, whose broadcast was presented in stereo, and accessible as such
for those with stereo televisions. At the time, before Multichannel
television sound was enacted nationwide, very few televisions
reproduced stereo signals and few television stations were able to
broadcast in stereo. While the telecast was run commercial-free by the
BBC, both the
MTV and syndicated/ABC broadcasts included
advertisements and interviews. As a result, many songs were omitted
due to the commercial breaks, as these songs were played during these
The biggest issue of the syndicated/ABC coverage is that the network
had wanted to reserve some of the biggest acts that had played earlier
in the day for certain points in the entire broadcast, particularly in
the final three hours in prime time; thus,
Orbis Communications had
some sequences replaced by others, especially those portions of the
concert that had acts from
simultaneously. For example, while the London/Wembley finale was
taking place at 22:00 (10:00 pm)
London time, syndicated viewers saw
segments that had been recorded earlier, so that ABC could show the UK
finale during its prime-time portion. In 1995,
a re-edited ten-hour re-broadcast of the concert for its 10th
At one point midway through the concert,
Billy Connolly announced he
had just been informed that 95% of the television sets around the
world were tuned to the event, though this can of course not be
Live Aid concert in
London was also the first time that the BBC
outside broadcast sound equipment had been used for an event of such
scale. In stark contrast to the mirrored sound systems commonly used
by the rock band touring engineers, with two 40–48 channel mixing
consoles at the Front of house, and another pair for monitors, the BBC
sound engineers had to use multiple 12 channel desks. Some credit this
as the point where the mainstream entertainment industry realised that
the rock concert industry had overtaken them in technical
Coldstream Guards band opened with the "Royal Salute", "God Save
the Queen". Status Quo started their set with "Rockin' All Over the
World", also playing "Caroline" and fan favourite "Don't Waste My
Time". "Bob told me, 'It doesn't matter a fuck what you sound
like, just so long as you're there," recalled guitarist and singer
Francis Rossi. "Thanks for the fucking honesty, Sir Bob." This
would be the band's last appearance with bassist and founder member
Alan Lancaster and drummer Pete Kircher, although Lancaster and
Kircher's predecessor John Coghlan briefly rejoined Rossi and Rick
Parfitt for two short tours in 2013 and 2014 under the name the
Queen's performance has been voted – by more than 60 artists,
journalists and music industry executives – the greatest live
performance in the history of rock. Queen's lead singer
Freddie Mercury at times led the crowd in unison refrains, and his
sustained note during the a cappella section came to be known as "The
Note Heard Round the World". The band's 20-minute set opened with
"Bohemian Rhapsody" and closed with "We Are the Champions".
Mercury and fellow band member
Brian May later sang the first song of
the three-part Wembley event finale, "Is This the World We
Other well-received performances on the day included those by U2 and
The Guardian cited
Live Aid as the event that made stars
of U2. The band played a 14-minute rendition of "Bad", during
Bono jumped off the stage to join the crowd and dance
with a girl. The length of "Bad" limited them to two songs; the third,
"Pride (In the Name of Love)", had to be dropped. In July 2005, the
girl with whom he danced said that he actually saved her life at the
time. She was being crushed by people pushing forwards;
Bono saw this,
and gestured frantically at the ushers to help her. They did not
understand what he was saying, and so he jumped down to help her
himself. David Bowie's performance has been described by Rolling
Stone as "arguably Bowie's last triumph of the 1980s".
Bob Geldof performed with the rest of the Boomtown Rats, singing "I
Don't Like Mondays". He stopped just after the line "The lesson today
is how to die" to loud applause. He finished the song and left
the crowd to sing the final words.
Elvis Costello sang a version of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love",
which he introduced by asking the audience to "help [him] sing this
old northern English folk song".
The UK reception of the US feed failed several times and was dogged
throughout the US concert by an intermittent regular buzzing on the
audio from the US (see the John F. Kennedy Stadium section for more
detail) and also failed during their relay of Japan's concert, which
blacked out most of Off Course's song "Endless Nights".
In addition, the transatlantic broadcast from Wembley Stadium suffered
technical problems and failed during The Who's performance of their
opening song "My Generation", immediately after
Roger Daltrey sang
"Why don't you all fade..." (the last word "Away" was cut off when a
blown fuse caused the Wembley stage TV feed to temporarily fail).
The broadcast eventually returned as the last verse of Pinball Wizard
was played. John Entwistle's bass wouldn't work at the start, causing
an awkward delay or over a minute before they could start playing. The
band played with
Kenney Jones on drums and it was their first
performance since disbanding after a 1982 'farewell' tour. The Who's
performance, including an at times chaotic but blistering version of
"Won't Get Fooled Again", was described as "rough but right" by
Rolling Stone, but they would not perform together again until the
1988 BPI Awards.
While performing "Let It Be" near the end of the show, the microphone
mounted to Paul McCartney's piano failed for the first two minutes of
the song, making it difficult for television viewers and the stadium
audience to hear him. During this performance, the TV audience were
better off, audio-wise, than the stadium audience, as the TV sound was
picked up from other microphones near McCartney. The stadium audience,
who could obviously not hear the electronic sound feed from these
mikes, unless they had portable TV sets and radios, drowned out what
little sound from Paul could be heard during this part of his
performance. As a result, organiser and performer Bob Geldof,
accompanied by earlier performers David Bowie,
Alison Moyet and Pete
Townshend returned to the stage to sing with him and back him up (as
did the stadium audience despite not being able to hear much), by
which time, Paul's microphone had been repaired.
At the conclusion of the Wembley performances,
Bob Geldof was raised
onto the shoulders of the Who's guitarist
Pete Townshend and Paul
John F. Kennedy Stadium
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Stage view of
Live Aid at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia
Live Aid under the lights at John F. Kennedy Stadium
The host of the televised portion of the concert in
actor Jack Nicholson. The opening artist
Joan Baez announced to the
crowd, "this is your Woodstock, and it's long overdue," before leading
the crowd in singing "Amazing Grace" and "We Are the World".
When Madonna got on stage, despite the 95 °F (35 °C)
ambient temperature, she proclaimed "I'm not taking shit off today!"
referring to the recent release of early nude photos of her in Playboy
and Penthouse magazines.
During his opening number, "American Girl",
Tom Petty flipped the
middle finger to somebody off stage about one minute into song. Petty
stated the song was a last-minute addition when the band realised that
they would be the first act to play the American side of the concert
London finale and "since this is, after all, JFK
Bob Dylan broke a guitar string, while playing with the Rolling
Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, Wood took off his own
guitar and gave it to Dylan. Wood was left standing on stage
guitarless. After shrugging to the audience, he played air guitar,
even mimicking the Who's
Pete Townshend by swinging his arm in wide
circles, until a stagehand brought him a replacement. The performance
itself was included in the DVD, including the guitar switch and Wood
talking to stage hands, but much of the footage used were close-ups of
either Dylan or Richards.
During their duet on "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll",
Mick Jagger ripped
away part of Tina Turner's dress, leaving her to finish the song in
what was, effectively, a leotard.
The JFK portion included reunions of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,
Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne, the
Beach Boys with
Brian Wilson, and surviving members of Led Zeppelin, with Phil Collins
and the Power Station (and former Chic) member Tony Thompson sharing
duties on drums in place of the band's late drummer John Bonham
(although they were not officially announced by their group name from
the stage, but were announced as
Led Zeppelin on the
Anniversary re-broadcast in 1995).
Teddy Pendergrass made his first public appearance since his
near-fatal car accident in 1982 which paralysed him. Pendergrass,
along with Ashford & Simpson, performed "Reach Out and Touch".
Duran Duran performed a four-song set which was the final time the
five original band members would publicly perform together until 2003.
Their set saw a weak, off-key falsetto note hit by frontman Simon Le
Bon during "A View to a Kill". The error was trumpeted by numerous
media outlets as "The Bum Note Heard Round the World", in
contrast to Freddie Mercury's "Note Heard Round the World" at
Wembley. Le Bon later recalled that it was the most embarrassing
moment of his career.
The UK TV feed from
Philadelphia was dogged by an intermittent regular
buzzing on the sound during Bryan Adams' turn on stage and continued
less frequently throughout the rest of the UK reception of the
American concert and both the audio and video feed failed entirely
during that performance and during Simple Minds's performance.
Phil Collins, who had performed in the
United Kingdom earlier in the
day, began his set with the quip, "I was in Britain this afternoon.
Funny old world, innit?" to cheers from the
Throughout the concerts, viewers were urged to donate money to the
Live Aid cause. Three hundred phone lines were manned by the BBC, so
that members of the public could make donations using their credit
cards. The phone number and an address that viewers could send cheques
to were repeated every twenty minutes.
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 which
he later called "absolutely amazing", Geldof gave an interview in
which he used the word "fuck". Conducting the interview,
David Hepworth 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". Although the
phrase "give us your fucking money" has passed into folklore, Geldof
has stated that it was never uttered.
Private Eye magazine made
great capital out of this outburst, emphasising Geldof's accent which
meant the profanities were heard as "fock" or "focking". After the
outburst, giving increased to £300 per second.
Later in the evening, following David Bowie's set, a video shot by the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was shown to the audiences in London
and Philadelphia, as well as on televisions around the world (though
neither US feed chose to show the film), showing starving and diseased
Ethiopian children set to "Drive" by The Cars. (This would also be
shown at the
Live 8 concert in 2005.) The rate of giving became
faster in the immediate aftermath of the moving video. 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.
Geldof mentioned during the concert that the
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland gave
the most donations per capita, despite being in the threat of a
serious economic recession at the time. The single largest donation
came from the Al Maktoum, who was part of the ruling family of Dubai,
who donated £1M in a phone conversation with Geldof. The next day,
news reports stated that between £40 and £50 million had been
raised. It is now estimated that around £150m has been raised for
famine relief as a direct result of the concerts.
Bruce Springsteen failed to appear at the Wembley
Live Aid concert
despite his huge popularity in 1985, later stating that he "simply did
not realise how big the whole thing was going to be". He has since
expressed regret at turning down Geldof's invitation stating that he
could have played a couple of acoustic songs had there been no slot
available for a full band performance.
Michael Jackson declined to appear.
Joan Baez claimed she'd heard
rumors that Jackson and
Stevie Wonder had boycotted the event due to
"black superstar politics."  However, Jackson's press agent Norman
Winter released a statement at the time saying that Jackson was
"working around the clock in the studio on a project that he's made a
major commitment to," and consequently could not free up sufficient
time to rehearse and perform at Live Aid. Winter added, "Michael is
just about living in the studio, rehearsing and recording. I know,
what could be more major than Live Aid, but Michael couldn't turn his
back on his responsibility to the people he's working with. This
affected employment for a lot of people."  Jackson began filming
Captain EO two days after Live Aid.
Prince did not play, but sent a pre-taped video of an acoustic version
of "4 the Tears in Your Eyes", which was played during the concert.
The original version appears on the
We Are the World
We Are the World album, while the
video version was released in 1993 on Prince's compilation The
Hits/The B-Sides. He wrote the song "Hello" about the criticism he got
for turning it down.[not in citation given]
Billy Joel, Boy George, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Tears for
Huey Lewis and the News
Huey Lewis and the News and
Paul Simon were all included in
initial promotional material for the
Philadelphia concert, but failed
Paul Simon and Huey Lewis accepted requests to play in
Philadelphia but later issued press statements stating they had chosen
not to appear after all, citing disagreements with promoter Bill
Graham. The final poster for the
Philadelphia show features the acts
Peter, Paul and Mary
Peter, Paul and Mary and
Rod Stewart (who also featured in the
Philadelphia concert programme).
Peter, Paul and Mary
Peter, Paul and Mary were to have
Bob Dylan for a rendition of "Blowing In The Wind", having
recorded a cover version in the 1960s – but Dylan called the
organizers a few days before the show saying that he would play with
Ronnie Wood and
Keith Richards instead (ironically, Bill Wyman
apparently told Geldof before not to approach the Stones because
‘Keith doesn’t give a fuck’). Stewart was not touring at the
time and was ultimately unable to put together a band in time for the
concert, as was
Billy Joel who actually did not like the idea of
performing solo in front of such a big stadium audience. Geldof
Stevie Wonder eventually agreed to appear, but then he
phoned me up and said, 'I am not going to be the token black on the
Cliff Richard was unable to perform as he was committed to a gospel
charity concert in Birmingham.
Roland Orzabal of
Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears remarked that
Bob Geldof "gave us so
much gip for not turning up at Live Aid. All those millions of people
dying, it was our fault. I felt terrible. I tell you, I know how
Hitler must have felt." The group made up for their absence by
donating the proceeds from several shows of their world tour that
year, and also contributed a re-recording of "Everybody Wants to Rule
the World" (entitled "Everybody Wants to Run the World") for Geldof's
Sport Aid charity event in 1986. The single reached the Top 5 in the
UK, even though the band's original version had been a hit only a year
Cat Stevens wrote a song for the concert, which he never got to
perform. According to the official book released after the event, he
arrived at Wembley Stadium on the day without prior warning, and
Geldof was unable to fit him into the schedule.
Liza Minnelli, Yoko Ono, and
Cyndi Lauper were tapped to present at
JFK Stadium, but backed out. Lauper did appear in a commercial for the
Live Aid Book" that aired during the concert.
Deep Purple were also due to appear from
satellite, but pulled out after guitarist
Ritchie Blackmore refused to
Eurythmics were scheduled to play Wembley but cancelled
Annie Lennox suffered serious throat problems. Deep Purple
(minus Blackmore, who left the band in 1993) appeared at Geldof's Live
8 sequel 20 years later, performing at the Toronto leg of the event
while Lennox appeared at the
London and Edinburgh
Live 8 concerts.
Frank Zappa was invited to perform, but refused because he believed
that the money raised by
Live Aid did not address the core problems
facing the developing world and instead aided the developed world by
providing ways to get drugs, calling the concert "the biggest cocaine
money laundering scheme of all time".
A sighting of
George Harrison arriving Wednesday night at Heathrow
Airport led to widespread speculation that a reunion of the three
living Beatles was in the works. Approached by Geldof to join Paul
McCartney at "Let it Be", he responded, "Paul didn’t ask me to sing
on it (Let It Be) ten years ago, why does he want me now?"
Frustrated by a bombardment of Beatles reunion questions, Geldof said:
"It's just something you have to answer. I find it silly that with all
these acts and the real purpose of the concert that the one thing
people suddenly get caught up over is, 'Are the Beatles going to
reform?' Who cares? Besides, they can't reform – or haven't people
read the papers the last five years?" (a reference to the death of
Bill Graham is said to have turned down Foreigner and Yes because
there was no free space on the bill for them.
British rock band Marillion, riding high in the UK charts that summer
Misplaced Childhood album and "Kayleigh" single, missed out
on an invitation to perform at Wembley because their manager had
deemed it not worthwhile for singer Fish to participate in the "Do
They Know It's Christmas?" single. Fish was quoted: "When it came to
the bill for the concert we were passed over."
Participating in the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" finale at Wembley
were Justin Hayward and John Lodge from The Moody Blues, Stewart
The Police and the members of Big Country. On the other
hand, Lionel Richie, Harry Belafonte, Dionne Warwick, Melissa
Sheena Easton and
Cher all showed up at the JFK finale
performing "We Are The World".
Diana Ross, Van Halen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Smiths, Talking
Donna Summer also turned down requests to appear. Depeche
Mode, one of the most successful English bands of the 1980s, was not
invited. Alan Wilder, a Mode member at the time, said: "I doubt very
much that we would have accepted the invitation, had we been asked. My
personal view is that giving to 'chariddy' should be a totally private
gesture, out of which no personal gain should be made. Inevitably,
nearly all the artists who took part in
Live Aid achieved a
considerable rise in record sales and being the cynic I am, I wonder
just how much of the profit gained from those sales actually ended up
going to Ethiopia."
UB40 lead singer
Ali Campbell admitted that his
band was also ignored by Geldof while planning the list of musical
acts of the British leg of the event: "We weren't asked to do Live Aid
because Uncle Bob didn't like us. It was a great gig but I thought it
was a bit dodgy not having any black acts on the bill when it was
raising money for Africa."
Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton expressed regrets about the
band not being asked to perform: "That was a tragic, tragic decision.
It could've been and it should've been the turning point for Phil
(Lynott). And I think that really did Phil in quite a lot, that we
were never asked to play. I mean Phil, had a few problems at the time,
but at the end of the day, if he would've been asked to play Live Aid,
that would've been a goal for him to clean himself up to do that gig.
We were all very upset of the fact that we weren't asked to do it.
Because as you say, it was Geldof and Midge who Phil knew very well. I
was surprised that we weren't asked to do that. That would've been the
turning point, you know, definitely. I don't think Phil ever forgave
Bob and Midge for that really."
Neil Peart, drummer of Canadian rock band Rush said: "Geddy was
involved with the Northern Lights charity record here in Canada,
although Rush weren't invited to participate in the
Live Aid event –
mainly because if you look at the guest list, it was very much an
'in-crowd' situation. We didn't refuse to take part because of any
principles. Mind you, I wouldn't have been happy being part of this
scenario. Those stars should have shut up and just given over their
money if they were genuine. I recall that Tears For Fears, who made a
musical and artistic decision to pull out of the concert, were
subsequently accused of killing children in Africa – what a
shockingly irresponsible and stupid attitude to take towards the band.
But I have nothing bad whatsoever to say about Bob Geldof; he
sacrificed his health, his career, everything for something he
believed in. But others around him got involved for their own reasons.
Some of those involved in Northern Lights were actually quoted as
saying that their managers told them to get down to the recording
sessions because it would be a good career move! What a farce!"
"I tried to pitch into Live Aid," recalled Roger Waters, "but they
didn't want me. But that's alright. I went along. They asked me to put
Pink Floyd back together and I said no, but I'd bring my new band to
Criticisms and controversies
Bob Dylan's performance generated controversy after he said "I hope
that some of the money…maybe they can just take a little bit of it,
maybe…one or two million, maybe…and use it, say, to pay the
mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the
banks…" He is often misquoted, as on the
Farm Aid website, as
saying: "Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers
right here in America?". In his autobiography, Is That It? (published
in 1986), Geldof was extremely critical of the remark, saying "He
displayed a complete lack of understanding of the issues raised by
Live Aid was about people losing their lives. There is a
radical difference between losing your livelihood and losing your
life. It did instigate Farm Aid, which was a good thing in itself, but
it was a crass, stupid, and nationalistic thing to say." Although
Dylan's comments were criticized, his remark inspired fellow musicians
Neil Young and
John Mellencamp to organize the Farm Aid
charity, which held its first concert in September 1985.  The
concert raised over $9 million for America's family farmers and became
an annual event.
Geldof was not happy about
The Hooters being tacked onto the bill as
the opening band in Philadelphia. He felt pressured into it by Graham
and local promoter Larry Magid. Magid, promoting the concert through
Electric Factory Concerts, correctly argued that the band was hugely
popular in Philadelphia, their first major label album Nervous Night
being released less than three months beforehand was a genuine hit
record. Geldof let his feelings be known during an interview for
Rolling Stone by asking: "Who the fuck are the Hooters?" In
December 2004, Geldof appeared on the bill with the Hooters in Germany
as their opening act.
Adam Ant subsequently criticised the event and expressed regrets about
playing it, saying, "I was asked by Bob to promote this concert. They
had no idea they could sell it out. Then in Bob's book he said, 'Adam
was over the hill so I let him have one number.' ... Doing that show
was the biggest fucking mistake in the world. Knighthoods were made,
Bono got it made, and it was a waste of fucking time. It was the end
of rock 'n' roll." Geldof stated in his autobiography that Miles
Copeland, manager of
Adam Ant and Sting, asked Geldof if he'd thought
of asking Ant after Geldof contacted him to get Sting to appear: "I
hadn't. I thought he was a bit passe. But then so were the Boomtown
Rats, and each represented a certain piece of pop history, so I
agreed. I also thought that might entice him to encourage Sting, or
perhaps all three of the Police".
BBC coverage co-host
Andy Kershaw criticised the event in his
autobiography No Off Switch, stating, "Musically,
Live Aid was to be
entirely predictable and boring. As they were wheeled out – or
rather bullied by Geldof into playing – it became clear that this
was another parade of the same old rock aristocracy in a concert for
Africa, organised by someone who, while advertising his concern for,
and sympathy with, the continent didn’t see fit to celebrate or
dignify the place by including on the
Live Aid bill a single African
performer." Kershaw also described the attitude of Geldof and his
showbusiness associates as "irritating, shallow, sanctimonious and
Led Zeppelin reunion
Led Zeppelin's reunion for the first time since the death of their
John Bonham in 1980 was poorly received due to Robert Plant's
hoarse voice, Jimmy Page's struggling with an out-of-tune guitar, lack
of rehearsal with the two drummers taking Bonham's place and poorly
functioning monitors. Plant described the performance as "a fucking
atrocity for us. … It made us look like loonies".
Page later criticised Phil Collins, who had played on Plant's first
two solo albums, for his performance on drums. Page said: "Robert told
Phil Collins wanted to play with us. I told him that was all right
if he knows the numbers. But at the end of the day, he didn't know
anything. We played 'Whole Lotta Love', and he was just there bashing
away cluelessly and grinning. I thought that was really a joke."
However, Collins said "It was a disaster, really. Robert wasn't
match-fit with his voice and Jimmy was out of it, dribbling. It wasn't
my fault it was crap. … If I could have walked off, I would have.
But then we'd all be talking about why
Phil Collins walked off Live
Aid – so I just stuck it out. … I thought it was just going to be
low-key and we'd all get together and have a play. … But something
happened between that conversation and the day – it became a Led
Zeppelin reunion. I turned up and I was a square peg in a round hole.
Robert was happy to see me, but Jimmy wasn't."
Due to their "sub-standard" performance, the band members have blocked
all possible broadcasts of it since and they withheld permission for
it to be included on the official DVD release of the concerts. It
has since been selected by
Philadelphia as "one of the worst
rock-and-roll reunions of all time". Victor Fiorillo wrote: "I'd like
to be able to blame all of the awfulness on anaemic Phil Collins, who
sat in on drums, and Page himself later fingered the Genesis drummer
for screwing up the set. But Collins was just the beginning of the
bad. Go ahead. Watch and remember. It really was that terrible."
Fund use in Ethiopia
In 1986 Spin published an exposé on the realities of Live Aid's
actions in Ethiopia. Geldof responded by deriding both the articles
and the medical relief organisation
Médecins Sans Frontières
Médecins Sans Frontières who had
been expelled from the country. According to the
Service, a certain proportion of the funds were siphoned off by
Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam and his army (which included the Tigrayan
People's Liberation Front). This coalition battled at the time
against Derg. The Band Aid Trust complained to the
Complaints Unit regarding the specific allegations in the
Service documentary, and their complaint was upheld. Although a
professed admirer of Geldof's generosity and concern, American
television commentator Bill O'Reilly has been critical of the Live
Aid's oversight of the use of the funds raised. O'Reilly believes that
charity organizations, operating in aid-receiving countries, should
control donations, rather than possibly corrupt governments.
Live Aid accomplished good ends while inadvertently
causing harm at the same time,
David Rieff gave a presentation of
similar concerns in
The Guardian at the time of Live 8. Tim
Russert, in an interview on
Meet the Press
Meet the Press shortly after O'Reilly's
comments, addressed these concerns to Bono.
Bono responded that
corruption, not disease or famine, was the greatest threat to Africa,
agreeing with the belief that foreign relief organizations should
decide how the money is spent. On the other hand,
Bono said that it
was better to spill some funds into nefarious quarters for the sake of
those who needed it, than to stifle aid because of possible theft.
Performances and setlists
London, Wembley Stadium
"God Save the Queen" (First six bars only)
"Rockin' All Over the World"
"Don't Waste My Time"
The Style Council
"You're the Best Thing"
"Big Boss Groove"
"Walls Come Tumbling Down!"
The Boomtown Rats
"I Don't Like Mondays"
"Drag Me Down"
"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"
"Vive Le Rock"
"Reap the Wild Wind"
"Dancing with Tears in My Eyes"
"One Small Day"
"Only When You Leave"
"All You Need Is Love"
"Wouldn't It Be Good"
"Why Can't We Live Together"
"Your Love Is King"
"Is It a Crime"
"Driven to Tears" (Sting)
"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" (Phil Collins)
"Message in a Bottle" (Sting)
"In the Air Tonight" (Phil Collins)
"Long Long Way to Go" (both)
"Every Breath You Take" (both)
"Hide and Seek"
"Boys And Girls"
"Slave to Love"
"Do They Know It's Christmas?" (intro)
"Come Back and Stay"
"That's the Way Love Is" (with Alison Moyet)
"Every Time You Go Away"
"Sunday Bloody Sunday"
"Bad" (with snippets of "Satellite of Love", "Ruby Tuesday", "Sympathy
for the Devil" and "Walk on the Wild Side")
"Money for Nothing" (with Sting)
"Sultans of Swing"
"Radio Ga Ga"
"Hammer to Fall"
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
"We Will Rock You"
"We Are the Champions"
"Love, Reign o'er Me"
"Won't Get Fooled Again"
"I'm Still Standing"
"Bennie and the Jets"
"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (with Kiki Dee)
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (with
George Michael and Andrew
"Can I Get a Witness"
"Is This the World We Created...?"
(with David Bowie, Bob Geldof,
Alison Moyet and Pete Townshend)
"Let It Be"
"Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Richard Skinner — opened the show and introduced Charles, Prince of
Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales
Tommy Vance — introduced Coldstream Guards, Status Quo, The Style
Council, The Boomtown Rats,
Nik Kershaw and Dire Straits
Harvey Goldsmith — introduced Adam Ant
Andy Peebles — introduced Spandau Ballet, Elvis Costello, Noel
Edmonds, Howard Jones, Bryan Ferry, Paul Young,
Griff Rhys Jones
Griff Rhys Jones with
Mel Smith and David Bowie
Noel Edmonds — introduced Sting with Phil Collins
Griff Rhys Jones
Griff Rhys Jones and
Mel Smith — introduced Queen
Jack Nicholson and
Tommy Vance — introduced U2 and The Who
Billy Connolly — introduced Elton John
John Hurt — introduced
Freddie Mercury and Brian May
Philadelphia, John F. Kennedy Stadium
"All I Really Want to Do"
"We Are the World"
"And We Danced"
"All You Zombies"
"Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)"
"It's the Same Old Song"
"Reach Out I'll Be There"
Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)"
"Children of the Grave"
"Jam Master Jay"
"King Of Rock"
"State of the Heart"
"Can't Fight This Feeling"
"Roll With the Changes"
Crosby, Stills and Nash
"Teach Your Children"
"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"
"Living After Midnight"
"The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)"
"You've Got Another Thing Comin'"
"Kids Wanna Rock"
"Summer of '69"
"Tears Are Not Enough"
"Cuts Like a Knife"
The Beach Boys
Help Me, Rhonda"
"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Bo Diddley and Albert Collins)
"Who Do You Love?" (with Bo Diddley)
"The Sky Is Crying"
"Madison Blues" (with Albert Collins)
"Don't You (Forget About Me)"
"Promised You a Miracle"
"Time the Avenger"
"Message of Love"
"Stop Your Sobbing"
"Back on the Chain Gang"
"Middle of the Road"
(with Pat Metheny)
"By the Pool"
Ashford & Simpson
(with Teddy Pendergrass)
"Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" (with Teddy Pendergrass)
Thompson Twins and Nile Rodgers)
"Into the Groove"
"Love Makes The World Go Round" (with
Thompson Twins and Nile Rodgers)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"You Might Think"
"Just What I Needed"
"The Needle and the Damage Done"
"Nothing Is Perfect (In God's Perfect Plan)"
The Power Station
"Get It On"
Steve Stevens and Nile Rodgers)
"Hold Me Now"
"Revolution" (with Madonna,
Steve Stevens and Nile Rodgers)
"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)"
"In the Air Tonight"
"Rock and Roll"
"Whole Lotta Love"
"Stairway to Heaven"
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
"Daylight Again/Find The Cost of Freedom"
"A View to a Kill"
"Union of the Snake"
"Save a Prayer"
"Stir It Up"
"Over the Rainbow"
"Why Can't I Get It Over"
Hall & Oates
Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin)
"Out of Touch"
"Get Ready" (with Eddie Kendricks)
"Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (with David Ruffin)
"The Way You Do the Things You Do"
"My Girl" (with
Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin)
Hall & Oates
(with Tina Turner)
"Lonely At the Top"
"Just Another Night"
"State Of Shock" (with Tina Turner)
"It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" (with Tina Turner)
"Ballad of Hollis Brown"
"When the Ship Comes In"
"Blowin' in the Wind"
USA for Africa
"We Are the World"
Bill Graham — introduced
Jack Nicholson (before his first and last
Chevy Chase with Joe Piscopo, Marilyn McCoo, Dire
Straits, Santana, Bette Midler, Don Johnson,
Eric Clapton and Dionne
Jack Nicholson — introduced Joan Baez, Bryan Adams, U2,
The Who and
Chevy Chase and
Joe Piscopo — introduced The Hooters
Chevy Chase — introduced Four Tops, Billy Ocean, Black Sabbath, REO
Speedwagon, Judas Priest, David Bowie,
Kenny Loggins and Duran Duran
Joe Piscopo — introduced Run–D.M.C., Rick Springfield, Simple
Minds and Neil Young
Marilyn McCoo — introduced The Beach Boys
George Segal — introduced
George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Grace Slick — introduced Pretenders
Bette Midler — introduced Madonna, Thompson Twins,
Patti LaBelle and
Don Johnson — introduced
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The
Jack Nicholson &
Bette Midler — introduced Phil Collins
Phil Collins — introduced Led Zeppelin
Dionne Warwick — introduced Hall & Oates
Oz for Africa
various (depends on the broadcaster)
(performers from Japan)
"Take It Time"
Austria für Afrika[de]
The Hague, Netherlands
(from the North Sea Jazz Festival)
"When It All Comes Down"
"Why I Sing the Blues"
"Don't Answer the Door"
"Rock Me Baby"
YU Rock Misija
"Za milion godina"
Moscow, Soviet Union
"Nam nuzhen mir"
Cologne, West Germany
Band für Afrika[de]
"Nackt Im Wind"
"Ein Jahr (Es geht voran)"
Kool & the Gang
"Stand Up and Sing"
London, United Kingdom
"A World of Difference"
Molly Meldrum — introduced Oz for Africa
Mladen Popović — introduced YU Rock Misija
Vladimir Posner — introduced Autograph and made a speech between
Evelyn Selbert and Ken Janz — introduced Band für Afrika[de]
Udo Lindenberg — made a speech between the Band für Afrika[de]
Andy Kershaw — introduced Cliff Richard
Live Aid recordings
Bob Geldof was persuading artists to take part in the
concert, he promised them that it would be a one-off event, never to
be seen again. That was the reason why the concert was never recorded
in its complete original form, and only secondary television
broadcasts were recorded. Following Geldof's request, ABC even erased
its own broadcast tapes. However, before the syndicated/ABC footage
was erased, copies of it were donated to the Smithsonian Institution
and have now been presumed lost. It should be noted here that the ABC
feed of the USA for Africa/"We Are The World" finale does exist in its
entirety, complete with the network end credits, and can be found as a
supplemental feature on the We Are The World: The Story Behind The
MTV decided to keep recordings of its broadcast and
eventually located more than 100 tapes of
Live Aid in its archives,
but many songs in these tapes were cut short by MTV's ad breaks and
presenters (according to the BBC). The
BBC also decided to erase
fragments of the performance due to storage limitations, to pave the
way for newer programmes. Many performances from the
US were not shown on the BBC, and recordings of these performances are
missing. There were four separate Audio Trucks in Philadelphia
provided by David Hewitt of Remote Recording Services. ABC had taken
the decision that no multi track tape recordings would be allowed, so
no remixing of the
Philadelphia show was possible.
Live Aid DVD
An official four-disc DVD set of the
Live Aid concerts was released on
8 November 2004. It contains 10-hour partial footage of the 16-hour
length concert. The DVD was produced by Geldof's company, Woodcharm
Ltd., and distributed by Warner Music Vision.
The decision to finally release it was taken by
Bob Geldof nearly 20
years after the original concerts, after he found a number of
unlicensed copies of the concert on the Internet. There has been
controversy over the DVD release because a decision had been taken for
a substantial number of tracks not to be included in this edited
The most complete footage that exists is used from the
BBC source, and
this was the main source of the DVD. During production on the official
MTV lent Woodcharm Ltd. their B-roll and alternate camera footage
MTV provided extra footage of the
Philadelphia concert (where
ABC had erased the tapes from the command of Bob Geldof), and those
songs that were not littered with ads were used on the official DVD.
Working from the
MTV footage, several degrees of dramatic
license were taken, in order to release the concert on DVD. For
example, many songs on the official DVD had their soundtracks altered,
mainly in sequences where there were originally microphone problems.
In one of those instances,
Paul McCartney had re-recorded his failed
vocals for "Let It Be" in a studio the day after the concert (14 July
1985) but it was never used until the release of the DVD. Also, in the
US finale, the original 'USA for Africa' studio track for "We Are the
World" was overlaid in places where the microphone was absent
(consequently, it includes the vocals of
Kenny Rogers and James
Ingram, two artists who did not even take part in Live Aid).
Judicious decisions were also made on which acts would be included and
which ones would not, due to either technical difficulties in the
original performances, the absence of original footage, or for music
rights reasons. For example, Rick Springfield, the Four Tops, the
Hooters, the Power Station, Billy Ocean,
Kool and the Gang
Kool and the Gang and Crosby,
Stills, Nash & Young were among those acts that were left off the
DVD. Many of the artists' songs that were performed were also omitted.
For example, Madonna performed three solo songs in the concert, but
only two were included on the DVD ("Love Makes the World Go Round" was
Phil Collins played "Against All Odds" and "In the Air
Tonight" at both Wembley and JFK, but only the
London performance of
the former and the
Philadelphia performance of the latter were
included on the DVD. The JFK performance of "Against All Odds" was
later included on Phil Collins' Finally...The First Farewell Tour DVD.
Tom Petty performed four songs, and only two were included on DVD.
Patti LaBelle played 6 songs but only 2 songs were included.
There were also issues with the artists themselves. Two such
performers were left off at their own request:
Led Zeppelin and
Santana. The former defended their decision not to be included on the
grounds that their performance was 'sub-standard', but to lend their
Jimmy Page and
Robert Plant pledged to donate proceeds from
an upcoming[when?] DVD release of Page & Plant:No Quarter to the
campaign, and John Paul Jones pledged proceeds from his American
tour[when?] with Mutual Admiration Society.
In 2007, Queen released a special edition of
Queen Rock Montreal
Queen Rock Montreal on
Blu-ray and DVD formats containing their 1981 concert from The Forum
in Montreal, Canada, and their complete
Live Aid performance, along
Freddie Mercury and
Brian May performing "Is This The World We
Created...?" from the UK
Live Aid finale, all re-mixed in DTS 5.1
sound by Justin Shirley-Smith—this marked the first Live Aid
material officially released in a high-definition/
Blu-ray format. Also
included is their
Live Aid rehearsal, and an interview with the band,
from earlier in the week.
On its release, the then British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon
Brown, decided the
VAT collected on sales of the
Live Aid DVD would be
given back to the charity, which would raise an extra £5 for every
Austria (IFPI Austria)
Canada (Music Canada)
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)
United Kingdom (BPI)
United States (RIAA)
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
Live Aid broadcast was watched by 1.5 billion people,
most of the footage was recorded on home consumer video recorders all
around the world, in various qualities. Many of these recordings were
in mono, because in the mid-1980s most home video machines could only
record mono sound, and also because the European
BBC TV broadcast was
in mono. The US
MTV broadcast, the
ABC Radio Network
ABC Radio Network and
BBC Radio 1
simulcasts were stereo. These recordings circulated among collectors,
and in recent years, have also appeared on the Internet in file
Since the official DVD release of
Live Aid includes only partial
footage of this event, unofficial distribution sources continue to be
the only source of the most complete recordings of this event. The
official DVD is the only authorized video release in which proceeds go
directly to famine relief, the cause that the concert was originally
intended to help.
Rock music portal
List of historic rock festivals
List of pop music festivals
1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia
Live 8, Geldof's 2005 series of concerts aimed at increasing poverty
Live Earth, a 2007 series of concerts aimed at increasing awareness of
Farm Aid, a Live-Aid inspired relief event for American farms,
instigated by Bob Dylan
Self Aid, a 1986 Live-Aid inspired 14-hour concert highlighting severe
unemployment in Ireland, promoted by Jim Aiken (concert promoter)
Sport Aid, another famine relief event organised by Geldof
NetAid, concert and anti-poverty initiative using Internet
YU Rock Misija
YU Rock Misija (YU Rock Mission), Yugoslav contribution to Band Aid
Concert for Bangladesh
Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden, organised by
Hear 'n Aid, similar joint effort from the heavy metal scene of the
Chef Aid, a
South Park parody of the benefit concert
Wave Aid Concert held in
Australia in 2005 to benefit victims of the
Boxing Day Tsunami.
When Harvey Met Bob a 2010 television film dramatising the events
leading up to and including the concert.
Live Aid on Bob Geldof's official site Archived 5 February 2011 at
the Wayback Machine.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Live Aid 1985.
BBC news stories about the
Live Aid DVD
Twenty-Five Years on...memories from Herald UK
Live Aid was saved for history:
Geldof thwarts '
Live Aid pirate':
Philadelphia Photo Gallery
In-depth interview between Hal Uplinger, producer of the "Live Aid
United States event, and the National Museum of American
History (part of the Smithsonian Institution)
List of heavy metal festivals
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List of gothic festivals
List of industrial music festivals
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Big Day Out
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