Monday, February 28, 2005

Live Aid

I had Thursday and Friday off, because of the cold I developed on top of everything else - it wiped me out for a little while. I spent most of the time watching DVDs, including most of the Live Aid boxset, which I was given for Christmas but hadn't yet had time to watch.

On July 13th 1985, I was just 8 years old and I don't remember anything about Live Aid. Neither of my parents were really into popular music of any sort, so the all-day concert may not have been on in our house. Whether it was or not, isn't important, now.

So, when I put the first disc in, it was completely new to me. What I saw, though, made me wish I had been ten years older and in the middle of the pitch at Wembley. What a fantastic day it must have been.

It's hard to imagine, now, how difficult it must have been to organise the whole thing. Not just hosting the concerts and getting all of the featured acts to appear, either. No, the real miracle was getting it broadcast around the world (the reckoning was that it aired on 97% of the TVs in the world, or thereabouts) in a time when mass communication was still a pipe dream. Can you imagine doing it now without using a mobile phone, email, the internet, or even a fax machine? That's how a lot of it had to be done twenty years ago. Phenomenal!

What about the concerts themselves? Well, the Wembley one fits my musical taste much better than the Philadelphia one did (only to be expected, I suppose) but they were both very good. It was interesting to see artists and groups, that today seem like they have been around forever, back when they were at or near the beginning of their careers. People like Madonna and U2.

There were a few things I noted about the whole affair:

1. It surprised me that no one really seemed to be dressed outrageously. I mean, the eighties will always be remembered for its rather unrefined fashions but there wasn't much of it on show. For the most part it seemed that jeans and a shirt would make do. This was probably a good thing, for me, as it didn't give the impression that it was all a bit dated, which would have taken some of the gloss off it.

2. Queen (well, Freddie Mercury, really) stole the whole show, with seven songs where no-one else did more than four. They were one of the main reasons why I wish I'd been there.

3. It reinforced the fact that my musical taste is a decade or two earlier than my age might actually suggest. Everything from the sixties rock and roll, to the seventies punk and rock and the eighties pop was just brilliant.

4. The quality of the acts that appeared was very high. You probably couldn't put together a similar concert today without having to include a smattering of 'Get Me A Mediocre Music Career' reality TV show winners and second-rate girl- or boy-bands. Oh, well - such is life.

July 13th 1985 has been called a Day That Changed The World but, sadly, this just hasn't turned out to be true. It certainly raised a lot of money that was used to feed starving people in Africa and provide much needed medical aid. The problems that caused the Ethiopian famine, however, still exist and millions of people throughout Africa continue to lead their lives under the threat of starvation and disease. Events like Live Aid can only ever treat the symptoms of the problems in Africa - it is the causes that need to be tackled.

No amount of charity money will ultimately solve anything. It has to be down to the leaders of the world and their governments to put solutions in place. Solutions like writing off third world debt, undertaking fair trade practices and tackling the corruption that is rife in so many African governments.

Maybe the twentieth anniversary of Live Aid would be a good time to put some of it into practice.

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