The Live Aid Legacy

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As a teenager in the mid-Eighties, I kept a diary from 1984 to 1986, recording in great detail the minutiae of daily life. Having recently stumbled across these journals, I have taken great delight in reliving the past of my youth. From watching “Morons From Outer Space” at the cinema on a Good Friday, to the changing shape of my favourite magazine: “Got my copy of Smash Hits, which was smaller than usual”; from drinking Martini and lemonade on a school trip to Germany, to the weather: “It’s very, very hot today, and I’m absolutely sweating buckets!”, every aspect of my teenage life had been documented in scrawly blue ink.

A self-confessed obsessive of Eighties’ culture, particularly the music of the decade, I was intrigued to see what I had scribbled as my entry for Saturday 13th July, 1985, when the “show that rocked the world” took place. Thirty years on, I can still remember the excitement I felt when I woke up the morning of Live Aid. This was going to be a show unlike any other, and I happily gave up the opportunity to top up my tan (unheard of for my teenage self), to sit in front of the TV in a darkened room. Excitedly turning the diary pages, in expectation of the lists of artists and their performances I had undoubtedly noted, along with long-forgotten titbits such as what colour over-sized bow Paula Yates had worn in her hair, I arrived at the relevant page. This is what I had written:

“I’ve been watching Live Aid all day. It’s 9.07 at the moment and I’ve seen all of it apart from 1½ hours which I taped [using our Betamax top-loading video recorder] and it’s all been really good. I aim to stay up until 4 o’clock tomorrow morning to watch the end of it.”

I cannot convey the disappointment I felt at my lacklustre description of a day that has held such a special place in my heart for the past three decades. Why hadn’t I written about the incongruity of seeing Charles and Diana’s stilted participation, as Status Quo opened the concert? Where was my rave review of Freddie Mercury’s fantastic performance with Queen, and reminiscences of how he had played up to the cameraman? What about the bit when Bob Geldof swore and told us to “give me your money!”? Surely I had noted that somewhere. Then, I realised that I had. The memories may not have made it to paper but, in my head, they were as fresh as the day they were made. Unlike those who make the mistake today of viewing a gig through their mobile ‘phones, and fail to enjoy the moment because they are too busy recording the event for posterity, I had mentally absorbed every last note and nuance of that day. This became even more apparent to me a few weeks ago.

I had interviewed 80’s TV presenter Steve Blacknell for my next book, “Your Eighties”. Some of you will remember Steve for his interview of Phil Collins during their transatlantic trip on Concorde, which enabled the Genesis frontman to make music history, by becoming the only musician to play at both Live Aid venues (Wembley Stadium in London, then JFK Stadium in Philadelphia). Whilst transcribing my interview with Steve, I tried in vain to find video footage of his ground-breaking Live Aid interview. I couldn’t understand why all I was able to find was the audio recording, set to video footage of Concorde flying through the clouds. After all, the image of Steve wearing one of his trademark gaudy shirts, whilst chatting away to Mr. Collins, was so vivid in my mind. Then, it suddenly hit me. My mind was the only place I would find that image. The technology for live, televised broadcasts from Concorde did not exist in 1985. The little video tape I was replaying was solely in my mind’s eye.

So, whilst it may be that celebrations of Live Aid’s 30th anniversary are somewhat more subdued than I believe such an event deserves, it lives on in the hearts and minds of a generation. Alongside the preceding Band Aid single in November 1984, Live Aid created a worldwide consciousness and responsibility for matters further afield than your own doorstep. It brought awareness to the masses, and made people believe that they could make a difference. Live Aid’s legacy lives on in ongoing charity fundraisers such as Comic Relief and Sports Aid, which have become a familiar and instantly recognisable means of raising money. So much so, that those too young to remember Live Aid may wonder just what all the fuss is about. Today, charity and entertainment form a reciprocal partnership, in which many are keen and happy to participate. A partnership that has its foundations in Live Aid, and the incredible performances it produced.

There was the battle of the big voices in Paul Young and Alison Moyet’s duet of the Marvin Gaye classic “That’s The Way Love Is”, not to mention the strut-off between Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, during their performance of “State of Shock”. Then we had Hollywood legends like Jack Nicholson, taking on cameo roles to introduce rock royalty, The Who. Not forgetting the all-star line up on stage at the Wembley finale, with David Bowie, George Michael, Sting and Paul Weller just a few of the Eighties’ finest singers joining Midge Ure and Bob Geldof to perform “Feed The World”. Just thinking about the day has made me want to see those performances again. Now, there’s an idea for a fundraising compilation DVD…

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Band Aid 30

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It’s funny how today’s return to Sarm Studios, to record Band Aid 30, has brought memories of the recording of the original Band Aid single flooding back. The unprecedented collaboration of some of the biggesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAt names in music, and some of the biggest egos too, had me enthralled from the very beginning. Watching the news that evening in November 1984 was an overwhelming exercise in star-spotting, as the likes of Duran Duran, Paul Young, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, Sting and Boy George crossed my TV screen. As Paula Yates came into view, with a big 80’s bow in her hair, carrying baby Fifi Trixibelle, I felt so envious of her behind-the-scenes access. It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that I was first in the queue to buy the video of the making of the Band Aid single, to add to my collection of 7″ and 12″ singles, and Feed The World t-shirt.

Unfortunately, my family had chosen the loser in the VHS/Betamax video battle, so I’m no longer able to watch my video. I live in hope that one day I’ll find a working Betamax video player that does not cost a fortune, or is not sitting in a museum somewhere!

Band Aid Dolls

Those of you who are familiar with my writing, will know how having Mr. Geldof living nearby influenced my teenage years. However, you may not be aware of how far-reaching that influence became . I think describing my behaviour around that time as “obsessive” would not be an understatement. How many 14 year olds do you know who would spend hours creating a replica of the Band Aid line up out of wooden peg dolls??? All worth it though, when it won first prize a few months later at the Geldofs’ summer fête, and I was congratulated by Bob himself!

My obsession did have a less flippant side though, when it came to the Band Aid single itself. This manifested itself in me band aid VATorganising a petition, calling for Margaret Thatcher’s government to waive the VAT on the single. Remember, this was 1984, so no clicking online to “sign” a petition. I spent a week approaching strangers in Canterbury city centre and my home town of Faversham, as well as canvassing signatures at school, until I finally had over a thousand signatures, which I then sent to the Iron Lady.

The letter opposite was the reply I received from HM Customs & Excise in February 1985, in response to the petition. A long-winded way of saying “No”, the contents of it are summed up in its second paragraph: “The suggestion that either VAT should not be levied or that an amount equivalent to the VAT should be contributed to the relief  has been given very careful consideration by the Government but the conclusion reached is that it would be neither possible in practice – nor indeed right – to treat this fund-raising operation as a one-off case…If the principle of relief was extended generally, it would lead to a major commitment of taxpayers’ money which would have to be recouped by increases in taxation elsewhere.”

Thankfully, today’s recording will not be subject to such draconian judgement. Chancellor George Osborne confirmed this morning that VAT will be waived on the Band Aid 30 single, meaning every penny raised will go towards fighting the Ebola virus. With that in mind, I will again be one of the first in line to buy the single, even if it means having to watch the X Factor on Sunday night, when the single has its world premiere. The lengths I go to for Sir Bob!

 

Back To Boomtown With A Bang

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As I write this, I am listening to The Boomtown Rats’ self-titled first, and in my opinion their best, album. Although it was released in 1977, I bought my copy in 1982 (aged 11) around the time that Mr. Geldof and a certain presenter of The Tube moved to my home town. As Bob and Paula became familiar faces around town, The Rats’ music became a firm favourite in my vinyl collection, with “A Tonic For The Troops” (released in 1978) soon coming a very close second to my favourite Rats’ album.

Despite living within swearing distance of the Irish punk rocker, I had never seen him perform live. Until this weekend. I had booked my tickets for Rewind South before the line up had been announced. With more than twenty acts from the Eighties performing, I knew I would have a great time regardless of who would be appearing. You have no idea of the sheer delight I felt when I discovered The Rats would be playing. I had waited over thirty years for this!

I made my way through the crowds in plenty of time to secure a place a couple of rows back from the stage, where, in spite of my lack of height (I’m 5′ 1″) I had a great view. As Bob and the rest of the band (Pete Briquette on bass, Garry Roberts on guitar, and Simon Crowe on drums) took to the stage, I had a moment of doubt as to what they would play. Their best music, and indeed their hits, had all been in the Seventies. There was no brass section, so it was unlikely they would play the rather brilliant “Drag Me Down”, from their 1984 album “In The Long Grass”. I needn’t have worried.

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Alongside crowd-pleasers like “Someone’s Looking At You” and “Rat Trap”, early Rats’ tracks such as “Lookin’ After No. 1”, “She’s So Modern” and “Like Clockwork” were performed with an energy and fervour evocative of the band’s punk roots. When Bob sang “Mary Of The 4th Form”, he was again the angry young front man, not somebody’s granddad. However, no one was in any doubt of his status as a family man, during his performance of “I Don’t Like Mondays”. His pensive pause, following his delivery of the line “And the lesson today is how to die” was heartbreakingly emotional. Shouts of “We love you, Bob” soon erupted from the crowd, a display of support en masse. I wasn’t the only one to shed a tear then.

As proceedings were brought to a close with the recently penned “The Boomtown Rats”, I was both elated, that the performance had by far exceeded my expectations, but sad too that it was coming to an end. It had been wishful thinking that my favourite track, “I Can Make It If You Can”, would be performed. Admittedly, it is better suited to being played in some dark, smoky bar than on a sunny stage in Henley-on-Thames, but I would have still been swaying with my arms in the air! Similarly, I had hoped they would play “I Never Loved Eva Braun” – in fact The Rats’ first two albums in their entirety would have been great. As it was, I loved every single minute of the performance, and will be booking tickets to another of their gigs soon. I can’t wait to go back to Boomtown again.

 

 

 

 

R.I.P. Peaches Geldof

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I have never made a secret of my fondness for the Geldof family. Bob Geldof and Paula Yates moved to my home town shortly before the birth of their first daughter, Fifi Trixibelle in 1983, and soon became a familiar sight around town, as well as an integral part of our community. The affectionate relationship between the family and the people of Faversham was detailed by Paula in her 1993 book “Village People”, and was never more prevalent than when the Geldofs would hold the annual fête in the grounds of their priory home. We would rub shoulders with the likes of Sting and Lulu, whilst waiting to see who had won the prize for best Victoria sponge!

Having previously married in Las Vegas, the couple renewed their vows in the church that formed part of their priory, in 1986. We then saw Paula bloom through her two subsequent pregnancies, whilst still Mrs Geldof, and watched Fifi, Peaches and Pixie grow up. It is therefore, with great sadness, that I write on the passing of the Geldof’s middle daughter, 25 year old Peaches Honeyblossom.

Already, there has been much speculation as to the circumstances surrounding Peaches’ death, and no doubt there will be further hypotheses in the days and weeks to come. Indeed, the media circus that surrounded the death of Ms Yates in 2000, will undoubtedly pale into insignificance, in the forthcoming reporting of her daughter’s death. Comparisons between the two tragedies have already surfaced, and events from the family’s past again dredged up, with no concern for those they may hurt. Let us not forget that at the centre of all this is a family “fractured so often, but never broken”. No one has the right to compound that fracture by perpetuating idle ruminations or by the exposure of events best forgotten. The failure to leave the past where it belongs will only serve to exacerbate a unbearably painful situation for those who loved, and were loved by, Peaches.

Prior to this devastating news, I had begun to write a piece about Paula Yates, which would have been published later this month, to coincide with what would have been her 55th birthday, on 24th April. I had written that Paula was “the blonde who defied the stereotype. Unconventional and controversial, with a remarkable wit and intellect, surpassed only by her love for her children. Her untimely demise was a tragic loss for all who knew her.” Who could have guessed the same would apply to her daughter just days after it had been written?

I end this post with the words of the man who has seen more than his share of adversity and heartache, yet continues to be the rock upon which the rest of the family will lean. Bob, our heartfelt sympathies are with you all.

The statement released by Bob Geldof today:

“Peaches has died. We are beyond pain.

“She was the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us.

“Writing ‘was’ destroys me afresh. What a beautiful child. How is this possible that we will not see her again? How is that bearable?

“We loved her and will cherish her forever. How sad that sentence is.

“Tom and her sons Astala and Phaedra will always belong in our family, fractured so often, but never broken.

“Bob, Jeanne, Fifi, Pixie and Tiger Geldof.”

 

A Hair-Raising Throwback Thursday

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As a complete Luddite, the concept of Throwback Thursday has only just come to my attention, thanks to a Facebook post by Lee Curreri (yes, Fame’s Bruno Martelli!). The photo he posted showed him sporting his long, lustrous, dark curls circa mid-Eighties, when BIG hair was de rigeur. As big hair is the default mode for my own crowning glory, whatever the decade, this inspired me to dig out a few photos of when the style was actually in fashion, i.e. most of the Eighties.

The photo below was taken in 1988, when I was my town’s Carnival Queen (to this day, I still don’t know where I found the confidence to enter the competition!).

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Besides snuggling up to Bob Geldof (our local celebrity), what I love about this photo is my hair; a show-Poodle style, which was held in place by half a bottle of VO5 gel spray! If you’re in any doubt as to the enormity of my hairdo, let me tell you that I am actually wearing a diamante crown in the photo. It is just lost in the wilderness of my over-processed tresses!

I’m sure I am not alone in my bouffant blunder, so let me know what were your best and worst hairstyles of the decade…