In 1984, Michael Buerk famously reported on the Ethiopian famine crisis bringing haunting and unforgettable images of starving children to our TV screens. The devastating famine in Ethiopia was claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children and huge numbers of people felt moved to do something to help alleviate the suffering.
Bob Geldof, the lead singer from the Boomtown Rats, was one of those people moved by the news reports and after calling in support from Ultravox front man, Midge Ure, the pair penned the now famous song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. Using all his music industry connections, Geldof created a group called “Band Aid” to record the track comprising many of the most popular British and Irish musicians at the time and when the single was released it shot to number one in the UK charts, where it stayed for five weeks, generating around £8 million for Ethiopian famine relief.
After seeing the Band Aid single raise millions for famine relief, Geldof conceived the idea of staging an enormous concert comprising all the biggest acts in the music business at that time. Although faced with numerous, seemingly impossible obstacles to staging a concert of this magnitude, Bob Geldof managed to persuade dozens of acts to perform for free and amazingly arranged a live television broadcast that was watched by an estimated 1.9 billion people around the world.
Two massive concerts were held simultaneously on the 13th July 1985, one in Wembley Stadium, London and the other in the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Phil Collins famously performed at both concerts starting with a gig at Wembley Stadium before being flown to Heathrow airport by Noel Edmonds in his helicopter to board Concorde. Thanks to the supersonic passenger jet, Phil Collins crossed the Atlantic in time to perform at the Philadelphia concert the very same day.
Throughout the concerts, television viewers were repeatedly urged to donate money via the Live Aid phone lines and after seven hours of the concert had passed, Bob Geldof asked how much money had been raised. The answer was £1.2 million which reportedly disappointed and angered him and led to him marching to the BBC commentary box to make an appeal. Here he conducted a now legendary interview with BBC presenter David Hepworth who made small talk and attempted to provide a list of addresses to which cheques could be sent. The passionate Geldof didn't have time for this though and interrupted him in mid-flow shouting, “F**k the address, let’s get the numbers!”.
At the conclusion of Live Aid, around £150 million had been raised for famine relief efforts in Ethiopia and Bob Geldof received an honorary knighthood for his efforts.