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Revisiting Live Aid

Or, How Do I Love Thee, Live Aid? Let Me Count the Mullets.

By Julie Wiskirchen

I greeted the recent DVD release of Live Aid with great enthusiasm. For years, I had wanted to relive that magical day I spent on the couch - July 13, 1985. I was 12, going on 13, and heavily into new wave music, so it was a thrill for me to see Duran Duran, Wham, Spandau Ballet, and many other favorites. Here was a chance to see all the artists like Nik Kershaw and Alison Moyet who I read about in Star Hits magazine that never got played on the radio in St. Louis. There was Queen to remind me the first cassette I bought with my own money was The Game. And there was my newest celebrity obsession and one that none of my friends shared - Jack Nicholson - introducing acts in Philly. I was overstimulated. An only child with older parents who were not inclined to rock out, I watched the concert alone. I had never been to a concert. My desperate pleas to be taken to Duran Duran's Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour had fallen on deaf ears, so I had to settle for watching the Sing Blue Silver documentary over and over. We did not yet own a VCR or a Betamax, so I couldn't record Live Aid. It would have to live in my memory.

Until now...with the coming of this 4-disc set. 20 years have passed, Freddie Mercury is no longer with us, Bono cut off his mullet, and I can't count how many concerts I've attended. I know I've seen Duran Duran four times and U2 twice. I've been to a lot of festival shows including Woodstock 99, but I have yet to experience anything of this musical magnitude.

What follows is a breakdown of my impressions then versus now.

Disc 1

Artist 1985 reaction 2005 reaction
Band Aid video So, like, I bought the 45 at Sears, used my allowance, and I had it on my bed and my Grandma came into my room and accidentally sat on it and broke it! I don't have MTV so I stay up for Friday Night Videos hoping to see this, and I rent the video single like a gazillion times. It's so cool to see my favorites in the same room - Duran Duran and Wham! - plus Marilyn and Paul Young and others who I had only seen in Star Hits magazine. Man, I wish I lived in England. Holy mullets! Bono and Simon and Paul Young, to name but a few. I still love this song and wonder why it doesn't get more airplay at Christmastime. It's vastly superior to "We are the World". Great shot of Marilyn striding into the studio in a full-length fur coat. Bananarama look like they just got out of bed.
USA for Africa video It's OK, not as cool as Band Aid. Cyndi Lauper is really starting to annoy me, padding her part with "Well, well, well, let us realize". All of us girls are torn between idolizing Cyndi or Madonna, and at this point I am pledging my allegiance to Madonna. Note to self: use allowance at Claire's Boutique for rubber bracelets and lace gloves. What is Dan Ackroyd doing there? Lots of recess time will be spent mocking Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. The oversized headphones really flattened Tina Turner's hair. It's so funny to see Michael Jackson with the glove and sparkly socks again. Bruce is really exaggerating his straining voice. So funny to see Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Kim Carnes. The song mostly showcases Quincy's friends - Diana, Michael, Stevie, Ray Charles - they all get big parts. What is Dan Ackroyd doing there?
Status Quo

Status Who?

Now I can identify a couple of the guys in the Band Aid video who I never could before. These guys aren't pretty but they rock pretty hard.
Style Council Don't know 'em. When is Duran Duran coming on?
Still don't know 'em, but the singer is cute. He was in the Band Aid video too.
Boomtown Rats Here's that scruffy-looking Band Aid guy. I didn't know he had a band. St. Geldof does "I Don't Like Mondays" - still a great song. He declares, "I just realized today is the best day of my life."
Adam Ant
My friend Brenda must be loving this. She is totally in love with Adam.
Only "Viva La Rock" makes the DVD? What about "Goody Two Shoes"? Adam doesn't sound too good.
Ultravox Who are these guys? Do I have softball practice tonight? Two songs from Ultravox but only one from Mr. Ant?
Spandau Ballet

I love "True." That singer is cute.

I still love "True", even when sampled by Nelly. Very stylish band. Such a smooth voice. The drummer/sax player looks ridiculous in a purple and yellow outfit with a long blond mullet.
Elvis Costello So there's another Elvis besides the dead one that Grandma likes? He covers "All You Need is Love". Only one song makes the DVD. I would have liked to have seen more.
Nik Kershaw Cool hair. I've seen him in Star Hits. Quite a mullet. I dont remember new wave being so mullet-laden. Probably because I had a femmullet myself back then.
Sade I enjoy imitating "No need to ahhhsk...he's a smooth operator." And I wish I had long hair in a braid. So elegant, such a smooth voice on "Your Love is King". She's not wearing a bra. She does kind of look like a Bratz doll - head too big for bod.
Sting and Phil Collins My old babysitter Susan is so in love with Sting. Phil Collins makes the funniest videos, like that one for "Illegal Alien" where he pretends to be a Mexican. Sting croons "Roxanne" and then duets with Phil on "Against All Odds" and "Every Breath You Take". Phil has a skullet. How did he get away with the ethnic humor of the "Illegal Alien" video?
Howard Jones

Cool hair. I like Howard. He is so deep and, like, profound.

Howard has a poofy mullet. It would have been nice if they included one of his many inspirational hits. He gave free advice like "Don't Try to Live Your Life In One Day." Deepak Chopra charges a lot for such wisdom.
Bryan Ferry I think I want a grilled cheese for lunch. With some Pringles. What a dashing English gent. I should listen more to that Greatest Hits CD of his that I bought off BMG a long time ago.
Paul Young He's cute but why is he singing, "Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you." 3 songs from cute but forgettable Paul Young?! And Elvis Costello only gets one?!? Maybe it's because Paul wears his mullet so well.
Bryan Adams

There's something kinda sexy about that guy introducing Bryan. Note to self: rent Terms of Endearment

Jack Nicholson kicks off the Philadelphia concert by intro ducting Bryan Adams. He looks young, tan, and trim. My celebrity obsession for Jack began to percolate. Bryan gets the crowd going with "Summer of 69."

"The Edge" would be a good confirmation name, except there is no St. Edge.

Who knew then that Bono's career would be longer than his mullet? U2 delivers intense versions of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Bad". Bono goes into the crowd, grabs a girl and dances with her, a la Bruce and Courtney Cox. It's clear that stars are being born. A powerful end to Disc 1.

Disc 2

Artist 1985 reaction 2005 reaction
Beach Boys I wonder who's at the pool today. Brian Wilson looks thin. Was this before his sandbox period? They do one of my favorites "Wouldn't It Be Nice" along with "Good Vibrations" and "Surfing USA"
Dire Straits "Money for Nothing, checks for free" - isn't that redundant? They do "Money for Nothing" with Sting. Sting could have released a "Duets" album from this concert.
George Thorogood Who is this hoosier? When is Duran Duran coming on? I would have liked to have heard "Bad to the Bone". Seems an obvious choice, no?

The Game was the first cassette I bought with my own money. I wish they would do "Another One Bites the Dust."

Queen gets a lot of well-deserved disc time, with 5 songs. Freddie commands the stage. The audience singalong for "Bohemian Rhapsody" foreshadows Wayne's World. I wish I could have seen Queen live, but I guess I'll have to settle for that Vegas show.
Simple Minds I am so jealous that my friend Katie got to see The Breakfast Club. Mom and Dad won't let me cuz it's rated R. A great new wave band. The Breakfast Club's sociological analysis may seem trite today, but "Don't You Forget About Me" definitely holds up.
David Bowie There's that guy that danced around in that video with Mick Jagger. I've always been indifferent to Bowie, but I imagine I'd like him if I put some effort into it. Here he does "Rebel Rebel" which is appropriate with its lyric "I'm not sure if you're a boy or a girl" as the crowd shots reveal many short-haired girls and long-haired boys. Thomas "Science!" Dolby plays synth on "Modern Love" and the set ends with the appropriate "Heroes" - "We can be heroes - for just one day."
Joan Baez She looks like one of the nuns at school. Joan says, "This is your Woodstock and it's long overdue." She performs "Amazing Grace" to a largely indifferent crowd.
Pretenders If I go to softball practice, I'm gonna miss Duran Duran. Pretenders do "Middle of the Road" and "Back on the Chain Gang." They're just aiight to me, man.
The Who Who are they? Who, who, who who? "Won't Get Fooled Again" - only one song? Seems shocking until you read the DVD booklet which reveals that a technical glitch caused most of The Who's set to not be recorded.
Kenny Loggins "Footloose" is the best song from, like, the best movie ever made. My friend Katie loves Kevin Bacon, but as for me, I'm holding out for a hero. Chevy Chase introduces Kenny and calls him "Mr. Footloose." He sure looked old on American Idol recently.
Elton John

Why is that guy wearing a Shriner's hat? Ohmigod, WHAM! I got my mom to buy me a "Choose Life" T-shirt by telling her it was against abortion.

Elton does "Rocketman", one of my favorites, and "Bennie and the Jets". He brings out Kiki Dee for "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." I wonder what Kiki does in between these occasions when Elton brings her on stage to belt that old chestnut? Does he keep her in a box? Elton and George Michael duet on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" while Andrew Ridgely tries to look busy.
Phil Collins He's going to be the only guy to play in London and Philadelphia. That's so cool. There is some unintelligible dialogue from Phil Collins beamed from the Concorde. For my money, one Phil Collins performance would have been more than enough.

Disc 3

Artist 1985 reaction 2005 reaction

She's cool. But I'm not sure if it's a sin to listen to her.

Ahh, the old Madonna - chunky, bushy eyebrows, getting into the groove, and no red Kabbalah bracelet.
Paul McCartney

I prefer Ringo. He was in Caveman. It's raining - no softball practice!

Paul comes out for a "Let It Be" finale, accompanied by Bob Geldof, Alison Moyet, David Bowie, and Pete Townsend. Then everyone joins them on stage for "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Classy ending for the London show.
Tom Petty Ohmigod, Don Johnson is doing the introduction. He's sooooo hot. Love that suit. Tom Petty, on the other hand, is a total dog. One of these things is NOT like the other. Tom does "American Girl" and "Refugee". I like some of his songs but I still have trouble looking at him.
Black Sabbath Ozzy is cool. He bit the head off a bat. How come he isn't singing "Bark at the Moon?" This was a historic reunion of Ozzy and Black Sabbath. Ozzy is in his fat Liz Taylor era, wearing a sequined robe that looks heavier than Neil Diamond's shirts. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler have not updated their look for hair metal and they still have the same haircuts today. It's hard to say if they or Ozzy are greater fashion victims. It appears all the old wounds haven't healed, as Tony tries to put his arm around Ozzy at the end of the song and Ozzy just storms off the stage. In the late 90s, these old wounds would heal when commerce not charity was the motivator.
REO Speedwagon

We used to have a booger green Ford Gran Torino wagon but it was hardly a speedwagon. But it did have that seat in the back where you can face backwards and wave at people on the road behind you.

Kevin Cronin is wearing a floral jacket with jeans, whereas I would have been wearing a jeans jacket and floral jeans back then. They do "I Can't Fight This Feeling" and a "Keep on Running" sing-a-long with The Beach Boys and Paul Shaffer. I would have been killed if we were ever rear-ended while I was sitting in that backwards-facing seat in that pre-air-bag station wagon.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash If I marry Simon Le Bon, will I have to go yachting? Cuz I get seasick. They harmonize their way through "Teach Your Children Well". I'm bored.
Judas Priest What's a Green Mandalishi? I wouldn't want to run into that guy - too many spikes on those leather clothes. Priest rocks through "Livin' After Midnight" and "Green Mandalishi." Something about synchronized guitar moves makes me happy. Not to mention Halford's barbaric yawp.
The Cars That singer is weird looking, but they have that great video with the fly and the King Kong stuff. "Just What I Needed". I still think Ric Ocasek is weird looking but the fact that he landed Paulina Porzikova is encouraging.
Neil Young Ick Ick
Thompson Twins

They are so exotic.

They are joined on stage by Madonna, Steve Stevens, and Nile Rodgers for "Revolution." The Thompson Twins should have been called a hair band - all three twins had amazing hair.
Eric Clapton I'm bored, but I can't flip to Square Pegs because they said Duran Duran is coming up. I'm still bored. I've just never been a fan. He does "White Room" and "Layla" with Phil Collins on drums. I've had just about enough of Phil Collins.
Phil Collins There's that sexy guy in ray bans again. He wears Ray Bans like Don Johnson. "In the Air Tonight" - that song was on Miami Vice. Jack Nicholson and Bette Midler joke awkwardly as they introduce Phil Collins.
Duran Duran Finally! Ohmigod! Simon's hair is super short and black! "Union of the Snake", "Save a Prayer", "The Reflex" - all my faves. JT is soooo hot. Ohmigod! This was the last performance by the original 5 Duran Duran members until they reunited in 2003. The fashion (Simon is wearing a brooch) and hairstyles do amuse, but I still love these songs.
Patti Labelle Does she iron her hair to get it to go like that? Patti is hard to take serious in that outfit that she has sausaged herself into. Still, she delivers a great version of "Imagine." The crowd seems quiet and indifferent. She wails too much, like an American Idol contestant showing off with runs.

Disc 4

Artist 1985 reaction 2005 reaction
Hall and Oates I wish the little one would do some cartwheels the way he does in their videos when he's like "Hey, notice me for once! Not the guy who's singing." They were on top of the world in 1985, nearly headlining this show. They do have a lot of catchy tunes. I saw them a couple of years ago, and it was a fun show.
Mick Jagger and Tina Turner

I like her from that video where she struts around and she has that barrette in her crazy hair but the hair is really too powerful to be controlled by the barrette.

Mick rips off Tina's skirt, foreshadowing a certain Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson moment. It's sexy but Tina stated in her autobiography I, Tina that she found it a little upsetting because she didn't expect it. If this were Thunderdome, Mick would have been sentenced to Gulag.
Bob Dylan That guy is ugly and he so cannot sing. Hand me a barf bag. Nicholson introduces him and calls him "transcendent." Bob does "Blowing in the Wind" and is joined by Keith Richards and Ron Wood.
We are the World Is it really over? I don't want it to ever end! Everyone joins together to sing "We Are the World". It's true we make a better day, just you and me.

Do you remember Live Aid? Were you there? Add your comments.


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