Twenty-three years ago today I was in Philadelphia for the Live Aid concert. Live Aid continues to hold a very high position on my personal list of musical highlights. How could it not? There was a palpable excitement that hazy, hot, humid Saturday. For many of us, this was our generation's Woodstock. And we were doing it on a global basis, for an important cause, and with the entire fricking world watching live on TV. They say that there were some 1.5 billion people in 100 countries watching on TV.
We had to be there. For me and my friends, there was no question - we had to be at a musical event of this size, particularly since the U.S. portion of it was right here on the east coast. I'm pretty sure my friend, Scott, scored the tickets. I don't know how he did it, and I don't know how many he got. However it happened, we managed to gather a large circle of friends at Scott's house in Atlantic City on Friday, July 12th. There must have been twenty of us. Don't ask me how we kept the multi-car caravan together all the way from Atlantic City to the parking lots surrounding JFK Stadium. We managed. Somehow.
Ninety thousand of us gathered in JFK Stadium that day, and another 80 thousand at Wembley in London. The opening of the Philly show at something like eight o'clock in the morning is perfectly representative of the day: legendary promoter Bill Graham introducing actor Jack Nicholson, who in turn introduced Joan Baez. When's the last time you saw Bill Graham, Jack Nicholson, and Joan Baez in a single sentence? Joan started us off with Amazing Grace.
From there it was a full day of music. The concert in Philly didn't end until something like 11pm that night. There were so many acts, so many highlights. Crosby, Stills, and Nash fairly early in the day, and then later a Neil Young solo set, and then even later Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young! The Beach Boys. Santana. Clapton. The Led Zeppelin reunion, with Phil Collins playing drums. Mick Jagger and Tina Turner burning it up. Ron Wood and Keith Richards backup up Bob Dylan. Those are just a few of my personal highlights, but there was so much more - Black Sabbath, Run-DMC, REO Speedwagon, Judas Priest, George Thorogood, David Bowie, The Pretenders, The Cars, Madonna, Tom Petty, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, and more.
Wow. I'm so glad I was there.