Remember the first summer concert you ever attended? Do you have a favorite live performer? Were your parents permissive and cool or were they (like mine) of the belief that you would consort with danger and unmentionable things like hippies, thugs and/or people on motorcycles?
Following this, do you happen to recall where you were 26 years ago? I remember only because it was significant musically. And I guess parentally since for once in my life I got permission to attend. On this day, July 13th in 1985, I stood wide-eyed for 11 hours at JFK stadium in Philadelphia and watched as Live Aid grossed $70 million dollars on behalf of African famine relief. (Here’s some perspective: as of last night, Harry Potter had already sold $25 million dollars’ worth of tickets and the film doesn’t even open for two days.)
When Live Aid was first announced, people thought it was a cool idea but no one really imagined it would be as big as it ultimately became. It was one of those dual-broadcast type deals (actually only now do I call it “one of those” – at the time it was completely groundbreaking and evidently a complete nightmare to orchestrate since it happened in both the US and the UK.) Mick Jagger headlined in Philadelphia while David Bowie sang from Wembley Stadium in England. This was also the show where Phil Collins played in England before hopping on the Concorde and performing for us a few hours later.
To this day, I’ve never seen anything like it.
When Live Aid tickets went on sale people snapped them up, but there were also rumors that scalpers had made lots of counterfeit tickets. Thus, after announcing it was “sold out”, the producers agreed to release 500 more “Deluxe Seating” tickets. Normally when you tried to buy tickets in 1985 it was standard to get a busy signal forever, and thus you’d never even come close to a human voice. Let alone a shot at purchasing anything. I had however a neighbor who was English and her family had lots of fancy hi-tech gadgets; one of them was a telephone with an “Automatic Redial” button. I will never forget the day she showed up – beaming – on our doorstep, having purchased four tickets for $200, courtesy of her redial button. This was an astronomical amount of money (remember, there were festivals then but nothing with over 30 acts per continent). To this day I’m pretty sure that showing up at our house had more to do with my big brother, upon whom she had an enormous crush, only he happened to be away that week – so I lucked out. When we arrived at JFK Stadium we discovered that “Deluxe Seating” simply meant we were within 30 yards of the stage – there was no actual seating. Just 100,000 people, shoulder to shoulder.
I’d been beyond excited at the prospect of seeing The Pretenders, Duran Duran, The Thompson Twins, and Tears For Fears (and had the haircut and massive dayglo geometric earrings to prove it). Upon arriving they announced Tears for Fears would not be appearing; in their stead we got George Thorogood and the Destroyers. And even though everyone liked George Thorogood, every Philadelphia native there also knew that George lived about seven minutes away and had probably been phoned – and woken – about an hour before the show. Simple Minds also filled in for someone who’d bailed, and they too left the stage in triumph, a hundred thousand fans richer. I had seen exactly four concerts before Live Aid, and not one of them had more than five hundred people in attendance. On a single day, I watched Black Sabbath, Run DMC, REO Speedwagon, Tom Petty, Kenny Loggins, The Cars, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Billy Ocean, Hall & Oates, Bryan Adams, Rick Springfield, Eric Clapton, Patti LaBelle, and Led Zeppelin – just to name a few. The whole thing was so shockingly huge that you could barely take in the size and scope of it all. It was also the first time I’d ever seen those headset microphones. Madonna wore one, and not too much else. Definitely one of those shows you never forget for the rest of your life.
Now let’s talk about this summer’s concerts. With plenty of live acts headed your way, let us know what looks good. We’ll do a few summer concert polls in case your favorites aren’t among these.
1) Taylor Swift
3) Rihanna/ CeeLo