“Queen The Greatest”: a celebration of 50 of the greatest moments from the Queen story so far. A 50-week YouTube series celebrating key moments in Queen’s history reminding us why Queen and their music continue to be loved across the world
Queen The Greatest Episode 30: Queen 1985: Live Aid - Queen's finest 20 minutes? Hear from all four members of the band as we look back at Queen's stunning contribution to one of the most important and memorable events in music history.
Wembley Stadium, London. 13th July 1985. 6.41pm.
After Queen’s record-breaking nights at Rock In Rio in January 1985, the band felt it would take something unbelievably special to top that. Six months later, came….Live Aid.
On the 13th July, 1985, many of the world’s biggest music stars came together in London and Philadelphia to stage a global charity concert to raise awareness and money for a devastating famine in Ethiopia.
In just 21 minutes, in front of a worldwide audience of 1.9 billion people, Queen delivered what until today is widely regarded as the greatest live gig of all time.
But winding back the clock, as Brian May explains, when organiser Bob Geldof first approached the band, they weren’t sure he’d be able to pull it off.
Brian May: “It was actually at the BPI Awards that we went to collect an award, and Geldof was a few tables away and came over and said how about doing this thing, and he said we are going to have this, and this, and this, and this, and we said ‘oh yeah, I’m sure’, thinking that it was an almost impossible thing to get together, but we said ‘yeah’, we’d be interested.
“And then a bit later he rang up and said ‘look Brian, I have to have a commitment’, and so we talked about it a bit more and seemed like we were all very keen to do it.”
With just twenty minutes allotted to each act, Queen locked themselves away to work out the best way to make the most of their time. Not an easy task, as the band reveal.
Brian May: “It’s pretty hard to make the choice.”
Roger Taylor: “Yes, we don’t really know quite what to do, whether to play the hits or to try and do something new. But I think in 20 minutes really, we’ve got to play things that people know, and will recognise in Turkey or wherever they’re watching. Maybe. Hopefully.”
Freddie Mercury: “So we’re still squabbling over that fact that’s what he’s trying to say.”
Despite everyone being committed to the cause, the band felt a bit of healthy rivalry between the various acts was also inevitable…
Freddie Mercury: “I think it’s going to be chaotic, yes, it has to be. I mean we’re the nice part of it actually, there’ll be lots of friction and we’re all going to try and outdo each other I guess.”
But on the day, egos or thoughts of rivalry vanished as the enormity of the cause and occasion became apparent. And Queen’s meticulous planning ensured an ecstatic reaction from everyone watching.
Paul Gambaccini (broadcaster/writer): “It was as if all the artistes back stage had heard a dog whistle, and their heads turned and the frisson you felt was ‘they’re stealing the show.’”
Midge Ure: “I defy anybody who saw it, not to have goose-pimples on the back of their neck when you saw that sea of people.”
Roger Taylor: “I remember looking up and seeing the whole place going completely bonkers in unison and thinking ‘oh, this is going well.’”
Brian May: “We did have an unfair advantage, we had done football stadiums. Freddie, particularly, learned this magical way of involving everybody in a huge football stadium, he could make everybody feel that they were in contact.”
What turned out to be one of Queen’s shortest live performances, was probably one of their most important and iconic – paving the way for what was to follow.
Roger Taylor: “People will say was it a career move? Well, no it wasn’t a career move, but of course that’s in the back of everybody’s mind”.
John Deacon: “We got a great reception from the crowd, even at Wembley, and also from the TV audience as well, so in fact it was a great boost of confidence in a way, for the group.”
Manager Jim Beach: “To have conquered Live Aid in that way, undoubtedly breathed fresh energy into the band.”
Something we will learn more of in upcoming episodes of Queen The Greatest.
Credit: Photograph: Neal Preston
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