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Live Aid 1985: The Day the World Rocked

Page 5 of 7

Another notable missing in action was Billy Joel, who had been announced as a participant early on but had then bowed out. "Geldof thought Billy should just play the piano, which is kind of difficult in a stadium," said Joel's manager, Frank Webber. "It wouldn't be fair to Billy's fans and Billy to be trying to follow some of the really great rock acts just playing the piano. A stadium full of screaming fans and somebody playing the piano — it wouldn't go over too well."

Lionel Richie's manager had similar sentiments, though in the end Richie did show up for the finale. "Lionel has no band together," explained Ken Kragen. "Acts that are appearing there are going to come in with their own show — the thing that makes them stars. Performers who are not currently performing but are big stars are gonna look sub par coming in without any of their ammunition. Nobody wants to look like a fool in front of 1.5 billion people."

One of the most anticipated no-shows was Bruce Springsteen. Though he never agreed to perform, rumors of an appearance circulated up to the last minute. According to a spokesperson at CBS Records, when Springsteen and the E Street Band were asked to appear several months ago, Springsteen decided that it would be unfair to ask his band and crew to work during their first vacation in five months.

The Kid

The black 1978 Oldsmobile, towing a black trailer with LIVE AIDE JULY 13 crudely painted on the side, drove into the parking lot across the street from JFK Stadium on Friday, July 5th. Eighteen-year-old Bernard Watson was at the wheel. A month earlier he had graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School, grabbed his guitar and a copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road and taken off in search of his dreams.

One of his dreams was to open the Live Aid show. So the young folk singer gave Bill Graham a cassette tape of his song "Interview." Graham listened to the tape; he liked it. Three days before the concert Graham went out to the parking lot, where Watson had been staying in his car. "The kid's real," said Graham. "I like his sincerity."

When Graham got to the Oldsmobile, Watson got out. He had brown curly hair, a harmonica holder around his neck and a Martin acoustic guitar in his hands. Standing before Graham, he began to sing Bob Dylan's "All I Really Want to Do." Then it was on to "Interview." "While another mother watches another son starve," went a line. "On election day everybody runs for security and guns," went another.

When he was finished, the kid looked at Graham. "Hope I passed the audition."

The next day Graham went back out to see Watson. "I think you're going to do it," he told the folk singer. "We'll do it at about a quarter to nine. Think you'll be ready? Then Jack Nicholson. Then Joan Baez. You mind opening for Jack Nicholson and Joan Baez? You don't think you should close the show?"

"I'm ready," said the kid.

Duran Mania

On Thursday, July 11th, the Durannies began gathering at the Palace Hotel. Their heroes, hoping to get in a little rehearsal time before Saturday's show, were already there. So were the members of the Power Station, the Duran Duran offshoot.

Sitting in the Palace bar, Andy Taylor tried to introduce Duran's Nick Rhodes to Power Station drummer Tony Thompson and singer Michael Des Barres. Rhodes didn't seem too interested; neither did his wife. Then somebody asked how Duran's first rehearsal in six months had gone. "We're not too bad for a bunch of fairies," answered Rhodes.

By noon Friday the teenyboppers were out in full force. Every time a limo pulled up, they began screaming. Across the street, at the Four Seasons Hotel, things were a little calmer. Eric Clapton and Rick Springfield checked in without much fuss. By early evening the Four Seasons' lobby bar began to take on the appearance of a rock & roll country club. "They look like they're about to play eighteen holes of golf, not rock & roll," observed one hotel patron.

Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr was eating dinner with his dad. (Kerr's wife, Chrissie Hynde, was upstairs, nursing their baby, Jasmine.) Eric Clapton was quietly having tea with members of his band, while Bryan Adams and his band held court at the back of the bar. Phil Carson, who manages both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, worked a pay telephone with his portable computer. Grace Slick meandered around, reminiscing about Woodstock. Off in a corner, as if segregated, the two heaviest lads of the show, Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest's Rob Halford sat, sipping tea. Halford sported leather and wire-rim specs, and bemoaned his band's 11:30 a.m. Live Aid time slot. "We usually don't even come out till dark," he explained. "I hope I don't disintegrate." Ozzy wasn't worried about playing to a big nonmetal audience. "We'll have our audience here, no matter what. Whether it's Band Aid, Live Aid or Ear Aid. Metal is good for you. I've been doing this for sixteen years. Do you think I'd do this if I thought I was wasting my time?"

Back at the Palace things were heating up. There had been several sightings of Simon Le Bon and John Taylor, and the Durannies were busily calling their parents to say they'd be home late. Tina Turner and her manager, Roger Davies, checked in, then checked out the bar, where the hotel had posted a sign at the Palace Café Royal: Dear Patrons, Our Traditional Dress Code Has Been Lifted For The Live Aid Weekend.

Later that night the hotel gave an all-night pool party for the artists and their friends. A suite overlooking the pool was stocked with beer and liquor, and room service provided trays of fruits and salads. Mick Jagger spent most of his time chatting with Andy Taylor, whom he introduced to Daryl Hall. Billy Idol's guitarist, Steve Stevens, dropped in and talked to John Oates. Robert Plant arrived at about two a.m., after playing a gig in Detroit. Where's Jimmy? everybody wanted to know. "Page is dead asleep," he responded. "He's nervous."

At five a.m. a manager telephoned for room service. "There is a long wait for room service, sir," they told him. "And the orange juice is gone."

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