Live Aid 1985: The Day the World Rocked

Page 6 of 7

Mick And Tina

Sounded a little lazy," Mick Jagger said. It was Friday afternoon, the day before the concert, and he had just finished a run-through of "Lonely at the Top" and "Just Another Night" with the Hall and Oates band. Next up was "Miss You." Then Jagger noticed Tina Turner at the side of the JFK stage. He danced over to greet her; she had agreed to join him onstage at Live Aid for a version of "State of Shock." After a brief consultation, he announced to the band, "We're going to segue into 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll.' Let's really kick ass here."

The band pounded out the monolithic crunch of "State of Shock" as Jagger and Turner, both wearing shades and big grins, faced off and began trading lines. For over an hour they rehearsed the two songs, fiddling with the arrangement, the tempo and their dance steps. "That's it! That's it!" said Jagger a few minutes before nine. "We got it. Jesus!"

100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Tina Turner

The next day Jagger stood by his trailer, backstage at JFK, talking about what a turn-on singing with Tina was. "Yeah," he said, grinning. "I have to watch myself. I can't really take it too far. . . . We both had to say that we wouldn't go too far, the way we normally would at a show. MTV might stay on, but I don't know about ABC."

Would it feel strange performing without the Stones? "I'll tell you after I go on."

Jagger then began talking about why he rarely performs at benefits. "I don't believe in being a charity queen," he said. "To make the likely rounds, turning up at charity balls and dinners wearing my diamonds. There are very few people in rock & roll who set themselves up as charity queens. But this event has got most everyone in rock & roll — I mean, Jimmy Page isn't known for his charity."

Meanwhile, in her trailer, just a few feet away, Tina Turner sat wearing a white silk see-through peasant dress and red high heels. "I feel honored to be standing next to Mick Jagger," she said as she teased her hair. "When you're standing there with that kind of force, you're proud. I just want to do everything right. I want it to be a memorable occasion for Mick as well."

She applied some face powder and considered, for just a second, which other men she'd like to sing with. "Brooooce!" she moaned. "I gotta work with Bruce, man. Isn't it wonderful that I'm the girl who gets all the guys. I did it early in my career, working with Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, James Brown. This part now is so good for me, 'cause it's rock & roll. That evening with Bowie — it turned into a romance in public!"

For Artists Only

Jack Nicholson entered JFK stadium's backstage area at 7:30 a.m., looking like a Mafia don in his striped sports coat, black trousers, two-tone shoes and shades. Accompanied by Chevy Chase and Lou Adler, the veteran record producer and current owner of the On the Rox nightclub in Los Angeles, he wandered through the complex, eyeing the light-green air-conditioned trailers that would serve as dressing rooms, the tented cafeteria and the fun-house mirror that someone had placed against the side of the restrooms.

Then it was time: Nicholson strolled out onstage and introduced Joan Baez. The concert was under way. "Did you hear that ovation for Jack?" Bill Graham yelled, smiling, as he stood at the side of the stage.

"I never faced this many people before, other than at a basketball game," Nicholson said a few minutes later. "I hardly knew what I was saying. I did have the good sense to write it down before I went out there. I'm not a public performer. It's like, standing in front of 900 people, I'm nervous."

By about ten a.m. there was pandemonium in the artists' compound. The Beach Boys, Paul Shaffer, Bryan Adams and Crosby, Stills and Nash had all arrived and were being hounded by a rabid mob of TV crews, radio interviewers and photographers. The moment a celebrity appeared at least a half dozen microphones were shoved in his or her face.

By the late afternoon the number of superstars per square yard had escalated dramatically. Sharing one set of trailers were Madonna, the Power Station, Duran Duran and the Pretenders. Madonna, who had arrived with a dour Sean Penn and newly dyed red hair, refused to speak to the press but had Nicholson, Timothy Hutton, Daryl Hall, Jim Kerr and Chrissie Hynde brought back to see her. "I wanted to meet you even before I was on the same label as you," she told Chrissie. Madonna and Penn were inseparable, holding hands wherever they went. At one point, in fact, they were said to have disappeared into a small, one-person Spot-a-Pot portable toilet together.

Around the corner, in another set of trailers, were Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Phil Collins, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Ron Wood. Petty paced back and forth, strumming an acoustic guitar. He admitted that he was not a fan of "political rock." "I think those records tend to get a little boring at times," he said. So why was he here? "Without sounding like a hippie, music is a real powerful thing. This thing today is like 100,000 Ed Sullivan shows. Music changed my life, and I see people all the time that it does great things for. If you don't believe that, just imagine the world without it."

Robert Plant was meditating about Led Zeppelin's trademark tune. "'Stairway to Heaven' isn't the only reason you go onstage together," he said. "Unfortunately, everybody missed the point with that song. 'Kashmir' was the song. It's much more — not ethereal, not aesthetic, but evocative. Really, I have absolutely no idea why 'Stairway to Heaven' is so popular. No idea at all. Maybe it's because of its abstraction. Depending on what day it is, I still interpret it a different way — and I wrote those lyrics. But I can do that with 'Kashmir' just as well."

100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Led Zeppelin

By 7:30, at the other end of the compound, Ken Kragen had organized a run-through of "We Are the World." Simon Le Bon, Jeff Bridges, John Taylor, Hall and Oates, Don Johnson, Joan Baez, George Segal and others were crowded into a trailer, singing the USA for Africa theme song.

Lionel Richie arrived a few minutes later with his wife, Brenda. Asked why he had agreed to participate at the last minute, he explained, "I had so many commitments. . . . When you start thinking about putting musicians in town and finishing an album, and you schedule people, and they only have a weekend or a couple of hours to do the sessions, to say to them, 'Can you come back in two weeks because I'm going to Philadelphia?' is hard to catch. So, finally, I had to put them off. They were beautiful enough to say, 'Lionel, go ahead and do your thing.' On Thursday I turned to my wife and said, 'I gotta be there!'"

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Song Stories


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