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Live Aid

Simple Minds played at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia for the legendary Live Aid concert.

"Live Aid was one of the first global events, a colossal thing. And yet it passed so fast. It was over in 15 minutes. We started our set with Ghostdancing, a song we had written two days before. Suicidal or what? We were pretty ambitious. We laugh when people accuse us of playing it safe."

JL: You were the other side of the water for Live Aid.
JK: We were homesick! Live Aid came up and Geldof called us and he said "You've got to do Live Aid" and we said "Fantastic. And who's doing it?" and he told us and we said "Great." But he said they're in Wembley, but you're not going to do it in Wembley. And we said "No. We want to do it in Wembley." And he said "Don't be stupid. You're number one in America. You've got to do it in America." And we said "No. We want to do it in Wembley." "NO. You're doing it in America."
JK: So we did it in America. We had great memories of it but we wanted to be here playing with Bowie and Queen and U2 and Status Quo and The Who. But we went over there. And people ask "What do you remember of it?" And, what you've got to understand is, when you do these festival things or these events like that, that you've only got fifteen minutes or so, it flashes by you so quickly, it's hard for you to have a memory. But my memory of it... there's two. I remember we were going up on stage. And at that time you have to think about how colossal this was because there was is in America about 130,000 people in the Stadium. We'd never played two of the songs we were about to play live. Televised audience at that time was going to be the biggest globalised event ever. No much pressure then! And we're walking up to go on stage and the legendary American promoter Bill Graham walks up to us and we thought "Bill's come up. He's come to say 'Hello'." [Laughs] He stuck his head down in amongst us, like a bull, and he made clear "YOU MOTHERS GO ONE MINUTE OVER FIFTEEN MINUTES AND I'M GONNA RIP...." We were like "Auggghhh!" We had no intention of playing [over time]. I think he did that to everyone. It was terrifying.
JK: But I remember as well, he looked at me and he said "Who's the singer?" And I said "Me." And he said "Right. The presenter's going to introduce you. Go over to him. As soon as he gives you the nod, start playing." And I was thinking "It's the drummer who does all this stuff." But he just says "the presenter" he doesn't say who the presenter is. When we go upstairs, who's the presenter? Jack Nicholson. So, I just spent the next fifteen minutes thinking "Jack Nicholson!"
JK: Well, I spent the next thirteen minutes thinking Jack Nicholson. The last two minutes I spent thinking "Whatever made me think I should've worn these trousers?" I could feel them flapping in the wind. They would've been good for yachting. I don't know what I was thinking. But I just thought "Wrong trousers." That's my memory of Live Aid.

Jim Kerr and Janice Long
The Long Walk
BBC Radio 2
12th July 2018

The glossy tour programme for the JFK Stadium included a full page colour picture of each of the acts performing.

The band in the Live Aid photo booth.

JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, USA
July 13th, 1985
Main Set: Ghostdancing / Don't You (Forget About Me) / Promised You A Miracle

The satellite link failed during Promised You A Miracle so those in the UK only saw part of the last track.

BS: ... Let's go to the 13th July 1985 - Live Aid, Philadelphia, the John F Kennedy Stadium. How did you get the call and how did you end up being in Philadelphia, as opposed to being in Wembley?
JK: Well, we got the call from Bob Geldof. I was at home - I was still staying at home whenever we weren't on tour - it was my Mum and Dad's house. And I remember being in bed. And my Mum saying "Bob Geldof is on the phone." We hadn't featured on the Band Aid single, and until then hadn't heard anything about a concert. So, we got the call and Bob, in his fashion, explained what was going on and I was immediately excited. Geldof had always been good to Simple Minds. He came to see us in the early days, and he'd always been a bit of a champion of our course, but we were number one I think, that week, in America when he called, so they were looking for all the big acts, and we were courted.
JK: So, he called and he explained it all, and I was just excited. And then - to be honest, my heart sank a little bit - when he said "We want you to do the Philadelphia side." Why would your heart sink? You're at Philadelphia!
BS: And you'd likely be on stage with Madonna, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, ...
JK: Plant and Page, Stones,...
BS: Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers.
JK: Stevie Wonder...
BS: Stevie Wonder, yeah.
JK: But there was just something about it. I just thought "It's going to be better here." Because Live Aid, and the whole Live Aid campaign, of course, was a British thing. Well, an Irishman, but a British thing. And I just wondered if America would get the thing in the same way.
JK: Anyway, I think I protested, but you don't really protest with Bob that long. "Nonsense, you're number one over there." And as it happens, we were going across anyway, to record. So, we did it. Was that a regret? No! Not a regret. And you've heard the anecdotes as well. Going up there and Jack Nicholson introducing you and all that stuff.
BS: It must've been surreal to be hanging out backstage with Jack Nicholson no less. That Oscar winning, fantastic actor.
JK: Well the thing is - the legendary, for people who know the music business, you'll know this name, the legendary Bill Graham...
BS: Yeah, the promoter.
JK: He promoted the gig there. The thing is Bill was hands-on like all the legendary promoters are. And they're tough guys as well. It was a bit like being herded on stage. And, of course, they were so paranoid about people playing longer than their due spot. Anyway, so we turned up, and we get to the bottom of the stage, and the legendary Bill Graham's there and ... We'd been in his house about six months earlier, he invited us to Sunday lunch, because we were one of the bands coming up and he'd get you over and he'd do a number on you. He's your pal and all that. And we turned up. And I thought we'd have this greeting from Bill as "How are you getting on guys?" He has a bull of a head and, I can't use the language he used, but he said "Listen. Play one second more than your allotted fifteen minutes and I'm gonna bust your head..." And I was "I thought you were my pal Bill." And then he said "Go up the stairs. And the presenter - you'll meet your presenter. And you're on in three minutes. Do not go." So we walked upstairs thinking "Man, Bill's in a bit of a mood" and we don't want to get on the wrong side of him, get upstairs and the presenter's Jack Nicholson, wearing the Ray-Ban glasses, and he said "Howya doin'?" And I think, when people say to me... the fifteen minutes I spent on stage, thirteen minutes my head was thinking "Jeez. Jack Nicholson!" And the last two minutes were spent thinking "Wrong trousers."
BS: [Laughs]
JK: I could feel them flapping in the wind.
BS: Yeah, they were bad trousers. It has to be said.

Interview with Billy Sloan
BBC Radio Scotland
2nd November 2019

The next morning the band got an early morning train to New York and then drove up state to Bearsville Studios, Woodstock to continue working on Once Upon A Time


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