Tag Archives: Live Aid

Still In My Heart: Remembering Live Aid & The Power Station

By Jason Lent

Another Live Aid comes and goes and, as always, people have their annual chuckle about Simon LeBon missing a note during Duran Duran’s indifferent performance on the momentous day. For me, Live Aid arrived only four days after my first rock-n-roll concert and my ears were still ringing. As much as I wanted to see Duran Duran, it was The Power Station that had me glued to the television. A few nights earlier, my father took me to the outskirts of Florida civilization to witness John and Andy’s side-project at the infamous Hollywood Sportatorium. The excitement of seeing The Power Station certainly made it easier to accept the splintering mess that Duran Duran had become.


Duran Duran had played the Hollywood Sportatorium, affectionately called the Vomitorium for its lawless behavior, a year prior in March of 1984. Being a school night, I wasn’t able to convince my parents that it was the most important night of my life and I had to be there. They chalked it up to being a music crazed eleven year-old but I was serious. I knew Duran Duran were at their peak and I’ve always regretted missing that tour. My dad came through in 1985 and we stood in line for tickets as soon as the unexpected Power Station tour was announced. 


The videos for “Some Like It Hot” and “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” were colorful, sexy, and rocking. The album was an instant favorite for me whereas Arcadia’s album has taken years to fully win me over (and it has). For a first concert, I could do far worse than The Power Station and my excitement built and built as we drove down a one lane highway towards to Florida Everglades in the middle of empty fields. While South Florida eventually paved its way west into the Everglades, in 1985 the Sportatorium sat alone on the edge of civilization. We were on an adventure in my 12 year-old mind!


The decrepit arena lived up to its reputation. A few weeks earlier, a Robert Plant concert was postponed due to rain which wouldn’t be that odd except the Sportatorium was actually indoors! The crumbing ceiling was a sieve. Upon arrival, we climbed up the side of the concrete box to section 117 after a stop at the merch table to buy a concert program which I still have to this day. The scheduled support act Spandau Ballet had pulled out due to someone blowing out a knee and, I think, The Bongos might have opened the show. Can anyone confirm that? I just learned they had a song called “Barbarella” so there’s that. Regardless, I don’t remember the support act and the arena’s acoustics were a sound engineer’s nightmare so it could have been Poison and I wouldn’t have noticed.


Thinking back on concerts in the 1980s, I really miss the way they started. The excitement of the first song felt bigger back then from Jon Bon Jovi shooting from under the stage to Howard Jones’ mime winding up an audience. The opening riff of “Murderess” is still burned into my memory. As the curtains pulled back, Andy Taylor’s guitar sliced through the clouds of pot smoke and enveloped my entire being. This was rock-n-roll! I was hooked for life.  


The setlist was a mix of somewhat odd covers and the entire debut album. One of the biggest memories of the night was Miami Vice star Don Johnson joining the band on stage for a cover of  Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All the Luck”. One of the most interesting songs would have been The Velvet Underground classic “White Light/White Heat” but I don’t remember it and I wouldn’t have known the VU back then. The Animotion cover of “Obsession” that DesBarres cowrote was a bigger deal to me on that night. Looking back at the setlist, I’m surprised that there were only two Duran Duran songs played (“The Reflex” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”) but I was so overwhelmed by the concert that I left on a high. 


A few days later, I spent a Saturday shifting from the living room couch to the front lawn to kick a soccer ball around awaiting the Duran Duran and The Power Station slots at Live Aid. The Power Station came out swinging at Live Aid, perhaps trying a little too hard. DesBarres runs all over the place while John and Andy play everything a little too fast. Tony Thompson, always a massive hitter, fills the stadium with ease but he was certainly thinking ahead to his set with Led Zeppelin a few hours later.


Next up was Duran Duran and it was quickly apparent that there was trouble in paradise. Roger Taylor looks completely sick of being in Duran Duran and the other four are clearly operating from two different camps. Andy Taylor sounds like he wants to bury Simon and Nick under a wall of distortion and John looks a bit ragged from his lifestyle. This is not a healthy band and Andy’s disgusted look to the stars when Simon misses the infamous note was a portent of what was to come. The fallout of Live Aid changed Duran Duran, and me, forever.


What happened after Live Aid comes back to me in pieces. I definitely didn’t buy Andy Taylor’s Thunder out of loyalty to Duran Duran but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the singles. The Power Station concert had opened my ears to dirtier guitars just in time for the rise of glam metal on MTV. When Notorious arrived, it was such a break from where Duran Duran had left off that it pushed me deeper into the world of Whitesnake and David Lee Roth, both of whom I saw at the Hollywood Sportatorium before it was torn down to the disappointment of absolutely no one. 


I finally saw Duran Duran in 1989 at the Miami Arena, which replaced the Sportatorium for us in South Florida. Empty seats and a lack of energy is what little I remember from the night. It was a difficult time to love Duran Duran but a lot of the songs on Big Thing and Notorious have aged better than Seven & the Ragged Tiger for me. Maybe The Power Station saved Duran Duran from themselves. It gave Andy an exit strategy, it finally forced them to address the divide that formed between the five men, and it forced Duran Duran to find a new sound in the aftermath. The Power Station also lit a fire in my soul for rock-n-roll that burns to this day. Other people have “cooler” first concerts to brag about but I wouldn’t trade that night in 1985 for any of them. 

Jason’s Power Station ticket from 1985!

Live Aid – The Music Between Us

Do you know where you were on this date in 1985?  If you were like me, and likely millions of other teenagers around the world, you were sitting in front of your television watching Live Aid.

While this date will ring forever bittersweet to me (and probably any other Duranie out there), I can also remember the feeling that we could conquer anything. Sure, to many adults out there, Live Aid was just a festival with two locations that day: one at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and the other in London at Wembley, but to me and others in my generation, it become something far greater.

For me, Live Aid marked the beginning of a new era. It wasn’t solely about being the last time that all five original members of Duran Duran would convene onstage until 2003.  In many ways, it marked the end of my childhood infatuation, and taught me that there is indeed a whole world out there to take care of.  Growing up in America at the time certainly had its advantages. Comparatively speaking, I wanted for nothing.  Being poor here in the states in the 1980’s was rough – any kid who actually grew up poor will tell you as much ( I was not. While my parents seriously struggled at times, we always had food on the table, a roof over our heads and some semblance of safety and stability. Many others did not.), but it wasn’t quite the same as living in a third world country with no resources, world attention, or funding. Remarkably, I don’t necessarily remember ever really hearing about the plight of others around the world, except in hindsight—like in a history class. Our nightly news would use the Ethiopian Famine as more of a “In other news” than a headline, and I believe that Live Aid marked the beginning of that changing. Live Aid brought awareness, and once that door was cracked open, there was really no turning back.

Some will argue that the US still does very little to help with the rest of the world. I’m not really here to get into that discussion or to prove our self-worth. I can just share my own experience. Prior to Live Aid (and also Band Aid), I really don’t remember having much of an awareness of what went on outside of the United States. Perhaps that was me and my family, or maybe it was my age, but I know from even looking at old newspapers from back in that day, the front page rarely discussed world issues. That was hidden back on page three or four of the first section.  I think that speaks volumes about America at the time, and while I will always be proud of where I was born and raised, I recognize our shortcomings – and let’s face it – there are many.

When I think back on Live Aid, I try not to focus on Duran Duran. Enough has been said about all of that, and as I said before—for Duranies, it was a bittersweet day for a multitude of reasons.  I think about how for just that 24-hour period, it didn’t seem to matter where we lived or how we grew up. It felt like the world uniting for a common cause, and for this then-fourteen year old, it felt empowering. I think that was probably the first time in my short life that I really felt that way, too.

For me personally, Live Aid took place on an incredibly hot day in July 1985.  We didn’t have air conditioning, and in Glendora, California, I’m pretty sure the thermometer hit 100 degrees F or more that day.  I can remember hearing the very loud fan on our swamp cooler (if you don’t know what that is – it’s a cooling system that runs cool water past a fan – this theoretically cools off the air that is then blown into the house. Not as good as an A/C, but it was all I knew as a kid.) My parents saw me in one of two places that day: sitting on our brown, thread bare living room carpet, eyes glued to the TV, or sitting outside on our patio on a lounge chair, with the television volume (from the living room) turned way up so I could hear. Their attempts to tear me away in order to do chores were futile—I always managed to sneak back in to see how much longer it would be before Duran Duran would take the stage. At the time, I didn’t think I paid much attention to the cause for the event. I was interested in the music, and the rest of it didn’t matter. Except somehow over the course of that day, the more I watched, the more I began to understand the immensity of what was happening, and why.

Nowadays, having an understanding of what is going on in the world is commonplace. It’s difficult to believe or remember a time when it wasn’t. We’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ (among others!) to inform, confuse, and confound. Cable news is 24/7, and if that isn’t enough, within a few clicks of the keys, the internet awaits. It wasn’t always that way, and certainly not here. I know American’s boast about the freedom of the press, but that “freedom” was also the choice to cover whatever they wanted. Back then, news from the rest of the world didn’t always make the headlines in the same way it might now.

Live Aid inspired a number of other concerts around the world on that same day. Everywhere from Canada to the Soviet Union took part in their own way, and the world came together—if only for a short while—the music between us.  In the decades since, there have been any number of music festivals done in the same vein (albeit not with the same exuberance). Just recently, there was a festival done in Manchester for the victims of the bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert. A variety of different online and print sources claimed it was this generation’s Live Aid.

Only history will decide, but I think we all know how and where Live Aid stands. Thirty-two years later, and we’re still talking about it.

-R

It’s Christmas Time…

Every year, at Christmas, without fail, I listen to the song, Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band-Aid.  This tradition has existed since the song was released in 1984.  If you haven’t listened to it yet this year, let me post the video for you to do just that:

Yesterday, I noticed a tweet from Duran Duran featuring an article posted in Rolling Stone magazine written by our friend, Lori Majewski, which you can read here.  The article discusses the making of Band-Aid along with some behind-the-scenes stories, which are thoroughly enjoyable.  I have to admit that I especially liked the fact that Duran showed up with Spandau and both bands were hungover.

While I was entertained by the article, I found myself drawn to two particular quotes.  First, Boy George said, “‘Band Aid and Live Aid were a great contradiction to what people thought, another side of the decade,” says Boy George. “The Eighties were about greed and excess – we were called Thatcher’s Children.'”  Then, Simon followed up with, “One reason Le Bon and his contemporaries found Band Aid so attractive, he says, was because it “was this opportunity to do something that wasn’t about ‘me.’ It made you feel you could do something useful. We made young people believe they had some kind of power and were able to do something that did have an effect.'”

This song came out Christmas 1984, when I was nine years old.  I hadn’t been a Duranie for very long and had little ideas about the world and my role in it.  Duran’s decision to participate in something like this didn’t surprise me as I had no expectations of whether or not a band should partake in activities for charity or make political statements.  Yet, I do remember feeling proud to be a fan of a band that would join in such an effort to raise money for a starving people.  I, in fact, defended the British supergroup over many of my peers who didn’t know anything about the song or its impact once USA for African’s song “We Are the World” was released.  I complained, openly, to my classmates that the Americans were copying the British’s idea.

Looking back, I had no idea that Duran Duran was often dismissed for the (incorrect) assumption of being connected to Thatcherism or Reaganism, the ultimate capitalistic, political leaders.  I didn’t realize that for many critics Duran’s participation in Band-Aid and later Live Aid seemed out of character.  To me, it made sense.  Clearly, the members were kind people who wanted to help out their fellows, at least that’s what I thought (and still think).  I recognize now that this supergroup and single changed the vibe of the 1980s from being one of fun, greed, materialism to being serious, selfless but had no idea back then.  I have heard John Taylor state in interviews that Live Aid divided the decade into these two halves.

Interestingly enough, I wonder now how much this song really affected my world view.  Heck, I ponder how much Duran Duran of the 1980s impacted my philosophy of life.  I do believe in having fun and express that every time I get to a show or get to go on tour.  I enjoy times out with friends, having a drink or two.  Yet, I also am a person who believes that humans should act to help out their fellow humans.  I went into teaching–not for the pay or the summers “off” (HA!  I wish!) but because it provided a chance to help many kids.  Then, I spend time outside of work and fandom on political activities.  Why?  Again, I want to do my part in order to make the world a little bit better.

Perhaps, Duran Duran and Band-Aid’s Do They Know Its Christmas helped to form this fundamental philosophy of life I have.  I don’t accept the premise that I need to choose between having fun and being serious, between focusing on myself and on others.  I saw my idols, as a kid, doing both simultaneously, even if that isn’t what adults or music critics saw then.  That is what I saw and what I hope to live in my own life now.

-A

Planet Earth Is Worth 24 Hours of Reality

I think Duran Duran’s love for Planet Earth kind of goes back to the song at hand – which was the beginning of my journey with this band.   It didn’t come as a complete surprise to me to see the announcement that they would be performing for 24 Hours of Reality…which is also Live Earth. After all, we all live here on this planet, don’t we? Why wouldn’t we want Duran Duran, the band who first told us that there were 247,680 born everyday (surely there are more than that being born each day now in 2015) or that the oldest known song is the Shadduf Chant, to perform in a broadcast that – at the very least – will encourage every day folks like you and I, if not the powers in charge, to take our dwindling resources a little more seriously?

Well, like anything else I’ve written in regards to Duranland,  I underestimated how strongly fans feel on either side of this issue. While I really didn’t see much on Twitter, fans had absolutely no problem posting their disappointment with the band and their choice to perform, citing reasons from Al Gore to the fact that this band shouldn’t be political.

There’s no way I’m touching the political football on this one, because ultimately – I don’t think the planet deserves that kind of treatment. That said, I acknowledge that some governments, such as my own, have encouraged the game. While there is no doubt that Daily Duranie is as much written from opinion as it is from fact at times – this post isn’t going to take a side on climate change or try to prove that it exists or explain why it is OK for the band to rub shoulders with Al Gore even after his (now ex) wife managed to have them censored back. Nope. Not gonna go there. Even I know when it’s time to back away from the hornet’s nest.

So many of the comments I’ve read expressed dismay over the band making a “political statement” just by appearing. I have to wonder where those people have been over the past thirty years. I know there has been many an interview – especially lately – where Simon has said that they’ve tried not to get too openly political in the past. Perhaps that’s so, and perhaps they’ve also done it subtly enough to where most people haven’t found fault.  A few examples? The video for Planet Earth has scrolling text about doomsday, the population, and various other facts about our planet. Not overtly political, but the point was still there. The band played Live Aid – which I am sure no one has forgotten, although I think many have forgotten just what Live Aid stood for, in 1985. They followed that up by playing a show for Amnesty International in 1987. In 1990, Simon LeBon sang “Follow in my Footsteps” on the album Requiem for the Americas – an album curated by Jonathan Elias as a tribute to Native Americans. In 2007, Duran Duran performed at the London (Wembley Stadium)  Live Earth (also organized in part by Al Gore). John Taylor even openly stated his support for Barack Obama as President of the US by doing YouTube videos and wearing an Obama t-shirt, and that was even before he became a US citizen. These are just a few examples off the top of my head, and I haven’t even touched upon the social commentary topics they’ve included in songs and videos over the years.  This isn’t new and this certainly is not the first time, so I guess the idea that some fans feel like now is the time to insist that they not become “political” comes thirty-seven years too late, at least in my head.

I know how important it may be to keep Duran Duran on a pedestal, or in a box marked “escapism”. My goodness, we all sometimes need to just turn the music on, sit back, and let it take us away. For the most part, it is a very healthy way to deal with stress and life – at times. On the other hand, it is also important to live in reality. Even though you or I might use the band as our escape, it’s reasonable to assume they live in reality. Sometimes, reality is worth taking a stand and putting yourself out there…and sometimes, you get hammered for it. I have to admire the band for being willing, and for challenging their fans to see another side they may not have previously considered.

I know I’ll be watching for them during Live Earth on Friday with the same sense of pride and affection as always…and chances are, I’ll steal a moment or two from my real life to “escape” as they perform on that Paris stage for Live Earth / 24 Hours of Reality!

-R

It was 30 years ago today…

All morning I’ve seen tweets and Facebook messages referring to Live Aid because today is the thirtieth anniversary. Thirty YEARS ago. Is that even possible??

I suppose in some ways, yes, it does feel like it’s been thirty years. It really kind of feels like a lifetime ago in some respects. The year was 1985. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I spent the day running between the backyard of my home, where I was trying to perfect my tan (back then, I didn’t think twice about skin cancer) and my living room, where I had the TV turned up loud enough so I could hear who was playing.  I didn’t want to miss Duran Duran.

Historically, there had never been a show like it. Live Aid was about something much bigger than the music. I don’t believe there has been a show like it since. Whether it’s chalked up to the music of the time, the world, or just that particular generation, Live Aid was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of gig. For the lion’s share, most bands look back on Live Aid as this sort of strange, surreal experience; but many also seem to have found a sense of pride in having been a part of something so beyond themselves. I don’t get the sense that it was an experience that any of them were able to fully appreciate at the time, with comments regarding firm set-limits to testimonials describing the glitterati-enlaced talent waiting and mingling backstage. Even as a fan, to read oral-histories such as the one Lyndsey Parker penned for Yahoo! Music can feel a bit surreal.

For me, Live Aid represents an end to my glory days as an 80s music loving teen. Music was forever changed. Duran Duran didn’t play another show as the Fab Five until 2003. Like John Taylor, I rather miss the days where music was about living life to excess: hedonism and narcissistic as it may have been. After Live Aid, it stopped being about having fun for the sake of having fun. All of the sudden it became about “the greater good” to a large extent. While I am not one to mock the trials and tribulations of the world…there is something to be said for escapism. That’s probably why to this day I still look to Duran Duran for my escape and fun.

And Martha (Quinn)? Believe me, we ALL heard that bum note. For the Duranies out there, it was the final punctuation mark on a remarkable moment in our lives. Of course we forgave Simon, and at the time I don’t think many of us realized the eventual significance of the moment..but it stood as that final capstone for so many years, it is difficult not to equate one with the other. I don’t think the band has necessarily perpetuated the memory of that note as much as it’s been in the lore and/or canon of this fandom ever sense. That note came to be known as marking an end, and a new beginning.

-R

 

 

 

Today in Duran History – Cedar Rapids

On today’s date in 1987, Duran Duran played the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  This show took place during the Strange Behaviour tour, and most notably for many fans – it was the first tour after Live Aid which signified the end of the “Fab Five”.

Happy (early) 4th of July to my fellow American fans, and to the rest of the world – have a lovely weekend!

-R