The dreams all run together. Feed the world. Make a joyful noise, raise a ruckus and millions of dollars. Lift a voice. Lend a hand. Come to Wembley Stadium, in London. Go down to John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. Turn on the television. Be a part of it all.
Ninety thousand came to JFK, 72,000 to Wembley. More than a billion people, including those in the Soviet Union, could have tuned in on live satellite broadcasts to watch over 60 of the world's most prominent rock acts. All together, this dream was called Live Aid. The breadth and heart of it were great.
And there were great moments in the music. Elvis Costello asking the Wembley audience to join him in "this old northern English folk song" and performing a peerless acoustic guitar version of All You Need Is Love. Bono of the Irish band U2 singing a mesmeric Bad. Sting duetting with Phil Collins on Every Breath You Take. Bob Dylan, singing a set of early songs and suggesting that a small portion of the Live Aid donations be used to help American farmers pay off mortgages. But the video superstructure constructed to beam the event across the world became an open-air jail with an infinite number of electronic windows. The audience could look in, but the musicians could never really bust out.
Television may be great for raising big bucks, but it is no friend of live music, especially not of rock 'n' roll, which needs urgency, immediacy, volume and balance. Movies and videos can heighten rock performances. Movies are seen in an enclosed environment, usually with better sound than comes from the tinny tiny speaker of a typical TV. Videos are at home on television, but they, like film, depend on editing to duplicate and convey the raw power of the music. About all a television director can do is cut back and forth between cameras. The medium does not catch the excitement of a performance, it just secondhands it along.
If this occurred to Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats and guiding spirit behind Live Aid, it obviously did not give him serious pause. He meant to raise money, and the tunes could match up to the ideal or not. Music was the come-on of the day, not the essence, and world television was like a vast electronic banking window.
There were some effectively old-fashioned wrinkles as well. Jerry Lewis was not on the scene, but his presence was everywhere. American audiences might have been able to recognize the outlines of one of his Labor Day telethons hovering in the ozone over JFK Stadium. There were the earnest testimonials from world figures (Bishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta King, Pelé and Linus Pauling). Phone numbers for call-in pledges appeared frequently. There were also, of course, the performers, trotted on according to strict show-biz standards: lightweights draw the day shift, heavies get prime time.