A day-by-day history of U2, now in its second edition.

Book Sample: U2 at Live Aid

By on November 15, 2007 in Book Samples with 13 Comments

Anyone up for a sample diary entry from the book?

I thought I’d post the diary entry for July 13, 1985 — U2 at Live Aid. This is one of the longer diary entries, I think. (The album entries are all pretty long, too.)

In addition to the text I’m writing, I hope to have a lot of “sidebars” in the book — these are typically going to be where pertinent quotes from the band or others involved will be used to explain and expand on what I’ve written. For the purpose of this blog post you’re reading, I’m going to put that text in blockquotes so it’s separated from my text.

So, here we go … hope you likey. 🙂


July 13
Wembley Stadium, London. Live Aid: London and Philadelphia. Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof organizes the concert to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia. U2 are set to play at Wembley Stadium in London, about halfway through the day’s lineup. Tickets are sold for £25, but £20 of that is advertised as a donation to the Live Aid charity. Touts outside the stadium are getting as much as £80 for a ticket. Official souvenir stands offer Band Aid videos, Live Aid posters, programs, and shirts – all of which include the line, “This Saves Lives.”

At about 5:20 p.m. London time, Jack Nicholson stands on stage at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and introduces U2 at Wembley Stadium. The crowd roars and what seem like dozens of U2 flags are waving in the air. The band’s planned set is “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” “Bad” and “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” but U2 only manage to play the first two in their allotted 20 minutes.

“Bad” lasts an astonishing 14 minutes. During the song, Bono breaks one of Geldof’s rules — don’t leave the stage — when he climbs down to ground level to dance with a girl in front of the crowd. It’s one of the most memorable moments of the entire two-continent event, but it leaves the rest of U2 angry with Bono; they never had a chance to play “Pride,” the hit single that many of the billions watching on TV might know.


Bono: “Larry told me he was going to stop playing”

“I was trying to find an image that would be remembered for the day. I was not happy with just playing our songs and getting out of there. I wanted to find that moment. Of course, afterwards, I got a terrible time from the band. I was almost fired. Because I had climbed on roofs, I had left stages before, I had climbed on PA stacks, I had jumped into the crowds, I had physical confrontations in crowds, but this was the worst one for them, to leave them for what felt like hours, apparently. Larry told me he was going to stop playing. This was a big show for our band, there were a billion people watching, and we didn’t do our big song. Everyone was very annoyed with me, I mean, very annoyed.”

Bono is so depressed that he reportedly thinks about leaving U2. He decides to take some personal time to sort through his feelings and emotions. He escapes to the Irish country, to a small town where Ali has family. There, Bono meets a sculptor who is working on a statue called The Leap, inspired by Bono’s dance with the young girl at Live Aid. Bono rethinks the idea that he had made a mistake.

An estimated 1.5 billion TV viewers around the globe see U2’s performance. Many journalists pick U2 and Queen as the top performances of the day. The band’s album sales rise worldwide after Live Aid, and U2 later wins Rolling Stone magazine’s Readers’ Poll award for Best Performance at Live Aid.

At the request of the UK press, the band issues the following statement about their participation at Live Aid: “U2 are involved in Live Aid because it’s more than money, it’s music…but it is also a demonstration to the politicians and the policy-makers that men, women and children will not walk by other men, women and children as they lie, bellies swollen, starving to death for the sake of a cup of grain and water. For the price of Star Wars, the MX missile offensive-defense budgets, the desert of Africa could be turned into fertile lands. The technology is with us. The technocrats are not. Are we part of a civilization that protects itself by investing in life…or investing in death?” Hoping for something more quotable, many in the media ignore the band’s statement.


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There Are 13 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Coca says:

    it’s pretty cool, pretty toouchy….

    Look, yesterday at night, I was reading U2 by U2, the book, and I was reading part when Bono & the Edge talk about this gig (Live aid)….

    and, the point is: I like very much the way you tell this history… chers!

  2. Donal says:

    Great stuff, great to finally see a full detailed diary entry of such an important event in the bands history.
    The image many of us remember of their perfomance that day, was Bono dancing with the girl during “Bad”. Is there room for her name in the entry ? or maybe even a quote from her on the sidebar ? I don’t know, but she was surely interviewed at some stage. Just a thought.

    Great entry though.

  3. Erika says:

    Love it!!!!!!

  4. Matt says:

    Thank you, all. Glad you like it. I should mention — specifically to what Donal mentioned — that this may not be the final version. I do hope to have time to track down some quotes from the girl. I have her name somewhere here. 🙂 Plus, there’s always a chance that my editor will make some changes, too.

    But, this is what I have for now and I thought it would be fun to share.

  5. Raul says:

    Great job!!! That’s exactly what we want from your book: something else, an extra-value, the link between the day and future decisions, the consequences and the importance of the day – because the set they played we all already now. Yes, «give us some more».

  6. Raul says:

    Also liked very much the idea of the quotes: it adds even more value to the diary. The facts are the facts and in a diary you can’t go away from it. But the quotes, they are unique; that’s where is the touch of the writer, in choosing a meaningful quote. And this one is a great quote – it helps to explain the main text. Walk on.

  7. Matt says:

    Thanks, Raul, I’m glad you liked it. As time allows, I will plan on posting more book samples. Remind me in a couple weeks if I forget. Maybe I’ll post a sample album entry?

  8. Niterpi says:

    great stuff. i knew the band was upset about that, but i never knew bono considered quitting! – i am definitely buying this book!!

  9. Stephen says:

    Of course, you should tell the WHOLE story – that U2, for all their humanitarian bluster had great misgivings about playing at Live Aid, to the point of phoning Geldof the night before, stating they weren’t sure if they wanted to play. Geldof’s reply, as documented on the BBC programme commemorating 20 years since Live Aid? “Fuck them!” (said in a tone of voice that made it clear he wasn’t bothered)

  10. Matt says:

    Stephen — I’ve never seen or heard of that documentary. Any chance you can provide a transcript of what exactly was said, and who said it? Sounds interesting and like something that should be in the book. Thanks!

  11. Sylvia says:

    I like it! Looking forward to the whole book.

  12. Declan Mc Nally says:

    From memory, Larry and Bono were interviewed on the programme. They phoned Geldof the night before and said they wouldn’t play unless they were allowed a soundcheck. Apparently they didn’t get one but they didn’t explain who or what changed their mind.

  13. Liam Kinsella says:

    As a 66 year old pensioner now, I also remember the day very well.

    I always wanted to know a bit more about the U2 flags, waiving in the audience throughout the gig – just spotted one again this evening, watching the finale with Bob and all the singers on stage with Bono et al. Were the flags used as a publicity stunt by U2s Paul McGuinness – looks like all the flags are the same size, same height etc. And indeed appeared to be waived in a coordinated manner.

    Would love to get feedback on this point.

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