City: London, UK
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Date: July 13, 1985

Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Is This The World We Created


Queen were one of dozens of acts to perform at Live Aid, one of the biggest and most important rock concerts ever. Their performance has been lauded by many critics and voted in numerous polls as being (at least) one the greatest rock concert performances of all time. The event was watched on television by 1.9 billion people worldwide.

Bob Geldof approached Queen's manager Jim Beach asking them to appear at the show. "Tell the old faggot it's gonna be the biggest thing that ever happened," implored Geldof. Indeed, Mercury quickly complied. It was the perfect antidote to their recent struggles behind the scenes.

Each band was permitted precisely 20 minutes on stage with no playback tapes or soundcheck. Queen's basic philosophy was to cram as many hits into that small time frame as possible (shortened versions of Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You made room for an extra song or two), and they succeeded with flying colours. It was Freddie Mercury's finest hour, as the surpreme showman connected with 80,000 people in Wembley Stadium and about two billion at home on television. Combined with the energy and spirit of the event, Freddie's voice was in phenomenal shape (not least during his now-iconic Harry Belafonte-esque vocal exchange with the audience), and the rest of the band were propelled to give a much more gutsy performance than usual, particularly Brian May. The narrator of a 1995 BBC Radio One special perhaps said it best: "Of all Queen's 704 [actually 705] live performances, perhaps the most important was Live Aid. It enabled them to show that without all of their trappings, their own light, their own sound, the power of darkness, and only an 18 [actually 20] minute set, they were still able to conquer the world."

And this wasn't something recalled in hindsight. Roger Waters was interviewed backstage, and shortly after Queen's set he was quoted saying: "Everybody's been buzzing about Queen that I've run into. They said they had everybody completely spellbound."

Brian and Roger were interviewed backstage after their set, both clearly buzzing from the energy of their performance. Brian described it as "The time of your life; I'll never forget it." Roger notes how amazing the audience was, but also admits that the sound on stage in the monitors wasn't great. When so many bands play on the same stage in one day, it's often a technical nightmare for the artists and techs alike. Roger had a slight miscue at the end of Hammer To Fall, but it's likely that he couldn't even hear that Freddie was ending the song.

In another interview shortly after Queen's set Brian said how the band were in the midst of planning their own headlining show at Wembley Stadium around this time, but elected to do Live Aid instead because it was the "more important" event (they would famously headline Wembley twice the following year). Brian adds that there was "so much adrenaline that you don't play your normal way, but you give something better and something unusual."

In 2011 Roger recalled, "The sound on stage was so terrible. It was, and it was very archaic if you look at it. I just looked up at the end there and I could see this like a field of wheat [referring to the arms waving], and I thought, "Oh, it's gone well."

He expanded on that in a 2013 interview. "We had gone through a slightly jaded period. Live Aid had quite a galvanising effect. We had a huge resurgence afterwards. We weren't expecting that. I mean, we went on with no soundcheck. It was daylight. The crowd was not necessarily 'our' audience. At one point I looked out and thought 'oh, it's going well'. Only later did we realise it had gone VERY well."

Also, in a 1999 interview with Mojo magazine, Roger elaborated: "Live Aid was a shot in the arm. We were so jaded by that point. We didn't think we'd tour again for five years if at all - we'd just had it. But we thought we'd better rehearse a bit, and we ran the whole 17 minutes into one medley of hits: why bore them with something they've not heard before? We didn't have a soundcheck, but we sent our brilliant engineer to check the system, so he set all the limiters for us. We were louder than anyone else. I remember being in the audience and hearing the first few acts thinking that I could hardly hear them. You've got to overwhelm the crowd in a stadium."

Brian May later recalled the audience doing the hand claps in the choruses of Radio Ga Ga: "Everybody thinks that everything about Queen was calculated and sure, some of it was. We weren't stupid. We understood our audience and played to them. But that was one of those weird accidents, because of the video. The video-producer thought, 'Oh, that's nice, a double-clap. We'll have people actually doing it,' because it was a parody of Metropolis. Everybody saw that video, because it was one of our most successful. And [at Live Aid] this is not a Queen audience. This is a general audience who've bought tickets before they even knew we were on the bill. And they all did it. How did they know? Nobody told them to do it." In a 2011 Sun interview, he adds that it was "a real moment of specialness. We hammered it. That day we realized our influence had reached out beyond our immediate fans. That day also showed what a great frontman Freddie was. He knew how to handle a huge space and make it seem like he was in your living room."

Brian also once offered, point blank, that "It was the greatest day of our lives."

Later in the evening, Freddie and Brian returned to the stage to perform an emotional rendition of Is This The World We Created (as seen in the last three pics), which fit perfectly with the vibe and message of the day.

U2 and Dire Straits played right before Queen, and David Bowie and The Who had the daunting task of following them. Paul McCartney and a reunited original lineup of Black Sabbath also performed. Despite being in such legendary company, the show's organizers, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, amongst countless others, insisted that Queen were the best band of the day. "They played the best, had the best sound, used their time to the full. They understood the idea exactly - that it was a global jukebox. They just went and smashed one hit after another. It was the perfect stage for Freddie: the whole world. And he could ponce about on stage doing We Are The Champions. How perfect could it get?"

The band's triumphant performance gave them some much-needed rejuvenation (particularly after the controversy of last year's South African shows), inspiring them to write One Vision collectively as a band, something which hadn't happened since Stone Cold Crazy from the Sheer Heart Attack album in 1974.

The audio from TV and/or radio broadcasts ended up on a few bootlegs, but it has since been officially released on DVD twice - as part of a Live Aid compilation in 2004, and by Queen Productions in 2007 as an extra on the 2-disc version of Queen Rock Montreal.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Bono of U2 talking about his encounter with Freddie that day:

“I was walking with Ali [Bono's wife] and Freddie Mercury pulled me aside and said: ‘Oh, Bo-No….is it Bo-No or Bon-O?’ I told him, ‘It’s Bon-O’. He said, ‘Come over here with me. We’ve all been talking, Roger [Daltrey] and Pete [Townshend] and David [Bowie], and we all agree there’s no singers any more, everyone is shouting these days, but you’re a singer.’ I was up against a wall and he put his hand on the wall and was talking to me like he was chatting up a chick. He had me laughing but I was shifting nervously at the time, with Ali and myself exchanging glances. I thought, ‘Wow, this guy’s really camp.’ I was telling somebody later and he said: ‘You’re surprised? They’re called Queen!’ But I was really amazed. It hadn’t dawned on me.”

In 1986, John Deacon recalled Live Aid as "the one day that I was proud to be involved in the music business. A lot of days you certainly don't feel that, but that one day was fabulous. Elton John told us we were great, and Sting, who'd never seen us before, congratulated us. People forgot that element of competitiveness and it was a good morale booster for us too. It showed us the strength of our support in England, and what we still had to offer as a band."

In the December 1986 Music Life magazine Freddie Mercury candidly speaks of the effect this event had on them: "From our perspective, the fact that Live Aid happened when it did was really lucky. It came out of nowhere to save us. For sure that was a turning point. Maybe you could say that in the history of Queen, it was a really special moment."

The first photo set is from rehearsal at the Shaw Theatre in London a few days earlier. The shots of Brian and Roger in the crowd with Prince Charles and Princess Diana were taken by Nils Jorgensen. Pics 49 and 50 were taken by Dave Matkin.

Here are some pro pics: 1 2

Recording length: 24 minutes (1 CD, complete)
Quality: A
Source: Radio or TV
Lineage: "He Made It On His Own" (Gypsy Eye) silver

Track listing:
Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Is This The World We Created

Gypsy Eye claims their version comes straight from the soundboard, but it's definitely from either the radio or TV. Also included on the disc are the three uncut tracks from the second night at the Rainbow '74 and three of the four tracks from the fifth BBC session.

Here's a link to the always-reliable GS review:

Recording length: 26 minutes (1 CD, complete)
Quality: A
Source: Radio/TV
Lineage: Multiple FM sources > ? > SHN
Track listing:
Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Is This The World We Created

This recording is compiled from a few radio sources, including the introductions to their set and the ballad later in the evening.

Recording length: 46 minutes (1 CD, complete)
Quality: A- / A
Source: Audience / FM
Lineage: "Live Aid" (Wardour) silver

Track listing:
Audience: Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions

FM broadcast: Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Is This The World We Created

The first half of this 2018 bootleg is great sounding audience recording of the Live Aid show, heard here for the first time. The disc is padded out with one of the common FM copies. A DVD (presumably from the TV broadcast) is also included.

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