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Cherry Coca Cola was released to major beverage distributors in the Long Island area on this day in 1985, and we thought it was truly a momentous event. The first time my friends and I tried it, we were a little bit stoned, and we spent the first hour or so of the experience trying to figure out which flavor you tasted first, the cherry or the coke. Amazingly, that was pretty much the most fun thing that I can remember happening on that particular day. Oh, and I say ‘amazingly’ because did I mention that this happened in the parking lot while we were waiting to get in to the U.S. Live Aid concert?
It’s funny, but I don’t know anyone who claims to have been at Live Aid except for myself and the three friends who I went with. My friend Diana and I were dating at the time, but our other friends had not really been let in on this fact yet. My friend Dyann (whose dad co-owned the beverage distributor) was ready to see some great musicians live and to have this wonderful adventure with her friends in Philadelphia, and my buddy John – a partner in crime at our college radio station – was psyched to be going to the show, and that Dyann was single.
Over the course of that long, hot, seemingly endless summer day, the few things I can remember are being outed as a couple by our friends (quote from John “Hey …. whattaya doin?”), getting possibly more than mild heat stroke during The Pretenders and muttering something about a puppy (I didn’t HAVE a puppy), and the fact that the cooling, high powered fire hose that was being shot into the crowd stopped just a few rows shy of where we were sitting. And I also remember that by midday, we had gotten so sick of hearing “Do they know it’s Christmas” (in 104 weather in JULY) that our whole section began chanting “Feed the wooooorld, feed the f***ing go*****ed woooorld.” How VERY un-P.C., right!? But we were so frikkin’ hot at that point that we were past caring.
It was in a stadium … and a BIG one. It was the dead of summer. Now, by this point I had easily been to well over a hundred live rock shows, including The Who concerts at Shea Stadium in 1982, so I was basically a “pro” at this. And I knew that this was basically a mess. But since there were no tragic events – amazingly no one died from the heat – the concert itself was looked at as a success. It certainly wasn’t from my vantage point. Stadium sound systems were still not very good (not that they could qualify today as ever being “very good’). The set changes were way too long, occupied by boring “awareness-raising” political speeches, and comics taking fifteen minutes out of their busy schedules to tell us that “Hey, I’m doing something important for humanity today and you are, too”. And the music, for the most part, was compromised as a result.
No one except for Eric Clapton played a set worth noting. (And yes, I’m a big Clapton fan, but ‘White Room’ blew the walls of the stadium down.) The coolest thing was that Phil Collins flew between the London and U.S. shows on the Concorde to play at both events. But after that night, Phil was seemingly everywhere you looked (“Hey, it’s Liberace, with special guest PHIL COLLINS!”), so that was an annoying ‘aftershock’ of Live Aid. The reunited Who (a set that we had to watch on the giant screen) sucked. The ‘world premiere’ of the Bowie/Jagger video for ‘Dancing in the Street’ did NOT make me want to dance, but to simply raise a glass to wish the happy couple well for their future. And the reunited Led Zeppelin were a mess. Ironically, at that time I wasn’t half the Zep fan that I am now. But that might have been a good thing. I thought the set was a disaster, and reading back on it now thirty years later I can see that I was apparently correct. I hear that Queen was great. I don’t remember. I think that during Queen’s set I was waiting for them to replenish the snow cones at a concession stand … so that I could rub it on myself!
Did we have fun? Yes. I think we did. I was in the company of friends that I love. But other than for the company, I think we all only hung in for the duration of the show for two main reasons: firstly, to be able to say that we had “done it” … we had been in the audience for Live Aid … and secondly, because I think we were all waiting for some magical musical moment that was sure to arrive. It didn’t. I don’t even remember who closed the U.S. show. In fact, I usually have to check Wikipedia before I say something like “Gee, I never got to see Black Sabbath live with Ozzy” to make sure that I actually had not ‘seen’ them at Live Aid. And we all know about the McCartney ‘Let It Be’ disaster at the UK event.
So, to this day, when the momentous Live Aid is discussed, including on the event’s thirtieth anniversary, I find that my auto response is a cynical giggle. I am delighted that it was put together to make money for charity. That was the whole idea. But, as we know, much of the money never even reached its intended recipients. (Hats off to the world’s politicians, by the way!) But, for that intended reason, it was an amazing thing to have been a (very small) part of. But to try, even thirty years later, to pass the thing off as having been a momentous MUSCIAL event. Nope. I was there. And I sorta kinda almost maybe remember that it wasn’t.