Today marks the 31st Anniversary of LIVE AID, the 1985 worldwide concert event to raise funds to help the famine in Ethiopa.
I don’t have many regrets in my life, but one I have was not going to Philadelphia to see the U.S. portion of the concert event. Yeah, it would have been amazing to be there – I was just out of high school, healthy, I could have handled standing up for hours on end in the insane heat, I could have been there with a couple of friends, but, it is what it is. Now, if Doc Brown really does have a time machine somewhere in the form of a DeLorean hanging around, sure as sure I’d be there in a hot second (or as long as it takes to get up to 88 MPH), and I’d see both the U.K. and U.S. portions of LIVE AID, but in reality, I did get to watch it on TV and I do have the DVD, so at least I have that.
On November 5, 1988, 3 years and 3 1/2 months after LIVE AID, British Alt-Folk singer / songwriter John Wesley Harding recorded a live solo show with just him and his guitar in West London, and it ended up being his first album, titled, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.
From that album was a brilliant, fun little ditty about Bob Geldof and LIVE AID, titled “July 13th 1985.” He dedicated the song to “Mr. Liberal X, who videotaped LIVE AID so he could watch the edited highlights at Christmas and didn’t have to feel guilty about not giving money.”
“July the 13th 1985 was the day we watched LIVE AID / The Global Jukebox came alive / We fed the world that day / Yeah, we fed the world that day…”
Wes is one of those rare breeds of recording artists who, without pretty much any difficulty, can whip up these incredibly smart, sharp lyrics that make you think. And enjoy. And enjoy some more. (“Well, the powerful voice of pop music, solve the problems, feed the world / So what if there weren’t any blacks involved, there was Everything but the Girl…”)
Sure, Wes was poking fun at “Saint Bob,” Paul McCartney’s microphone failing, and even “that great Cars song, ‘Drive’.” But, as much as I really enjoyed LIVE AID, to quote “July 13th 1985” itself, the song is “fucking brilliant” and so right on it’s freakier than Joe Piscopo introducing Rick Springfield, Run-D.M.C. and Simple Minds at the Philadelphia concert.
The artist formerly known as John Wesley Harding is back to using his given name, Wesley Stace. Since 1988’s IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, Wes has released (at least) 3 EPs and 17 albums, most-recently with 2013’s SELF-TITLED. He’s also written four novels, including 2014’s WONDERKID.
When he isn’t making music or writing novels, Wes is also a university teacher (at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA), and tonight, you’ll prolly find him singing this song where he’s performing in nearby Chestnut Hill, PA.
Wes makes his home in America these days, so one day I hope I get to see him perform and maybe he’ll even dig up this gem of a song he wrote about the concert of my generation…