Musical Monday: Bowie & Jagger

It’s been hot, humid, even steamy the past few days on the French Riviera. We have resisted air conditioning and instead leave all the windows in the apartment open to facilitate the flow of air. I also spray myself with ice cold Evian – totally delicious.

I should of course be thankful that the temperatures haven’t approached those in Sicily, nor have we (fingers crossed) suffered from any significant forest fires. But with heat on my mind, thoughts have turned to this old favourite, aired during Live Aid, which I recall watching over 36 years ago!

Live Aid was a benefit concert held on Saturday 13 July 1985, as well as a music-based fundraising initiative. The original event was organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia. Billed as the “global jukebox”, the event was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, UK, attended by about 72,000 people and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, US, attended by 89,484 people.

David Bowie and Mick Jagger intended to perform a transatlantic duet, with Bowie in London and Jagger in Philadelphia. Problems of synchronisation meant the only practical solution was to have one artist, likely Bowie at Wembley, mime along to prerecorded vocals broadcast as part of the live sound mix for Jagger’s performance from Philadelphia.

Veteran music engineer David Richards was brought in to create footage and sound mixes Jagger and Bowie could perform to in their respective venues. The BBC would then have had to ensure those footage and sound mixes were in sync while also performing a live vision mix of the footage from both venues. The combined footage would then have had to be bounced back by satellite to the various broadcasters around the world. Due to the time lag (the signal would take several seconds to be broadcast twice across the Atlantic Ocean), Richards concluded there was no way for Jagger to hear or see Bowie’s performance, meaning there could be no interaction between the artists, essentially defeating the whole point of the exercise. On top of this, both artists objected to the idea of miming at what was perceived as a historic event.

Instead, Jagger and Bowie worked with Richards to create a video of the song they would have performed, a cover of “Dancing in the Street“, which was shown on the screens of both stadiums and broadcast as part of many TV networks’ coverage.

Originally performed by Martha and The Vandellas, “Dancing in the Streets,”— an irresistible ode to summertime booty shaking — was covered by two of the flashiest, rock stars on the planet in 1985.

16 Comments on “Musical Monday: Bowie & Jagger

  1. I remember watching it way into the night on the family TV. That was another age, all the artists involved were the top artists of the time and now 36 years later they all became classic icons. I don’t know if we would be able to make such venues in our day and age (independently from Covid) furthermore when you think of the limitation of the available technology from back then. Yet it was in duplex simultaneously from London and Philly. A great concert and a great cause. I remember this video of course, one of the highlights of this concert, performed by a dream team : Jagger / Bowie, it barely gets better than that !

    Liked by 1 person

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