Brian May Says Queen Had ‘Unfair Advantage’ at Live Aid
The latest episode of Queen’s The Greatest video series focuses on their triumphant 20-minute show at Live Aid in 1985.
Freddie Mercury’s band assembled a rapid-fire collection of hits as they took their turn on the Wembley Stadium stage in London. Their set – watched by 72,000 people in the venue and 1.9 billion on TV – has become regarded as one of the best live rock performances of all time, revitalizing Queen's career.
“We did have an unfair advantage,” guitarist Brian May says in the video, available below. “We had done football stadiums. Freddie, particularly, learned this magical way of involving everybody. In a huge football stadium, he could make everybody feel that they were in contact.”
May admitted, however, that the band doubted whether Bob Geldof’s ambitious Live Aid plans would work out, after he asked them to take part during an awards ceremony. “Geldof was a few tables away, and he came over and said, ‘How about doing this thing?’ And he said, ‘We’re going to have this and this and this,’” May recalls. “We said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m sure,’ you know, thinking it was an almost impossible thing to get together.” By the time Geldof asked May to commit to the show, he said, “we were all very keen to do it.”
Drummer Roger Taylor notes: “I remember looking up and seeing the whole place just going completely bonkers in unison, and thinking, ‘Oh – this is going well!’” There were ulterior motives, he adds: “No, it wasn’t a career move, but of course that’s in the back of everybody’s mind.”
Mercury said he assumed the backstage vibe was “going to be chaotic,” in an archival interview before Live Aid. “I mean, it has to be – we’re not all wonderfully well-behaved kids, are we? But that’s going to be the nice part of it, actually; there’ll be lots of friction and we’re all going to try to outdo each other.”
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