When I see Live Aid now, the synths sound dated and the mullets yield belly-laughs, yet there’s a genuine, undeniable sincerity in the performances by our favorite rockers (and poseurs). Months later, behind the scenes, some of the millions of dollars raised ended up in the wrong hands and made the world jaded about helping Africa, which stinks. Even so, July 13, 1985 was one fine day. It was the day U2 became the world’s biggest band. The day that music fans finally gave Paul McCartney a break after wallowing in Lennon martyrdom for five years. The day everyone realized George Michael wasn’t straight. The day Phil Collins took the Concorde across the pond in true rock star style — and sounded better than ever. The day we all admitted Bette Midler’s boobs actually look fantastic. The day Madonna kept her clothes on. The day Duran Duran as we knew them, broke up. The day one too many MTV VeeJays wore gym shorts and tube socks. The day Bob Geldof played to a crowd bigger than a bar — and changed the world forever with nothing but a wrinkled shirt and a dream. Thank you, Sir Bob, for that day… and this day. And thank you to every musician and fan out there who still believes music can make a difference. I’m right there with you.
Below, my favorite performances of the day. They’re not all musically great, but the memory is perfect. Comment below and let me know your faves, too! (Click here for CNN’s special report today, including an interview with former MTV VJ Mark Goodman.)