Saturday, July 23, 2005


If ever a single song defined a moment in history, this may well be it. Live Aid, twenty years ago last month; David Bowie introduces a video clip from the stage at Wembley, and the next four minutes pass in a blur of tears, of shocked numbness. According to Bob Geldof's autobiography, he was approached by a Canadian Broadcasting Corp camera team in a hotel in Addis Ababa with a video collage they'd put to a song by The Cars, of an infant waking up and trying to stand on emaciated, hollowed legs. They thought he might be able to use it as part of his fundraising effort.
When the video was broadcast that June afternoon, it went around the world like a single bolt of lightning. Everyone I have ever spoken to about Live Aid remembers the video, remembers the painful tightening of the throat and the involuntary sobs of pain it wrought, and the lasting, shocking memory.
Before Live Aid, this was already a dark song, a song from the edges of someone's reason: "Who's gonna pick you up/When you fall/Who's gonna hang it up/When you call/Who's gonna pay attention/To your dreams/Who's gonna plug their ears/When you scream/You can't go on/Thinking nothing's wrong/Who's gonna drive you home tonight." I remember watching the original video for this, watching Paulina Porizkova flipping from a laughing, happy child to a screaming whirlwind in a moment, and wondering just how far into the eye of the storm this song was meant to take us.
Now, even this long after Live Aid, I find the song is still hijacked, adopted, given a whole new life and meaning. It's not a source of regret, rather an acknowledgement by me - and I hope also by the writer - that something bigger, more important, claimed ownership.

1 comment:

Minerva said...

Hauntingly true...