Last week on July 13, I heard on the radio: "This week in rock history. LIVE AID." I was there. I dug out my concert ticket, took a pic and posted on Facebook to much fanfare. Folks asked for my story so I shared and it was well received. If you are not on the Book of Faces, I thought I would share it here. Thanks for reading.
The purpose of my time in England in July 1985 was to study hospice. The first two weeks of my journey was with a group of American nurses and nursing students working at a hospice facility in Sheffield. We stayed in the dorms there and my roomie was Judy, the oldest at 44. I was the youngest at 20. She was such a blessing to me. This trip was my first solo trip, my first time on a plane, and holy tea and crumpets, it was across the ocean!
I tried calling my parents on the 4th of July (not a holiday in the UK!). The house phone in the lobby put the call through to the states, but my mom could not hear me. I could hear her say hello over and over, and yell to my dad, “It’s Kelly! In England! But I can’t hear her!” I started to cry. Judy comforted me.
That was my only moment of homesickness. Being in England was a dream come true. The fact that my scholarly abilities had brought me here fully funded was icing on the cake. And having new American friends was sprinkles on that icing.
When it was time for that group to go back home, I went to London with them, about 3 hours from Sheffield. Sue, a nursing student from St. Louis, agreed to go to LIVE AID with me. Did we have tickets? No. Did that stop us? Of course not.
The concierge at the hotel told us where to go to get tickets and showed us what they looked like and not to get duped with fakes. No tickets were available anywhere. Did that stop us? Of course not.
We took the tube out to Wembley knowing we could get tickets from scalpers and now savvy to not be scammed. The packed train cars were buzzing with excitement of concert-goers. We stepped out onto the walkway and two decent-looking lads in their early 20s approached us.
"You need tickets?"
“Yes, we do.” We were ready to not fall prey to their wholesome appearance.
“Our mates ended up not being able to make it. We have two extra tickets. Tickets were 25 pounds but since they can’t come, they said we could sell for 20 pounds.”
Gulp. Sue and I looked at each other, looked at the tickets, slapped two twenty-pound notes in their hands, screamed thank you and skipped all the way to the escalators.
Not only did we get tickets, we got them for LESS than what they cost originally! We were giddy with delight. As soon as we ascended to the top of the escalators and into the daylight, among the mobs and mobs of people, scalpers were yelling that they had tickets for sale. 125 pounds! We had been prepared to pay 100 pounds (our hotel friend told us what to expect) so our amazing bargain deal set the tone for the day. Ecstatic!
Wembley Stadium was hot, packed, and sweaty. We didn’t care. Even before the concert began, we could feel the magnitude of what was happening. History in the making. Coming together for a common cause. Feeding the hungry? Sure. Seeing all those music artists! That was the real joy.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana filed into their seats, way up high. When they waved, it felt they waved right to us. I waved back. I made eye contact with Diana. Via the jumbotron screen. Upon my return home to the US, I told people I met Chuck and Di. It was only a partial lie. I was in the same space with them, they just had better seats.
We had no seats. We were on the stadium grounds. Grass. Dirt. Not quite center stage. More to the left, my left, facing the stage. And way way way back. A tall (and handsome) Scottish bloke took us under his wingspread for the day. He was 20-something, thought I looked like Courtney Cox a la “Dancing in the Dark” video (Bruce Springsteen was outrageously popular in the UK at the time), and bought us Cokes all day long.
Sue and I didn’t want to give up our space so he ran to the concessions and we stayed and danced and danced and danced. The freedom of youth. I think that girl is still inside me somewhere.
We spent a long hot day standing (and sitting while changing the stage between artists) in a stadium with 72,000 people. SEVENTY-TWO THOUSAND. I don’t do crowds anymore, but I’m so glad I did then.
It was jovial. Friendly. No pushing or shoving. Just a big group of happy people. The beach balls bouncing around. The camaraderie. The singing in unison. The waving of our hands in the air. Bliss.
Do I remember Freddie? Of course. When Queen took the stage, the place re-energized. Which is saying something. I loved it all. At the end of the night, they played a video montage of the starving kids in Ethiopia to the Cars song “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home.” Whenever I hear that song now on the radio, I am back in Wembley Stadium, linked arms with Sue, with tears in our eyes.
The big finale of “Feed The World” was a rousing anthem. The whole place, even those who had seats, were on their feet. (I just watched the Wham documentary and it was fun to see George Michael’s exuberance of it all.)
Exuberance. That is the word.
When it was all over, all 72,000 souls filed out peacefully into the tube station and the streets. I don’t remember much about the ride back to the hotel, but I do remember vividly getting my key from the front desk clerk (long black skeleton keys kept in the boxes there, just like in old movies) and going up (via stairs, no elevator) to my tiny room. I got into my small twin bed and turned on the TV to watch the concert still going in the US in Philadelphia. Phil Collins had performed at Wembley and then took the Concorde to Philly to perform there too.
I didn’t want the day to end. But somehow I fell asleep. The next morning the magic still echoed in my ears and in my heart. It still does.
"Feed the world."