Live Aid, July 13, 1985: Phil Collins appears in London and Philadelphia

Live_Aid_at_JFK_Stadium,_Philadelphia,_PA

On July 13, 1985, Phil Collins was the only performer to appear on both Live Aid shows in London and Philadelphia.

Phil Collins is all over the world

In the mid-1980s, it seemed as if Phil Collins had already achieved everything: As a solo artist and as a member of Genesis he had number one hit singles, chart-topping albums and sold-out world tours. By 1985, his third solo album “No Jacket Required“* had been a massive success and produced hit singles that topped the charts worldwide. Phil Collins’ music was all over the world – and so would he be on July 13, 1985.

Phil Collins made rock history

On July 13, 1985, Phil Collins made rock history. He did something that no-one had done before (and probably not since): He appeared live on television around the world twice in a day from two different continents. And as usual with Phil, this had not been an elaborate act of profiling himself as an artist. It had been for the benefit of millions of starving people in Africa. The two appearances onstage and on television had been part of Live Aid, two shows that had been organized by Bob Geldof. The man of the day however, was Phil Collins.

Live Aid

The famous Live Aid concerts from 1985 were the continuation of the Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from 1984, in which musician Bob Geldof had gathered many famous pop stars to raise money for the poor starving population in Ethiopia. The concept worked and half a year later, the Live Aid performances were celebrated with the same intention. There were two parallel concerts, one in London, one in Philadelphia, and the whole 80s pop world seemed to participate in the event. Phil Collins had already played drums on the the million-selling Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. He did not sing on it, as he had recently recorded his own solo album and duets with Philip Bailey and Eric Clapton and the record company told him not to sing anymore until his album “No Jacket Required” had come out and he would be on the tour that followed.

So what exactly happened on July, 13, 1985, “the greatest day in the history of pop music”? Phil Collins proved the impossible, playing at both shows. He appeared at Wembley Stadium in London in the early afternoon and played “Against All Odds” and “In The Air Tonight” alone at the piano. He remembers sweating on the white stage and therefore, his finger slipping off the piano on “Against All Odds”. The bum note was not only heard in front of 80,000 people in Wembley, but also by a global telly audience of 1 billion people. Phil thought “Oh God, what a good start for the day this is.”

Then he was joined by his friend Sting on guitar and vocals for “Long Long Way To To” from “No Jacket Required” (Sting had also provided backing vocals for the studio version). Then the duo played “Every Breath You Take”. Phil left the stadium afterwards, crossed the Atlantic with a Concorde, and played his solo songs in Philadelphia the same way he did in London. In Philadelphia, he also joined his friends Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin. Phil had arrived at the John F. Kennedy Stadium at 7pm, was at the show at ten past, went to Eric to ask what they would play and then went onstage with him at 7.30pm. In between, he also rushed to Robert Plant’s caravan to have a chat with Led Zeppelin about their gig. This pretty much sums up the energy of Phil Collins in the 1980s.

Phil Collins had been an international superstar at this point, but his legendary performances as the only one who appeared at both Live Aid shows, certainly boosted his profile and made him as a solo artist and personality become more famous than Genesis, the band he was part of.

Live Aid – The aftermath

Looking back, Live Aid was a terrible example of using clichés. It is the prime example of “rock musicians trying to help poor Africa”. The intention was certainly good, the realization was maybe good-hearted, but not that effective. The Christmas single with its awful lyrics (“Do they know its Christmas time at all?” – this is colonial thinking at its best) and the Live Aid performances raised a lot of money and made people aware of the problems, but the result was that much, if not all, of the money was taken by the corrupt Ethiopian government. They used it to prop up the brutal dictator Mengistu. Furthermore it turned out that part of the relief donations were diverted by a rebel group to buy weapons. And also, very little food and medicine left the port cities of Assab and Massawa. It was more important to unload military hardware from Soviet ships, leaving hundreds of thousands of tons of food rotting on the docks. Bob Geldof, founder of Live Aid, was seen on TV with Mengistu, smiling and joking around, as he handed over the famine money.

Geldof had actually been warned about Mengistu and his dismantling of tribes, resettlement marches and slaughterings in which 100,000 people died. However, here one can see how the charity for ‘poor Africa’ can turn out and how someone like Geldof, who might have had his best interests, can turn his favours against himself.

For Phil Collins, playing at both concerts helped him gain even more popularity and becoming a proper international superstar. He also helped the event to become even more memorable.

Title photo: Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA. Source: Wikimedia Commons, own work. Author: Squelle. / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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The end of the Invisible Touch Tour at Wembley 1987

On July 4, 1987, Genesis finished their gigantic Invisible Touch tour at Wembley Stadium. It was the fourth sold out night in a row at Wembley.

Invisible Touch

In 1986, Genesis released the album “Invisible Touch“*. It became their most successful album, peaking at #1 in the U.K. and #3 in the U.S. It produced five hit singles: “Invisible Touch”, “Tonight Tonight Tonight”, “Land of Confusion”, “In Too Deep” and “Throwing It All Away”. Songs like the title track, “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” and “Land Of Confusion” with its famous spitting image video would dominate the radio and music TV stations and the international charts of 1986/1987. Genesis were everywhere and bigger than ever. So of course, the band went on a massive tour through North America, Australia, Japan and Europe before finishing in Britain with four sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium in front of 300,000 people.

The Invisible Touch tour

The tour began in the U.S. in September 1986 and included 112 dates and sold close to two million tickets. It ended in July 1987. In Australia and New Zealand, the five-man line-up was accompanied by a four-piece string section on “In Too Deep” and “Your Own Special Way”. They had to invite the quartet because of local regulations that required them to employ local musicians.

At this time, the band was not only a hit-machine, but a working and brilliant live act. The Vari Lite light show was impressive as always. The band had much material to rely on, but chose mainly new songs from their hit album and the albums before.

The shows were always opened with “Mama” (which sometimes lacked a bit of atmosphere in daylight) and ended with the “Turn It On Again” hit medley that the band had established on the previous tour. The medley included “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, “Satisfaction”, “Twist and Shout”, “Pinball Wizard”, “All Day and All of the Night” and “Karma Chameleon”.

Older songs in the set included “Los Endos”, “Home By The Sea” (including it’s meanwhile standard ghost-story introduction) and another “In The Cage” medley. When the tour began, they had played “In That Quiet Earth” and the second half of the epic “Supper’s Ready” after “In The Cage”. However, during the tour Phil had difficulties reaching the higher notes in “Supper’s Ready”, so by the middle of the tour they had gone back to the usual ending of “In That Quiet Earth” and “Afterglow”.

New songs included “Domino” (with another – soon to be famous – introduction by Phil), “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”, “Throwing It All Away”, where the call-and-response singing developed throughout the tour, and “Invisible Touch” itself.

Live at Wembley Stadium

By the time Genesis got to Wembley, they had performed the set so often that it had become a true piece of fine art and musicianship. Interestingly, only two shows were scheduled at Wembley, but the demand for tickets was so high, that a third and then a record-breaking fourth night were added.

The Wembley shows were filmed and released as video and as DVD in 2003*. Unfortunately the famous “In The Cage” medley was left out of the release because on every night, the tapes had to be changed during that song.

Apart from that, the results and the performance are astonishing. The band truly ended the tour on a high note there. Looking back at the videos and listening to the songs and performances, we can say that Genesis were at their peak at this very point at Wembley Stadium. Afterwards, the fans had to wait four more years for a new Genesis record.

Title photo: Genesis Nancy 1987. Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Daryl Stuermer, Chester Thompson. Genesis en concert à Nancy le 14 juin 1987 au stade Marcel-Picot de Nancy-Tomblaine Source: Wikimedia Commons, Fredamas / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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Steve Hackett’s last show with Genesis

On July 3, 1977, Genesis played the last show of their “Wind And Wuthering” tour and (unbeknown to them at that point) also the last show with lead guitarist Steve Hackett.

Wind And Wuthering

In December 1976, Genesis had released “Wind and Wuthering“*, their second album since Peter Gabriel’s departure. The band had become a foursome the year before, drummer Phil Collins had taken over the vocal duties. He had proved that he could fill this role easily on the previous album “A Trick of the Tail“* and the following tour in 1976.

By this point, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford were the main songwriters with Phil Collins being more of a player and arranger. Guitarist Steve Hackett felt that not enough of his material was used. He was frustrated about his role in the group and decided to leave Genesis after the 1977 tour.

The Wind & Wuthering tour

The band set out for a huge tour in 1977 that would lead them to South America for the first time and through Europe and the US. On drums, they were accompanied by American drummer Chester Thompson. It was his first tour with them and he would remain with the band as a live drummer until 2007 (with a short interruption in the 1990s).

Genesis reached a new peak in live performances and was voted “Best live group” in 1977. This was captured in the double live album “Seconds Out“*.

The last show

The last show of the tour (and also Steve Hackett’s last show as a member of Genesis) took place in the Olympiahalle, Munich, on July 3, 1977. They opened the set with “Squonk” as they had done throughout most of the tour, then they played “One For The Vine”, a Banks composition from the new album. “Inside And Out” from the recent EP “Spot The Pigeon” was added on some European dates and was also played in Munich. Among the highlights of the show were songs like “The Carpet Crawlers”, “I Know What I Like” and “Supper’s Ready”, some of which had changed a lot since the days when Peter Gabriel sang them. Also, the band had started to play medleys on the tour before and continued to do so on the “Wind & Wuthering” tour. “Dance On A Volcano” and “Los Endos” were combined as well as “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” and the closing section of “The Musical Box”. The band also played “Firth Of Fifth” that night in which Steve plays the famous guitar solo. Neither the fans nor the band knew that they had witnessed him playing it live for the last time.

Steve leaves the band

Steve Hackett had been the first Genesis member to record a solo album. There, he included some of the music that was not used on Genesis albums. During the period as a four-piece-band, he wanted to have a certain percentage on each album for his own songs. The others disagreed; they were a democratic band. So he started recording solo albums and felt that his input on Genesis albums became less and less.

Also, when the band mixed the live album “Seconds Out” in July 1977, he could not stand listening to tracks like “I Know What I Like” anymore after having played them for months at this point. Also, he felt that after playing shows with audiences of 20.000 people, there was nothing new to strive for. So one day he phoned Mike Rutherford and told him he wanted to leave. Mike knew that Steve had been unhappy in Genesis for some time, so he did not try to talk him out of it. Later that day or the following day, Phil Collins drove from West London to Trident Studios, where they mixed the live album. He passed Steve on the street and told him to jump into the car. Steve acted a bit oddly, said “Speak to Mike, he’ll explain” and went off. When Phil arrived at the studio, Tony and Mike informed him that Steve had left the band.

The three remaining members then went on mixing “Seconds Out” and afterwards went into the studio to record their next album. They would remain a three-piece-band in the studio for the rest of their career and Steve Hackett would continue his career as a solo artist.

Title photo: Genesis Steve Hackett. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Jean-Luc / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0). Originally posted to Flickr as Genesis.

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Live at the Roundhouse 1970

On 11 March 1970, Genesis played one of their biggest gigs of their early career at the Atomic Sunrise Festival at the Roundhouse Club in London. The event featured artists like David Bowie and Hawkwind and was sponsored by Yoko Ono. A few weeks later Genesis signed to the Charisma label.

Genesis in early 1970

At the beginning of 1970, Genesis were writing and rehearsing new music for their second album. Their debut album* had failed to chart and they had quit their contract with producer Jonathan King and the Decca label. The new songs were more adventurous and experimental and far from the pop tunes of their first album. The band consisted of Peter Gabriel (vocals), Tony Banks (keyboards), Ant Phillips (lead guitar), Mike Rutherford (guitar and bass) and John Mayhew (drums).

Genesis opened for David Bowie at the Roundhouse

The band and its members were still very young at the time and far from being famous. So the infamous hippie-festival at the Roundhouse was their biggest gig then. Especially as they were booked to open for David Bowie.

Both Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel were huge fans of David Bowie. Space Oddity* had been released the year before and Bowie was a rock star already. In these days, Bowie and his band appeared on stage in a very theatrical way. Gabriel was impressed and a little later, he used costumes and masks onstage himself. His outfits and theatrical performances leaped Genesis on another level in terms of popularity. Tony Banks on the other hand was a bit disappointed that Bowie and his band put so much focus on the visuals instead of the music. Unbeknownst to them, this gig might have been the beginning of a conflict within Genesis. The conflict grew when Peter Gabriel himself started to dress up and the other band members felt that the stage show distracted from the music more and more.

Yoko Ono sponsored the “Atomic Sunrise Festival” at the Roundhouse

At the festival, the band played songs that would appear on their second album Trespass* later that year. Video snippets exist that show the band performing “Looking For Someone” and “The Knife”. Apparently, “Twilight Alehouse” was also played. Ant Phillips jokingly admits that this footage is the only visual proof that he ever performed with the band.

Althought the gig was a big one for the band, they were not too happy. Peter Gabriel remembers that there were more people onstage than in front of the stage. Ant Phillips was frightened and nervous. His stage fright was one of the reasons he left the group later that year.

Still, Tony Banks and Ant Phillips were both impressed by the professionality behind the scenes. Every gig of the festival was recorded on 8 track equipment and parts of it were filmed. As Yoko Ono sponsored the gig, there might be a chance that the complete film footage still exists in the Apple archive.

A couple of weeks after the gig, Genesis would sign their new contract with Charisma and later in the year release their second album Trespass. Ant Phillips left the same year and a new drummer took over in summer of 1970…but that’s another story.

Title photo: Genesis mixing desk 2 – Revox A77 and associated gear for Genesis at a concert in the Liverpool Empire, 1970s, precise year unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Rodhullandemu / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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The Rainbow shows in January 1977

Genesis started their “Wind & Wuthering” tour at the Rainbow Theatre in London on 1st January 1977. They played the venue for three nights. Those shows were the first with Chester Thompson on drums. Also, the tour was the last with guitarist Steve Hackett.

Wind And Wuthering

In December 1976, Genesis had released “Wind and Wuthering”, their second album since Peter Gabriel’s departure. The band had become a foursome the year before, drummer Phil Collins had taken over the vocal duties. He had proved that he could fill this role easily on the previous album “A Trick of the Tail” and the following tour in 1976. On this tour they had Bill Bruford of the band Yes on drums. Being a famous “prog rock” drummer, this gave the band and the fans huge confidence. It was a signal that the band was stronger than ever after Gabriel had left them.

So they went in the studio to record their next album “Wind & Wuthering” in 1976. By this point, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford were the main songwriters. Phil Collins was still more of a player and arranger. Guitarist Steve Hackett felt that not enough of his material was used. He was frustrated about his role in the group. “Wind & Wuthering” was released in late 1976. The band set out for a huge tour in 1977 that would lead them to South America for the first time.

Their new live drummer

Since Bill Bruford was busy in other projects, Genesis had to find another drummer for the tour. Phil Collins found the perfect candidate in Chester Thompson of Weather Report. Chester had also played with Frank Zappa. Phil had heard him on Zappa’s “Roxy & Elsewhere” and liked his style. So he decided to offer him the job in Genesis. Although he hardly knew the band, Thompson agreed. He came to London for only a few days of rehearsals before the tour started.

The music was totally new to him. He knew a bit of “A Trick Of The Tail” because Weather Report’s bass player Alphonso Johnson (who was friends with Phil Collins) had listened to the record on the last Weather Report tour all the time. But now he, an American jazz drummer, had to learn and rehearse a two and a half hour set of British progressive rock music in ten days. Chester wrote down the music in a little book. He learned it by night and played it the next day at rehearsals. Tony Banks was (of course) very impressed by Chester’s notes and his way of working.

Chester Thompson played with them until 2007

From the moment Phil and he played together, they knew that they had something special going on. The both of them clicked instantly. There is a greater chemistry when they play together than when Phil played with Bill Bruford. Thompson was criticized by some for these first performances at the Rainbow. Music journalist Chris Welch admitted that Thompson was technically better than Collins or Bruford but that he lacked excitement. Peter Gabriel, who was in the audiences at the Rainbow shows, felt a bit sorry for Chester, because he had to learn this kind of music and its feeling in such a short time.

But Chester became much more familiar with the music during the course of the tour and could put his own stamp on the songs. Songs like “Los Endos” or “Wot Gorilla” that were influenced by jazz rock reached another level, especially with two drummers. But also the epic fan favourites benefitted from the new influence. “Supper’s Ready”, “Lilywhite Lilith” and the ending of “The Musical Box” were played with a groove that was missing before. The band and the audiences liked Thompson’s input. The collaboration worked so well that Thompson toured with them until their last tour in 2007. Unfortunately he is not part of the “The Last Domino?” tour in 2021/2022.

Live at the Rainbow 1977

When Genesis announced the Rainbow shows, 80.000 people applicated for 8000 tickets – despite critics saying that punk killed progressive rock that year. Fans that were lucky enough to see the shows were also suprised by new visiuals. The “Wind & Wuthering” tour introduced a new light show, which included lasers and Boeing 747 landing lights.

The new songs were welcomed by the crowd. Genesis opened the Rainbow show with “Eleventh Earl Of Mar” from the new album. This song was also lifted to another level by Thompson’s playing. The jazzy new instrumental “…In That Quiet Earth” was unbelievably groovy with two drummers. At the end of Tony Banks’ ballad “Afterglow”, Thompson and Collins reproduced a drum fill that Thompson had played with another drummer on the Zappa live album.

“Best Live Band” in 1977

Tony Banks’ epic “One For The Vine” proved to work just as well as “Supper’s Ready” or “The Musical Box”. The quirky “All In A Mouse’s Night” was a humorous moment to relax between the heavy stuff. “Squonk””from “A Trick Of The Tail” suffered a bit in comparison to the album version and is a reference point for the Thompson critics. “I Know What I Like”, originally a rather short single from 1974, became even longer than on the previous tour and had much more groove. For Genesis, the three nights at the Rainbow theatre were highly successful and a strong start for a long and successful tour.

The tour would lead them through Europe, the US and South America. Genesis had reached a new peak in live performances and was voted “Best live group” in 1977. This was captured in the double live album “Seconds Out”. After the tour, guitarist Steve Hackett left the band. The three remaining members Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks returned to the studio to record their next album.

Title photo: Genesis_(the_band). Source: Wikimedia Commons, Jean-Luc / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).