Absolute Radio explores music's most iconic gigs in I Was There podcast

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Absolute Radio's I Was There featuring Live Aid, Bob Marley and Kate Bush
Author: Nick HarrisPublished 26th Nov 2020
Last updated 26th Nov 2020

Absolute Radio has launched a new podcast called I Was There, which explores some of the most iconic – and infamous – concerts and tours in the history of music.

Each concert is told from different perspectives by the very people who were there. These include the artists themselves, to the roadies, the producers, the organisers and the fans. Absolute Radio's Sophie K narrates the series.

Artists and events we shine the spotlight on include Live Aid, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Kate Bush, Oasis, Woodstock, The Rolling Stones, Isle of Wight Festival 1970, Nirvana and The Sex Pistols.

I Was There fills the gaping void left by absence of live music right now, as we hear the incredible stories of those at the heart of these events, which come from a shared-experience and personal accounts of how music changes the direction and lives of those involved.

How to listen to Absolute Radio's I Was There podcast:

All 10 podcast episodes of I Was There are available to download right now from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the Absolute Radio app, absoluteradio.co.uk, and all mainstream podcast providers.

Listen to Absolute Radio's I Was There podcast

Check out more details about each of the 10 I Was There podcast episodes and listen to them all, below:

Live Aid:

George Michael, Harvey Goldsmith, Bono, Paul McCartney and Freddie Mercury at Live Aid

Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, London, 13th July 1985

Can music change the world? Those at the heart of Live Aid recall the event that changed music’s role in the world, charity and celebrity culture forever, 35 years on.


Bob Geldof, Live Aid organiser

Harvey Goldsmith, Live Aid promoter

Paul Gambaccini, Live Aid broadcaster

Live Aid performers including Martin Kemp, Alison Moyet and Brian May

Bob Marley:

Bob Marley on stage in the 1970s

Bob Marley & The Wailers at the Lyceum Theatre, London, 18th July 1975

“All the way from Trenchtown, Jamaica – Bob Marley and the Wailers”, this introduction 45 years ago announced reggae arrival in Britain. With them they brought optimism, love and a music to unite! The show was immortalised with the December 1975 live album, appropriately entitled ‘Live!’.


Danny Holloway – worked for island records and produced/recorded the show

Roger Steffens – Marley friend and expert

Philip Norman – Journalist who reviewed the gig

Dennis Morris, Bob Marley photographer

Chris Blackwell – Island Records founder and Bob Marley producer

The Rolling Stones:

Hell's Angels at Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway in 1969

The Rolling Stones at the Altamont Free Concert, 6th December 1969

A day that should have seen one of the world’s biggest bands put on the Woodstock of the East. Instead, anarchy ensued. We remember the gig that ended in the loss of life and the counterculture.


Joel Selvin, music critic and Altamont writer

Langdon Winner, contributing writer to the significant Rolling Stone article on Altamont

Bill Owens, photographer of the carnage

Kate Bush:

Kate Bush on stage at London's Hammersmith Odeon in 1979

Kate Bush, The Tour of Life, 1979

The first and (up until very recently) last tour of mercurial pop superstar Kate Bush. A show that aimed to combine music, dance, poetry, mime, burlesque, magic and theatre, was it too ambitious for its own good? Or did it change what could be achieved in pop?


Anthony Van Laast, Kate Bush choreographer

Richard Ames, Tour manager

Graeme Thomson, Kate Bush writer


Oasis' Liam Gallagher at Knebworth in August 1996

Oasis at Knebworth House, 10th and 11th August 1996

Two and a half million people applied for tickets to see the biggest British band since the Beatles, Oasis, play two huge shows at Knebworth. It was a weekend that marked the pinnacle of Britpop and a defining musical event of the 90s.


Claire Sturgess, Radio presenter & attendee at Knebworth

Andre Barreau, George Harrison in the Bootleg Beatles opening Knebworth

Mike Lowe, Oasis sound engineer


The crowd on day one of Woodstock in 1969

Woodstock in Bethel, New York, 15th to 18th August 1969

A musical event that needs no introduction, it’s arguably the most iconic music festival of all time, and one that all gigs are now compared to. With historic performances from Jimi Hendrix, the Who and Janis Joplin, this weekend is synonymous with the 60s and hippy culture.


Bob Gruen, Rock and Roll photographer

Chip Monck, Woodstock MC

The Ercolines, the couple in the iconic Woodstock album photograph

Burk Uzzle, photographer

Jorma Kaukonen, Jefferson Airplane

Isle of Wight Festival 1970:

The view from the campsite at Isle of Wight Festival 1970

Isle of Wight Festival, Afton Down, 26th to 31st August 1970

The most infamous year of a historic music festival. 500,000 descended on the Isle of Wight, bringing the island to a standstill for what would be the last large gathering for over 30 years. What’s it like performing in front of an audience that size? What’s it like to manage an event like that, that’s deteriorating in front of your very eyes? And what was it like in the crowd? Jefferson Airplane, T. Rex, The Move, The Pretty Things, Joe Cocker, the Moody Blues , The Who and Bob Dylan were among the veritable smorgasbord of performers.


Rikki Farr, Isle of Wight MC

Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull

Brian Hinton & Roger Simmons, attendees

Ray Foulk, Original Isle of Wight organiser

John Giddings, Current Isle of Wight organiser and 1970 attendee


Nirvana's Kurt Cobain at Reading Festival in 1992

Nirvana at Reading Festival, 30th August 1992

In the midst of Kurt Cobain’s personal struggles and turmoil, Nirvana defied those who doubted they would even show up, to triumph in their final ever UK appearance and prove why they were the band of their generation.


Danny Goldberg, Kurt Cobain’s manager

Michael Azerrad, Nirvana biographer, covered the event for Rolling Stone magazine

Antony Hodgkinson, Nirvana’s on-stage dancer

Pink Floyd:

Pink Floyd at London Earls Court on The Wall Tour in 1980

Pink Floyd, The Wall Tour, 1980 to 1981

One of the most ambitious and theatrical albums was brought to life on stage for an equally ambitious and theatrical tour. Who thinks of building a physical wall between band and audience?! Pink Floyd.


Marc Brickman, Lighting designer

Jason Sawford, Australian Pink Floyd keyboard player

Mark Blake, Pink Floyd writer, attendee aged 15

The Sex Pistols:

The Sex Pistols at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall

The Sex Pistols at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, 4th June 1976

As much a gig as it is now stuff of myth and folklore, an estimated 40 people paid 50p to see a band that would change their lives and send shockwaves throughout the music world. The entire history of Manchester music of the past 45 years can be traced to this gig.


Jordan, Infamous Sex Pistols groupie

Peter Hook, future Joy Division & New Order bassist

Steve Diggle, Buzzcocks member

John Berry, audience member

Listen to I Was There podcast

35 iconic photos of Live Aid:

Live Aid

The UK edition of Live Aid took place on Saturday 13th April 1985 at London's Wembley Stadium. It was a baking hot summer's day with barely a cloud in the sky.

Live Aid

A complete sell-out, 72,000 people bought tickets for the Wembley Stadium raising funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine.

Status Quo at Live Aid

After the Coldstream Guards band opened with the Royal Salute and a brief version of God Save the Queen', Status Quo were the first band to take to the stage at Live Aid bright and early at midday. Francis Rossi and the late-great Rick Parfitt belted out three songs during their 14-minute set – 'Rockin' All Over The World', 'Carline' and 'Don't Waste My Time'.

The Style Council at Live Aid

Second up at Live Aid were The Style Council, who had released their second album 'Our Favourite Shop' the previous month. Paul Weller, Martin Talbot and co. played 'You're The Best Thing', 'Big Boss Groove', 'Internationalists' and 'Walls Come Tumbling Down'.

The Boomtown Rats at Live Aid

Shortly before 1pm, Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof and his Boomtown Rats arrived on stage to a rapturous reception. Following the three-track set of 'I Don't Like Mondays', 'Drag Me Down' and 'Rat Trap', the 72,000 strong Wembley crowd broke out into an impromptu chorus of 'For He's A Jolly Good Fellow' in homage to Geldof. Earlier, another poignant moment came when Geldof halted 'I Don't Like Mondays' just after the pertinent line "The lesson today is how to die" to rapturous applause.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles at Live Aid

Princess Diana and Prince Charles were among those in attendance at Live Aid. Appropriately, here they are sat in front of rock royalty, Queen. They left shortly after Boomtown Rats missing many of the iconic moments that would happen on stage later.

Adam Ant at Live Aid

Prince Charming himself Adam Ant – aka Stuart Leslie Goddard – played just one song at Live Aid; his recent single 'Vive Le Rock'.

Ultravox at Live Aid

Live Aid co-organiser Midge Ure was rightfully met with a hero's welcome at the start of Ultravox's set. The synth-pop band played 'Reap The Wild Wind', 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes' and 'One Small Day' before culminating with a euphoric 'Vienna'.

Spandau Ballet at Live Aid

Bedecked in kaleidoscopic suits and sporting glorious eights hair, pop chart-conquers Spandau Ballet treated the crowd to three songs – 'Only When You Leave', 'Virgin' and 'True'.

Elvis Costello at Live Aid

With just a four-minute slot on stage at Live Aid, Elvis Costello opted to cover The Beatles classic 'All You Needs Is Love' and duly sparked a huge crowd singalong.

Nik Kershaw at Live Aid

One of the most successful solo artists in the UK at the time of Live Aid, Nik Kershaw was granted a whopping 18 minutes on stage. He performed 'Wide Boy', 'Don Quixote', 'The Riddle' and 'Wouldn't It Be Good.'

Sade at Live Aid

Soul icon Sade performed a flawless 16-minute set at Live Aid of 'Why Can't We live Together', 'Your Love Is King' and 'Is It a Crime.'

Sting and Phil Collins at Live Aid

Introduced on stage by Noel Edmonds, Sting and Phil Collins alternated songs at Live Aid. Sting played 'Roxanne', 'Driven To Tears' and 'Message In A Bottle', while Phil Collins performed 'Against All Odds' and 'In the Air Tonight'. The pair then united for a finale of 'Long Long Way To Go' and 'Every Breath You Take'. Immediately afterwards, Phil Collins jetted off to Philadelphia via Concorde to perform with Led Zeppelin at the US Live Aid.

Howard Jones at Live Aid

Serial chart-denter Howard Jones played a poignant acoustic version of his 1984 single 'Hide and Seek' at Live Aid.

Bryan Ferry and David Gilmour at Live Aid

Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry was joined by fellow music legend David Gilmour on guitar for his four-song set at Live Aid. It consisted of 'Sensation', 'Boys and Girls', 'Slave to Love' and Bryan's trademark cover of 'Jealous Guy'.

Paul Young and Alison Moyet at Live Aid

Eighties teen idol Paul Young started his Live Aid set with a snippet of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' before launching into his cover of Jack Lee's 'Come Back and Stay'. He was joined by Alison Moyet for 'That's The Way Love Is' before closing with 'Everytime You Go Away'.

U2 at Live Aid

While Queen were rightfully crowned the standout act at Live Aid, U2 were also rapturously received and the phenomenal performance helped propel them into international superstars. Opening with 'Sunday Bloody Sunday', they then played a sprawling 11-minute version of 'Bad' (extended as Bono went into the crowd midway through) that included snippets of 'Satellite of Love', 'Ruby Tuesday', 'Sympathy for the Devil' and 'Walk on the Wild Side'.

U2 at Live Aid

During U2's performance, Bono saved a teenage girl from being crushed by plucking her from the crowd. In an interview two decades later, she credited him with saving her life.

Dire Straits at Live Aid

Also extremely well-received at Live Aid were Dire Straits, who performed 'Money For Nothing' with Sting and 'Sultans of Swing'.

Live Aid audience

The Live Aid crowd who braved intense heat throughout the day.

Backstage at Live Aid

Comedians Mel Smith, Gryff Rhys Jones, Pamela Stephenson and Billy Connolly backstage at Live Aid.

Queen at Live Aid

Firmly entrenched in music folklore, Queen's 21-minute set at Live Aid on 13th July 1985 is rightfully regarded as one of the finest live performances of all time. Freddie Mercury was imperious throughout and – to use a cliché – he had the entire 72,000 strong audience in the palm of his hands.

Queen at Live Aid

The setlist of Queen's historic set at Live Aid was 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Radio Ga Ga', 'Hammer To Fall', 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', 'We Will Rock You' and 'We Are The Champions'. Freddie Mercury also led a now iconic "day-oh!" crowd singalong during the performance.

David Bowie at Live Aid

Queen, of course, were a tough act to follow but fortunately David Bowie was up next and he performed a sublime 17-minute set consisting of 'TVC15', 'Rebel Rebel', 'Modern Love' and a spine-tingling 'Heroes'.

The Who at Live Aid

Sadly for The Who, their performance at Live Aid was blighted by technical difficulties. First, John Entwistle's bass wouldn't work and then the TV broadcast cut out (somewhat ironically) as Roger Daltrey was singing "why don't you fade away' during 'My Generation'. The performance returned to TV during the final verse of 'Pinball Wizard'. The Who closed with 'Love, Reign O'er Me' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again'.

Paul McCartney and David Bowie at Live Aid

Fellow music legends Paul McCartney and David Bowie backstage at Live Aid, 13th July 1985.

Live Aid at Wembley Stadium

The view from the crowd at Live Aid, 13th July 1985.

Live Aid at Wembley Stadium

The crowd at are hosed down with water at Wembley Stadium to cool down in the intense heat.

Elton John at Live Aid

Sir Elton John had one of the longest sets of the day at Live Aid, and he kicked off with 'I'm Still Standing', 'Bernie and the Jets' and 'Rocket Man'. He was then joined by Kiki Dee for their huge collaboration 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' and WHAM!'s George Michael and Andrew Ridgley for 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me'. The set climaxed with 'Can I Get A Witness'.

Freddie Mercury and Brian May at Live Aid

Less than three hours after their massive triumph with Queen, Freddie Mercury and Brian May returned to the Live Aid stage at Wembley for an encore rendition of 'Is This The World We Created?'.

Paul McCartney at Live Aid

At 9.51pm, Beatles legend Paul McCartney took to the stage for a rendition of 'Let It Be'. Sadly, Macca's performance was blighted by technical woes and the stadium couldn't hear him for the first two minutes due the microphone on his piano failing - the TV audience could hear him slightly better as a nearby mic picked him up. When the mic was eventually fixed, the crowd duly sang along in unison and Alison Moyet, Pete Townshend, David Bowie and Bob Geldof joined Paul on backing vocals.

Live Aid finale

Live Aid came to a rousing and emotion conclusion with a performance of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'. Among the performers on stage were Harvey Goldsmith, Bob Geldof, David Bowie, George Michael, Sting, Andrew Ridgeley, Howard Jones, Elton John, Roger Daltrey, Midge Ure, Paul Weller, Freddie Mercury, Rick Parfitt, Adam Ant and Bono.

Live Aid finale

The two Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia raised more than $127 million for famine relief in Africa.

Live Aid finale

Organiser Bob Geldof waves to the 72,000 strong crowd at the conclusion of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' at Live Aid.

Live Aid ticket stub

A coveted ticket to Live Aid at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 13th July 1985. Tickets cost £5 plus an obligatory £20 donation.

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