In response to Dean Matteson Collins, who happens to be a first-rate songwriter/singer, ex-Navy pilot, and current Delta pilot, who asked what it was like at Live Aid where I performed with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
Damn Dean. I’ll try. To begin with, I had no idea what we were getting into. Allow me to explain…
I was on tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Pack Up The Plantation Tour. It would not be a politically correct theme nowadays – especially with the mega-large Confederate Flag backdrop during the show – despite what I believe was Tom’s left-leaning beliefs. Anyway, we’d been on tour for close to six weeks all across America in a private plane and it seemed everywhere we went it was rainy dismal weather. So finally we’re heading to a two-week run in Florida. Home of Tom and the Heartbreakers. Sun. Fun. And lots of girls in bikinis!!
We were stoked. We did one magical show I believe in St. Petersburg with Roger McGuinn from the Byrds sitting in. We did Rock’n Roll Star with Lee Thornburg playing the piccolo trumpet part note for note. 20 thousand people going crazy and we’re living large on the verge of two weeks of fun in the sun.
After the show in the dressing room, Tom’s manager, Tony Demetriades, informs us to have our bags packed and out in the hallway as we’re heading to Philadelphia that night to play a concert the next day called Live Aid. Talk about a downer. We were in a G4-type prop jet with four Rolls Royce engines which was great for short hops at 15,000 feet but for Florida to Philly it took four hours plus.
We got into Philly around 6 am and thanks to party favors I’d scored and a bottle of Courvoisier, Tom, Lee and I partied through the night flight while everyone slept. When we arrived at our hotel it was party central. 6 am and people are talking about Mick Jagger’s party here and that party there. But common sense won the day and I went up to my room which turned out to be a huge suite. I’m thinking great! I get a suite and we’ll be flying out after this Live Aid thing and I won’t even be able to enjoy it.
Somehow I get some sleep, luckily, as we had an 11 am wake-up call and 12pm lobby call to head to RFK Stadium.
I remember turning on the huge old-fashioned TV and finding a channel covering the Live Aid Concert in London’s Wembley Stadium to 100,000 people almost wrapping up with an interview with Phil Collins whose about to board a Concord flight to Philly to play with Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin. Then they switch to live in RFK Stadium with around 90,000 people and it’s dawning on me that… OMG… we’re into something big today.
We arrive at the venue and it was a Who’s Who of rock royalty. Jagger. Led Zep. Bob Dylan. Clapton. Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn. Madonna… and Jimmy Z. Just kidding. It was hot as hell and humid. We only had 20 minutes so we did four songs, but we killed. I do remember as we were walking up the steps to the stage and Neil Young was sitting on the steps and as he got up to let us by he smiled and said something like knock ‘em boys. And we did.
I also pulled one of my all-time great pranks on Bob Dylan that day. You can read about it and more about the tour & Live Aid here.