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LIVE AID


Where do I start with this one. One of the highlights of my career and a very special day. Never thought it would turn out to be such a historical event. I was living in Australia by this time but was actually in Los Angeles when I got the call from Elton's tour manager at the time Nick Pitts Elton wanted me to come over and light his part of the concert.

I contacted Pete at the lighting company who was supplying the lights of the show. I forget Pete's name and his company name at the time but he was and probably still is a well know Irish character in London. I caught Pete just as he was on his way to a meeting at Paul McCartney's office. I asked him what other Lighting Designers were doing the show. I was told I was it. So far there was only me. No other acts were bringing in anyone to do their lights.

Paul McCartneys assistant and Production Manager at the time was a friend of mine Trevor Jones. So I mentioned to Pete that I would be happy to light Paul's part of the show if they wanted. So he put that idea forward at his meeting.

The Lighting Design was actually done by committee headed up by Jimmy Barnet if my memory is correct. Bruce Springsteen had played some concerts at Wembley the week before so they used the same lighting equipment. Jimmy and crew just rearranged it into something a bit different for Live Aid.

When I arrived in the UK we rehearsed with Elton out at Bray Studios near Windsor. I found out George Michael was doing some songs with Elton. I had met George a few times before as he was friendly with Elton so I was looking forward to hearing them sing together. I remember very well the first time they played through the whole of " Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me " without any stopping to correct something. Elton was blown away by George's rendition. It was a good moment I will always remember it was pure magic. George was a big Elton fan over the years. I still think that first time was the best they ever did that song together. Even better than the version they released as a live single a few years later. The energy in the room was very special for those rehearsals. A taste of what was about to unfold at the Concert itself.

I arrived at Wembley Stadium on Friday about lunchtime the day before the concert. I did not leave there until 6 a. m. on the morning of the show after an all night programming session putting together the looks that would be used during the show. When I arrived at Wembley I met with Jimmy and Pete and Shawn Richardson who was the VeriLight Programmer I think. At that time I was only lighting Elton and George and was still the only Lighting Designer doing the show. Elton was on at nigh time. Most of the other acts were on during the day. I think David Bowie ended up bringing someone in even though he was performing while it was still daylight. Knowing what a showman Bowie is that should come as no surprise. There were a couple of different people who ran lights for some of the acts during the day. Sorry can't remember who they were.

My first pleasant surprise of the day happened when another friend and acquaintance of mine showed up. Roger Searl who for Live Aid was wearing two hats. One as Production Manager and the other as Lighting Designer both for " The Who " I just remember Roger coming over to me on stage on Friday afternoon and saying to me " Glad your here Percy ( My nickname to those who know me well ) Do me a favour ! Do the lights for The Who for me. I have too much to deal with looking after the band " I of course said " No Problem " and Roger walked away and I lit The Who at Live Aid. While Roger ended up refereeing the Who Backstage Boxing Match if I remember.

Now this was no real flashy fancy lighting rig just a nice workmanlike functional system put together on a budget. What was really nice about the whole thing was how everyone just worked together to make it happen. A bunch of professionals just getting it done. There were still a few nice looks in there when it got dark enough to see the lighting.

About 30 minutes after my Who surprise Trevor Jones tracks me down onstage and tells me he needs to talk with me. I follow Trevor backstage somewhere to the back of the terraces at Wembley, don't think it was even an office or dressing room. Anyway next thing I know Trevor is handing me a phone and telling me I needed to talk to Paul. " Your Kidding me ! " was what went through my mind.
I can't remember too much of the conversation as I was so surprised to be talking to Paul McCartney on the phone. No mistaking the voice on the other end of the line. I am not a very Star Struck person having met and worked with a lot of famous people. I also had worked for Paul on several tours and concerts during the seventies so I had met him several times before. A very nice man he is too. Linda was also a very nice woman. Having said all of that I have to be Honest with you at that moment I was just a little boy from a small Village in Scotland. A boy who at one point in his life was never expected to do anything except have a life in the factories.

Here I was talking to a Beatle and that Beatle was asking ME what I thought he should do for the Concert. I kid you not. He was asking me all kinds of things that I was really not sure how to respond I was in awe I think. One thing I did do and it has made me cringe for years. I am not really sure if I can claim responsibility for this or not but I have blamed myself for years. I do remember him asking me how he should start his performance. I suppose he was throwing ideas out there as much as asking questions.

Anyway one thing I suggested to him and I think this was an option he had put out there himself. I honestly can't remember but I certainly remember telling him he should just walk out unannounced and start playing. I really liked that idea for some reason, even now. ( In fact U2 did it a couple of tours back to great effect. They even kept the house lights up. It was brilliant. ) So come the time for him to play and he was using Elton's Piano. Paul walks out unannounced and starts playing the piano. I think he does most of the first verse of " Let it Be " in the Dark and in silence as Paul or nobody else ever bothered to let us know he was going out there to play. I just remember being screamed at on the headsets from stage. HE''S PLAYING ! HE''S PLAYING !

That one backfired ! So to this day I am not sure if I can claim that one as my own or not. You win some you lose some and if you are going to mess up it might as well be with one of the most Famous People in the World at what has turned out to be The Biggest Concert in The History of Rock N Roll. Good one Peacock ! All captured on the DVD as well.

Anyway that bit of embarrassment did not really put much of a damper on what was really a wonderful day. I ended up lighting. The Who, George Michael, Elton John, Kiki Dee, Paul McCartney and the Finally with everyone. I had some help on the Finally which kinds of sums up the whole atmosphere of the day and the way everyone worked with each other. It truly was a joint effort from a lot of people. At some point while i was running the show from out front I remember the young guy who was doing the lighting for Bob Geldorf and Boomtown Rats at the time. I will always remember this. He says to me " Mr Geldorf has asked me to ask Mr. Peacock if it is all right for me to run the lights for the finally. Which he did.

A perfect way to end a remarkable day.