Updated: Nov 28, 2018
On the morning of 13 July 1985, the day Live Aid would create music and broadcast TV history, Queen was on the verge of breaking up. At the time, already one of the greatest bands in rock history, they were overcome with doubt and lacked belief in their vision, union and future together. With increasing disagreements, time apart and turmoil amongst themselves, they had decided that their performance that day at Live Aid could well be their last. If they failed to gel, if the audience failed to respond, if their music didn't create the magic it once had, they were done. Such was their belief, they expected their 15 year journey could end that day.
Fate had other plans. Live Aid brought the worlds' biggest battle of the bands to a 72,000 live audience at Wembley Stadium, a 100,000 live audience at John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia and 2 billion viewers across the globe. Amongst the rock royalty of the time performing that day, including U2, Sting, Mick Jagger, Dire Straits, David Bowie, The Who, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan, Queen totally stole the show.
Over their 20 minute set from 6pm, Queen made history and gave what is still regarded today by performers, journalists and the public the greatest live performance of all time. Bob Geldof was stopped in his tracks and spent the whole set watching in awe. Elton John furiously stormed into the Queen dressing room screaming that they had stolen the show. Their back catalogue and greatest hits album suddenly sold like hot cakes all over the world within hours of them leaving the stage. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, who has performed with Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, remembers the day: “Queen smoked ’em. They just took everybody. They walked away being the greatest band you’d ever seen in your life, and it was unbelievable. And that’s what made the band so great; that’s why they should be recognised as one of the greatest rock bands of all time because they could connect with an audience.”
On a day when Queen woke uncertain of their future and believing they had reached the end, they slept having just delivered the greatest live performance seen by over 2 billion people. Their fear, uncertainty and doubt squashed.
By venturing on stage that day, Queen had everything to gain and nothing to lose. They had all but decided to end the band, so a bad performance would have served to justify their thinking and close the chapter, if not the book. Not performing would have served the same purpose. But taking the stage, venturing one more time before the crowd, they gave themselves an opportunity to be wrong, for destiny to pull them back from a decision that was not meant to be.
What can we take away from this? What wisdom from this incredible feat can we absorb and learn from?
The show must go on. Even when your mind is defeated, take the stage anyway. Fate might have other plans for you
Sometimes we're not the best judge of our own circumstances
Give it all you've got. You have nothing to lose and literally everything to gain
Dark times pass when customers, or fans - your constituents whoever they may be - shine the light of their appreciation for what you do
And so it is as the saying goes, that nothing ventured, nothing gained. We all - every one of us - have those moments when the voices of fear, uncertainty and doubt cry loudest in our heads but it's worth remembering why stepping forward and taking the very action that those unwanted voices cry for us not to take, so we may - just may - put ourselves in the very position that squashes those voices for good and gives us our opportunity for greatness just as it was for Queen on 13 July, 1985.