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Live Aid stalwart Pete Smith passes aged 69

Pete Smith, the talent coordinator for the historic Live Aid concerts in 1985, has died aged 69.

A much admired and respected figure in the music industry, he started out as a social secretary at Leeds University – a position he passed on to now renowned artist manager Paul Loasby in 1974.

Among the acts that Pete promoted at the Leeds Uni Union were The Who, Bill Haley and the Comets, The Kinks and many others.

When he left university, Pete worked as an agent at MAM, alongside the likes of Barry Dickins, John Giddings and Ian Wright.

Through his Leeds connections, Pete went on to work with The Kinks on several different occasions. He also worked with Al Stewart, The Chieftains and Vitamin Z in the late 70s.

Overseeing the career of South African guitarist Trevor Rabin, Pete took him to Los Angeles and introduced him to Yes, with whom he helped to write Owner of A Lonely Heart.

In spring 1985, he was asked to an early morning meeting with Harvey Goldsmith and offered the role of talent coordinator for Live Aid. Harvey famously told Pete if Live Aid was a success, his name would never be mentioned; but if it was not a success it would all be down to Pete.

Among the acts that Pete promoted at the Leeds Uni Union were The Who, Bill Haley and the Comets and the The Kinks

Pete also travelled to New York and Philadelphia to liaise on the US Live Aid bill liaise with Bill Graham, who apparently refused to work with half of the suggested artists. Pete asked what about the other half, to which Graham replied that they refused to work with him.

Years after Live Aid, Pete was also involved with Live 8, working in Philadelphia on that occasion. Pete would later write Just The Ticket: A Live Aid Memoire, proceeds of which went to The Band Aid Trust.

In 1990, Pete worked with Roger Waters on the massively scaled Wall concert in Berlin to mark the end of the Berlin Wall and later went on to work with the Alan Parsons Live Project and the British Rock Symphony.

Latterly, Pete embarked on a change of career path and produced several symphonic rock albums. His last music business foray was publishing fine art prints of album cover artwork, including Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd’s Animals, among many others.

Married for the last 38 years to Concert Promoters Association secretary Carole Burness-Smith, the couple saw their son, Oliver – a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy – marry wife Anna earlier this year.

Pete had suffered from heart trouble over the years and had undergone surgery twice this year. However, a few weeks ago he was diagnosed with untreatable liver cancer. He died with Carole and Oli by his side.


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‘Live Aid’ post-Covid concerts proposed for EU

EU culture ministers have reportedly welcomed proposals for a series of simultaneous Live Aid-style concerts which would be held across the European Union to mark victory over Covid-19.

The idea received a “warm reception” from other EU culture and media secretaries when it was proposed by Catherine Martin, the Republic of Ireland’s minister for tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht, sport and media, at a pre-Christmas meeting, according to RTÉ.

Following positive feedback from her counterparts in the 26 other member states, further discussions will take place both in Ireland and at an EU level when the current restrictions begin to ease, the Irish state broadcaster reports.

According to the Irish Mirror, Martin’s plan would see a series of concerts featuring “top rock and pop stars” held simultaneously in a number of EU capitals this summer.

Martin’s plan would see a series of concerts held simultaneously in EU capitals this summer

Like the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert, the shows would also be televised, and could include a charitable element in aid of music professionals whose work has dried up amid ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, says he believes it is possible to have around 50% of the Republic of Ireland’s population immunised against Covid-19 by June. Neighbouring Britain, meanwhile, aims to have offered the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to every UK adult (more than 50m people) by September.

The summer, therefore, could be a realistic target to host some kind of major event to celebrate the end of the pandemic, Prof. O’Neill tells RTÉ.

The EC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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Production crews ask govt to Aid Live 35 years on from Live Aid

Production crews are asking the government to Aid Live, in a week that marks the 35th anniversary of the star-studded Live Aid benefit concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.

The 1985 Live Aid concerts, organised by Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Harvey Goldsmith, saw acts including Queen, David Bowie, U2, the Who, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Black Sabbath and Bob Dylan perform to around 160,000 fans in London and Philadelphia on 13 July 1985.

The concerts were watched by a further two billion people on television worldwide and raised over $127 million for victims of the Ethiopian famine.

“Thank you Bob, Midge and Harvey for showing the world 35 years ago that music has the power to bring positive change when it is most needed,” reads a statement.

“And a massive thank you to all the skilled and dedicated crew and supply companies who gave of themselves to transform a wildly ambitious idea into the greatest live event of all time.”

“Without the government’s immediate intervention, events of this magnitude will become a thing of the past”

The Aid Live statement warns that without “immediate intervention” from the government, “events of this magnitude will become a thing of the past”, adding that authorities have been “ignoring the plight of crew and suppliers” in the wake of Covid-19.

“It’s their turn. Aid Live.”

In the UK, the Production Services Association recently expressed concern that the UK government’s 1.57 billion rescue package for arts and culture “might not quite make it far enough down the supply chain”.

“We’re seriously, honestly, truly happy for those that will receive the funding,” reads a PSA statement. “There’s no show without a venue but there’s not much of a show without the kit and the technical knowhow.

“We’ve joined together to let those holding the funds remember that there’s a supply chain, from the band manager to the local crew […] Would it be asking too much if we were simply asking for a chance to apply?”

Photo: Squelle/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

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