Today in metal history: Judas Priest and Black Sabbath play Live Aid in 1985

Posted by on July 13, 2016


On July 13th, 1985, one of the biggest concerts in music history happened, as Live Aid occurred simultaneously in Philadelphia and London. Bands including Queen, U2, Led Zeppelin (kind of), Madonna. the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan played the event, which was a fundraiser for relief in Africa organized by Bob Geldof. It took place at London’s Wembley Arena and Philadelphia’s now-demolished Wembley Stadium, and while the show was relatively light on metal, the Philly portion had a few iconic metal bands play. Not only was Judas Priest a last-minute addition , but it also served as a temporary reunion for Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne.


Perhaps Sabbath’s reunion was one of the biggest highlights of Live Aid. The band had essentially been on hiatus following Born Again, with Geezer Butler having left the band in 1984. Appearing together onstage for the first time since 1978, and incongruously introduced by Chevy Chase, the band blazed through “Children of the Grave,” “Iron Man” and “Paranoid.” As if being introduced by a comedian wasn’t bad enough, they also spelled Ozzy’s name wrong, and the band went their separate ways for a while afterwards. It would be another decade before they got back together for good. Judas Priest’s performance was last minute. As Rob Halford told Phillymag.com last year:

We were in the Bahamas working on the Turbo album. We knew the concert was happening — it was all over the news, 24/7. But we really didn’t know until a few days before that there was an opening for us. We flew up the day before, and I don’t think we even rehearsed for it.

And while Priest were professional enough to kill it on a few days notice, playing “Living After Midnight,” “The Green Manalishi” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin,'” Halford said he got some hang time in with Jack Nicholson:

My big moment was meeting up with Jack Nicholson, who is a metalhead. We talked backstage. And I also met Joan Baez. We had done a cover of her song “Diamonds and Rust,” and she walks up to me and says, “I just want to give you a message.” And I think, Oh, Lord. But then she says, “My son has told me to tell you that he prefers your version to his mum’s.” How self-effacing? An incredible, iconic, legendary woman. There was my Joan Baez moment… But the real party was after the event in a private penthouse suite in downtown Philly. I was standing with Jack, and people were going on about The Shining. And I said, “You get that all the time, Jack?” And he said, “Yeah,” and then starts singing [Judas Priest’s] “Breaking the Law.” That party was pretty wild. There was a sauna in the penthouse that was being very well used. I wandered in, and there was a bit of Caligula going on. But I can’t tell you quite who was involved. It was too dark and steamy.


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