Queen’s Live Aid Triumph Was ‘Just Common Sense,’ Says Keyboardist
Queen keyboardist Spike Edney said the band’s triumphant Live Aid performance was “just common sense,” and he couldn’t believe that other acts didn't take the same approach.
Freddie Mercury led the group through a 20-minute medley of some of its biggest hits, making the most of the short time it had and helping cement the charity concert’s world-class achievement in July 1985.
“It’s only in hindsight that everything seems to be so big, important and iconic,” Edney told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “At the time, we were match-fit and ready to to play. … What can we do in 20 minutes? Well, Queen were famous for doing medleys, so it was obvious we’d do a big medley. We said, ‘What are the biggest hits? What’s the crowd going to love? They’re going to love ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Radio Gaga’ because that’s the big song from the tour.’ Once we sat there and joined up the running order they were going to go, it pretty much just took care of itself. ... I hate to sort of disappoint everybody. There was no master plan. It was just common sense.”
He said he was surprised to be “watching all these other lame bands not doing what we did, not shoehorning as many of their biggest songs into the actual set. ... Everyone else seemed to miss the point.”
Despite the fictionalized account of the event in the celebrated biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Edney pointed out that "contrary to what the film implies, that they were walking onstage because they hadn’t played together in two years, that’s simply not the case. We’d been touring for six months before and were ace-tight. It was just a question of editing – that’s what we did.”
Edney, who is Queen's current musical director, also recalled discovering Adam Lambert ahead of his appearance with Brian May and Roger Taylor on American Idol in 2009. After seeing the young singer on the show, Edney Googled him and saw him performing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and immediately emailed Taylor.
“The deal was sealed then and there,” he said. “They were aware of [Lambert] because Roger had been keeping an eye on him from the moment I emailed him. Then they got together, and Adam is obviously a charming man. Plus he can sing like not many people can sing. The universe put the elements together. … I thought, 'You can’t go wrong with this. A gay Elvis that can sing Queen songs? Where’s the downside?' There isn’t one.”