Did you know Noel Edmonds flew Phil Collins in his helicopter for Live Aid?

16 November 2021, 16:00 | Updated: 16 January 2024, 11:54

Watch Brian May's reaction as the Bohemian Rhapsody cast walk onto the Live Aid stage

By Mayer Nissim

Noel Edmonds was a taxi service to the stars for the biggest event in rock music history.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Live Aid wasn't just the biggest benefit concert in history, it was one of the biggest global events full stop.

As well as the tens of thousands of people in Wembley Stadium in London and John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, just under TWO BILLION people watched the shows at home – around 40% of the whole world's population at the time.

Rod Stewart missed out for reasons beyond his control, but Phil Collins made up for that by playing BOTH concerts.

Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas? (Live Aid 1985)

Read more: Queen's Brian May is calling for another Live Aid to tackle climate change

How did he do that, you may ask, given that both shows happened simultaneously?

Well, at around half-three in the afternoon, he went on stage at Wembley to play 'Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)', before handing over to Sting for 'Message in a Bottle'.

He returned to the mic for 'In the Air Tonight', before he and Sting performed 'Long Long Way to Go' and 'Every Breath You Take' together.

Phil Collins - Against All Odds (Live Aid 1985)

Gold's Hall of Fame: Phil Collins

Right after his performance, Phil fled the stage and got a helicopter to Heathrow Airport, where he jumped in a Concorde flight to New York, before hopping in another helicopter to get to Philadelphia.

Over at JFK Stadium, he'd play 'Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)' and 'In the Air Tonight' again, before introducing and then joining Led Zeppelin for a not particularly well-received set that still causes controversy and bad feeling between the artists today.

But the most amazing part of all this isn't the speedy jump from one country to another. It's that as well as introducing Sting and Phil Collins on stage at Wembley, Noel Edmonds actually flew the helicopter that took Phil from the stadium to Heathrow Airport himself.

Live Aid Helicopter airlift

How did the DJ turned light entertainment superstar and future Crinkley Bottom homeowner end up as a helicopter service to the stars?

Well, it turns out that Edmonds is a licensed helicopter pilot, who is said to have trained on a Bell 47 and later owned a 206, a Squirrel (single engine) and an Augusta A109, mainly flying between Dorset and Northolt.

Given he had his own firm Helicopter Management back then, there was no better person to enlist as a celeb taximan on the biggest day in pop history.

Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight (Live Aid 1985)

Read more: Find out how a 13-year-old Phil Collins was cut from The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night film

While Noel didn't fly all the stars himself, it was widely reportedincluding in Dylan Jones's book The Eighties; One Day, One Decade – that he did get in the cockpit to take Phil on his first leg to Philly.

It was even noticed by DJ and presenter Mike Smith on the day, who voiced over some video footage of Phil's helicopter landing at Heathrow.

"This is the helicopter which actually took him to Heathrow airport and landed him alongside Concorde" Mike said.

Noel Edmonds and his helicopter
Noel Edmonds and his helicopter. Picture: Alamy

"This was during this afternoon, straight after Phil had done his set with Sting at Wembley Stadium.

"Into one of Noel Edmonds' helicopters – and I think it was actually Noel flying that one."

Edmonds had a bit of an on-stage cockup when introducing Phil Collins, but apparently, that was because Phil and Sting had decided to swap slots without telling anyone.

Sting / Phil Collins - Every Breath You Take (Live Aid 1985)

Genesis The Last Domino? in Manchester review: a fitting farewell for the rock titans

"I remember running on stage. It was massive, there were so many people out there and the atmosphere backstage was incredible but completely chaotic," Edmonds told the Daily Mail.

"As I ran on [promoter] Harvey Goldsmith was in the wings shouting at me, 'It's Phil Collins, and you’ve got to take him in the helicopter when he goes'.

"I went to the front and shouted out 'Phil Collins!' turned round and saw Sting walking towards me. He just looked at me and said, 'Wrong'. The biggest blooper of my career."

Phil Collins - Backstage Interview (Live Aid 1985)

QUIZ: How well do you know Phil Collins' lyrics?

Edmonds later told The Guardian: "We shuttled people into London Transport's cricket ground, about 400 yards from Wembley Stadium.

"On the day it was the climax of their cricket tournament, and they wouldn't abandon their game for us so the umpires had whistles and when they saw a helicopter coming they blew the whistles and cleared the field for us to land."

He added: "I seem to remember that David Bowie's management said he only flew in a blue helicopter – that's blue on the inside - and we managed to find one.

"I was killing time with him at Battersea before he flew in and I said, 'Look at the inside of this helicopter!' He looked at me as if I were mad. He didn't give a s**t what colour the helicopter was."

Last Played Songs