"Bob walked in and started berating everyone that was eating." How a furious Bob Geldof ruined a posh feast and inadvertently had Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Springsteen and the rest eating chicken and waffles during We Are The World

Bob Geldof, and the cast of We Are The World
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Netflix's recent documentary The Greatest Night in Pop, telling the story of the recording of the blockbuster 1985 charity single We Are the World, has been getting rave reviews. Featuring a stellar cast of some of the 80s' biggest stars, from Lionel Ritchie to Cindy Lauper, Bruce Springsteen to Bob Dylan, and incredible archive footage of them all jamming out the mega-hit in the studio, it’s certainly an engaging watch. 

It may not have delved into every story behind the ensemble anthem, though. Considering the song was inspired by Britain’s own aid relief single, Band Aid’s 1984 smash Do They Know It’s Christmas?, there are only a few brief references to that song, and its architect, Sir Bob Geldof, scattered throughout the documentary. 

Sure, the song is mentioned - there is a scene showing Bob giving a speech about why everyone is there and an explanation of how that helped to focus the group of multi-platinum selling superstars - but that’s about it in terms of his inclusion in the documentary. Which is a shame, as Lionel Ritchie himself told the BBC on the 2005 Live Aid feature Against All Odds: “I was kind of moved that a bunch of Brits got together and decided to do this. I think that’s what woke us all up in America.” 

But one thing that seems to have been completely retconned from the story is the part an irate Geldof played in what the cast of We Are the World had for dinner that evening. In The Greatest Night In Pop, a story is told of how this plethora of the most famous faces in music ordered chicken and waffles from American soul food restaurant chain Roscoe’s. 'How delightfully down to earth this lot are!', is the implication. How great that all of them adhered to the 'Check your ego at the door' sign positioned above the entrance to the studio!

Except, that’s not quite how it went down. Geldof had been invited out by the song's organiser, legendary music manager and TV producer Ken Kragen, to oversee the studio session. “I had never met Bob Geldof before,” Kragen said on Against All Odds. “I didn’t really know what I was in for.” Thanks to his initial choice of catering, Kragen was about to get a rude awakening. 

“I got $50,000 worth of food donated for the group,” he recalled. “it was all spread out.” “It's Hollywood, California, so when you ask a restaurant ‘Can you cater for free?’ well it’s only going to be Spago, it’s only gonna be Chasen’s,” added Lionel Ritchie, “and their presentation is going to be over the top.” 

During the session for Do They Know it’s Christmas?, Geldof had sent the likes of George Michael, Bono, Paul Weller and Sting over to the local fish and chip shop to buy their own dinner. Seeing the opulent spread laid out for the US stars who were meant to be recording a song fighting famine, he flipped out - “it was a little egregious, the caviar, the lavishness of it” he said on Against All Odds.  

Unfazed by the fact that he was barking at luminaries like Bob Dylan, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson, Geldof let everyone present know just how unimpressed he was by what he saw. “Bob walked in, saw it and started berating everyone that was eating,” remembers Kragen, “telling them to remember that people were dying in Africa. It was a little embarrassing.” 

A furious Geldof, having seen enough, angrily stormed out of the studio, with Kragen having to beg to coax him back: “I had to retrieve Bob and bring him back to the studio,” he explained awkwardly.  

Clearly put off the bloated buffet by an irate Irishman, it was then that the cream of the US music industry put in their order in for the far more grounded chicken and waffles feast.

Still, the song itself went on to sell 20 million copies worldwide, eclipsing the 11 million plus Band Aid managed, and initially raising $40m, four times more than Do They Know It’s Christmas?, in the fight against famine in Africa. It also followed poor Bob around as well. 

“Every time I walk into a bloody room in Africa: ‘We are the World!'” he sighed later. "Nope... not me, wrong song.” 

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.