out, and long-simmering anger exploding into one hell of a protest song. The brainchild ofSteven Van Zandt. former guitarist for Bruce Springsteem. whose first hearing of Peter Gabriel‘s ‘Biko‘ inspired him to investigate the South African situation. ‘Sun City‘ was an attempt to condemn. and combat ignorance of. that country‘s system. in particular the notorious Sun City complex. a kind of Las Vegas in Bophuthatswana. where rich whites pleasure themselves only a mile from ghettoised shanty towns. Massive fees lure have lured entertainers to play Sun City for decades. and the original demo of Van Zandt‘s song attacked by name Queen. Linda Ronstadt. Rod Stewart and Julio Iglesias, to name but four, for succumbing to the temptation. The recording ofthe song. a rootsier. politicised answer to the chummy and cheerful ‘Do They Know It‘s Christmas‘ and ‘We Are The World‘. attracted upwards obe music personalities (Miles Davis through George Clinton and Hall and Oates to Lou Reed) eager to spread the message under the banner of Artists United Against Apartheid.
Away from the rich pop stars who can afford to take the time to perform unpaid. benefit gigs are part ofthe grass roots of the rock music scene. Every week. small bands who can barely afford to pay for the hire ofa PA system play benefits in their home towns. for a myriad ofcauses. and no demonstration. march or campaign is complete without a gig. or even a tour to promote it.
The acknowledged king of the socially—aware indie scene. though. is Billy Bragg. who has tirelessly played for good causes up and down the country (occasionally popping over to check out the action in Nicaragua and Poland) when he could have been concentrating on making himself a pretty good living. It‘s typical of Bragg that his only Number ()ne single. probably ever. hasn‘t earned him a penny. Along with Paul Weller and The Communards. Bragg was a founder member of Red Wedge. a ‘broad Left alliance‘ aimed at getting young voters to put Neil Kinnock in Number 'I‘en at the 1987 election. The fact that they failed is less notable than their allegiance to a specific party. undermining for once the non-aligned. vaguely liberal rock‘n‘roll stance. Red Wedge is now lying low. presumably gathering its strength for another assault before the next election. but it has recently spawned an environmental wing. Green Wedge. which has already gained support from such unlikely bedfellows as New Age and ﬂamenco players alongside former Clash singer Joe Strummer.
When one gets on to the big events (like most stadium shows these days. organised with the ruthlessness ofa military campaign). it‘s a different story. U2 were a moderately successful band by British standards before their fifteen-minute Live Aid segment. broadcast worldwide. catapulted them to stratospheric realms. In fact. record sales of all the participants shot up after Live Aid.
TEN FESTIVALS THAT Rocked
Three years later Tracy Chapman leapt from virtual obscurity to Number 1 on the album chart after her short set on the Mandela concert. It‘s a recognised phenomenon that this happens. which must call into question the motives ofartists agreeing to appear at the big events. It is. however. something over which they have no control. and most of the regular names have shown their concern with sizeable donations.
Nicholas Fairbairn MP knew about the knock-on effect on album sales of Live Aid (though not as intimately perhaps as Whitney Houston’s manager). and based his judgement ofthe participants‘ motives entirely on the elements of human nature he understood best. ‘They‘re just scum. . .left-wing scum.’ he was quoted on the front page of the Daily Record on 13 June. ‘What Annie Lennox and Jim Kerr said at Wembley came out of no love for Nelson Mandela. It came from a desire to make money. ‘
In all fairness. the Mandela concert did ignore important facts about the
man‘s case. in that it was never mentioned that the reason for his continued incarceration was his firm refusal to renounce violence.
Considering that vast tracts of fans hang on their idols‘ every utterances. even a sympathiser must feel disquiet at the one-sidedness of the presentation. It would have mattered less if the opposing viewpoints that were presented had come from less hysterical right-wingers than Woodrow Wyatt. Fairbairn and John Carlisle MP (who compared it to a day spent celebrating the IRA and called for the sacking of the BBC‘s governors for bias). all easily ignored. The point is that there was no debate within the pop community. only attacks from outside.
The one moment of timeless irony was seeing Eric Clapton guesting with Dire Straits at the top of the bill. a decade after making the 'Enoch is right‘ statements which were instrumental in the formation of Rock Against Racism. the now-defunct organisation strongly supported by Jerry Dammers when his group The Specials were at their height. Dammers went on to become a tireless worker for Artists Against Apartheid. wrote the anthem ‘Free Nelson Mandela‘ and came up with the idea of the Wembley show in the first place.
Clapton confesses to ‘remorse‘ over his remarks but has never retracted them. despite the excuse that he was an alcoholic at the time. Paul Simon. however. was still banned from appearing at the event. for breaking the cultural boycott by recording with black South African musicians.
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a i 1 .WQQDSTQQK. 1962. The granddaddy at all the big open-air rockshows to follow, and as Max Yasgur, the tanner on whose land Woodstock was held, told the assembled Ammo-odd, ‘the largest group at people ever assembled in one place at one time’. W Marc Bolan brought the good vibes to the ﬂower people at Somerset in the ﬁrst ot what was to become an Important source at tunds tor CND, bringing in well over 21 00,000 tor the Peace Movement in 1986. Altar a lengthy battle over their licence last year, and worries about the Festival becoming too unwieldy, the Glastonbury organisers have decided to take a year all lrom their Pilton site. A substitute is the all-day gig at Edinburgh's Meadowbank stadium on August 6, when, as usual all money raised will go to the Peace Movement. 3.TllE CONCERT F95 BA G Madison Square Garden was the venue tor the George Harrison-organised benefit for the starving ot war-tom Pakistan. at which George. Ringo, Leon Russell. Ravi Shankarand Bob Dylan played. Finance was planned not only trom the ticket sales, but spin-olt album and movie. lrrttatingly, the legal position. what with all the artists involved was insanely complicated. and only settled two years later when Harrison penned a cheque tor a million pounds to the taxman. 4.ROCli AGAINST RACISM. L913. Brockwell Park in South London was the venue this yaartor a line-up that included Elvis Costello and other new-wavers concerned at the right-wing reactionary statements oi stars like Bowie and Clapton. Only one at many events at the now-detunct organisation which lasted long enough tor the racially-mixed Two-Tone groups to take an active part. 5.LIVE AlDI 1m. Woodstock II, on a global scale this time, and withthe added bonus at helping the starving. A day-long party, with American compares getting misty-eyed over missing Woodstock and the
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saintly tigore at Bob Geldot presiding over it all, Live Aid turned 02 into tlrst-magnitude stars and reduced Dylan. Keith Richards and Ron Wood to international laughing stocks. Interesting lay-product: The Cars song ‘Drive’. originally nothing to do with lamina or even being slightly peckish, user: repeatedly as backing tor appalling Ethiopian images and still brings grown men
6.FARM AID 1985. Bob Dylan. Willie Nelson and a horde of American stars joined in this money-raisin; venture tor America's farmers, lacing bleak and harrowing times, and kept the issue in the national consciousness. 7.CONSPIRACY 0F HOPE. 1181. Not a single testival but a two-week American tour to raise money tor and awareness at Amnesty intematlonal. Veterans ol the campaign trail Joan Baez and Jackson Browne loined the new tront line oi socially-concerned 80s rockers: U2, Sting Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed. Bryan Adams and The Neville Brothers. 8.SELFAID,1986.UZ again. in the company ot Van Morrison, Paul Brady.
Chris da Burgh, Geldot and many, many others. in a concert to help Ireland’s unemployed youth. Furious row sparked all by article in in Dublin magazine that the thinking behind SeltAld was letting the government all the hook- the same (lustltiable) argument was held against Live Aid, but get little publicity. 9.FREEDDM BEAT, 1986. A quarterot a million people crammed Clapham Common to see Peter Gabriel, Sting, ilugh Masakela, Big Audio Dynamite, Sada. Elvis Costello. Boy George, The Communards. Gil Scott-Heron, and Maxi Priest play and sing for Artists Against Apartheid, the cause started byTha Special AltA's Jerry Dammers. The event was tree, but gratetul punters had a whipround and raised £70,008. 10.MANDELA DAY, 1988. The tollow-up to Live Aid on the global scale, and determined not to repeat the bias against the non-white non-rock acts tor which the previous event had been criticised. A political hot potato, several Tory MPs tried to have TV coverage ol the event blacked. John Cartlsla, MP tor Luton North called tor the sacking ot the BBC’s governors. it’s hard to gauge the Mandela Day's eltect as a political consciousness-raiser yet, but judging trom the phone calls Wembley received betorehand, asking what time Mandela was coming on to sing, the nation’s pop tans must be a little the wiser now. American viewers weren’t even given the chance: a neutered version entitled ‘Freedomlest' was shown in the States, with all reterences to Mandela and South Africa cut, and Peter Gabriel's ‘Biko‘ (the song that inspired Steven Van Zandt to start the ‘Sun City’ project, and was used in Attenburgh's “Cry Freedom') snipped down to a single minute.
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