FOCUS: ROCK MUSIC: Charity and the charts

Next month's NetAid gives ageing pop stars another chance to shift their records

On 4 October David Bowie, the original chameleon of rock music, will release his new album hours..., having already re-branded himself with his latest image as a serious internet-head. On the same day the Eurythmics will issue their first new single for a decade, taken from their forthcoming album Peace.

Five days later both will appear as headline acts in the pop industry's latest attempt to save the world, NetAid, to be broadcast live on TV and the internet for the benefit of war victims in Kosovo and Sudan. It is billed modestly as "the most extraordinary coming together of international superstars in history" which will be seen "by more people than any other concert before it".

Even the most altruistic observer could be forgiven for asking the question: are these facts in any way connected? For the more cynical, it looks like yet another example of fading stars using the feel-good medium of charitable works to boost or rescue their careers.

The whole business, of course, goes back to Live Aid in 1985, when Saint Bob Geldof marshalled the music industry's finest in the cause of Africa's starving millions. While few would doubt the motivation behind that enterprise, it did give the bands and their record company executives an energising glimpse of what that kind of exposure could deliver. And many of those who took part on that memorable day have, off and on, been at it ever since.

From the Mandela concerts to Amnesty bashes, the likes of Bowie, Peter Gabriel and Sting have been in and out of the star-studded line-ups. No fewer than seven of the original cast of '85 are lined up for the three linked NetAid concerts in London, New York and Geneva.

Among the many beneficiaries from Live Aid, Queen effectively re-launched themselves with a spectacular set which put them back in the stadium rock big-time. Madonna signalled her arrival on the world stage, while U2 were lifted from underground heroes to global megastars and all their previous albums re-entered the Top 40. Bowie, linking up with Mick Jagger for a version of "Dancing in the Street", went to number one in the singles charts - a position he has not held since.

But the most spectacular instant success story was that of Tracy Chapman after her performance in the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th birthday concert at Wembley. Previously a virtual unknown, a week later her debut album leapt to number two in the charts before going on to top slot both in Britain and America and selling two million copies.

When another Wembley date was organised in 1990 to celebrate Mandela's release from prison, retailers were confidently predicting that Bonnie Raitt, who had just released Nick of Time, would have a similar impact. An advertisement by WEA records in the trade magazine Music Week at the time offered advice on how to "make Nelson Mandela work in your shop". It then revealed that Nelson would do the job for them if they stocked up on four records featuring WEA artists who were on the bill.

George Michael, who fronted this month's NetAid launch and "let slip" that he had personally donated pounds 500,000 to the cause, has also much to be grateful for. Singing with Elton John at Live Aid marked the beginning of his transformation from Wham! pretty boy to serious voice, and the Mandela concert confirmed his position as a solo act.

Hugh Masekela, the formerly exiled South African trumpeter, pulled out of the 1990 Mandela concert on the grounds that it was being used by white musicians to sell their records instead of promoting African acts.

Annie Lennox, the re-emerging singing half of the Eurythmics, said afterwards that performing in the first Mandela line-up had been the "proudest moment in my career". But her memorable duet of "Under Pressure" with Bowie in the 1992 Freddie Mercury event apparently did her a lot more good. It came as she was launching out on her solo career and her single "Why" was still in the charts.

Her ideological commitment, however, remains undimmed. The new single is the aptly named "I Saved the World", and all ticket and merchandising proceeds from the Eurythmics' forthcoming world tour are going to Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

If the record industry has done well out of all these virtuous impulses, it is not a situation that executives expect to go on indefinitely. One executive went so far as to declare last rites on the whole idea: "This could well be the last glimmering of an idea that has really had its day."

USUAL SUSPECTS

Live Aid 13/7/85: David Bowie, Eric Clapton, George Michael, Elton John, U2, Sting, Bryan Adams, Bryan Ferry, Jimmy Page

Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute 11/6/88: Eric Clapton, George Michael, the Eurythmics, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Tracy Chapman

Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour 1988: Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman

Mandela Tribute 16/4/90: Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman

Freddie Mercury Tribute 20/4/92: David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Elton John, George Michael

NetAid 9/10/99: David Bowie, the Eurythmics, George Michael, Bryan Adams, Jimmy Page, Bryan Ferry, Sting, Bono

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture