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

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
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

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine