On the 5th June 1987 the Prince’s Trust charity held their second annual rock gala at the Wembley Arena in London. The charity itself was set up by the now-King Charles in 1976 to help vulnerable young people get their lives on track. It has since become one of the most successful charities in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, having helped over 950,000 people between the ages of 11 and 30 as of 2016.
The Prince’s Trust has never shied away from utilising celebrities, particularly musicians, to help fundraise for their cause and their first charity concert was held in 1982, headlined by Status Quo. The concert highlighted in this article was the second of two held to commemorate the charity’s 10th anniversary.
Other notable Prince’s Trust events of the 80s included receiving a $450,000 donation from Michael Jackson in 1988, designated for Great Ormond Street Hospital, and the establishment of the Enterprise Programme in 1983, one of the things that the Trust is most known for and is an important tool in helping young people to start their own businesses.
The 1987 Rock Gala can be enjoyed in its entirety through its DVD release and various online uploads. My primary experience with this concert, however, has been the official clips of the artists and songs on YouTube. The Rock Gala was, naturally, attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, icons of the 80s in their own right and ones closely entwined with celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Elton John and Eric Clapton.
As for why I chose the 1987 concert rather than the first anniversary rock gala held the year before; If you have a phone, iPad, laptop or any other tech to hand, you really must go away and listen to the rendition of While My Guitar Gently Weeps from this concert. It is magnificent!
The song was first released in 1968 as one of the tracks on the Beatles self titled double album, also known as the ‘White Album’. At the time, George Harrison was 25 and the song served as a commentary on the disharmony amongst the fab four. Performing the song in 1987, George was almost 20 years older and the rock scene had changed from the Beatles’ pioneering days in the 1960s. The bass and piano lines are more apparent than the original and whilst still recognisable, George’s voice was more mature and confident.
This was George Harrison in his solo prime. The quiet Beatle would release his platinum album Cloud Nine later in the same year which featured his cover of ‘Got My Mind Set on You’, a track that became a No.1 single in the US and No.2 in the UK. The Beatles, represented primarily by Harrison, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year, in 1988.
The Harrison performance is particularly notable due to his dislike of playing live. Post-Beatlemania he had only conducted one solo tour in 1974 before undertaking a hiatus, in contrast to Ringo Starr, who still plays live today aged 82.
The Rock and Roll Gala formed something of a supergroup as, in contrast to the larger Live Aid event, the artists, with their range of talents, performed on each other’s songs. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were a bit of an exception to this, as they arrived on stage for the final three tracks in the line up, all of which were originally Beatles songs. This does mean, however, that you have here Elton John, Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Dave Edmunds, Ben E. King and others all playing together on some of the most recognisable songs in history.
Unfortunately, I could not find information online about how much money the concerts raised, individually or combined, however, even outside their charitable causes, the Prince’s Trust 1987 Rock Gala serves as a great monument to primarily British rock music and culture of the era.