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Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute

"Mandela Day was written in five minutes, such a lovely tune. It's more about a sentiment. Political songs have to have memorable tunes. We thought everyone taking part in the concert was going to write something. I donít know what happened to everyone else's songs but we are glad that ours is still out there and is still symbolic of that time."

The band were joined by Johnny Marr for Summertime Blues, Peter Gabriel for Biko and both Gabriel and Little Steven for Sun City. They also had a new percussion player - who, to my knowledge, has never been named.

There was a false start before Biko. It looked like they expected Gabriel to walk on during the intro. Instead, there was a slight confused pause, before Jim introduced Gabriel to cheers. There were one or two mistakes in the song as well, understandable as Gabriel had been unable to attend rehearsals and was singing it with Simple Minds for the first time.

The BBC's coverage wasn't kind to Simple Minds as the show had overrun, and the broadcaster had several difficult choices to make with their scheduling. They decided to run the news, so those watching the TV missed Sanctify Yourself. The broadcast came back in during the intro to East At Easter. And it looked like the BBC were going to pull the plug at the start of Sun City, rolling the end credits over the start of the song, and mentioning the radio stations who were still broadcasting - before electing to broadcast the entire performance.

Footage from the Minds' performance was later incorporated into the Mandela Day promotional video.

Production Crew pass for the day. (Assumed to be for Simple Minds as it has "S.M. 61" written on the back).

Another pass for the gig.

Wembley Stadium, London, UK
11th June 1988
Main Set: Waterfront / Summertime Blues / Mandela Day / Sanctify Yourself / East At Easter - Alive And Kicking / Biko / Sun City
Silver Box
Mandela Day Promo Video Glittering Prize 81/82 video Seen The Lights - A Visual History DVD

"When Jim asked me about playing [Biko] on Mandela Day, I was pleased.I wanted it to be hard by such a large audience who would be focusing their attention on what was going on in South Africa and I knew that I would not be able to get my own band assembled. I was a little nervous as I had had no time for rehearsal. But when I stood up on the stage, surrounded by all those familiar faces, the song began, and I felt the strength of their arrangement and their commitment. It is a moment I will not forget." - Peter Gabriel - Street Fighting Years book.

BS: Now, it was a real kind of landmark in every respect, because Mandela was a bit of a political hot potato, he was still in Robin Island, you got the call from Jerry Dammers of The Specials, who was putting the show together. What do you remember of that day Jim? Because, again, when you look at the bill: Sting, Eurythmics, Joe Cocker, ...
JK: Stevie Wonder.
BS: Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Dire Straits. I mean it was a real special moment. The very fact that the BBC broadcast it live was driving the Tory government crazy at the time. So, what do you remember of that day? Did you think it could make a difference? By shining the spotlight on Mandela, it was going to have some real lasting benefit?
JK: Well, you remember the context. The thing was inspired by Live Aid because Live Aid was the first big - well, Woodstock was - but Live Aid was the first real focussed... but Live Aid was a charity concert. The Mandela concert was not a charity concert and it's amazing, as we seen now, that the BBC went with it because it was a rallying call, it was making a political point. I mean when people think of Mandela now, they imagine that lovely granddad with the grey hair and all those shirts and the big smile, arguably at the end the most popular man on the planet.
JK: However, at the time of the concert, a lot of the governments of the world were referring to him as a terrorist and he was still in jail. That was the whole point. So there was an anger in me - there was a definite - certainly the acts were there for genuine reasons. There was a point to prove. There was a rallying cry. And we'd been influenced by great artists like Peter Gabriel, Steven Van Zandt, and there was the generation before that, Dylan, Springsteen - people like that, people who weren't afraid to use their popularity to, as you said, shine a light on a bigger cause. And so we were well up for that. And when I think about it now, every generation has its moments in time, and for our generation, that summer, the year after the Berlin wall came down, Apartheid ended, the cold war ended, they were great times to be young and great times to be an artist in. And we used some of that.

Interview with Billy Sloan
BBC Radio Scotland
2nd November 2019


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