AIDS: Is it the end of the world?
No, but it’s the disease that’s serious enough to make a lot of people very very concerned. George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, Boy George and Elton John are just a few who turned out for “The Party”, a concert to raise awareness about AIDS and money for AIDS patients and research.
Just three days ago it all seemed to be heading for certain disaster. Only half the tickets (£25 each) had been sold, the air was thick with rumours that the concert would actually be cancelled and it seemed like “The Party”, as this AIDS Benefit had been named, was going to be an embarrassing flop. Nobody seemed to know anything about it, there were a distinct lack of big “names” to support the main line-up of George Michael, Boy George and Holly Johnson, and it looked as if the whole programme of AIDS benefit concerts was going to set off to a dreadful start. Even as the first group—
From the very beginning “The Party” is a very strange concert indeed. For one thing, condoms—
After Aswad comes ‘60s songstress Sandie Shaw. She plays one brilliant song, “Anyone Who Had A Heart”, with the Communards’ Richard Coles on piano then she’s joined by a ten-piece a capella choir she’s put together of fellow Buddhists to sing an even more brilliant “Lean On Me”.
Next up are the Communards themselves but before that some “health education” bloke from London’s Capital Radio comes out and, in defiance of stupid myths that you can catch AIDS by holding hands, gets everyone to hold hands. Later on he tells everyone to kiss the person on either side of them. Everyone does!
The Communards are clearly big favourites, whizzing their way triumphantly through six songs including “You Are My World” and a rousing “Don’t Leave Me This Way”.
Next is a fleeting glimpse of Kim Wilde with her brother Ricky and father Marti skipping through Elton John’s “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”, then veteran gay rights campaigner Tom Robinson screeches through an updated version of his anthem “(Sing If You’re) Glad To Be Gay” with Level 42’s Mike Lindup (who also squeezes in a song of his own). After that, you can’t blink lest someone famous scampers through a song or two.
“The next song”, he says, “is to reflect how I felt about this evening and word for word it fits perfectly for this occasion” and with that launches into a quite glorious version of a Stevie Wonder ballad called “Love’s In Need Of Love Today”. Cripes! Sniffle even!
A programme autographed by all the stars is then raffled by compere Mike Smith for a staggering £6,500, Elton John plays two swoonsome songs at the piano to rapturous applause and then it’s time for the “supergroup”, a backing band staffed by squillions of famous “rock heroes” like The Who’s John Entwistle, The Police’s Andy Summers, keyboard legend Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello’s pianist Steve Neive, Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey and so on. Bob Geldof, the first guest singer, rolls through Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and a song of his about AIDS called “In The Pouring Rain.”
“This is the first time I’ve sang onstage in 2½ years,” says a slightly nervous looking Boy George before sweeping exuberantly into “Everything I Own” and a fast reggae thingie called “Freedom” (possibly his next single). Then comes a surprise to virtually everbody. Literally about 15 minutes ago Boy George had met George Michael in the dressing room and had got chatting about the £50 George Michael owes him, as mentioned recently in Smash Hits much to George Michael’s embarrassment. George suggested going onstage during Boy George’s performance to give him the money, they sing “Everything I Own” together downstairs to plan his entrance and then George Michael suggests that instead of that instead they should do an extra song, a Culture Club “oldie” he knows off by heart called “That’s The Way”. Only trouble is no-one can play it on the piano except for Culture Club’s Roy Hay who happens to be in the audience. So, to his surprise, he’s whisked onto the stage and they all go through a completely unrehearsed version to thunderous applause.
By now it’s getting late and things start winding to a close. Continue »
Then it’s the finale. Jillions of people, including Curiosity Killed The Cat and Shirlie and Pepsi, sing a literally never-ending version of “Stand By Me”, led by Boy George and Bobby Womack. As usual, Ben Volauvent-Terrine does his “inspired” dance routine and generally hogs the attention but nobody cares by this stage and anyway, there’s still another 15 minutes of “Stand By Me” to go, with various stops, restarts and finally, a full stop. Even then, nobody’s had enough so Boy George conducts the crowd through an a capella version until finally everyone else has slipped off the stage.
Five hours ago most people had expected a rather dodgy evening’s entertainment for a “good cause”. In fact it turned out to be exactly “the party” the organisers promised. Hurrah!
RICHARD COLES (THE COMMUNARDS):
“It’s important that everyone’s aware of the dangers and how to avoid contracting the disease, but it’s also important to remember that 90% of the people who’ve died so far are gay men. And they’re the victims, not the cause and that’s crucial. People must remember that AIDS is a disease, it’s not the Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. It’s not The Plague. It’s not the hand of God. It’s just a disease—
“The main point for me is to raise money to find a cure and also to take away some of the gloom’n’doom from the image of AIDS. The government campaign has been so maudlin; depressing as hell. As for myself I’m into monogamy—
“It’s critical to influence people who are just beginning to grope their way into their own sexuality and to rid them of the notions that my generation imbued them with—
“The other danger is that what is a physical evil becomes a moral evil so it’s important to talk about AIDS without implying that people affected by it are intrinsically evil. I did a couple of ads myself for The Terence Higgins Trust (AIDS helpline organisation). One of them simply said ‘stick one of these’—
“People have said to me that the promotion of awareness of AIDS over the last few months has been over-the-top but it’s got to be rammed down people’s throats because it’s an evil disease. I was thinking this evening that it’s important to get rid of it so that my children will have a feeling of choice on their part. Though some people may think that sleeping with lots of people is not right I think a lot of people go through it. I certainly found it character building in many ways. And now AIDS is taking away our freedom of choice.”
“I’m here because I sleep with men and I enjoy doing it. I’ve never made any bones about that. Obviously it’s also a problem for heterosexuals now too, but not such a big one. I’ve had the same lover for three years now so I’m happy but if I was going to go to bed with someone different now I’d make sure they’d had the AIDS test—
“It’s difficult though knowing that it can kill you. I still look at people in the street and think ‘cor! they’re really gorgeous!’ And I don’t know about this ‘safe sex’ thing—
“Still, obviously people won’t stick to cuddling. It’s a bit like war. Until the bomb lands on your doorstep you don’t take any notice. But I think one thing that should definitely happen is Margaret Thatcher should give a lot of money to AIDS research. I’m sure she gets horny. She has a sex life. She’s got children hasn’t she?”
JIMMY SOMERVILLE (THE COMMUNARDS):
“Apart from Tom Robinson we’re the only two outspokenly gay men up on stage tonight singing songs about love. Love songs between two men etc etc. And at a time like this when everyone’s hearing about the crisis and how it’s affecting people we’ve got to realise that we must never forget love and desire. They’re the most important things in gay men’s lives, and though they’re trying to take everything away from us they’ll never take that away.”
Special thanks to: Jaqui Doyle, Tom Hibbert, Derrin Schlesinger, Barry McIlheney, Brett Grange, Gary Perry, Mike Putland and Rex.Continue »