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How Amnesty International Rocked The World: The Inside Story

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Behind the famous 1980s concerts with Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Sting

 

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had been all over the planet with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N'Dour by the time the 1988 Amnesty International Human Rights Now tour touched down on Africa's Ivory Coast. However, they'd never seen a crowd like the 50,000 fans at le Félicia soccer stadium. "It was a stadium of entirely black faces," Springsteen recalled recently. "Clarence [Clemons] said to me, 'Now you know what it feels like!' There were about 60 seconds where you could feel people sussing us out, and then the whole place just exploded. The band came off feeling like it was the first show we'd ever done. We had to go and prove ourselves on just what we were doing that moment on stage."

 

The concert was one of the final stops on the Human Rights Now tour, the second of two all-star tours that Amnesty International staged in the mid-1980s to spread awareness of human rights atrocities across the globe. They were herculean efforts that made all previous benefit concerts – Live Aid included – seem like a minor undertaking.

The Amnesty International tours featured once-in-a-lifetime performances by U2, Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Sting, the Police, Joan Baez, Bryan Adams and many others. However, for the past two-and-a-half decades, they've only been available as low-res VHS bootlegs and YouTube videos. On November 5th, they are finally coming out in Released: The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998, a six-DVD package with remastered audio/video and hours of unseen footage from backstage, including new interviews (which you can watch first here).

 

 

 

Amnesty International began plotting the first tour just weeks after Live Aid raised millions for famine victims of Ethiopia and made hundreds of millions of people around the planet aware of their plight. "Amnesty realized it wouldn't be sufficient to just do music on one day," longtime Amnesty activist Martin Lewis told Rolling Stone. "[Amnesty USA Executive Director] Jack Healey had the idea of doing a tour. It helped immensely that he went to Bill Graham, who we couldn't have done the tour without."

 

One of the first calls they made was to U2. "It couldn't have been worst timing," the Edge said in the book U2 by U2. "We were building up to go into the studio [to record The Joshua Tree] and I was worried all the focus and concentration would be lost." But it was an offer they couldn't refuse, and they agreed to not only delay the recording of their album but actually lobby other artists to join the tour. "We rang everybody we knew," said Bono. "Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Prince…"

 

None of those people agreed, but Amnesty wound up with a lineup guaranteed to pack stadiums around America: U2, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Adams, Lou Reed and Joan Baez. The six-show national tour inspired great moments; for the final three shows, Sting made a last-minute decision to reunite the Police, who hadn't performed anywhere since they broke up in early 1984. "I hadn't seen my drums in months," Stewart Copeland told Rolling Stone. "I've always been very fond of Amnesty, but if it had been for Exxon, I would have been there. Playing with my old band was an exciting prospect."

 

Every show ended with all of the evening's performers gathering onstage to sing Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." At the final show, the Police handed their instruments to U2. "It's been called a symbolic passing of the keys to the musical kingdom," said Copeland. "But since we had been defunct for a number of years, I'm not sure we had any keys in our possession. We joked around that Andy [summers] should de-tune his guitar before handing it over to the Edge."

 

 

You can read the full article on Rolling Stone.

 

More information about it - The Human Rights Concerts

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"Every show ended with all of the evening's performers gathering onstage to sing Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." At the final show, the Police handed their instruments to U2. "It's been called a symbolic passing of the keys to the musical kingdom," said Copeland. "But since we had been defunct for a number of years, I'm not sure we had any keys in our possession. We joked around that Andy [summers] should de-tune his guitar before handing it over to the Edge.""

 

!!! !!! !!!  So glad to learn this.

 

"But since we had been defunct for a number of years, I'm not sure we had any keys in our possession."

 

U2 has said that the fact The Police & another band were on a kind of hiatus at one point really helped out U2.

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Great article thanks for posting.

 

Don't forget the DVD and CD with U2 content 'iReleased!' is out Monday :D

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U2's Lost 1986 Hotel Bar Jam - Premiere

Recently recovered footage is available on new Amnesty International DVD box set

 

The 1986 Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope Tour brought U2, the Police, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed and Bryan Adams to enormous basketball arenas and football stadiums all over America, but the most unique jam took place during an off day at a tiny hotel bar in Atlanta. A local band was playing Beatles covers when Gabriel, Bono, the Edge and Larry Mullen Jr. walked in with Lou Reed guitarist Fuzzbee Morse, Gabriel bassist Larry Klein and Gabriel drummer Manu Katche.

 

Morse walked up to the stage and said, "Can we borrow some of your instruments? Some of us are musicians."

 

"The band was very dismissive," says longtime Amnesty activist Martin Lewis. "Then Fuzzbee says, 'You might want to look and see who wants to use your instruments.' They look out and behind a pillar is Bono and he just leans out and waves. Behind another pillar is Edge, who also leans out and waves. The band was like, 'OK, play whatever you want.'"

 

The handful of lucky people at the bar that night got to see 3/4th of U2 jam with members of Reed's and Gabriel's bands, completely making up songs as they went along. "They started at 9:30 and went until four a.m.," says Lewis. "The wine was flowing. Larry Klein had the distinct impression that the guys in U2 hadn't had very many chances to jam with other musicians. The freedom was incredible to them."

 

Peter Gabriel shot some of the jam with his ever-present video camera. "When I was putting together this DVD collection I called up Peter and asked about it," says Lewis. "He said to me, 'My camera was stolen and I lost most of the tapes. I might have a few. But Martin, this was 27 years ago.'"

 

 

Most everybody Lewis interviewed about the Conspiracy of Hope tour raved about the jam, and he was determined to find a visual recording. "I don't know the word 'no,'" he says. "I knew I had to find those tapes, and Peter put out a concert video years ago called PoV that had a few seconds of Conspiracy of Hope footage on it. I tracked down the people who made PoV and we tracked the tapes down to a farm in upstate New York. And there, buried at the bottom of this pile of things, was a three-quarter inch tape in a British format. The hardest thing in the world was to find a place in upstate New York that could play such a thing."

 

Lewis did manage to find a place that could play the archaic tapes, and on them he found the motherload: 11 minutes of Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. jamming with Klein, Katche and Morse. "I didn't know what song Bono was singing," says Lewis. "I thought it was an obscure b-side, but Morse told me he was improvising lyrics, just complete free association. This was prime Bono in the creation process, and he threw in bits of other songs like 'Sweet Jane' and 'Satisfaction,' too."

 

He knew the footage would make an incredible bonus item on the Amnesty International ¡Released! six DVD set (in stores November 5th), but he needed everyone's permission to include it. "Larry [Klein] and Fuzzbee were happy to be included," he says. "But I had to make sure that Bono and Larry [Mullen] were cool. I spent a couple of weeks waiting and chewing my fingernails down to the knuckles. It wasn't that they weren't interested. They were just in the middle of recording a new album. Finally, I got word that Larry and Bono were happy for Amnesty to use the footage."

 

The performance has been titled "Peach Jam," and you can see an exclusive preview of it right here.

 

From: Rolling Stone

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It would be a shame the footage was lost. It is incredible they found it... But some of them, close people already had knowledge of the existence of the recordings... and yes, they were in that farm! Sometimes you find things at home from 27 years or 13 years ago, or even something that goes back 23 years ago when you had your first judo lesson for instance. And it is like a joy to get back your memory again... It would be weird if Larry and Bono said no but of course he asked for the permission. This is a team, it functions like that, a very discreet, careful and gentle one but...strong.

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