Not Dr May’s finest hour….
As Dr Brian May leads a funeral march for culled badgers I am reminded of a time when his somewhat unusual decisions were of a far more unpleasant variety. South Africa in the 1980s was home to an imprisoned Nelson Mandela and a truly disgusting period in the country’s history known as apartheid.
Sun City was a huge entertainment complex which housed hotels, restaurants, cinemas and concert venues and became synonymous with South Africa’s policy of racial segregation. Those of a certain age will recall international cricketers and other sports people who defied the cultural ban imposed on South Africa’s regime and played despite worldwide protests.
Whilst the money on offer was considerable and tempting for those less famous it was seen as a gig too far for rock’s biggest stars with Hall and Oats turning down a two million dollar offer to play whilst labelling any musicians accepting to play as ‘jerks’.
Queen and, amongst others, Rod Stewart and Elton John dismissed the notion of boycotting the regime and accepted the invitation to play for ‘entertainment reasons’. Immediately blacklisted by the United Nations and fined by the British Musicians Union they quickly tried to placate the public by donating money to a children’s charity. It didn’t wash with most, they were, as John Deacon said “aware of the fuss” but because “we are apparently quite popular there” they ignored the worldwide public opinion and played the gig in a complex famous for its luxury and its location amid the squalor of the townships and corrugated iron ‘houses’ so many were forced to live in.
Queen were no ordinary musicians, they were well educated and should have known better. One wonders what they thought of the rock charity single released the following year n 1985 which railed against apartheid? Awkward…
Categories: The Music Lounge