In March 1987, the London Palladium was the venue for the 3rd Secret Policeman’s Ball, an event organised by Amnesty International to raise awareness of human rights issues. The star-studded line-up of comedians and musicians was filmed for television and recorded for release by Virgin records. Jackson Browne and Paul Brady (one of my favourite Irish musicians) performed Browne’s ‘El Salvador’ while Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins offered a sensitive, sympathetic version of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. Lou Reed sang ‘Voices of Freedom’ with Peter Gabriel on piano and Youssou N’Dour providing backing vocals.The evening ended with Gabriel’s ‘Biko’, a powerful protest song about the death of Stephen Biko in police custody in apartheid South Africa. What the audience did not see was the informal chaos backstage, for a lack of dressing rooms meant that artists had to wait in the wings before going on stage; some sat on chairs but Bob Geldof and his wife, Paula Yates, settled for the corridor floor. Peter Gabriel sought a private place to change into his stage costume as Ruby Wax, who was presenting the TV show, rushed by with a film crew in tow.
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