Leonard Cohen - vocals;; Midge Ure All Star Band:; Midge Ure - synthesizers, guitars, vocals, musical director; Brian May - guitars, vocals; Mark Brzezicki - drums, vocals; Phil Collins - drums, vocals; Mick Karn - bass; Howard Jones - keyboards, vocals;; Eric Clapton All Star Band:; Alan Clark - keyboards, vocals; Ray Cooper - Percussion, vocals; Nahan East - bass, vocals; Steve Ferrone - drums, vocals; Elton John - piano, vocals; Mark Knopfler - guitars, vocals;; Barry Gardner, Gary Barnacle, John Thirkell, Luke Tunney, Pete Thoms - Horns; Gillian O'Donovan, Suzie O'List - Backing vocals
American musical icon Leonard Cohen performed "Tower Of Song" at his appearance during the Prince's Trust Rock Gala in 1988, and although he was among an army of rock heroes who had worshiped at Cohen's musical altar over the years, he seemed a bit out of place in this grouping of commercial superstars. Cohen rarely performs, and performs in England even less frequently, so it was very special when he made an appearance at the event.
His music is timeless, and Cohen's legacy only seems to gain more momentum with each passing year. Indeed, having Cohen at this event gave it a weight that many other charity concerts are not as fortunate in securing.
The Prince's Trust was a charity organization formed by the Prince of Wales in 1976 after he completed his duty in the Royal Navy. Now in its 32nd year, the Trust has become the U.K.'s leading youth charity, offering a range of opportunities including training, personal development, business start-up support, mentoring, and advice. The first of the charity concerts began in 1982 and was headlined by Status Quo. After its success, several other mainstream superstars jumped on board, and between 1983 and 1987 the concerts featured such artists as George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Tina Turner, Bryan Adams, Pete Townshend, Joan Armatrading, Madness, Kate Bush, and Phil Collins.
This performance from the 1988 Prince's Trust Rock Gala included an all-star cast of the biggest names in the business. Included in the show were Eric Clapton, Elton John, Mark Knopfler of the Dire Straits, Joe Cocker, Queen's Brian May, the Bee Gees, Howard Jones, Ultravox's Midge Ure, Rick Astley, Wet Wet Wet, T'Pau, Peter Gabriel, Leonard Cohen, and Phil Collins. The show was an overwhelming success both artistically and financially, helping to raise over £48 million for the charity.
Musically, it was a mix of legendary songs and current Top 40 hits of that time. Superstars such as Elton John and Mark Knopfler performed one song each, but flavor-of-the-month pop stars such as T'pau and Wet Wet Wet performed three or four songs, none of which were very big hits outside of the U.K. All in all, there was incredible music made at this show.
The performers were backed by two all star bands, which played alternatively. The Midge Ure All Star Band featured such players as Queen's Brian May on guitar; Howard Jones on keyboards; Phil Collins and Mark Brzezicki (from Big Country) on drums; and Mick Karn on bass, among others. The Eric Clapton All-Star Band features "Slowhand" himself on guitar, Elton John on piano, and Mark Knopfler on guitar, along with mostly members from Clapton's band at the time.
There are a number of especially memorable moments from the 1988 Prince's Rock Trust, among them Peter Gabriel's stunning take on "Sledgehammer"; Joe Cocker's soaring version of "The Letter" (backed by the Midge Ure All-Stars); and Clapton's biting version of "Cocaine." The show ends with the entire cast backing Joe Cocker on his spastic version of the Beatles classic, "With A Little Help From My Friends."
The entire show was broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour in 1988, and was released as a home video some years later.