The success of Live Aid in 1985 caught the attention of many people not only in the music world, but amongst charities as well. It became clear how great the potential was to raise vast amounts of money for good causes through concerts, and how many famous artists would get behind them. It was a lesson not lost on even Britain’s Royal Family. On this day in 1986, less than a year after Live Aid, Wembley Stadium in London got called into use again for a fund-raising concert. This time it was for the first “real” Prince’s Trust Fund Concert. We use the quotation marks as there had been a concert for the organization four years prior in a Birmingham arena (headlined by Status Quo) but it wasn’t really denoted specifically as a “Prince’s Trust “ extravaganza.
The Prince’s Trust is a British charity established by Prince Charles in 1976. It aims to help out needy teens and youth in the land by giving them training and counseling to help them find work, primarily.
While Charles has never suggested he likes rock or even pop music, he must’ve been well aware of the mass appeal and the chance to not only raise millions but have his charity gain publicity if such a show was staged. And he was married to young Diana, a noted rock fan.
The artist soon to be known as “the artist formerly known as Prince” wasn’t there but enough talent was. For the huge ’86 show, non other than Paul McCartney was signed on to headline it, with plenty of star help including Elton John, Tina Turner, George Michael, Eric Clapton, Level 42 and more. Most acts played one song, several had stars from other bands join them for their performance (for instance Level 42’s Mark King played bass and sang backup on “Every Time You Go Away” by Paul Young, which was made into a duet with George Michael.) It started with “In A Big Country” by Big Country, then “Marlene on the Wall” by New Yorker Suzanne Vega. Soon Phil Collins was doing “In the Air Tonight”, Howard Jones delivered “No One Is to Blame”, Dire Straits did “Money For Nothing”, with Sting appearing just like on the record, and Elton came out twice, early on to do “Your Song” then towards the end with “I’m Still Standing”. Sir Paul finished up with “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Long Tall Sally” before the finale, an all-star jam of “Get Back” with almost all the ensemble from the concert on stage.
Wembley Stadium (the original one, which was demolished this century; there is now a newer venue in its place) held about 82 000 for most events, but could be stretched to over 100 000 in a pinch, so it’s a good bet that something like that number were in attendance. For an event of its magnitude, surprisingly few reviews of it seem to have survived, but to judge for yourself, the whole concert was released on CD and was shown later that year on HBO, meaning video of it is readily available online.
Prince Charles was presumably very pleased with the results, and his organization ran similar concerts every summer through 1990. Elton and Eric Clapton were highlights of the ’87 show (with George Michael and Phil Collins among the returnees); Elton, Clapton and Phil Collins again in ’88; Van Morrison and Level 42 among the ’89 stars and the Moody blues, Lenny Kravitz, Big Country and a full orchestra in ’90. Since then the Prince’s Trust has had only sporadic, and generally smaller musical events. The charity itself continues its work in the UK to this day.