Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Prince Trust Concert

 The Price’s Trust Concerts

June 5-6 1987

By Petra Zeitz

My friends and I had ordered our tickets for the two Prince’s Trust concerts way back in March because of rumors that Paul McCartney would appear again.  My tickets arrived and I was in the 1st and 4th row!  When the line-up was published in advertisements some weeks later, we were totally disappointed.  By late March I was pretty sure I had wasted $50 on tickets, especially since Paul personally told us more than once when we saw him that he wouldn’t do the concerts this time.

Everything changed for me six days before the first show.  I was walking to the train station catching a newspaper headline: “The Beatles to play for Di!”  I immediately bought the paper and couldn’t believe what I was reading.  George and Ringo had agreed to do the Prince’s Trust Concert!  No way, I thought.  But somehow, I did believe it, as they were supposed to play with Eric Clapton and Elton John.  The four of them are playing on George’s new album and hanging out together quite a lot.  I remember I was crying on the train after reading the article, imagining how wonderful it would be if it was true.

The next day the papers didn’t even mention the concerts and my hopes began to fade.  Then on the day of the Sgt. Pepper anniversary, I got a phone call from someone having good contacts with Eric Clapton and he told me that George and Eric had been rehearsing all week at Friar Park.  That was it!  From then on, I knew something was going to happen.

During the week we went to Henley but missed George driving out by 30 minutes, but we did get the confirmation that he would be playing Friday and Saturday night.  We were thinking about what songs he would play.  We thought there was just no way he and Eric would play “While My Guitar” and so we were thinking maybe they’d do some old rock n roll stuff like “Johnny B. Goode,” something like that.

The day of the first concert arrived.  My friend Emily and I met early in the morning.  Our plan was to go to Friar Park and see George leaving there instead of seeing him at Wembley where there would be crowds of people.  In Henley, we soon found out that George wasn’t there anymore.  He must have stayed the night in London or at a friend’s place.  We took the next train back into town, and went by HandMade Films’ office and Ringo’s office, but nobody was there.

We decided to go to Wembley and arrive at the Arena at about 1:30pm.  Our pal Mick was there and told us Ringo and Eric had already gone in, but George was still expected.

Emily and I walked around the building to find out what the place was like.  One of the side doors was open a bit and we could hear Ringo and Eric jamming on stage.  It was the first soundcheck, but they weren’t playing any actual songs.  We stood at the door and listened, as this big blue Mercedes drove by.  Emily shouted at me, “Petra, is that George?”  I hadn’t really seen much so I said, “No. That guy’s got a beard.”  We ran to the gate anyway, just in case, and Mick told us that it was George and Jeff Lynne.  We could see George through the fence.  He was walking from the car to the stage door.  Jeff followed him.  We ran back to the half-open door to hear if they’d play together.  We could hear George saying something to Eric.  General rehearsal went on; we heard Level 42 and went back to the carpark gate.

More and more people were showing up.  We listened to Eric’s final soundcheck at the door.  He did two songs and we were wondering if either George or Ringo would be playing with him.

Nothing happened for about an hour.  I was getting excited.  I still couldn’t believe I was finally going to see George and live on stage from the front row!  Too much!  I was always hoping I would meet him one day, but it just never came to my mind that I could see him playing live on stage.

Emily and Craig wanted to go get some food.  They passed the spot where we had been listening to the rehearsals earlier on.  I just heard them screaming when they came by the door, so I ran up there as fast as I could – then I heard it loud and clearly – the soundcheck of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  I was freaking out!  It was just unbelievable. George’s voice sounded so wonderful.  I was in tears before the song had finished.  I can’t remember being as happy and excited in all my life.  He also did “Here Comes the Sun” which was even more unbelievable.   We all banged at the door to “applaud” when he had finished, and he did it again!  Afterward, it was quiet for a while and we were trying to calm down a little when Ringo started singing “With a Little Help from My Friends” and he, too, sounded great!  We knew that song would be the finale of the show.  When they had finished with it we walked back to the carpark gate.  Through some vans, we spotted George getting into Eric’s Mercedes.  We waited at the gate and that Mercedes came up.  I saw Eric sitting in the front and it drove past there were George, Ringo and Jeff squeezed in the back seat.  We waved at them, and George smiled and waved back, then they were gone.  I had been wrong before. George had actually grown a beard!  It all reminded me so much of the Bangla Desh Concert – those songs, and those people plus the fact that George looked a bit like he used to look in ’71 with the beard and rather long hair.  Emily and I were spacing out.  We were saying totally stupid things, just not behaving like ourselves anymore.  It was madness.

At around 6pm, Emily, Craig, and I decided to go back to the carpark gate in case George and Co were coming back.  By then, it was raining heavily and there were just the three of us waiting.  We hadn’t been there for five minutes when a big green car pulled up (They had left in a white Mercedes).  It had to stop for the guards to open the gate and there were George and Eric in the back of the car. We waved and did “thumbs up” and George did the same.  Craig shouted, “Good luck for tonight” and George said “Thank you” then they were ready to drive in.  We were so happy that they had paid attention to us and responded to our signs.  It was a great feeling.  It was the first time I actually saw George from that close up.  We always stood a few feet away from their car because we didn’t want to do any silly things like banging on their window as people di the next night.  We missed Ringo getting back as we got to our seats as soon as the doors opened.

The concert started on time and it started off very boringly with some teen-stars.  I was just too nervous and excited to enjoy any of the music.  Then the all-star band came on; it was good to see Eric Clapton.  Elton John did two songs, then a roadie gave Eric a different guitar which I knew he needed to play “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  I jumped up from my seat.  Eric went up to the microphone and said, “I’d like to bring on a dear old friend of mine, in fact several!  A big surprise for all of us, really – please welcome George Harrison and Ringo Starr…and Jeff Lynne!”

George came on stage with his guitar, and he looked so nervous!  The audience went wild when he started playing.  He looked a bit scruffy with the beard, but he was dressed very smartly.  Oh, I was just gone staring at him during the whole set.  It was wonderful!  I can’t describe what was going on inside me.  There – just for a few feet in front of me was the man I had been waiting to see for so many years.  And there were so many things I could see that the TV cameras didn’t get.  It was so funny when during “With a Little Help From My Friends” George, Elton, and Eric were sort of hitting each other to get closer to the microphone they were sharing.  I saw Eric pointing out his girlfriend to George.  She was sitting in the stalls and George and Eric both looked up to her.  Then there was a surprising second encore which was “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King and the All-Stars!  It was great to see George for yet another song.  Needless to say, I kept watching him instead of whoever was singing.  Then it was over.  Emily and I hugged each other.  We were stunned.  What a night!  We went back to the carpark, but now it was dark and there were hundreds of people waiting.  We saw Ringo leave, but not George.

Emily and I had found out about a party being held at Le Palais in Hammersmith.  We took the tube to Hammersmith, but it took us ages to get there, and it was still raining.  We arrived outside the club just in time to see Eric going in, but George and Ringo were already inside.  Alan Crowder came out – it was funny because we know him from waiting outside MPL.

At around 1:30AM Ringo and Barbara left.  All the people were cheering when they came out.  Ringo was really nice when I thanked him for the show.   There was this crazy New Yorker waiting whom we had seen outside Paul’s before.  As soon as we saw him jumping about and unrolling a poster, we knew George was going to come out.  As soon as George and Olivia appeared at the door, the New York Geek was right there jumping at George, “Sign this, George, sign this…”

There were many photographers crowding about George and Olivia and George looked straight into one of the cameras, pointed at the Geek, and said, “Spot the looney!  Where’s the car?”  That was just too funny!  Emily and I burst out laughing.  George and Liv made their way to the car very quickly and off they went.  It was almost 2:30 AM by now.  We were too excited to go home and so we spent the rest of the night at an all-night cafĂ© in Soho.  It was pretty weird!

The next morning, we tried to find out if George was staying at a hotel in London but had no luck.  We then went to Wembley early, only to be told the rehearsals wouldn’t start before 4pm.  We spent the day hanging around. Emily fell asleep in front of the car park.

By 5pm everybody but George and Ringo came in.  The guards told us they didn’t know for sure if they would show up.  Zak Starkey and his wife arrived and so did Mary and Stella McCartney.  We were getting really worried that George would not come again, but finally, at around 7pm, his car pulled up.  We couldn’t see much of him as there were too many people jumping at the car screaming his name.  Needless to say, he didn’t stop!

As on the previous day, we could see him walking through the carpark towards the stage door.  He also had a look into one of the TV equipment vans.

I enjoyed the show in general much more this time.  I was much calmer and just looking forward to seeing the finale.  This time Elton John did the announcement. “This is something special, not just for you but for us, and tonight I think for everybody on this stage it’s a special night because to play with these next two special people is like a dream come true –without them, there wouldn’t us ‘us.’  So will you please give a wonderful reception – raise the roof!  Mr. George Harrison and Mr. Ringo Starr!”

This time George seemed much more confident, and the show was even better.  The guitar solo he played with Eric was just incredible.  The audience did raise the roof!  I was so happy seeing George getting all their attention.  He played “Here Comes the Sun” absolutely beautifully.   Unfortunately, “Stand By Me” was replaced by a Phil Collins–Paul Young duet without George and Ringo being on stage.  A super long version of “With a Little Help” ended the show.  Just before walking off stage, George stopped to wave at somebody in the stalls and as I looked up I could see Olivia.

So the concerts were over and seeing George and Co playing together topped everything I had seen before.

And yet little did I know that the night wasn’t over for me.  Emily and I and our other friends met outside.  We went along the fence around the carpark and spotted a hole in the fence.  It was quite high up, but nothing seemed impossible at that moment.  Tracy, Safia, John, Jennifer, and I climbed through the hole.  Unfortunately, the others weren’t able to follow us because of a guard.  At first, we hid behind the cars.  We could see a big hall in the backstage area, quite a lot of people were in there.  We decided the best thing would be to just be cool and walk in.  It worked!

We found ourselves standing in the backstage area.  We saw Denis O’Brien and many of the musicians.  We met Ringo and Barbara as they were leaving.  Then George and Olivia appeared.  Some people ran up to George to get autographs.  He stopped to sign, but then the guy he had borrowed the pen off left and there was nobody with another biro.  George was standing there with all these papers to sign asking if anybody had a biro.

We followed him outside.  He was talking to us but I can’t remember much of what he said.  I remember he shook my hand and he looked at all of us and said, “You’re all so young!”  I didn’t have my camera on me.  Safia had her little camera and when George was already walking to the car, she tried to stop him.  “George will you please have your picture taken with Petra?  She’s loved you for years!”  Suddenly George stopped, turned around, and said, “Sure.  Who is Petra?”  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  George looked at me and I had the feeling he was looking through me.  He put his arm around me for the picture.  I was so close to him.  It was a dream come true!  I thanked him and when he got into the car he turned towards me and Tracy and smiled.  Olivia waved.  A TV reporter briefly interviewed him about the concert. She said, “Will you do it again?”  and George answered, “Oh, I don’t’ know…”  Tracy said, “George, you have to!  It was brilliant.”  And he smiled “Thank you.”  Then he drove off and we kept waving until he couldn’t see us anymore.  I later heard our friends saw his car getting stuck in traffic and they talked to him for a few minutes through the car window.  HE said he had done it for Eric and because he likes the Prince. 

Now it’s over, but I will never ever forget those two days. 

1 comment:

  1. let's give a hand to the fabulous George Harrison