Video Hangover: Artists United Against Apartheid – “Sun City”

By Stereogum / October 2, 2007

Every week, we dig in the archives for videos that we find noteworthy, memorable, or just unbelievably stupid. And then, Jon McMillan breaks ‘em down for you. Why Video Hangover? Because when you watch as many videos as we do, you’re going to feel it afterwards.

“Sun City”
Artists United Against Apartheid, 1985

Join us as we journey back to the days of Atari, apartheid, and all-star jams.


Unfortunately, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore
1984-1991 were prime years for all-star musical lovefests, but how many of those projects actually made the difference they were supposed to make? “We All In The Same Gang” (failed to end gang violence in LA), “We Are The World” (failed to end famine in Africa), and “Band Aid” (failed to end the same famine, using only British people), were all great videos, but two decades on the problems they attempted to tackle still exist. On the other hand, history has proven kind to Steven Van Zandt, whose personal quest to raise awareness of South African apartheid ended a few years later with the end of South African apartheid, thus freeing him to spend his fifties glorifying sociopathic behavior and a casual disregard for human suffering. But it’s true that Van Zandt, between the album and the documentary that accompanied the “Sun City” project, did an amazing job bringing people together and raising awareness. Anyone who can rally Miles Davis, Brett Michaels and the Fat Boys around a cause that doesn’t involve heroin, hot chicks, or an enormous sandwich has got to be doing something right.

I can’t go for that (system of codified racial discrimination), no can do
You know who doesn’t give a crap about apartheid? Daryl Hall. At least that’s what I was thinking at the 3:04 mark, when John Oates and his man-eating moustache appear alongside … Lou Reed? Fortunately Daryl shows up a few minutes later to set the record straight.

Maybe he was just trying to impress Ashford and/or Simpson
Legend has it that Bruce Springsteen was sick when he recorded his infamously guttural turn at the “We Are The World” microphone, but after revisiting “Sun City” I’m not so sure. Apparently that’s just the way he sounds. But the Boss has nothing on Bono, in full Rattle And Hum mode as usual. Lou Reed, Joey Ramone, Run DMC — everybody comes on, does their thing, and gets out of the way. Even the guy from Midnight Oil gets it! But Bono tries to impart every syllable with the gravitas of a gospel preacher on Sunday morning and ends up looking and sounding, for lack of a more elegant visual, like he has a bowel obstruction. But, you know, he’s Bono, so I guess you have to keep inviting him to these things.

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