Friday, April 13, 2012

Help Us Save Some Lives

One of the highlights of George Harrison's solo career, the Concert for Bangla Desh went from chance remark to superstar benefit in just over a month. In late June, 1971, George was in Los Angeles working with Ravi Shankar on the soundtrack for the long-delayed documentary Raga. Ravi lamented to George about the war occurring in Bangladesh and causing thousands of starving refugees to flood into India from East Pakistan.

George immediately agreed to call attention to the issue by composing a song, "Bangla Desh", hastily recorded and released as a single by the end of July. More importantly, he began rounding up every musical friend he could think of to perform at a charity concert in New York.

Madison Square Garden was booked for two shows on August 1st, and an amazing lineup was assembled, with Ravi himself opening the show and George leading an all-star band including many of the people who had contributed to All Things Must Pass: Ringo, Eric Clapton, Jim Keltner, Billy Preston, Badfinger, Leon Russell, Klaus Voormann, Carl Radle, and of course Phil Spector, recording the show from a mobile unit outside the Garden.

George and Ravi held a press conference at Allen Klein's ABKCO office on Broadway July 27th, explaining the reasons for the concert and the planned album and film, which would generate the bulk of the revenue to be sent as relief aid. Most of the band had only that week prior to the Sunday shows to rehearse, and Eric Clapton didn't arrive until Saturday, with Jesse Ed Davis filling in during his absence (and joining the group onstage).

The already-stellar lineup was given a turbo boost when Bob Dylan, who hadn't toured in five years, agreed to participate, although nobody in the band was certain he would until the moment he walked onstage with his acoustic guitar and harmonica at the matinee performance.

Both concerts sold out almost immediately and raised $250,000, but despite George's press conference prediction of a 6-10 day turnaround for the album to be released, it wouldn't be out until December, with the film delayed even longer; more on that later.


  1. Dinsdale, all this time, I never have really thought about the effort and time it must take to WRITE all the information down in a clear, coherent and definitive way, and with no editor, thank you! Or better yet....Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare!!!

  2. Here are two further sources for the Concert For Bangla Desh press conference:

    Along with what you posted, all three of these sources have unique material. The first of the two clips I uploaded runs over 10 minutes and comes from this disc:

    George Harrison - The Concert For Bangla Desh Complete (CD 3) (Zeus)

    I only have it in mp3--never found a lossless source.

    The second comes from disc two of this set:

    Inside Interviews (Laserlight)

    It's short but the end of the audio ("Because I was asked by a friend if I'd help, that's all") is not present on the other two sources. In the Zeus source, the beginning of this quote starts around 6'10", but then the tape skips.

    All these sources seem to be chopped up and out of order from each other, and I'm too lazy to figure out the chronology and edit these all together. But maybe someone else reading this blog will have more initiative than me!

    All the best,

    PS: It sounds like Geraldo is one of the press folks asking questions.

    1. Thank you for the files! I will try editing them together with what I have and assembling a more complete version. And yes, that's Geraldo Rivera - the Bangla Desh DVD includes a bit from one of his pre-concert news reports in the bonus documentary.