Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009

Secret Policeman Rocks

By David Luhrssen
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Amnesty International put itself at the forefront of popular culture in the ‘70s when—years before Live AID—it inaugurated a series of “Secret Policeman’s Balls” to call attention to oppression in nations all over the world. The wonderful effect of Amnesty’s efforts was to show-up the Stalinists of the Left for the fools and hypocrites they were, those apologists for the East Bloc and the Berlin Wall, those true believers in the liberation struggles of Khmer Rouge. On a nonpolitical plane, the balls were a platform for a host of mostly British entertainers, including comedians and the royalty of rock.

As shown on the new DVD, The Secret Policeman Rocks! (out Sept. 29), the organizers were catholic in taste. Culled from several concerts in the series, the DVD features everything from Phil Collins at the piano to a full tilt Kate Bush, her porcelain voice backed by rock band, flashing lights and a smoke machine. There were also some historic couplings, especially guitar masters Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins in a duet on John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

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