Ferry Aid

What really happened? Why is Boy George singing along to an old Beatles single? Why has “horny” Nick Kamen joined Bananarama? What have the very dubious Sun “news” paper got to do with all of this? And who is Stephanie Lawrence??… Chris Heath spends three days watching the recording of “Let it be”.

The ‘Bizarre’ office inside ‘The Sun’ building at Wapping is the place where a group of “journalists” sit around day in day out cobbling together a mixture of scandal ad rumours for The Sun’s daily “pop” column. It isn’t exactly the first place you’d expect to find charitable thoughts of any kind. Over the years they’ve fought hard to earn a reputation for printing the most unscrupulous, unfactual and often hurtful pop music stories in Britain but on the afternoon of March 11 they had an idea that, for once, might do much more good than bad.
The previous Friday night, the ferry ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’, leaving Zeebrugge port in Belgium, had overturned, killing nearly 200 people. Some of those were people tking advantage of a special offer in ‘The Sun’ allowing them to make the crossing for just £1. Why not, suggested one journalist, organise a benefit record? Another – Garry Bushell – decided “Let it be” would be the most appropriate song to record “just because it was anthem-like – ‘times of trouble’ and all that”. Producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman (responsible for Mel & Kim, Princess, Dead Or Alive, Bananarama’s “Venus” and so on) agreed to produce it and donate their recording studio free of charge. All they needed now were some pop stars…

The only problem here was that ‘The Sun’ aren’t exactly on the best of terms with many pop stars. “By Thursday night”, whispered one of those involved, “they hadn’t got anything together. They were hopeless. They had Chas and Dave and a couple of other people. They said to me ‘we can definitely guarantee Stephanie Lawrence. Who is Stephanie Lawrence?”
Exactly. Luckily a few other people chipped in. Boy George was persuaded through his brother David, a Fleet Street photographer. The producers got people like Bananarama and Mel & Kim, while Music Box, the European Cable TV station joined forced and roped in most of the other big stars who eventually turned up.
More and more people gradually agreed to get involved, even though it proved a bad move printing a phone number for celebrities to phone in and announce their participation. Within hours they’d had “Eddie” Bon Jovi phoning reverse charge from Southend and someone with a Brummie accent saying they were “Prince”. Neither, strangely enough turned up…


Kim Wilde

“I didn’t think, when I heard, that this was a good thing to do. Making a record wasn’t the first thing that sprang to mind. I was very upset by waht happened and I didn’t think it was appropriate to sing about it. I’m doing it because I’ve been told the families need the money but I feel very strange about it.”