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Recently I was flipping through my record collection and found I had copies of The Concert for Bangladesh as well as the less well-known Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. These records have several things in common: both concerts were organized by former members of the Beatles (George Harrison for Bangladesh and Paul McCartney for Kampuchea) to raise money for countries in Southeast Asia experiencing suffering after civil wars. Both feature all-star lineups of popular and revered musicians coming together for a good cause, donating their time to help those less fortunate. But while both are worthy efforts, there’s no denying that Harrison’s concert and album stand out as clearly superior. There’s a reason that The Concert for Bangladesh is remembered long after the events that it was organized to raise awareness of have long passed. All things must pass, but artistic achievement on this level will always be remembered. But why do The Concerts for the People of Kampuchea suffer so much in comparison? Here are five reasons:

1) No one knows where Kampuchea is… go ahead, find it on a map… you can’t, right? Unlike Bangladesh, Kampuchea no longer exists, since it reverted to its original name of Cambodia not many years after McCartney’s concerts were held. It was probably too politically correct to acquiesce to recognize a name change imposed by the very tyrant who slaughtered millions of his own people, and then name the charity effort and resulting album after that change. Would anyone today hold a concert for the country neighbouring Bangladesh with its own history of misery and use the name given it by its military dictators? Of course not. You most likely know it as Myanmar but it’ll always be Burma to me.

2) Bangladesh opens with a 16-minute raga by Ravi Shankar (and he even makes a joke after the audience applauds his tuning!). The closest Kampuchea comes to world music is the white-boy ska of The Specials.

3) Artist representation. There’s actually a pretty good lineup for Kampuchea, partly because the concerts were spread over four nights, rather than Bangladesh‘s single concert. But giving Queen an entire show and only putting one of their songs on the record is just criminal. Similarly, Elvis Costello is allowed only a single song, as is The Clash. I love The Pretenders, but why do they get three songs and The Clash only gets one? The concerts may have been amazing, but the document on record is sparse and frustrating.

4) George Harrison brings out his A-game, performing My Sweet Lord, Something, While My Guitar Gently Weeps (with Eric Clapton!), and Here Comes the Sun. McCartney gives us Got to Get You Into My Life and Let It Be, but in rather tepid versions. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big fan of Paul McCartney (he’s my favourite Beatle) but in this instance he just doesn’t bring the goods, and George Harrison wipes the stage with him.

5) In a move that demonstrates extraordinary good will just months after The Beatles broke up, George adds Ringo Starr as the drummer for the concert, and even lets him sing It Don’t Come Easy… everyone loves Ringo!

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