Little Steven, aka Steven Van Zandt, is commemorating today’s 30th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s historic release from a South African prison after 27 years in captivity with the announcement that his 1985 landmark protest album, Sun City, by Artists United Against Apartheid, the extraordinary supergroup brought together by Van Zandt, producer Arthur Baker and journalist Danny Schechter to fight racial injustice in South Africa, will be released on vinyl for the first time since its initial release 35 years ago. The long-out-of-print LP joins five additional classic albums from Van Zandt making all of Little Steven’s records from his early career once again available on vinyl.
The upcoming releases, previously only available in last year’s limited edition box set, RockNRoll Rebel – The Early Work, and now available individually, have all been remastered and include all of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s solo records between 1982 and 1999: Men Without Women (1982), Voice Of America (1983), Sun City (1985) Freedom – No Compromise (1987), Revolution (1989) and Born Again Savage (1999). Releasing March 13 via Wicked Cool/UMe, all albums will be available on both 180g black vinyl and as a special, limited edition version on 180g color swirl vinyl mirroring the psychedelic platters released in the box set.
Notably, Revolution will be making its individual US vinyl debut, having previously only seen vinyl release in Europe, while the 2LP Born Again Savage will be available individually on vinyl for the first time ever.
Hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most fervent and forceful political statements to emerge from Eighties pop music,” Sun City, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, remains an undisputed milestone in music and cultural history. The project began with ‘Sun City,’ a song Van Zandt wrote to expose and oppose South Africa’s apartheid system which included the forced relocation of its black population who were also stripped of their right to vote. The song, featuring the memorable chorus of “I ain’t gonna play Sun City,” was a declaration and boycott from a stunningly diverse group of artists that they would refuse to perform at Sun City, a resort located within the Bantustan of Bophuthatswana, one of many internationally unrecognized states created by the South African government to forcibly relocate its black population.
To record the track, Van Zandt, co-producer Arthur Baker and journalist Danny Schechter brought together Artists United Against Apartheid – a still breathtaking cadre of international superstars that included Bruce Springsteen, Miles Davis, Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Zak Starkey, Darlene Love, Run DMC, U2, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Rubén Blades, Peter Gabriel, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, The Fat Boys, Herbie Hancock, Jackson Browne, Peter Wolf, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil Scott-Heron, Nona Hendryx, Pat Benatar, Clarence Clemons, Stiv Bators, Doug Wimbish, and Joey Ramone, to name but a few.
Named as the top single of 1985 by The Village Voice’s prestigious “Pazz & Jop” critics poll, ‘Sun City’ was followed that same year by a full-length album that saw many of those same artists joining together for a number of additional exclusive tracks, including ‘Silver and Gold’ (performed by Bono with Keith Richards and Ron Wood), ‘The Struggle Continues’ (featuring Miles Davis, Stanley Jordan, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Okosuns, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Richard Scher), and ‘Let Me See Your I.D.’ (featuring Gil Scott-Heron, Miles Davis, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Peter Wolf, Sonny Okosuns, Malopoets, Duke Bootee, Ray Barretto, and Peter Garrett).
Sun City proved a critically acclaimed and globally important work for both its powerful social message – allowing Van Zandt, Baker, and others involved in the project to donate more than a half million dollars to causes supporting the anti-apartheid struggle – as well as its innovative, world-spanning musical approach, ultimately earning inclusion in Rolling Stone’s “100 Best Albums of the Eighties,” which noted “Sun City threw an effective political punch: Not only did it discourage musicians from playing the South African resort city, but it also helped spread the word about new sounds like rap.”
“It took courage for artists to make the leap from social concerns to political action for a cause that was virtually unknown at the time,” said Van Zandt. “Victories that clear cut are rare in the sphere of international liberation politics. Once in a lifetime if you’re lucky.”
The release of Little Steven’s early catalogue comes on the heels of the expansive box set, RockNRoll Rebel – The Early Work, released in December. Limited to just 1,000 copies, the comprehensive collection includes all six aforementioned albums across seven colored vinyl LPs housed in a bespoke slipcase. The multi-format set also boasts four CDs of rarities culled from Van Zandt’s personal vault, allowing an in-depth look at his early solo career with 51 tracks spanning previously unreleased demos, B-sides, rehearsals, outtakes, radio spots, non-album singles, classic concert performances, and a number of never-before-heard studio gems, complete with corresponding liner notes from Van Zandt about each of the bonus tracks.
“It’s been a blast going through the archives and finding all these hidden gems,” says Van Zandt. “In addition to demos in various stages of completion, there are entire songs I’d completely forgotten about, and we found some really early things pre-Jukes like Southside Johnny and the Kid (The Kid being me!). I’m excited to have my stuff back on vinyl for the first time in decades!”
Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul recently wrapped up two years of near constant touring – totaling 187 shows across North America, Europe, and Australia – with an epic performance at New York City’s historic Beacon Theatre, bringing the back-to-back Soulfire/Summer Of Sorcery world tours to an end with a suitably triumphant concert filmed for future release.
Sun City is out on 13 March and can be bought here.