Look! Justin Hawkins of The Darkness had the faces of the members of Queen as seen on the cover of their gayest album, Hot Space, tattooed on his fingers! Now that is dedication. Also, why is John Deacon missing an eye?
From Ultimate Classic Rock:
Pop singer Katy Perry and Twilight star Kristen Stewart are reportedly fighting over a plum role in an upcoming movie about the life of flamboyant Queen front man Freddie Mercury. According to a recent article, the pair are both vying against Lady Gaga for the role of Mary Austin, Mercury’s lifelong best friend and confidante with whom he had a romantic relationship in the ’70s.
Mercury lived with Austin in the early ’70s before beginning a relationship with a male record company executive, and even after that, the pair were best friends for the rest of his life. He was the godfather to her oldest son, and when he died in 1991, he left his London home to Austin instead of his partner, Jim Hutton.
“Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Kristen Stewart are on the short list for Mary, who played a huge role in Freddie’s life,” a source reportedly told Star magazine (quote via Popcrush). “They all desperately want the part, and it’s getting ugly!”
Sacha Baron Cohen is slated to play Mercury in the biopic, and he reportedly has the final say in choosing his leading lady. The women apparently aren’t doing themselves any favors with their catty behavior. “With the girls fighting like this, it’s just hurting their chances of getting the part,” the source adds. “It’s unprofessional, and Sacha is tired of the back-and-forth — he wants to choose one of them and be done with it.”
Screenwriter Peter Morgan says he has had to tread carefully in dealing with the three surviving members of Queen for the film, which has no title or projected release date as yet. ‘Queen are sensitive because it will show rancour and disagreements in the collaborative process,” he tells Time Out. “In a way, the film, for me, reflects my own experience of film making as a collaborative process. Just as a film is never the result of one person, so the band doesn’t like the idea of Queen being ‘a band by Freddie Mercury’ – and they’re right. It won’t just be about Freddie Mercury.”
November 24th, 2012 marks the 21st anniversary of the passing of Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury. An interesting way to honor Freddie’s enduring status as a Rock legend and Gay icon might be to purchase a limited edition print portrait of the Freddie Mercury Lego character seen above, which is being sold by Little Artists for the tidy sum of $436! Ten percent of the profits from each portrait sold will be donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust, one of Great Britain’s biggest sexual health organizations. Read more about the story at This Link.
Thanks to Ivy Vale for The Tip!
He is the Champion (Tattoo) of the World!
A couple of years ago, Geoffrey called me up one morning to babble enthusiastically about one of the approximately 300 bands he sees per year that he had seen the previous evening, an act he said was called Tim and Paula. “Tim and Paula,” I asked, “are they a folk duo?” G got a good laugh out of that before correcting me, “No, not Tim and Paula, Tame Impala!” And so it came to be that Tame Impala, an amazing psychedelic rock quartet from Australia, are known between Geoffrey and me now and forever as Tim and Paula. The album that turned me on to this group is called Innerspeaker, and it surely would have been among my favorite CDs of 2010 had I heard it in time for it to make that year’s list. Sadly, I was a little late to the party. Still, I’ll always be grateful to Geoffrey for hipping me to one of the best new bands I’ve heard since MGMT breathed new life into my record collection with the release of its first album. Because, seriously, the last time I heard any music that I could say even remotely reminded me of the genius of The Beatles was when I heard Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” And that was a long time ago.
Tame Impala just released its sophomore album, Lonerism, and I can assure you it is currently vying for the number one position on this year’s Top 10 CDs list. Produced by vocalist Kevin Parker and mixed by the gifted Dave Friddman (best known for his work with Mercury Rev), Lonerism serves up a swirling vortex of aural bliss. Aside from the opening track, “Be Above It” – which sounds like the well-intentioned result of Tame Impala being hired to write a self-empowering commercial jingle for a brand of sneakers, every track on Lonerism lives up to all the hype that’s been circulating for the two years since Innerspeaker fractured skulls across the globe with its brilliance.
There is so much to love about this CD that it is almost impossible to contain my squeals of ecstatic delight. “Endors Toi” sounds like “Magical Mystery Tour” with Keith Moon on drums and “Apocalypse Dreams” is the kind of song I wish they’d played at the local roller skating rink I frequented as a pre-teen. “Music to Walk Home By” – which deserves an award for its title alone – comes as close to approximating an aural representation of the physical effects of hallucinogenic drugs as the most psychedelic Pink Floyd song. Parker’s voice may owe a heavy debt to reverb and a few hits off a tank of nitrous, but he really knows how to work it. I mean, check out “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and tell me that the influence of John Lennon’s “Number Nine Dream” didn’t work its way in there at least subconsciously. Holy cow, what a great album.
It’s sad to think that kids today (did I really just type “kids today”?) will never know the incomparable joy of discovering a band like The Who or Queen while that band is still making new records (a joy that I got to experience first hand, having been born a million years ago), but anyone discovering Tame Impala’s Lonerism can read that sentence above and understand that hearing this album in 2012 creates, for me, a transcendent-bordering-on-religious experience comparable to how it felt listening to “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for the first time, on vinyl, back in the stone age. Album of The Year!
Freddie For A Day & Rovio Announce Unique Partnership
Legendary Queen Frontman Freddie Mercury To Become an Angry Bird To Celebrate Freddie For A Day
Freddie For A Day and Rovio Entertainment are proud to announce a unique and innovative partnership that sees the most iconic Rock’n’Roll frontman of all time, Freddie Mercury, become an honorary member of the Angry Birds family. On Monday, September 3rd, to start the week in which Freddie Mercury’s memory is celebrated with Freddie For A Day on his birthday, September 5th, the creators of Angry Birds are releasing an all-new animation of Freddie the Angry Bird riding his bicycle to the famous Queen track “Bicycle Race.” The video will be made available on Rovio’s YouTube channel September 3rd at 5:00 AM Pacific / 8:00 AM Eastern.
Monday will also see a special Freddie For A Day fundraising evening hosted by Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor at which, for the second year, friends and celebrities will gather in London at The Savoy in Freddie’s honor, to remember him and raise funds for the Mercury Phoenix Trust – Fighting Aids Worldwide.
To raise additional awareness for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, Angry Birds in partnership with Bravado will be releasing a limited-edition Freddie Mercury Angry Bird T-shirt which will be made available from the Angry Birds and Bravado webstores. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust. T-shirt numbers are limited so don’t miss your chance to be part of Freddie Mercury history!
Can you believe it’s been seven years (seven years!) since British glam rock revivalists The Darkness released a new album? I can’t, because that means it’s been more than seven years since I had a brief but truly memorable phone conversation with legendary producer/ engineer Roy Thomas Baker. Baker was in the studio with The Darkness at the time, producing what would become their sophomore CD, One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back. The nut of that conversation was Baker turning down my request for an interview with Modern Drummer magazine regarding his groundbreaking work with numerous influential drummers. Despite a presumed awareness that Modern Drummer was neither Tape Op nor Mix, but a magazine about drummers and drumming, Baker told me straight up that he “couldn’t imagine why” he would even consider doing an interview for any magazine that wouldn’t put him on the cover.
My point here is how unsurprising it was that The Darkness – who were their own worst enemies in many ways – would choose to work with an egomaniac like Roy Thomas Baker. Because, for as ‘pretty good’ and legitimately interest-piquing as the groups’ debut, Permission to Land, was – and despite the fairly transparent tongue-in-cheekiness on the part of the band’s central mouthpiece, Justin Hawkins – no matter how great or godlike or heaven sent a band may think it is talent-wise, unless you are John Lennon, you should probably avoid talking about how your band is More Popular Than Jesus (or words to that effect). In almost every case, it’s going to backfire (see: sales and critical reception of One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back). As a general rule, it’s advisable to just shut the fuck up about your own perceived greatness and let the music do the talking. That way, if the music is indeed as great as the band says it is, your audience will do the taking, you will build a loyal fan base, and sell enough records / concert tickets to make a living. Win win!
None of that matters anymore though, because The Darkness has a new CD out called Hot Cakes that is so excellent, it wipes the slate clean of all past transgressions, real or perceived. It is obvious from the consistently high quality of the songwriting and the top-shelf musicianship going on all over Hot Cakes that The Darkness has not spent the past seven years jerking off (figuratively or otherwise), because the growth curve here is off the charts. Like many bands that dabble in the resurrection of a much-beloved but long gone rock genre, The Darkness are one of the most polarizing bands currently working. When I first received an advance of Hot Cakes and posted on FaceBook about how much I was digging it, comments on that post ranged from “I love their first album so much but couldn’t stand the second” to “their first album totally sucked, but their second one was fantastic.” So, your mileage may vary. But here’s 1,000 words about what I think.
Hot Cakes features the original lineup of singer Justin Hawkins, guitarist Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham and was produced by the band, along with Nick Brine, and mixed by Bob Ezrin. Bob Fucking Ezrin! Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to Hot Cakes is to confess that listening to these songs made me realize how really impotent and mediocre anything else that you could call “current” sounds in comparison. Completely deserving of the label All Killer No Filler, I love every song on this CD. Better yet, each song sounds more amazing with each successive listen! When was the last time you could say that? Me: not recently.
The disc launches on a high note, and never lets up, with “Every Inch of You” – Hawkin’s cheeky autobiographical anthem about his personal aspirations as they relate to the rise and fall and rise again of his band. “Every Inch of You” harnesses the best of The Darkness’s deep indebtedness to Queen and T Rex.
Just as Elton John released “I’m Still Standing” as a high-ground way of telling all his naysayers to get bent, The Darkness offer “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us,” an ecstatic anthem featuring the most adhesive, razor-sharp garage rock riffs since The Hellacopters were actively recording. “With a Woman” channels AC/DC and Motorhead as fronted by Freddie Mercury, and you will certainly notice other winks and nods to AC/DC around the CD. All good! “Keep Me Hangin’ On” moves along on a thunderous, galloping beat that will remind those who were raised on 70s radio of the time when rock music was fun, crazy and truly magical. Rock Passion is alive on Hot Cakes!
Further on, as each track segues seamlessly into the next, the ballad “Living Each Day Blind” conjures what Coldplay might sound like if they had any nads. The first single, “Everybody Have A Good Time” has one of the best lines of the many not- insignificantly-poignant lyrics on the record: “Take off your thinking cap / and listen to your heart.” At its core, this is a thoughtfully crafted song about living in the now rather than dwelling on the past or pining for the future. Good advice, Darkness! If you dug the sound of Permission to Land, you will be won over by this song on its own.
“Forbidden Love” makes excellent use of an intoxicating Latin motif but still rocks hard enough to crack a skull, and Hot Cakes also includes a cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” which manages to stay faithful to the original while sounding heavier than the heaviest Iron Maiden song. Run to the Hills! My favorite, though, is “She’s Just a Girl Eddie,” an enthusiastic romp on which a guy consoles a brokenhearted friend by advising him to forget his fresh heartache and gear up for all the good things (i.e. more women) to come. I give this same advice to any of my girlfriends when they get dumped. He’s just a guy! Why waste your precious time on someone who doesn’t get how awesome you are? Fuck that noise and move on! I love this album! Ladies and Gentlemen, The Darkness is back!
Hot Cakes Is Released in the US on August 21st, 2012!
Emerson, Lake & Palmer are one of those favorite bands from my youth that, like The Beatles or Queen, I can pretty much talk about forever. For all the overblown pomp and ceremony that defined 1970s Progressive Rock, few bands dished it out bigger or better than the “super group” trio known as ELP. Keith Emerson (formerly of The Nice) broke all kinds of ground with the use of keyboards – organ in particular – in rock music, being responsible for greater innovation than any other musician of his ilk save for perhaps Rick Wakeman. Greg Lake, bassist and vocalist, had previously lent his impressive and wildly fluid voice to the first two King Crimson albums. On the drums, ELP had a percussive force of nature in Carl Palmer. One of the first rock drummers to tackle a massive kit, Palmer surely influenced the showmanship of renowned players from Terry Bozzio to Tommy Lee and Mike Portnoy. While they haven’t necessarily maintained household name status, for a sizable chunk of the seventies ELP enjoyed global popularity – and deservedly so.
In the context of what’s going on musically today, ELP’s often-bombastic musical scenarios are undeniably identifiable with seventies Arena Rock excess, while their roots in classical composition allow them to remain oddly timeless, and therefore totally accessible. Quite a feat, if you ask me. I never get tired of listening to their music, which is why it was such a nice surprise to recently find an ELP collection in my mailbox. Originally released in 2008, the 14-song, single disc retrospective, Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer was just re-released by Razor & Tie as part of a catalog licensing deal that will see the label re-issue expanded and remastered versions of the group’s first six albums over the next year. Bring it on!
The disc kicks off with the song whose lyrics give the CD its title, “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2.” Arguably ELP’s best-known song – or the song they are best-known for – “Karn Evil 9” takes its own little journey, as Greg Lake’s post-apocalyptic carnival barker hawks the greatest sideshow “In Heaven, Hell or Earth” – promising “sights to make you drool” including Jesus conjured magically from a hat and “Rows of Bishop’s Heads in Jars.” I’m there! Of course, when Lake declares, “You gotta see the show / It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll!” he reminds his audience that ELP are basically singing about themselves. Come and See the Show, indeed.
If ever a band could be said to have written the soundtrack to The Church of Rock & Roll, ELP’s music is (for some at least) akin to a religious experience: from the bone chilling organ fugue of “Knife-Edge” to the trio’s epic re-working of the traditional English hymn “Jerusalem.” They were also the first band to successfully meld two seemingly disparate musical genres. As an interpreter of the classical tradition, Emerson’s pop hook-laden keyboard arrangements made modern day classical compositions such as Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Hoedown,” and Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s “Toccata” accessible to a rock audience.
But for all its musical sturm und drang, ELP weren’t just about “blowing your head apart.” The group also recorded many of the most gorgeous ballads of the prog rock era, and a few of their best are on this disc. The baroque, arabesque flourishes of the transcendent, aching lament “C’est La Vie” and the lush acoustic guitar / hand percussion arrangements of the ridiculously romantic “From The Beginning” are a gazillion miles away thematically from the chaotic aural battle ground of a piece like “Toccata.” It’s almost hard to believe the same band recorded these two songs.
While it would have been fun to have “Love Beach” – the title song from the band’s most misunderstood album – included, the only really perplexing omission is the absence of “Karn Evil 9: First Impression, Pt. 1,” which firmly sets that suite’s end-of-days tone before segueing seamlessly into part two’s signature mix of exhilaration and foreboding. As essential to a completist seventies rock collection as any Queen or Alice Cooper album, Come & See The Show is a nearly-flawless introduction to ELP’s particularly dynamic and versatile brand of progressive rock, and something cool to throw on the iPod if you already own the band’s catalog.
1. “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2”
2. “Lucky Man”
3. “From the Beginning”
5. “Hoedown (Taken From Aaron Copland’s Ballet, Rodeo)”
7. “C’est La Vie”
8. “Still…You Turn Me On”
10. “Fanfare For the Common Man”
12. “Peter Gunn”
14. “I Believe In Father Christmas”
Left to Right: Emerson, Palmer and Lake
As the surviving members of Queen continue their seemingly endless celebration of the band’s forty year anniversary – which kicked off with last year’s Deluxe Reissues of their entire catalog – an all new box set of Queen Tunes is about to be made available for fans who don’t mind throwing down $350: the Queen Orb Gift Box. A “true electronic age marvel,” the Golden Orb contains an ornately decorated USB drive, which holds all 15 (re-mastered) Queen studio albums – in both 320kbps MP3 and 24-bit 44.1kHz WAV format (fully PC and Mac compatible) – as well as a massive photo gallery to waste hours and hours of time looking at and downloading to your FaceBook page. Buyers also get a gold-plated Queen crest pendant necklace inside a tiny red velvet pouch, and, of course, the Golden Orb itself, which is quite impressive on its own (just look at it!). And it comes in a fancy black velvet box for storage. Fancy!
Produced in a limited edition series of 5,000 numbered units, The Queen Golden Orb (which quickly sold out its limited first run last December) will be available to purchase on April 2nd, 2012 at This Link.
See more details and the album listing after the jump!
Earlier this past summer, British music journalist Mark Blake published his book Is This The Real Life?, an engaging biography of the band Queen. Blake’s book is crammed with amazing personal information on the band’s members – Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Brian May – in addition to chronicling their success as a group. Blake had a good deal of assistance in gathering his researched material from a guy named Peter Hince, who was a member of Queen’s road crew for over a decade, in addition to also being the personal roadie to both Freddie Mercury and John Deacon. In October, Hince published Queen Unseen: My Life with the Greatest Rock Band of the 20th Century, his own memoir of his career working for Queen, and though it is a true “insider report,” it couldn’t be more different from the book Blake put together. In a way, the two books are perfect companion pieces; one being a book where you can read about obscure biographical details such as Freddie Mercury’s childhood in Zanzibar and his attendance at private schools in India, and the other in which you will read in fascinating detail about all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into taking a Queen tour on the road, how the band behaved backstage and what it was “really like” from behind the scenes to truly witness Queen’s rise to phenomenal commercial success. While Hince’s book lacks a tabloid feel that you might expect from someone who seemingly lived, breathed, ate and slept the world of Queen from A Night At The Opera to the band’s final live concert at Knebworth, it is nevertheless a deeply personal page-turner, being one man’s intimate diary of a lost time in the music industry, spent working for one of the greatest and most renowned bands in Rock history. Certainly, no one else but Peter Hince could’ve written a book like this one.
Queen Photographed By Peter Hince
Peter Hince – who was affectionately known by the nickname “Ratty” – met the members of Queen when he was still a teenager, working as a roadie for Mott The Hoople, a band that Queen famously toured with prior to breaking commercially with the album Sheer Heart Attack. He switched camps in 1975 and immediately went out on the road with the band, learning from the ground up what it took to put a Queen show together. We get to see through his wide eyes the good, the bad and the ugly of touring the world with a rock band back in the days when music was all about the magic and before it became merely a product to be sold. What you get with Queen Unseen then is a kind of Almost Famous-style journey of going out on the road on a global scale back in the 70s and early 80s, a time when things like cell phones, Fed Ex and the Internet did not even exist. From a logistics standpoint alone, the stories revealed here are often hilarious and just as frequently horrifying, as Queen and their entourage dealt with differences in culture, politics, quirky personal demands, local laws and Murphy’s Law, which states that whatever can go wrong will.
Although Queen Unseen is being promoted as a book about Queen, it is really Hince’s own autobiography, which is deeply colored by his experiences living and working with the members of Queen – both as individual people and as a phenomenally successful rock band. There’s certainly no shortage of sex (trust me, Hince got laid as much as any members of the band), drugs and Rock & Roll misadventure in the book, but that all has to do with Peter’s own experiences and those of his fellow road crew rather than any juicy gossip about his employers. Although there are similar stories in rock books such as Hammer Of The Gods and Bob Green’s Billion Dollar Baby (a story of the journalist touring with the band called Alice Cooper), I haven’t really read another rock book that goes into such detail about a group’s stage show and everything that went into making it happen. In a lot of ways, it’s not so much about what you don’t know about Queen, as it is about what you don’t know that you don’t know about the band. And that’s what makes it fun! It’s such a different take on the Rock & Roll story and Hince’s approach is amazingly refreshing. For example, one of my favorite parts of the book comes in one of the final chapters, when Queen are touring South America – a dangerous and potentially very violent territory for a Western rock band to stage a tour at that time. Remembering a few dates played in Caracas, Venezuela Hince offhandedly remarks that this was “the first place I had seen a dead body lying in the street.” Rock & Roll!
Roger Taylor’s Drumkit Photographed By Peter Hince
These days, Peter Hince works as a photographer, a career for which he left the employ of Queen to pursue, but his camera was with him the entire time he worked for the group, and many of his never-before-seen photographs are included in the book. If you are one of the innumerable Queen completist collectors out there, the photographs alone are reason to purchase this book, but even if there were no pictures it would be a must-own read. Ultimately, what stands out about Queen Unseen is Hince’s complete lack of any exploitative intention with regard to the members of Queen and any off-the-record details of their personal lives. While he certainly witnessed every aspect of their Rock & Roll debauchery first-hand, his intention is to relate his own experience, rather than to reveal the titillating, off-camera circumstances, embarrassing or otherwise, of those he worked for. There really is virtually no real “dirt” on the members of Queen to be found in its pages. For example, while Ratty openly states early on that Freddie Mercury’s sexuality was never any secret to anyone, he never reveals the names of Mercury’s lovers (save for Mary Austin, who was Mercury’s girlfriend for years) nor does he reveal anything that could be seen as personally harmful, despite the fact that he surely observed these guys in some of their most vulnerable moments. While there were times I wished that Hince would reveal something more personal with regard to whichever band member he’s speaking about at any given time, the fact that he respects their privacy 25 years after ending his employment with the group reveals a certain state of grace that ultimately serves to give his story even more credibility. In fact, Hince is so careful to respect and guard the privacy of Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon that he doesn’t even reveal the names of their wives or children. Despite his refusal to dish the dirt, his book is full of love and honesty that reveals an essence about the unarguably enigmatic Freddie Mercury – who Hince clearly deeply admired and cared about as a personal friend as well as a famous rock star – that made me feel like I learned something new about Freddie to take away with me that I hadn’t gotten from another Queen book.
For not making me cry until I got to the last page, The Worley Gig Gives Queen Unseen Five out of Five Stars!
Queen Unseen: My Life with the Greatest Rock Band of the 20th Century can be purchased from Amazon Dot Com or wherever fine books are sold.