Do you like to Rock? I sure do, and you know who else likes to Rock? Joe Elliott of Def Leppard. I love that band, but did you know that Joe brings The Rock with another band as well? That group is called Down ‘n’ Outz, and they are responsible for this week’s anthemic Video Clip, “This Is How We Roll. A little background: Elliott formed Down ‘n’ Outz in 2009 as a Mott the Hoople cover band of sorts, and he is joined by members of The Quireboys — including Paul Guerin, Guy Griffin, Keith Weir and Phil Martini. If you suspect that these guys rock hard enough to a crack skull, your suspicions would be correct
“This Is How We Roll” is an animated lyric video that follows the band’s tour bus down the highway enroute to a gig. Lyric videos are not generally my thing, but when you’re feelin’ it, who gives a shit? This song is like oxygen in a vacuum, and will remind you of the days when you used to stay home on Saturday nights to watch the original Headbangers Ball on MTV. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Watch out for the David Bowie Bobblehead on the bus’ dashboard, plus a couple additional nods to the Thin White Duke, because Joe is a fan! “This Is How We Roll” is from the title track from the band’s third studio album, which is out now on UMe. Enjoy!
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.
Through Ratty’s wide eyes, we get to see 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 Queen Unseen so much 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, VenezuelaHince 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 Hincewould 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.
It is no secret that I spent a few of my teenage years being completely, over-the-top obsessed with the rock band Queen. I was lucky enough to see Queen about five times on the Night at the Opera, Day at the Races, News of the World and Jazz tours. My love of all things Queen was so all-consuming, I even knew the names of and biographical details about their roadies, one of whom was nicknamed “Ratty.” So it only took me about three seconds to flash back to the good old late ‘70s when, quite by chance, I came across the website Ratty’s Queen Memories. Here’s an excerpt from the site’s home page by Peter ‘Ratty’ Hince himself:
“Welcome to my site, which is a collection of bits and pieces of imagery and info on my time with Queen, who I worked full time for from 1975 until the final Magic tour in 1986, having done more live shows than anybody else – except the band themselves! I first met Queen in 1973 when I was working for Mott The Hoople who Queen were support to on a UK tour. It was their first big break: “They’ll never make it,” I seem to recall thinking and saying.
I was wrong about that.
I worked as Freddie and John’s roadie and subsequently became head of the Queen crew while still doing my original role – and several others that came up as well…”
If there is anybody who is going to know his shit when it comes to Queen, it’s this guy. I recommend that any fan of Queen spend some time looking around Ratty’s Queen Memories and letting the sweet nostalgia wash over you. Hince also sells select pieces of his band memorabilia from time to time, and offers sound advice to the avid Queen collector on how to avoid eBay rip-offs. Cheers!
On This Day, May 26th, in 1972: Mott the Hoople, on the verge of splitting up, was offered two new songs by DavidBowie, “Suffragette City” and “All the Young Dudes.” They would record “All the Young Dudes,” which became their commercial breakthrough. This awesome song is at the top of the list of my very favorite songs ever in the Universe of all time, as follows:
“All The Young Dudes”
“Shake Some Action” by The Flamin’ Groovies
“I’m Not In Love” by 10 CC
“Rock & Roll Hootchie Koo” by Rick Derringer
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper (original band)
As a side note, today May 26th, is also the birthday of Verden Allen, keyboardist for Mott the Hoople, who was born in 1944. Happy Birthday, Verden!
I think David Bowie started it all in 1973 with Pin Ups, an album on which he performs some of his favorite songs by mid ’60s British groups. Since then, the name-act-pays-tribute-to-its-influences album has been done well by Duran Duran (Thank You) and less well by A Prefect Circle (eMOTIVe). But now I think Def Leppard has recorded possibly the best and most exciting album of covers ever with Yeah!, which was released last Tuesday. The most amazing thing about this record is not only how it makes painfully obvious how much most modern bands completely suck, but also how vibrant and authentic Def Leppard’s versions of these songs sound. I had no idea that Joe Elliott was such a vocal chameleon. I can, with no trace of irony, say that Yeah! is my favorite album of the year so far.
The track listing for YEAH! is as follows:
“20th Century Boy” (T. Rex, 1973)
“Rock On” (David Essex, 1973)
“Hanging On The Telephone” (originally recorded by The Nerves in 1977, and Blondie in 1978)
“Waterloo Sunset” (The Kinks, 1967)
“Hell Raiser” (Sweet, 1973: Listen to the opening guitar riff and tell me Nikki Sixx didn’t conveniently “borrow” that for “Kick Start My Heart”)
“10538 Overture” ( Electric Light Orchestra, 1972)
“Street Life” (Roxy Music, 1973: My favorite Roxy Music song ever)
“Drive-In Saturday” (David Bowie, 1973)
“Little Bit Of Love” (Free, 1972)
“The Golden Age Of Rock & Roll” (Mott the Hoople, 1974)
“No Matter What” (Badfinger, 1970)
“He’s Gonna Step On You Again” (originally recorded by John Kongos in 1971 but probably better known by the Happy Mondays’ version, “Step On,” released in 1990)
“Don’t Believe A Word (Thin Lizzy, 1976)
“Stay With Me” (Faces, 1971)
Regardless of how you feel about Def Leppard — who have been one of my favorite bands forever — if you love and miss the glory days of ’70s rock, Yeah! is absolutely essential listening. Great job guys!