Thursday, December 17, 2009


Every once in a while I need to be reminded that I like music. Kind of odd for a guy who makes a third of his income in the industry, but I'm an odd lot anyway. I've written about this before. Being fed up with the state of things assaulting my eardrums. The local classic rock station working the same playlist they had when I was in high school, the dearth of good metal these days, the church choir (Hey I saw a whole flock of red faced warblers the other day. You were bird watching? No I was at choir practice.... Sorry, I'll be here all week.)

So last week I remembered Queen. Yeaaaaaah Queen. There was a time, back when that I wore the grooves out of Classic Queen and Greatest Hits. That's a reference to vinyl for the younger readers who may be thinking that I just got tired of the grooves. I played that shit till there was daylight showing through from the other side.

Anyway, I got on YouTube and started soaking up some live performances. The sad thing about Queen is that their heyday was back when concert films were few and far between. Fortunately they played some really big shows that got put down for posterity. After a few views though, the decided lack of cell phone video more than made up for the quantity of material overall.

So there's the Wembley show that PBS always plays at midnight on the last night of the summer membership drive.

There's the Budapest show from '85 that sometimes plays back weird because of European video conversions.

There's Queen playing We Will Rock You in double time to a really confused audience somewhere in Eastern Europe.

There's Freddy in flowing locks and tight pants in the seventies.

There's Freddy in a mustache and tighter pants in the eighties.

There's that call and response thing he did with the crowd at Live Aid, one of the timeless moments of rock.

And then there's the one that got me...

Hammer To Fall has always had a deep effect on me. No good reason why. It may be the line about growing up tall and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. In elementary school we were still shown cold war Civil Service films about preparation for nuclear war. Maybe it's the eloquently expressed futility of modern life, "build your muscles as your body decays". Maybe it's the thirst for relief, "let the anesthetic cover it all" the same reason I liked Comfortably Numb so much. At any rate, it would not be entirely outside the realm of possibility that you could catch a certain sound guy with a small tear in his eye while that song is on.

But the one that really got me...

I stumbled on a version that Brian May and Roger Taylor did with Paul Rogers. It starts with Brian May way out in the crowd, alone in the spotlight on a bar stool. Empty bar stool next to him... no Freddy (sniff). Not that he ever really looked young but now he's looking a little worse for wear, the voice starting to get a little raspy, like aged whiskey. It's just him and that one of a kind guitar, he's using a 10p piece for a pick and it's just gently chiming out of a Vox that's away up out of sight somewhere.

I pretty much openly wept at the sheer, aching, shimmering beauty of it. That's my drug. I might not get another hit for months or years. But tonight... I got a hit. For six minutes and seven seconds nothing sucked. There was no boss, no kids, no grinding, no straining. Just the pleasant strains of the wire choir. That's my drug.



DAC said...

What possibly beats that version of Radio Gaga from Wembley during Live Aid.

There is also a show from just after Jazz was released recorded at the Hollywood Bowl. It was on Logo of all stations. Best part of it was when instead of the Scaramouche part of Bohemian Rhapsody they drop keys and tempo and flow into Killer Queen, then big freaking explosion and back into Rhapsody. Amazing.

DAC said...

My mistake....

It was from the Hammersmith Odeon in 75 and includes The March of The Black Queen.

love on this...

Irish Gumbo said...

I dig it, my friend.

Lately, for some reason, "Sheer Heart Attack" off of News of the World has the same effect on me, don't know why.

Rock on!