I bought my first Iron Maiden record in 1982. “The Number of the Beast” garnered great reviews from the heavy metal community.
Here in America it also received threats from church officials as being an agent of satanism. Heavy metal music does a lot of satanic material. It just fits the genre so well. This kind of music is a tonic for many fans. I love complex guitar based music. Soaring vocals are a huge component as well.
Circus magazine wrote a response to the controversy. The article explained Iron Maiden are not devil worshippers, just devil-may-care.
I was a fan for life after that era. Their mascot Eddie, a re-animated ghoul, appears on every album cover. Created by Derek Riggs, he assumes different types and styles that fit each album’s themes and concepts.
From their eponymous debut in album to their first double studio album in 2015, the band’s music has evolved from traditional metal to a more progressive groove.
Their line-up changed several times. Original vocalist Paul DiAnno quit due to substance abuse. His replacement was Samson singer Bruce Dickinson who turned out to be their ticket to global stardom.
For two albums, Bruce was replaced by Blayze Bayley. Their 10th and 11th albums were as good as anything they had done before but fans did not like this change.
In the year 2000 the band made a huge comeback with Bruce’s return. Guitarist Adrian Smith also came back. This current line-up of the group proved to be their best.
Since the year 2000 Iron Maiden are Bruce Dickinson (Vocals), Steve Harris (Bass), Adrian Smith (Guitar), Dave Murray (Guitar), Janick Jers (Guitar), Nicko McBrain (Drums).
The past 20 years of a nearly 50 year career have produced critically acclaimed records like “Brave New World”, “A Matter of Life and Death”, “The Final Frontier”, and “The Book of Souls”.
This followed their now classic albums of the 1980’s: “Killers”, “The Number of the Beast”, “Piece of Mind”, “Powerslave”, “Somewhere in Time”, and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son “.
A documentary film, “Flight 666”, follows Maiden on a record setting world tour in which lead singer Bruce Dickinson piloted the band’s plane called Ed Force One.
Around the world Maiden’s fan base grew not only larger but younger too. In my opinion Iron Maiden have the best fans.
In the past four decades you will have seen people wearing Iron Maiden shirts or patches or bracelets or hats.
In 1982, Eddie was a demon spawn. Then in 1983 he was condemned to the rubber room. In 1984 he was an entombed pharaoh. In 1986 he became a cyborg. In 1988 he became the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Now in their fifth decade, Iron Maiden are nominated to the Rock Hall of Fame.
Not seeking this award, the band will continue to empower their massive audience that spans the globe with their upcoming seventeenth studio album.
Bassist Steve Harris founded the group on Christmas day 1975! He said at the end of each decade that Maiden had another ten albums in them. And their sixteen studio records all have songs that became big concert classics.
This is a snapshot song list of my favorites from the band’s ongoing career:
Murders In The Rue Morgue
Phantom of the Opera
Die With Your Boots On
The Number Of The Beast
Run To The Hills
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Flight Of Icarus
Where Eagles Dare
To Tame A Land (inspired by Dune)
Sun And Steel
Two Minutes To Midnight
Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
Sea Of Madness
Somewhere In Time
Stranger In A Strange Land
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
The Evil That Men Do
No Prayer For The Dying
Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter*
Public Enema Number One
Be Quick Or Be Dead
From Here To Eternity
Afraid To Shoot Strangers
Judas Be My Guide
Fear Of The Dark
Sign Of The Cross
Lord Of The Flies
Man On The Edge
Judgement Of Heaven
The Angel And The Gambler
The Educated Fool
Dance of Death
The Wicker Man
Brave New World
Out Of The Silent Planet
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
Lord Of Light
Satellite 15…The Final Frontier
Isle Of Avalon
The Man Who Would Be King
When The Wild Wind Blows
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed Of Light
The Book Of Souls
Death Or Glory
Tears Of A Clown
Empire Of The Clouds
*The only single to reach #1 on the chart.
Up the Irons!
The list of songs above reflects how well Iron Maiden have covered their horror, science fiction, fantasy, and historical literary interests.
Their songwriting is done now by each band member. Steve Harris is their lead songwriter who composed epic songs lasting a minimum of six minutes on every record. Frontman Bruce Dickinson wrote the longest track in their history so far. “Empire Of The Clouds” runs 18 minutes!
Arguably the most epic of bands, I hope Maiden get elected to the rock hall of fame this year. They deserve this honor.
Dearest readers I leave you with a few of my favorite versions of mascot Eddie:
Taschen is an art book publisher founded in 1980 by Benedikt Taschen in Cologne, Germany. As of January 2017, Taschen is co-managed by Benedikt and his eldest daughter, Marlene Taschen.
This year the world renowned publisher celebrates 40 years of printing a library’s worth of art collections that span popular culture.
In The Star Wars book the original trilogy of films is deftly explored. Anything you ever wanted to know regarding the conception and production of these now classic titles are here. Despite the hefty page count the size is quite portable.
Within each section there are well over a hundred color and b&w photos. Storyboards, models, miniatures, sets, blueprints, and artists are exhibited.
This volume is like holding the best Star Wars museum in your hands. George Lucas tells his story from modest beginnings to become the creator of one of the most treasured brands in the world.
So this partnership with Taschen matches two of the great brands with spectacular results.
Turning each glossy page you get so much fascinating insights into the process of making films at the highest level.
I will reveal just a single bit I loved discovering here for the first time. The rest you can find for yourself.
The cost of Episode V The Empire Strikes Back was so great that if it had failed there would be no future for Lucasfilm nor the special effects company Industrial Light & Magic! Every dime from the first film went into making.
The details of this book are impressive. Casting decisions, the construction of sets on location and sound stages, conceptual art, and costume designs are examined.
You will come away with a complete understanding of the level of expertise required to make feature films. I think even lay people will appreciate perhaps for the first time that our greatest achievements do not just happen.
There are a vast group of dedicated artisans that make a potential audience think the results are effortless. In the case of Star Wars they made us all feel like we really did travel to a galaxy far, far, away in a time long ago.
Congratulations to the artisans at Taschen for producing such fine works. Here’s to your next 40 years!
A crown jewel in the library for any fan of classic rock comes this compendium of every single track recorded and released by Queen during their original reign with late lead vocalist Freddie Mercury.
A stunningly designed volume focusing on the main discography released between 1973 and 1991.
Each title gets a unique graphic art treatment using a similar font but adding a splash of custom color for each recording.
To give readers context there are added sections. A brief intro to each member of the band comes before the eponymous debut is discussed.
We are also given great background on the key players in the band’s story including producers Roy Thomas Baker, Rheinhold Mack, Sound Engineer Mike Stone, and photographer Mick Rock.
Every song in its proper order are given the entries subhead Genesis and Production. How the song was birthed then what technique was applied in the studio to bring the song to life.
There are many images in both color and b&w that have never been seen. One of my favorites was an image of guitarist Brian May holding a Linn-7 drum machine. This technology is mentioned as the band’s fifth member during the recording of Hot Space.
Highlighted throughout are revelations under the heading, For Queen Addicts. This illustrates just how vast the following has become for the band, especially after the success of the movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Everything about the band’s creative process is shared here. I found out a lot of things I did not know about the group. Since I am a Queen Addict I was quite impressed by this compendium.
The novice will probably be happy with their best-selling “Greatest Hits”. Long-time fans will need this book. Anyone who loves classic rock will also want to get a copy.
The band was not perfect. Refreshingly the book discusses the bad press received in the U.K. from the very start. Some of the biggest mistakes made took years to heal.
The four musicians who created this catalog of songs have become beloved by millions. Two of their famous fans, Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters co-curated a Queen compilation and Michael Jackson worked with Freddie.
This diverse mix of artistic points of view are in my opinion one of the components that make Queen so enduring in the canon of popular music.
Photographs by FERNANDO ACEVES BRIAN ARIS PHILIPPE AULIAC ALEC BYRNE KEVIN CUMMINS CHALKIE DAVIES JUSTIN DE VILLENEUVE VERNON DEWHURST GAVIN EVANS GERALD FEARNLEY LYNN GOLDSMITH GREG GORMAN ANDREW KENT MARKUS KLINKO GEOFF MacCORMACK JANET MACOSKA TERRY O’NEILL DENIS O’REGAN NORMAN PARKINSON MICK ROCK JOHN SCARISBRICK STEVE SCHAPIRO BARRY SCHULTZ RAY STEVENSON MASAYOSHI SUKITA Introduction by GEORGE UNDERWOOD
This is the finest collection of photographs you will ever find depicting perhaps the only singular rock icon to rival the visual power of Elvis. From the very start of his career David Bowie wanted to become a star. He did not covet rock stardom. No. He aimed higher. We should all be grateful.
The editors at ACC make clear this is not a complete set. That would encompass thousands of pages.
What we have in our hands with this tome is a representation of fine rock photography from 25 of the most legendary artists in this field.
If there is one common thread running through these pages its the sessions for each studio record being seen without their final texts or titles.
David Bowie represented so many different avenues of creativity it’s impossible to pigeonhole him into any category or frame. Every picture in this book will leave you with an impression that is yours alone to decipher.
For this is the goal of a genuine artitst. To keep you guessing. To keep you wondering. To leave you utterly astonished.
The team that made this book possible attempted a seriously daunting feat. They got a group of the world’s finest photographers to contribute their best work to a singular project.
This work shows the many sides of David Bowie from his debut through his glam starpower to his thin white duke class and the many projects that drove his creativity and genius.
This resulting coffee table prize is a success. If ever there was a time we needed art of this caliber it’s now at the end of 2020.
At the age of 18 Neal Preston got to photograph Jimi Hendrix. Then awhile later he was lucky enough to get hired by Atlantic records.
You see they had a new sensation called Led Zeppelin that was about to tour. He became their official photographer.
Although the members of Queen loved Hendrix, it was Neal Preston’s association with Zeppelin that impressed them most.
Now almost 35 years after the band’s final gig with Freddie Mercury comes this knockout of a photo book.
If you’re a fan or love rock photography this tome will sit proudly on your coffee table. With limited text Neal Preston presents his best images of Queen.
Beginning with their initial ascent in 1977 on their North American News of the World Tour and each tour thereafter until reaching the penultimate 1986 Magic Tour of Europe, you get views of this band that are quite special.
The images are in black and white as well as color. Capturing the utter pomp of Queen at their best these images are the result of a band in search of perfection every night as they perform before thousands of people.
Queen were the first Western rock group to Tour South America in 1981. The photos from this jaunt make this book a worthy edition to any home library.
A dedicated road crew enabled Neal to show sides of the group fans never see. You see what the band sees when looking out at an arena crowd. You’re on stage!
Although some of these photographs have been seen in books and magazines over the years the layout here is just superior.
At Live Aid Neal Preston was the only photographer on stage! Those pictures have not been seen before except the one of Freddie center stage with his back arched as he reaches for the stars. This image is featured on the Bohemian Rhapsody movie poster and soundtrack album.
In fact the band loved Neal’s work so much that images were used for Tour Program covers and a box set of drummer Roger Taylor’s solo output.
The band pushed Neal to do some of his best work even in some of the hardest conditions. Especially in South America when machine guns were literally the only backstage pass one needed.
As stated at the book’s beginning a rock photographer has stress and fatigue as constant companions. We the viewers are the beneficiaries of his tireless effort.
Full of honest, humble, and heavy duty experience comes a memoir you will never want to put down.
Rob Halford from the “Black” Country of Birmingham, England grew up to be the front man for the heavy metal band Judas Priest.
He relates stories of family life in a post-war landscape. Nothing was ever assured. The only thing Rob knew early on was that he was not like other boys.
This is really the story of how a gay man went from being a scared, lonely, and frustrated boy into an honest, sober, and loving person.
Since this boy was to become a world famous rock star we have the memoir of the year.
Rob goes into great detail of his many misadventures with straight men. He had run-ins with police too.
He describes his identity this way following a painful breakup in the late 1970’s:
“It was five years since I’d been seeing Jason. Apart from the odd snatched, random fumble, I had been alone ever since…not just alone, but forced to suppress my longings, my needs, myself. I had to live a stifling life, or kill the band I loved.
Outside of that bedroom door, I was Rob Halford from Judas Priest, macho talisman and emergent metal god. Inside it, I was Robert John Arthur Halford, a sad, confused late twenties bloke from the Black Country, longing for the forbidden fruit of intimate male company”.
Rob Halford pg.134.
Judas Priest’s first line-up disbanded before Rob showed up to audition. His sister Sue was dating the band’s founder, bassist Ian Hill who is still in the group today. She insisted he try out. Their town, Walsall breeds humble people. Rob was told by Ken Downing that he was in the band.
British Steel became their watershed moment. Named for the filthy foundry plant in their village, recorded in a house once used by The Beatles, owned by Ringo, and used by John and Yoko for their Double Fantasy album, sold millions and spawned the now classic, ‘Living After Midnight’.
The group adopted an all leather look. They went full in as a metal band. Rob could not believe his mates did not realize he was a gay man.
Well before this time Rob had written a song called ‘Raw Deal’ about a doomed romance on Fire Island! He had never been there but imagined it.
The song ‘Metal Gods’ off British Steel was inspired by Frank the robot on Queen’s News of the World album. Rob Halford’s rock hero was Freddie Mercury. In the polarized homophobic culture of those days all of this remained unknown.
Priest fans will discover so much about their favorite group. Nicknames like K.K. Downing for Ken were used, but they were going to call Rob, ‘The Queen’. That would not have gone down well in my opinion.
A humorous book as well. He describes his arrest for lewdness in America. The cops knew who he was and asked what he was doing. Being famous can be like armour.
Rob Halford would encounter his idol, Freddie Mercury on the Greek island of Mykonos, a prime destination for gay men. They were at a yacht party. He describes a crowded space. His nerves got the better of him despite receiving a wink and wave from Freddie.
After all these years Rob Halford was ready to Confess. In his words it feels great and was just good for his soul. Perhaps it will do the same for his readers.
This memoir is truly inspiring. A kid from Long Island develops (pun intended) a keen interest in photography at the age of 5. His mother has her own darkroom.
After leaving college over and over decides to pursue his real passion—creating images with his camera.
I think he made the right decision. You learn when reading this story how much of life is just being in the right place at the right time.
Over the past 60 years he has chronicled rock’s most significant artists. Beginning at the 1965 Newport folk festival when Bob Dylan plugged in with an electric guitar for the first time to the birth of disco, punk, and new wave, his best stories are collected here.
You will truly feel as if you are with him during all the late nights, problems with deadlines, and hangovers.
Bob Gruen became close friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Ike and Tina Turner.
He spent a lot of time showing the world the day to day lives of these extraordinary people. He de-glamorizes the biz. You see the tough times these folks lived through to get their art in the hands of listeners across the globe.
At the drop of a hat Bob Gruen flew to London, Germany, France, Japan or wherever needed to lend support.
In the moment he captured many moments that still resonate today.
Led Zep in front of the Enterprise Starship aircraft; John Lennon in his New York city tee-shirt; The Clash on the observation deck at 30 Rock; Ike and Tina Turner doing just about anything.
Alice Cooper and Salvador Dali. Dali created the first ever hologram of Alice.
This book is the perfect gift for the music fan in your life. He photographed Queen before they were famous. KISS in 1978 on the 14th St subway platform which had phone booths!
A magical journey peopled by lots of fascinating figures including:
Elton John, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Tina Turner, Debbie Harry, The Ramones, Alice Cooper, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Who, Runaways, and on and on.
Bob Gruen reminds his reader of the authenticity of New York city’s great power to help re-invent those who seek a new life.
Filled with black and white photos and full color of many moments that shaped his long-term success you get a deeply affecting impression of what it truly takes to become a fine artist.
One of my favorite early moments was when he took photos of models. A young college student came to the studio. Years later he found out that would be model became movie actress Karen Allen who appeared in “Animal House” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
Today, Bob Gruen photography is a thriving business. The countless hours of painstaking work along with the warp speed social life required to achieve it are worthwhile.
I strongly recommend you get a copy of this account.
Edward Van Halen died this week from throat cancer.
His journey from Netherlands to Pasadena, California enabled him to prosper in a culture that became the LA heavy metal scene.
The first Van Halen record features real photos of each member during a gig at the famous Whiskey–A–Go–Go on the Sunset strip.
In 1978 Punk and Disco were exploding in popularity.
With its opening power chords the VH album was a fresh audio blast of serious but joyful rock.
Runnin’ with the Devil, the guitar solo Eruption, and the rest would change music forever.
The members of this group were great looking too. Eddie’s brother Alex, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth would rise to become the model for all the rock music to come flooding into the hearts and minds of young people all over the world.
Now called Hair Metal, the bands that bought Van Halen’s records are legion.
Eddie was an ingenious player. He could not read music but was able to play spot on by watching other musicians.
There were wonderful collaborations with Michael Jackson on the smash hit Beat It and his appearance on Brian May’s first solo effort Starfleet Project.
1984 is one of my favorite albums of all time. Featuring hits Jump, Hot For Teacher, Panama, and I’ll Wait. They were MTV’s most played act that year.
The changes to Sammy Hagar then Gary Cherone of Extreme yielded 8 years in which they released several #1 records including 5150, OU812, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Kiss were the band that VH opened for on their first national tour. Both bands would headline Britain’s Monsters of Rock festival.
Eddie Van Halen’s music still makes me feel great. I believe it’s timeless.
Although I only saw him in concert on their 2007 Tour, he went shirtless and played like the headliner he had always been.
The rockers of the 1980’s made their mark. Many of the bands from that era are still here recording and performing. Do not take them for granted.
Van Halen music is hard, heavy, melodic, harmonious, and the definition of great rock n roll.
I will miss Eddie Van Halen. He was such a huge presence in my life. Happy Trails…
Without Buck Rogers there would be no Flash Gordon. First appearing in 1928, the character of Anthony “Buck” Rogers was the first to feature space exploration! As it paralleled the latest advances in technology of the early twentieth century, the space hero would take to alien worlds to defend Earth from certain peril.
The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929.
Later adaptations included radio in 1932, a film serial, a television series (in which his first name was changed from “Anthony” to “William”), and other formats.
Buck Rogers was the inspiration for other comic strips:
The adventures of Buck Rogers in comic strips, movies, radio and television became an important part of American popular culture. It was on January 22, 1930, that Buck Rogers first ventured into space aboard a rocket ship in his fifth newspaper comic story Tiger Men From Mars.
The Buck Rogers strip was popular enough to inspire other newspaper syndicates to launch their own science fiction strips. The most famous of these imitators was Flash Gordon (King Features Syndicate, 1934-2003).
I did not discover this about these 2 serials until I created this entry for Evan’s Gate!
In the 1980’s NBC-TV premiered “Buck Rogers In The 25th Century” based upon the feature film of the same name that appeared in theaters. Starring Gil Gerard as Buck and Co-starring in the series were Erin Gray as crack Starfighter pilot Colonel Wilma Deering, and Tim O’Connor as Dr. Elias Huer, head of Earth Defense Directorate, and a former starpilot himself.
Buck Rogers will getits own entry in this blog at a future date. You just cannot celebrate a Flash Gordon Anniversary without providing this necessary background.
The television series lasted two seasons. The actors strike of 1980 disrupted production. When it returned the show was revamped with new characters and format. The 1980-81 Season was to be its last.
Fun fact: Larry “Buster” Crabbe” made a cameo appearance on the Buck Rogers TV series!
Serial Start For Flash Gordon
Serial adventures were a staple of the American cinema from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. Each week a chapter would appear in theaters. The ending was usually a cliffhanger. Our hero would be caught in some sort of death spiral that left viewers wondering how they would manage their escape.
These serialized adventures were provided as an added attraction at theaters. They did a lot with small budgets.
Based upon various comic strip characters of the day, those serials produced one character in particular that has stayed around for over 70 years—Flash Gordon. A comic strip created by Alex Raymond in the 1930’s influenced the adventures of Batman, Superman, Captain Kirk, and Luke Skywalker.
I saw the original movie serials on Channel Thirteen, a Public Television station here in New York during the 1970’s. The re-runs coincided with the release of Star Wars in 1977.
Later on I discovered that Star Wars creator George Lucas was a fan of Flash Gordon. He inquired about the rights with King Features but found out the expense was beyond his means. Movie fans got a space fantasy filled with characters inspired by Flash Gordon.
I had been enthralled by science fiction and fantasy since the re-runs of Star Trek. Then Flash Gordon appeared and then Star Wars. I could not see the direct lineage of these series until much later.
Summer of 1977 marked movie history being made. George Lucas’ Star Wars changed the popular culture. Becoming at the time the highest grossing movie of all time, its success would lead to the first Star Trek movie in 1979 and Alien in that same year! In fact Alien won the Visual Effects Oscar over Star Trek. And of course launched another franchise.
Then came a big budget European feature film of Flash Gordon announced in the pages of American fan magazine, Starlog. Italian Producer Dino DeLaurentis with Director Mike Hodges created a unique vision of the comic book hero.
The Italian film legend Federico Fellini turned down an offer to direct Flash Gordon.
Putting together an all-star European cast with two unknown Americans as Flash and Dale was an unusual contrast not unlike Star Wars. There were many European stars wearing masks in both pictures.
For example British TV/Film actor and Bodybuilder David Prowse wore the Darth Vader costume for Star Wars; British TV star Peter Wyngarde (Department S, Jason King) wore a mask as General Klytus in Flash Gordon. Mr. Wyngarde’s voice is heard while Mr. Prowse gets dubbed by James Earl Jones.
But I digress. Back to our main focus. The cast of Flash Gordon—
Max Von Sydow (“The Seventh Seal”, “The Exorcist”) was Emperor Ming The Merciless; Timothy Dalton (James bond) was Prince Barin; Brian Blessed (Black Adder) was Vultan; Ornella Muti was Aura; Mariangela Melato was Kala; Peter Wyngarde (Jason King) was Klytus; Richard O’ Brien (Rocky Horror) was Fico; Topol was Dr. Hans Zarkov; Melody Anderson was Dale Arden; Sam J. Jones (“10”) was Flash Gordon.
Coming Of Age
As a gay kid in the 1980’s there were a lot of stimulating images in film. What I mean is that there were lots of films featuring shirtless guys on their posters. “Beastmaster” is a good example.
“Flash Gordon” was a singular phenomena. There are no sequels. At the time it cost $70 million which would probably be over $200 million today.
At the time of release the picture had a PG rating. There are scenes with graphic violence and sexual connotations but nonetheless there was no PG–13 back then in 1980. The blood shown on screen was blue and green.
I loved this film for its tremendous effort to capture the spirit of the original serial. Now seen in rich color of every shade and hue. The skies of Mongo were a awash in red, blue and orange.
It was important for the film to keep to the universe Alex Raymond created in the 1930s. The only update was making Flash a football player for the NY Jets, Dr. Zarkov was a NASA scientist, and Dale is now a travel agent.
As a kid I was ignorant of this paradigm. It’s important to note the exoticism worked both ways in the film. Princess Aura seduces the blonde/ blue-eyed Flash Gordon as her object of exotic desire.
This was strong stuff for a pre-teen gay kid! Then you had Sam J. Jones shirtless in the execution and resurrection scenes, wearing nothing but a pair of PVC briefs!
A ton of art was created for the film and some of it just for promotional purposes. Unknown to me at the time how many posters exist is incredible. Released globally there were images used in various countries to target specific audiences based on region.
Lobby Poster Art
All I knew then was the poster for American release was brilliant. Then I found a small copy of the art in a full page ad in Playbill magazine. I cut it out and put it on my wall. The name AMSEL was signed on Ming’s cloak.
The film’s Tagline, all in caps, PATHETIC EARTHLINGS…WHO CAN SAVE YOU NOW?
Who was underlined to stress that Flash is the hero.
The lightning bolt logo with planet Mongo at its center was an American market image. The font with its Red/Yellow/Orange coloring was brilliant. In Europe as well as in the opening titles the name is stylized in the mode Alex Raymond had used. You see it in the Italian promo posters we saw earlier in this entry.
Also note how Ming is so large like Darth Vader was for the Star Wars posters with Flash and Dale in a similar pose like Luke and Leia!
Instead of a fleet of X-Wing fighters you get a fleet of Hawkmen swooping down in an almost 3-D effect with Vultan’s cloud kingdom seen in the background on the right side of the frame.
All of his works are signed AMSEL with floating periods on either side of his name.
Richard Amsel was a prolific artist who attended the oldest school of Art in Philadelphia. After graduating he went on to create the poster art for films like “The Sting” and “Chinatown”. Following “Flash Gordon” he designed the art for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”!
He also designed album covers including Bette Midler’s Divine Ms. M.
He had an association with TV Guide for 13 years producing over 40 covers. A portrait he did of Lily Tomlin hangs in The Smithsonian. His final movie poster was for “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”.
The collage seen below is just a small sample of Amsel’s TV Guide covers. His first was an image of Lucille Ball upon her retirement from TV and show business.
I put up two of my favourites: All In The Family, Alice, and Richard Chamberlain in Shogun, a mini-series that aired for a week on NBC.
Notice the placement of the cast of Alice and All In The Family is similar to his placement of characters in his film poster work for Flash Gordon.
Richard Amsel died of AIDS in 1985 at the age of 37. I mourn him today. I had no idea he was one of the many awful casualties of that pandemic. His work is amazing.
Critical Reaction To Flash Gordon
The film found appreciation with some film critics, such as The New Yorker ‘s Pauline Kael. Kael described Flash Gordon as having “some of the knowing, pleasurable giddiness of the fast-moving Bonds…The director, Mike Hodges, gets right into comic-strip sensibility and pacing“.
She also stated the movie was “Like a fairy tale set in a discotheque in the clouds.”
On their syndicated TV program Siskel and Ebert were giving films a Yes or No at that time before their now iconic thumbs up or down.
Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune did not care for it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it a borderline Yes vote citing the fun comic book nature of the movie.
In homage to the serial chapters of the 1930’s the film version was produced in strong primary colors and utilized Chroma Key effects.
Chroma key compositing, or chroma keying, is a visual-effects and post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or video streams together based on colour hues (chroma range). The technique has been used in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video – particularly the newscasting, motion picture, and video game industries.
All of the space craft were done this way. Flash Gordon riding a Hawkman rocket cycle was also accomplished with this method as seen below. War Rocket Ajax, Vultan’s Cloud City and Flash with the Hawkmen approaching Mingo City are all Chroma Key images.
The lavishly produced feature included giant set pieces adapted directly from the pages of Alex Raymond’s work partly as homage and because the formula worked!
I love the film as much as Rocky Horror loyalists. I can quote dialogue from any scene. This section brings us to my favourite parts of the film. A bit tricky because I really do enjoy all of it. Here goes…
In The Court Of Ming The Merciless at the point in which are trio from Earth first encounter all the ‘breeds’ of Mongo. This set is enormous. Ming’s throne looks like the inspiration for the Iron Throne on a certain HBO series.
Each ‘breed’ of Mongo gets introduced. Gathering in Court to present their tributes to the Emperor we see rivalries between Hawkmen and Treemen as the two groups argue over who stole their tribute!
The image seen above is a fish-eye view of the court. Unknown to me as a kid but later appreciated as a film student that Flash Gordon utilized the Todd–AO camera system. At the time of filming in 1979 this was the state of the art widescreen format. Everything about the film is grand scale for a timeless adventure.
The Palace of Prince Vultan and his Hawkmen.
Initiation on Arboria where Prince Barin rules his treemen there is a rite of passage that all youth must experience. Within a warren of hollow tree stumps lives a beast in which the initiate must reach all the way in full arms length. If you choose the wrong path the beast will bite injecting the victim with deadly venom. The result is pain so awful the victim begs for death. Barin forces Flash to take this test in order to live.
Above in this gallery a view of Arboria against the colorful skies of Mongo, at the left bottom a birds eye view of Flash and Barin as they begin their duel, and on the right the beast that resides within the stump.
Lorenzo Semple Jr.
The dialogue in Flash Gordon was purposefully done in a tone of high corn. Movie fans always call it camp.
Having written King Kong for Dino DeLaurentiis, Lorenzo Semple Jr. was then asked to write the Flash Gordon script.
The Batman TV series of 1966 was also written by him. The camp humour of that show was revived in Flash Gordon.
To this day every fan of this movie can quote dialogue. The language is comic book affectation in my opinion.
Lines like, “We only have 14 hours to save the Earth” could only make sense in an over the top fantasy.
Original Soundtrack Music By QUEEN
Flash Gordon is the ninth studio album and first soundtrack album by the British rock band Queen, released on 8 December 1980 by EMI Records in the UK and in February 1981 by Elektra Records in the US. It was one of two film soundtracks that they produced along with Highlander. It is the soundtrack to the science fiction film Flash Gordon and features lyrics on only two tracks.
Following the success Queen had with Flash Gordon two other notable rock groups contributed to movie soundtrack albums: Toto’s music was featured in “Dune” and AC/DC’s music was heard in “Maximum Overdrive”.
This was unusual at the time. Rock groups were not generally commissioned to score films.
I walked out of the cinema with the Queen music in my head. Following a trip to a furniture store I went to a local record shop to pick up the album. Dropping the needle onto this record was such a joyful moment for me.
Then to find they had included the dialogue from the film throughout the record was such a bonus. And the package for this record was so different from all of Queen’s previous efforts. It included an insert with a full colour image of Ming on one side and the lyrics for Flash and The Hero plus album credits on the other in red and yellow.
Seen above are the inner sleeve of the soundtrack featuring images of Queen on on side and the international cast on the other with a die cut in the center that lines up with the custom label featuring the logo.
For whatever reason the American version of this record did not have the die cut hole. The center was left intact so you lost the custom label peaking out effect.
Years later DJ Vanguard released a special re-mix of the single Flash.
On what turned out to be Queen’s final American Tour with Freddie & John in the Summer of 1982 Flash opened their shows followed by a performance of The Hero at the top of their setlist.
Flash Gordon Memorabilia
From the original 1930’s film serials to the 1980 feature to today the Flash Gordon franchise has produced a large array of collectibles.
In the 1930’s there were tin wind–up toys of spaceships from Flash Gordon and miniature figures in tins.
In the decades that followed numerous Sunday comic strips were published weekly. Comic Books, Toys, Figures, Posters, Trading Cards, Candy, Mugs, T-Shirts, Keychains, Magnets, and on and on and on.
Above are images of collectibles relating to the Flash Gordon franchise. On the Top Left are Flash and Ming figures with fold out Vultan’s Cloud Palace backdrop from Biff!Bang!Pow!
On the Top Right an early Pop-Up Book.
On the bottom Left a Lionman figure from Mattel based upon the Filmation animated series in 1979 on NBC.
Middle Right is a Viewmaster pack with 21 stereoscopic images also from the cartoon. And the bottom Right is a volume collecting Sunday comic strips of Flash Gordon now published by Titan books. There are 4 volumes in this series.
Flash Gordon books and magazines have been published over the past 70 years. In this gallery seen above notice the Mad Magazine clone Crazy with its parody of the movie!
The 1980 movie spawned several comic book adaptations, a novelization, poster books, and recently a graphic novel from Dynamite press called Zeitgeist.
Both DC & Marvel have published Flash Gordon comics at some point.
Archie Meets Flash Gordon in New Crossover One-Shot. Archie Comics has announced a new crossover one-shot with Flash Gordon, that was to hit comic shops back in June of this year.
Pulp Fiction is a term used to describe a huge amount of creative writing available to the American public in the early nineteen-hundreds. Termed “pulp magazines” because of the low quality paper used between the covers, these publications proliferated in the nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties and beyond.
Flash Gordon was the subject of several pulp series sold in drugstores and book shops. The gallery seen below features some of the covers published. There were even Flash Gordon Flip-books! There the small sized books that you flipped pages fast to create the illusion of motion! Checker books’ collections of Alex Raymond strips in full color featured The Ice Worlds of Mongo.
Toys + More Collectibles above and below
A pinball machine showed up in game arcades which I got to play several times. It had Queen’s music! The Atari Game Cartridge was less exciting somehow, Mattel sold a toy rocket ship for kids.
Titan Books published a 4 volume set collecting Flash Gordon comics from Alex Raymond to the present day.
There was even a Flash Gordon Colorforms Set! Along with Silly Putty and Yo-Yos Colorforms were a 1970s staple kids toy.
The 1979 NBC Saturday morning series was licensed to comics, figures, and lunchbox/thermos sets.
There was also a program sold at select theaters for the film. I found it years later at a Horror/SciFi Convention.
40th Anniversary of Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon Movie featuring the music of QUEEN
STUDIOCANAL is excited to announce the new 4k, Ultra High Definition restoration of Mike Hodge’s cult classic FLASH GORDON (1980), in honour of the film’s 40th anniversary.
Flash Gordon was scanned from the original 35mm negative to produce 4K files. Over 500 hours of manual restoration repaired serious damage that included image instability, scratches, and intermittent flicker.
The sound was scanned from the original track negative and underwent restoration to improve issues ranging from audio drop-outs throughout the feature and during reel changes, digital clicks and optical distortion.
The film was colour graded for theatrical, home entertainment and 4K HDR release, using previous digital releases and 35mm prints as a reference. In line with the Director’s vision and the original 35mm cinema release, VFX work was applied to remove the strings in all scenes where visible. This restoration was approved by Director Mike Hodges in May 2020 and will include the first 4K HDR Dolby Vision master of Flash Gordon.
This Fall a new coffee table book will be published called Flash Gordon The Official Story by John Walsh.
Originally there were to be 3 Flash Gordon movies to form a trilogy. Sam J. Jones had a falling out with the movie’s producers. The box office in North America was disappointing. At a cost of $70 million (a huge amount in 1979/80) and a paltry $20 million take in America no sequels were made.
While the irony is not lost on me that Flash Gordon up until this movie had multiple chapters including the short lived NBC cartoon, I think the movie is even more appealing because it is the only one of its kind.
A short-lived live action series appeared on the SyFy Channel. Dispensing with the former image of Ming as a caricature of Asian villainy he appeared as a bland modern CEO in an alternate dimension.
Another animated series also appeared on Cable television with less than encouraging results. Flash Gordon went into dormancy again.
The chroma key special effects. The model space ships. The glitzy costume design. Queen’s trademark sense of corn/camp are all part of the 1980 film’s lasting appeal.
This movie has become a true cult classic. Appealing to sci-fi/ fantasy geeks around the globe many of whom dress up as their favourite characters for ComicCon and Halloween.
I have seen the film at least 100 times. It’s my favourite cult film.
Seth Macfarlane, creator of the animated series Family Guy is a fan. His comedies, Ted & Ted2 featured Sam J. Jones and Flash Gordon. Comic book artist Alex Ross loves the movie and also proclaims Queen as a favourite band.
Family Guy episode with the Hawkmen. The Ted movies were packaged with Flash Gordon.
Alex Ross art above for the Blu-Ray of Flash Gordon; The Ming Wants You art came with the disc.
There is talk in recent years of a Flash Gordon reboot with CGI effects but time will tell if this becomes reality.
All I know is that this work combined two of my favourite things: Flash Gordon and QUEEN.
This Fall boss Fight Studio is releasing figures of Flash and Ming to celebrate the 40th Anniversary; Movie posters for the 40th Anniversary Edition.
There is a new documentary called Life After Flash now streaming on Amazon Prime. It tells the story of actor Sam J. Jones’ sudden stardom followed by years outside show business. It will be one of the many extras on the upcoming blu-ray sets.
Thank You Dear Readers! And Thanks Flash!
“Keep your feet on the ground, put your hand on your heart, lift your head to the skies, and the world’s for your taking. Yes, you’re a Hero!”
I was just thinking how we were told back in January to write out the full 2-0-2-0 when dating important docs. Who knew that it would be almost exclusively applied to receiving unemployment benefits.
My Dear Readers: Updates from New York City. July ends. USA continues to deny the impact of Covid—19 despite the largest recorded drop in its economy in history!
If you reside outside of North America you may have heard about how poor our safety net is here. This is showing up now during this unprecedented crisis.
I only glance at the headlines each morning. It takes until late in the day to realize how much more our country has slid in the eyes of the world.
New York City has sport once again with its expensive corporate stadiums empty. Overpaid athletes are playing with piped in crowd noise.
Several athletes in baseball are now sick. Games are getting postponed. I think baseball should cancel the season.
No Broadway/ Off—Broadway theater. No museums. No movie theaters. Broadway and Hollywood had both reached their commercial summit. I do not believe this will happen again.
If we have cinemas the interior of those spaces will have to be reinvented along with Broadway and Off—Broadway theaters.
Personally, my fear is that America will be vunerable like never before to a new authoritarian reality. Already the President floated the proto-fascist notion of delaying the Fall Election. This never happened in America before this con man took office.
People are waking to see how much damage has been inflicted upon regular people over decades of blindly adding police to streets. This has resulted in the brutality seen in recent days.
The people were empowered to fend off the awful notions of power hungry office holders. Our struggle for greater Democracy will continue.
With such heavy issues hovering over us I refuse to conform to the reactionary nature of certain friends and family. I just read “Twilight Of Democracy” by the historian Anne Applegate, seen below in the picture, argues strongly for Democratic ideals. She is hopeful Americans will reject the anti—democratic platform of Donald Trump.
My photography is an outlet to express what I see daily to counter the ugly forces at play in today’s world.
Despite it all I am having a lovely Summer. What else can I do? November will be chilly. And by then our biggest Election will be upon us.
5th Avenue from E. 86th Street to E. 103rd is called Museum Mile. There are several along this route on the East Side. The Museum of the City of New York, The MET, The Guggenheim and The Jewish Museum are my favourites. I took pictures of their facades over the past three months. Devoid of crowds. A silence. Mourning? Will they come back as strong as before the shutdown?
The Museum of the City of New York, The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and The Jewsih Museum are seen below:
Another component of taking images on walks are the people you see in moments. So distracted are these strangers that I could not resist capturing them in time. What follows are the first results of my observations.
August Arrives Tomorrow
Major League Baseball attempted to start a shortened season but finds itself in a bind now that the Miami Marlins team is ill with Covid—19. Then the Phillies were struck then the St. Louis Cardinals.
All of the hot spot states are only beginning to require masks and think about shutting down again.
The Republican party is making this crisis a partisan issue; their leader floats proto—fascist ideas daily.
Here in New York City while we have settled into our Phase 4 lives a new month starts tomorrow!