As the USA recovers from Covid-19 there are a couple of new releases from today’s finest rock bands to provide a much needed experience of joy.
Weezer and Twenty One Pilots are today’s new/old rock heroes. Sure Weezer has some great back catalog; Twenty One Pilots’ catalog is fewer titles but growing well.
Okay, Weezer has been around over 30 years, but remain vital as ever. Alright let’s start with the newest Weezer platter….
Van Weezer is just the right album for Summer 2021. Vocalist Rivers Cuomo had been wanting to contribute this type of modern rock n roll that salutes his love for eighties metal and hard rock.
Hero is a standout single that is on par with great Foo Fighters tracks.
Blue Dream uses the actual tab from Ozzy’s Crazy Train! And the song is totally original.
There are many flourishes of Eddie Van Halen’s playing style throughout the record hence the title Van Weezer.
The entirety of the set’s thirty minutes is pure cathartic release of why rock fans never stop wanting more no matter their age.
Twenty One Pilots have spent their Covid time recording the follow up to their concept epic Trench.
The new one is titled Scaled and Icy to reflect isolation and the scaled back way of life everyone has endured.
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are a great duo. On the current set singles like Choker return them to their earlier form on records like Vessel.
Do not let the surface happy pop sound fool you. The lyrics are just as complex and probing as any Tyler has done previously.
Good Day opens the set with the declaration that it’s hard to believe that today is good. Singing out is the best way to bring joy. Mr. Joseph does just that. He sounds a lot like Mika which is a great thing.
Both albums will provide plenty of happiness this Summer!
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.
Published by Prestel Verlag, Munich · London · New York, 2020.
Hardcover $45.00 Oct 20, 2020
224 Pages | 9-1/4 x 11
Documenting the birth of a radical era of music, fashion, pop culture, media, and art, Steve Eichner was hired by Club King Peter Gatien to make images of his clubs.
Sex, drugs, and dance music created the perfect cocktail of hedonistic bliss set amid a backdrop of iconic parties that catered to revelers every whim.
On any given night, one could party alongside celebrities, club kids, drag queens, ravers, hip hop heads, models, banjees, body boys, bondage slaves, goths, and the bridge-and-tunnel set at legendary nightclubs like Tunnel, Palladium, Club USA, Roxy, and Limelight.
At a time when people from all walks of life came together at night to celebrate themselves. There was universal respect. No one could see what went on inside these nocturnal spaces…until now!
Steve Eichner was the official photographer of NYC nightlife. There are 200 brilliant images in this book.
Here is a sample of his work:
This collection of vivid good times comes at a point when we could use a reminder of the days when people gathered in mass.
Ordinary people became clubbers. They rubbed shoulders with celebs and danced the night away.
Here, a new group of upstarts of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and economic backgrounds came together on the dance floor in a celebration of PLUR (peace, love, unity, and respect).
This book will be a great addition to any coffee table this upcoming holiday season.
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…
Originally set for release on May 15, 2020 was a completed album with a breadth and depth of songwriting, titled for a challenging and pivotal election year.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Along with all of America, Jon found himself unexpectedly experiencing a world-altering coronavirus pandemic, followed quickly by the staggering events of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing national movement for racial equality.
He knew there was even more to say about 2020. Writing from a home studio, two new songs were born: “American Reckoning” and “Do What You Can” encompass these events and made the album a complete body of work.
Well known for his extensive philanthropic work, Jon spent the initial quarantine days and weeks with his wife Dorothea helping feed those in need at their JBJ Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, NJ.
Later, the couple opened a Food Bank on the East End of Long Island to meet the food demands of the in-need population there.
I had the privilege of meeting Jon Bon Jovi by chance at The Armory Art show in New York city.
I expressed my thanks to him for all of the good works. Also how much I was looking forward to his new album.
Not knowing the tour and album would be postponed made me think about all we as a people are facing together.
Without further ado, 2020 is a musical salve for a genuinely pivotal year. These 10 songs bristle with equal doses of joy and despair.
Addressing the pandemic, mass shootings and racial justice the music remains on a remarkably even keel throughout.
Bon Jovi has crafted a meaningful record that enables its listener to reflect on all that has happened to us while looking forward to the future.
Limitless (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)
Do What You Can (Jon Bon Jovi)
American Reckoning (Jon Bon Jovi)
Beautiful Drug (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)
Story of Love (Jon Bon Jovi)
Let It Rain (Jon Bon Jovi)
Lower the Flag (Jon Bon Jovi)
Blood in the Water (Jon Bon Jovi)
Brothers in Arms (Jon Bon Jovi)
Unbroken (Jon Bon Jovi)
Tonight iHeart Radio will broadcast a special album launch for 2020. The band will play select songs from the new album plus Bon Jovi classics.
The Rolling Stones open their first “flagship” store, “RS No. 9 Carnaby,” at 9 Carnaby Street in London’s Soho district.
The new store, created in partnership with Bravado, Universal Music Group’s merchandise and brand management company, features all of the hallmarks of the iconic band and includes exclusive new fashion label “RS No. 9 Carnaby.”
The store will also introduce “Stones Red,” the official color from Pantone established from the first use of the band’s iconic logo. A collection celebrating the Rolling Stones official Pantone color along with exclusive limited-edition vinyl will also launch with the store.
The Rolling Stones said in a statement, “Soho has always encapsulated Rock ‘n’ Roll so Carnaby Street was the perfect spot for our own store.
We are confident this exciting project that our friends at Bravado have created will be an unrivaled experience for everyone to come to London and enjoy.”
Jointly curated by the Rolling Stones and Bravado, the shop follows the brand colors of red and black and the glass floor features lyrics, while the fitting rooms are adorned with album artwork.
The 1973 LP Goats Head Soup is now a deluxe box set featuring rarities, outtakes and alternative mixes from the sessions, a new stereo mix of the original album, a complete show from the accompanying tour and three previously unreleased tracks from the period.
One of the new songs, “Criss Cross,” dropped Thursday with a new video. (It was originally known to fans as “Criss Cross Man” from various bootlegs.) The other new tracks are “All the Rage” and “Scarlet,” which features guitar work by Jimmy Page.
The collections include fashion and accessories, along with a special glassware developed with Baccarat engraved with the Rolling Stones tongue logo, as well as chairs and scarves from The Soloist, and raincoats and hats from premium Swedish raincoat brand Stutterheim.
This new addition to Carnaby Street in London’s Soho District has been open since September 9th, 2020. The location was at the heart of swinging 1960’s Britain for which the band played a big part.
The Rolling Stones said in a statement, “Soho has always encapsulated Rock ‘n’ Roll so Carnaby Street was the perfect spot for our own store. We are confident this exciting project that our friends at Bravado have created will be an unrivaled experience for everyone to come to London and enjoy.”
Jointly curated by the Rolling Stones and Bravado, the shop follows the brand colors of red and black and the glass floor features lyrics.
Mat Vlasic, CEO, Bravado said: “With this innovative partnership, the Rolling Stones add yet another cultural touchpoint to their rich legacy.
RS No. 9 Carnaby is the result of years of planning and decades of building one of the world’s most recognized brands.
It creates a destination where fans can connect and immerse themselves in the music, style and spirit of one of the world’s most iconic and beloved bands.”
Morrison Hotel Art Gallery Grants
Drawing from the archives of Pattie Boyd, Henry Diltz, Lynn Goldsmith, Neal Preston, Ken Regan, Ethan Russell, Timothy White, and other photographers granted utterly intimate access to the green rooms and sidelines where music legends are truly made, Morrison Hotel Gallery presents its latest online exhibition, Backstage Pass.
From the trans-Atlantic breakthrough of Beatlemania to the off-stage antics of rock royalty, this online exhibition of 40+ fine art images offers fans an all-access (and socially distant) glimpse behind the curtain and some of the most legendary nights in music history starting Wednesday, September 16, 2020.
Just who are these mere mortals-turned-gods when the roar of the crowd dies away?
In many moments captured, the backstage behavior lives up to the sex, drugs, and rock and roll legend.
Jack Daniels flows freely in the Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin dressing rooms, while KISS romps in a wild backstage “orgy” at the Capitol Theatre.
Meanwhile, Keith Richards is ever-present – clutching a whiskey bottle with his signature cool as Tina Turner and David Bowie embrace and sip together from a bottle of champagne.
For better or worse, rock & roll has soundtracked a shifting American culture since its mid-twentieth century genesis.
With powerhouse hits and primally-charged world tours, rockstars may be the stuff of fear, fascination and die-hard fandoms.
Elton John’s Jewels
The entire set was hand—picked by the singer and he will release the massive 8-CD Jewel Box collection on Nov. 13 , packed with rarities from 1965-1971, deep cuts and obscure B-sides.
The 148-song set, will chronicle his early stages collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin, and comes with a hardcover book as well as extensive notes and track-by-track commentary by John for the two Deep Cuts discs.
It will be available in three different vinyl versions (4LP, 3LP, 2LP) as well as on digital download and streaming services, with all audio remastered at Abbey Road Studios by Grammy-winning mastering engineer Sean Magee.
The previously unreleased 1969 song “Sing Me No Sad Song,” the first taste of the collection, was released on Thursday (Sept. 17) and it provides a fascinating glimpse into John’s musical evolution. The rollicking track features lyrical precursors of both 1984’s “Sad Songs (Say So Much) and the 1976 hit “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
“To delve back through every period of my career in such detail for Jewel Box has been an absolute pleasure. Hearing these long lost tracks again, I find it hard to comprehend just how prolific Bernie and I were during the early days,” John says in a statement.
“The songs just poured out of us, and the band were just unbelievable in the studio. I always want to push forward with everything I do and look to the future, but having time during lockdown to take stock and pull these moments from my memory from each era has been a joy.
As a devout record collector myself, this project has really excited me, and I couldn’t be happier with the level of craft involved in such a carefully curated, lovingly constructed boxset. I’m sure my fans will enjoy it as much as I have.”
The format of the discs is described as follows:
Discs 1 & 2: Deep Cuts – A selection of personal favorites, curated by Elton. The box set book includes a track-by-track commentary by Elton.
Discs 3, 4, and 5: Rarities 1965 -1971 – Elton’s much sought-after 1960s and early 1970s demos and music that cemented the foundations of the iconic Elton John/Bernie Taupin writing partnership. The compelling, previously unreleased, missing piece in his illustrious career. Daryl Easlea narrates this fascinating story with contributions from those who were there at the time. These discs encompass 65 songs, all but a few of which have been stored in the vaults for more than 50 years.
Most of these demos were recorded during sessions before Elton was signed to a recording contract or released his first album. Also included are the first song ever written by Elton and his debut appearance on a record (both “Come Back Baby” – 1965), Elton and Bernie’s first composition (“Scarecrow” – 1967), and newly unearthed piano/vocal demos of some of Elton’s most acclaimed songs from his early albums. The packaging appropriately contains rare archival artwork and select original lyric sheets.
Discs 6 & 7: B-Sides 1976-2005 – Non-LP tracks and flipsides, never before compiled together. Thirty-six gems that are now given another chance to sparkle – 17 previously only available on vinyl, resulting in all of Elton’s studio B-sides now being offered digitally for the first time in his career.
Disc 8: And This Is Me . . . – To coincide with the release of the updated paperback edition of Me, the final collection celebrates the songs mentioned by name by Elton in his acclaimed autobiography, closing Jewel Box with the 2020 Academy Award-winning duet with Taron Egerton, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again.”
This week features a day trip to Long Island. The itinerary was an indoor flea market, an outlet mall, and the town of Port Jefferson.
The outlets had great bargains including a windbreaker for Fall and a bundle of books at a discount.
Port Jefferson offered Red Shirt Comics and seafood at PJ’s Lobster House where we dined indoors for only the second time since March!
As of this writing indoor dining will return to Manhattan on September 30th.
2020 is the Centennial of the Vote for Women in America. New York dedicated its first statue of real women’s rights pioneers on Literary Walk.
Also marking the 200th Anniversary of Susan B. Anthony’s birth, this new monument is long overdue.
Central Park Wonders
I took a nature walk through the ramble recently. This is an area of the park with interconnected paths that twist through scenic woods. Bird watching here is fantastic.
A young Jazz Saxophonist played. A group of guys enjoyed a game of beach volleyball. And the police keep guard over a statue of Christopher Columbus.
The Conservancy takes great care of Central Park. Maintaining the lawns, trees, benches, and the rest every day.
This Summer has been hot and sunny most of the time. My husband and I are staying put in New York for now. These days I love my city. Have you looked at the weather across the country lately?
The Conservatory Garden
Located at E. 105th Street & 5th Avenue across from The Museum of the City of New York, this garden is a treasure with flowers, romantic paths and fountains placed well. A quiet zone perfect for escape from the chaos outside.
19 years after the attacks on U.S. soil of 3 American planes used as missiles destroying the Twin Towers, damaging The Pentagon, and crashing in Pennsylvania killing over 3,000 people, Corona Virus has killed over 200,000 Americans.
We will all pause to remember 9/11. But never forget that then & now we had a President not duly elected by the people.
Dear Readers, September arrives with plenty to share. New images of my neighborhood shows the hard work being done to keep life as normal as possible. Labor Day weekend begins….
This park sits atop the FDR Drive on the far Eastside of Manhattan. As seen above the Esplanade over looks the East River. Views of Roosevelt Island, Triborough Bridge re-named the RFK, and Hells gate freight bridge can be enjoyed here.
In the collages we see all kinds of activity. A girl flies a kite. A young Dad walks home with his friend and kid. A woman confined to a automated chair enjoys jazz music. A yoga class takes place. Two men workout on the Great Lawn. A Doorman washes down the walk. A man finishes up his run checking his phone.
I have many more images to share of Central Park. The gallery below features them.
A natural ecosystem that is great for walks. One of the nation’s top bird watching spots.
The many paths feature charming views of forest. A great way to escape for a while.
As our city continues to re-open I am hoping the awful numbers of March do not return. If Summer 2020 proved one thing to me it’s that we are all together. No matter what happens New Yorkers will continue to support each other.
My Dear Readers, thanks for stopping by Evan’s Gate! Until next week…
A couple of weekends ago my husband and I were transported out of the city for the first time this year!
My super amazing sister-in-law and brother whisked us away to their home upstate.
You see my beloved Brian’s birthday is coming up this week so this was a celebration.
August 21, 2020
Upstate NY is bucolic with mountains, rolling hills, and picturesque farms.
Set within this menagerie is a home full of love and wonder.
My sister-in-law gets organic produce delivered and grows vegetables on her deck.
She whipped up salads full of flavor within minutes. Our niece made a surprise pop-in with a friend too.
Dear readers, we are all in good health with no reason to fear being exposed to Covid. We are moving on.
Following our lunch we were taken on a scenic drive around rural towns leading to our destination of Rhinebeck, NY which is home to the State fair. This event was cancelled this year.
Our first set of images were taken in this charming village. The community has restrictions in place. Indoor dining returned everywhere North of the city! We were able to celebrate my husband’s birthday inside a restaurant!
On our way back to the city we visited Cold Spring. This town has interesting shops with antiques, records, and sweets.
Social distancing rules are in place.
There were walking patterns too. On our visit the town of Cold Spring was not crowded.
Cold Spring was lovely. Signs of hope were everywhere.
Scenic Cold Spring, NY
Seeing family again fills you with love.
A return to downtown for the first time this year! A very warm sticky day. Lots of great people watching.
In green tee and shorts is my hubby. Another Birthday brunch with a friend.
Open Streets is a city program that closes off certain blocks to traffic for cleaner outdoor dining.
The above gallery at the top you can glimpse a selfie I took in a men’s store.
Gotta Have Park!
Although it’s late August there are still hot days ahead. The park provides great moments from sweet dogs to cool people.
My hubby and I saw my parents for the first time this year!
Johnson Avenue is an open street for eateries. At W.235th and Riverdale Avenue.
There are teeny cars and tricycles provided free of charge for families with toddlers.
Summer always goes by the quickest. Warm to hot days; far less clothes; being. The crisis is not over. We have a long way to go yet. Let us all hope the days ahead are healthier.
For this week I will leave you dear readers with a gallery of lovable poochies! After all these are the dog days…
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!”