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David Bowie Icon

David Bowie ICON; Published by ACC ART Books; 181 Pages. http://www.iconicimages.net; http://www.accartbooks.com; Picture Editing:
Stephen Reid, Daniel Rachel
and Carrie Kania
Interviews and Text:
Daniel Rachel and Carrie Kania; Project Editor:
Carrie Kania; Publisher, ACC Art Books
James Smith
Editor
Susannah Hecht
Design
Craig Holden
Production
Stephen Mackinlay

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.

Flash Gordon’s Alive!

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Origins Of Swashbuckling In Outer Space

Before I delve into the legacy of Flash Gordon…

Buck Rogers is a fictional space opera character created by Philip Francis Nowlan in the novella Armageddon 2419 A.D., subsequently appearing in multiple media.

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 seriala 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:

 Tom Swift (1930-1937), Brick Bradford (Central Press Association, 1933-1987), Don Dixon and the Hidden Empire (Watkins Syndicate, 1935-1941),  Speed Spaulding (John F. Dille Co., 1940-1941),  and  John Carter of Mars (United Feature Syndicate, 1941-1943).

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 get its own entry in this blog at a future date. You just cannot celebrate a Flash Gordon Anniversary without providing this necessary background.

The Buck Rogers movie served as a pilot for a potential TV show. Released a year before Flash Gordon in 1979, the box office was good enough for NBC to hire creator Glen A. Larson (Battlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyQuincy, M.E.The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew MysteriesB. J. and the BearThe Fall GuyMagnum, P.I. and Knight Rider.)

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.

On the left is Charles Middleton as Ming in the 1930’s; On the right is Max Von Sydow as Ming in 1980. From B&W to Color Ming remains the same.

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!

On the left is Buster Crabbe; On the right Sam J. Jones. Both versions have Flash Gordon bare chested while facing punishment.

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.

For full bio of his life and works plus an animated slideshow of his iconic poster art click here: https://www.richardamselmovie.com/

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.

Visual Effects

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.

Favourite Scenes

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!

Awaiting Ming’s first appearance in the film are assembled Hawkmen, Arborian Tree Men, and assorted races.

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.

The Screenplay

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.

Ming The Merciless scolds those pathetic earthlings, Flash, Dale and Zarkov: “….If you had any inkling of who or what is out here you would have shuttered from it in utter terror!”

Ming The Merciless

Lines like, “We only have 14 hours to save the Earth” could only make sense in an over the top fantasy.

“What do you mean Flash Gordon approaching?”
“You’re a hero. Can’t you see that? Are you sure you don’t want a kingdom of your own?”
“Klytus, are your men on the right pills? Maybe you should execute that traitor?”

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.

The selection of pins seen here have been licensed by Vice in the United Kingdom.

Pulp Fiction

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.

A comic book adaptation of Flash Gordon was published by Golden. The price was $1.95

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.

Click here for Pre-Order information: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/667683/flash-gordon-the-official-story-of-the-film-by-john-walsh/

The End?

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.

This was the theatrical movie poster for the documentary, Life After Flash.

Thank You Dear Readers! And Thanks Flash!

The multi-hued skies of Mongo.

“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!”

“My life is not for any Earthling to tinker or take…”

ELW Photography #5

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July 31, 2020

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.

Highly Recommended to everyone who cares about Democracy.

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.

Museums

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:

Candids

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!

What will it bring? Will we learn?

Until next week Dear Readers!

Stay in good health.

Wear a mask.

Band of Misfits

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Queen formed in 1971. Their debut album was released in 1973. Several major labels turned them down. For 20 years Queen were: (L)—(R): Roger Taylor, drums/vocals, John Deacon, bass, Freddie Mercury, Lead vocals/piano, and Brian May, Guitar/vocals

The year was 1979. A pre-adolescent boy who was collecting his first records discovered a mail-order music club. Offering 14 LP’s for a penny as their introductory hook was too good to pass up. When the records arrived I opened up the albums with great anticipation.

I was always eclectic in my tastes for music. There was Waylon Jennings, Aerosmith, Jackson 5, and Queen among the selections. The record with the biggest impact was Queen Live Killers, a gatefold 2 LP package with a collage of full color images from their European and North American Tour in support of their Jazz record.

There on full display was Freddie Mercury in tight black PVC pants and jacket (shiny like leather) with his jacket open to reveal a bare chest. Unknown to me at the time was the cabaret style he was doing. This was a new image for him in 1978/9.

All I know is the first time I saw an image of Freddie Mercury was a poster from their ‘Opera’ Tour. His penchant for stripping onstage thrilled me to no end. Onstage in candy stripe shorts and red suspenders with the band’s logo in the center of the poster. My eyes popped out of my head like a cartoon wolf.

Although years later I heard how much the band disliked the mix of the record I felt strongly it was a great representation of their live sound. I loved how they played a medley of hits too.

I was taken aback by how different the songs sounded in a live setting. Nothing like the studio engineered layers of over dubs or multi-tracked vocals.

Except for a brief spell following the release of their bio-picture, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I have never lost interest in them. That brief interlude was caused by too many kids finding them based on their parent’s tastes. Hey, that’s life!

For many years it was hard to find any Queen memorabilia in the states. I know this sounds crazy to the listeners of today. There are websites. Obviously there is the Queen Online Store which always has a great selection of Queen everything.

Back in the 1980s in America after their popularity fell away we had record stores and rock t shirt stores. Freddie Mercury’s most dramatic transformation into gay clone in 1980 was not appreciated by a largely straight audience.

Despite the huge success of The Game in ’80, the band ended their decade long relationship with Elektra records. The label released a Greatest Hits album in 1981. At the time it felt like rock fans were putting Queen out to pasture. Their Elektra years were ending.

‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by bassist John Deacon borrowed heavily from Chic. Becoming the best-selling single in Elektra’s history it topped The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, which gave the band an idea that funk rock was gaining traction in America.

The fact that Queen were in Munich, Germany enjoying the nightlife a bit too much influenced the next platter a lot. Freddie Mercury without stating it officially was out to anyone with two eyes, especially if you were gay.

What happened next was a mix of bad timing and trends that would exile Queen from the USA until well after Mercury’s death in 1991. In fact when he died I remember a news anchor stating there was bad news for fans of Queens. Queens? That was how out of touch our media were with Mercury’s death.

Rolling Stone magazine was never particularly kind to Queen. Freddie’s Obit was a single page in an issue with Michael Jackson on the cover. He was not an American star. I felt that kept the band’s mystique intact.

‘Hot Space’ was the final record owed to Elektra. The band never conformed to what their label wanted especially when it came to album covers. The label’s demand for a band photo was ignored for years. Greatest Hits has a portrait of the band taken by Lord Snowden. It has become an iconic image. The label got their wish granted by contractual obligation.

Freddie Mercury had a brief friendship with Michael Jackson. Mr. Jackson was a huge Queen fan. He was the impetous for releasing ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ as a single. Queen had a #1 hit with it. The new direction was clear for at least Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.

Freddie and John developed a friendship over the years based upon a mutual love for Motown music. The divide in Queen was clear. Brian loved heavy guitar driven music. Roger was into Punk then New Wave. Swaying him into drum techniques outside of traditional rock was done.

In the early days when they were in college the members of Queen were united in their dreams of rock stardom. As they grew in stature with the the rock audience experimenting with different sounds became a reality. Roger Taylor’s ‘Fun It’ was funky and danceable. This song in particular made me think it was not such a big deal for the band to express more of a funk beat in 1982.

Freddie’s single, ‘Bicycle Race’ actually incorporated rap within the track. Both songs were on Jazz. That title was a huge deal. A band that mixed every musical element in its music now titled a record for a specific genre. However, being the academically minded nerds that they were the name also meant calling the collection by a moniker that had many facets to it. Like the name Queen itself.

Change is inevitable. Every band faces it. Fortunately for Queen they were a big band by the time they grew out of their excessive 1970s persona. They could not be pigeonholed. Freddie Mercury never believed in doing anything by half-measure. He took every idea to its maximum. This attitude created amazing songs and music videos. The latter would compound their loss of popularity in America.

As a gay kid Queen were my idols. I bought every album as they were released starting with the #1 Game record. The video for the song, ‘Play The Game’, revealed a cropped haircut and mustache for the first time. I loved it. American fans hated it.

When ‘Hot Space’ came there was no doubt in the band’s new look and direction. Funk, dance, and disco were now emphasized. Even Brian May’s guitar was absent on some tracks, most notably the single ‘Body Language’ by Freddie Mercury. Pushing sexual boundaries the explicit video got banned by MTV. The sales dropped from the prior ‘Game’ LP and the tour proved to be the last in America with Freddie and John.

Throughout the 1980s I knew it was uncool to love Queen. I could understand why they lost their mojo with America. Homophobia was rampant. Conservatism was in power. New Wave and Heavy Metal dominated. Pop music developed new icons Madonna, Prince, and Duran Duran. Queen were the past, a relic of the 1970s. Despite releasing more records that hit #1 throughout the world, the USA would never allow them back into the Top 10. From Hot Space, ‘Body Language’ was the highest charting single in the US at #11.

Everywhere else in the world Queen kept selling records and tours. This was painful to me because I knew I missed my only chance to see them in concert with Freddie and John.

Back tracking here. In the 1970s I was a kid. Every Sunday I read the Times’ Arts section. There were ads for Broadway shows, movies, and rock concerts. I noticed that Queen played the Garden practically every year.

Then one fateful day following the debut of ‘Hot Space’ the Arts section had a full page ad for QUEEN Live In Concert with Special Guest Billy Squier at Madison Square Garden! Their faces appeared across the page in the Warhol—inspired, Freddie designed graphics of the album.

This was not the original Times ad but the graphics are the same. Queen played Madison Square Garden in early July for Hot Space. The set list was fantastic. The live album Queen On Fire Live At The Bowl from Milton Keynes, U.K. is my favourite Queen live album—not on vinyl in US yet.

I begged my parents to let me go see them. Nobody would take me. Back in the early 80’s tickets were like $12! Still in that time parents were not keen on their kids’ love of rock music. I have never gotten over the disappointment of missing this tour.

The opener was Billy Squier! I still love his music. Back in 1982 I was mental for both Squier and Queen. In the 1970s, Thin Lizzy, Styx, and Journey opened for Queen.

It proved to be their last here until Paul Rodgers joined them decades later in the naughts.

America ignored A Kind Of Magic and The Miracle. Both albums were enormous sellers around the globe even hitting # 1 in several countries like the UK, Japan, France, New Zealand, Australia, and Netherlands. The Magic Tour of 1986 became a record called Live Magic. The Tour and record followed Live Aid in 1985.

‘Magic’ was also partly the soundtrack for the fantasy film “Highlander”. Like “Flash Gordon” before it loved by Queen fans, loathed by others. The American sitcom “The Goldbergs” actually did an episode that featured Highlander and one of its stars, Clancy Brown who was now a regular on the series.

I never lost my love for music, especially Queen. They were misfits. Remaining so throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The critics never really appreciated them. Only after the death of Freddie Mercury from bronchial pneumonia brought on by HIV/AIDS in November 1991 had the press expressed any love for him. Freddie was a Jimi Hendrix fan. He understood how much an artist’s value increases upon death. He lived life his way. A true rocker.

Being a gay kid in the 70s was amazing and scary. There were so many great looking boys. And the hippie 60’s had a lot of left over guys who sported long-hair. And going shirtless was part of street style. And rock stars were no exception.

Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones, Roger Daltrey of The Who, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and every other frontman have appeared shirtless on stage. Then along came South African born Freddie Mercury! He took the image to a completely different level. He performed a striptease!

Loving Queen was difficult. I had my first rock music tee featuring the band from 1977. Wearing it to camp one day I got called a faggot. The group had become stigmatized by straight kids who hated Mercury’s effeminate posturing. The rock press had a field day with his sexual escapades. The worst magazine coverage for any artist I have ever seen was Creem, a rock rag from the 1970s and ’80s.

They did a story on Queen that was not a story. It was just the magazine hating Freddie and Queen. Anti—gay comments filled their coverage. Truly shocking to me.

Queen made their only appearance on American TV live on SNL’s Season Premiere with Host Chevy Chase. He hosted remotely from LA as a joke. Today this would be protocol. Danny DeVito introduced Queen. Performing 2 songs: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” a #1 hit in America and “Under Pressure”. Freddie’s voice was in the low register only. Years later I read he was recovering from a cold when the band appeared on the show. This was not a good time for them.

Back to their transformation from 1970s glam to 1980s pop. Following the commercial failure of Hot Space which still went Gold in America, the band signed to Capitol Records in North America. They even recorded for the first time in Los Angeles. ‘The Works’ album featured all the trademarks of their sound with Brian’s guitar blaring and Roger’s drums more upfront. Then another music video did them more cultural harm.

John Deacon’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ was made into a video that parodied the British soap opera Coronation Street. It featured the band in drag! Not Freddie’s idea. In the USA once again MTV banned them. Momentum killed.

Although the album was a return to form with hard rockers like Brian May’s ‘Hammer To Fall’ the top ten eluded them in America. Roger’s anthem ‘Radio GaGa’ peaked outside the top ten stalling at #16.

I still believe Queen were ignored. Punished for Freddie’s unapologetic gay image. Other British bands from the 1970s did not suffer this fate—Genesis released pop music—Pink Floyd went pop—and The Who also went pop. Rolling Stones released a cover of the song ‘Harlem Shuffle’ which was totally their worst.

Why was Queen singled out? Strong expressions of gay sexuality were taboo in the states. Despite being multi–faceted Queen had only the one face in America. Flamboyant is code for gay. Liberace had the straight audience believing what they wanted to believe. Freddie did not suffer fools.

I went to Giants Stadium to see Pink Floyd, Genesis , The Who, and Rolling Stones on separate tours during the ’80’s. Their music was not very good at the time. It was crazy to me that Queen did not tour here. My theory was that Freddie’s HIV status prevented them from playing here. Sad but true.

In my teenage years I knew many people who were either indifferent to my love of their music or could not get into it. And a lot of the time gay people fit their stereotype with a love for disposable pop or dance tracks. I can tell you the Hot Space CD was on a jukebox in a gay bar.

Hot Space cover designed by Freddie Mercury. Like a Warhol silkscreen.

The Queen album most likely to be on any jukebox was Greatest Hits. Unfortunate since I always thought they had great songs that were never going to be hits. No doubt about the high number of singles/hits in their catalog. Later in this blog post I have listed my all–time favourite Queen songs.

Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and Twisted Sisted were all influenced by Queen. The lead vocalists of those groups wore even more make-up than Freddie! Yet since they were hard rock/metal Americans accepted them. The make-up bands of the period were largely from America. Paradoxically this is also when the biggest make-up band ever, KISS, took their make-up off!

Unknown at the time that Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) and Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) were in the crowd that saw Queen open for Mott the Hoople at New York’s Uris theater on Broadway, it makes perfect sense.

Until the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley stadium few Americans understood just how much Queen had influenced the heavy bands of the 80’s. The line-up featured England’s Def Leppard, America’s Guns N Roses and Extreme alongside Elton John, George Michael, and David Bowie. Eclectic to the end Queen also invited Freddie’s main influence, Liza Minnelli to the proceedings. He got so much ridicule from the press for loving Liza as well as Hendrix.

I believe today that Queen got into my marrow, my DNA because their image and music were original. Upsetting the status quo was part of their appeal. Decades after his death the film of his life was a blockbuster. He kept the mystique. Proving that no other rock performer could rival him, Queen became paragons of rock music. Today their legacy has grown in leaps and bounds.

Taking them into my heart has kept me alive too. Queen have a few explicit anti—suicide songs. Mercury admitted in his final days that the image he worked so hard to build became somewhat of a monster to his personal life. Becoming less active, meeting a man named Jim Hutton who became his partner until the end was his ultimate goal.

For the first time since reading several biographies about Freddie I understand why ‘Somebody To Love’ was a personal favorite. Love is what we all need to survive. Take a listen to the many tortured love ballads he wrote and performed. His delivery is genuine. That’s also why it touched me so deeply.

I think it’s why I met my beloved husband Brian. I love him more than anything. He has made my life the best possible. Our mutual love of music with great singers has created a bond.

Here for the first time I have compiled my list of personal favourite Queen tracks. B-Sides and rarities are not included here. They are taken from the 15 studio albums released from 1973—1995.

My Favourite Queen songs of all-time

  • My Fairy King by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Great King Rat by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Liar by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Nevermore by Freddie Mercury on II
  • The Fairy—Feller’s Master Stroke by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Ogre Battle by Freddie Mercury on II
  • The March of the Black Queen by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Seven Seas Of Rhye by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Doing Alright by Brian May & Tim Staffell on Queen
  • Lily of the Valley by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Now I’m Here by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Brighton Rock by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Killer Queen by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Bring Back That Leroy Brown by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Stone Cold Crazy by Mercury, Deacon, Taylor, & May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Flick of the Wrist by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Misfire by John Deacon on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Bohemian Rhapsody by Freddie Mercury on A Night At The Opera
  • 39 by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
  • The Prophet’s Song by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
  • You’re My Best Friend by John Deacon on A Night At The Opera
  • The Millionaire Waltz by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
  • White Man by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
  • You and I by John Deacon on A Day At The Races
  • We Will Rock You by Brian May on News Of The World
  • We Are The Champions by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
  • Sheer Heart Attack by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
  • Fight From The Inside by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
  • Spread Your Wings by John Deacon on News Of The World
  • It’s Late by Brian May on News Of The World
  • My Melancholy Blues by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
  • Jealousy by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
  • In Only Seven Days by John Deacon on Jazz
  • Dead On Time by Brian May on Jazz
  • Dreamer’s Ball by Brian May on Jazz
  • Don’t Stop Me Now by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
  • Dragon Attack by Brian May on The Game
  • Play The Game by Freddie Mercury on The Game
  • Rock It (Prime Jive) by Roger Taylor on The Game
  • Don’t Try Suicide by Freddie Mercury on The Game
  • Another One Bites The Dust by John Deacon on The Game
  • Flash by Brian May on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • The Hero by Freddie Mercury on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Football Fight by Freddie Mercury (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Battle Theme by Brian May (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Staying Power by Freddie Mercury on Hot Space
  • Dancer by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Back Chat by John Deacon on Hot Space
  • Action This Day by Roger Taylor on Hot Space
  • Put Out The Fire by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie on Hot Space
  • Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Machines (or Back To Humans) by Brian May & Roger Taylor on The Works
  • Radio GaGa by Roger Taylor on The Works
  • Keep Passing The Open Windows by Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • I Want To Break Free by John Deacon on The Works
  • Hammer To Fall by Brian May on The Works
  • Is This The World We Created…? by Brian May & Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • Man On The Prowl by Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • One Vision by Queen on A Kind Of Magic
  • A Kind Of Magic by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
  • One Year Of Love by John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
  • Pain Is So Close To Pleasure by John Deacon & Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
  • Friends Wil Be Friends by Freddie Mercury & John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
  • Don’t Lose Your Head by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
  • Princes Of The Universe by Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
  • Breakthru by Queen on The Miracle
  • The Invisible Man by Queen on The Miracle
  • Rain Must Fall by Queen on The Miracle
  • Scandal by Queen on The Miracle
  • Was It All Worth It by Queen on The Miracle
  • Innuendo by Queen on Innuendo
  • I’m Going Slightly Mad by Queen on Innuendo
  • I Can’t Live With You by Queen on Innuendo
  • Ride The Wild Wind by Queen on Innuendo
  • The Show Must Go On by Queen on Innuendo

In 1995 Queen released Made In Heaven which re-worked some of Freddie’s songs from his solo debut Mr. Bad Guy. The record featured Mercury’s final songs. “A Winter’s Tale” was his last composition. The lyrics described Montreaux, Switzerland in his final days. The list of my all-time Queen songs continues below with the band’s posthumous release.

  • Mother Love by Freddie Mercury & Brian May on Made In Heaven —This was the last track he recorded.
  • A Winter’s Tale by Freddie Mercury on Made In Heaven

Queen Retired—Legacy Grew

My least favorite Queen album, Made in Heaven, was followed by years of inactivity. Then in America TV commercials began licensing their hits. LA Gear used We Will Rock You; Diet Coke used I Want To Break Free; Mountain Dew used Bohemian Rhapsody even copying the now iconic promo clip. These are just a few examples.

From 2004—2009 Queen added Paul Rodgers of Bad Company to their line-up. He was one of Freddie’s favorite singers. In the 1960’s he fronted Free. In the 1980’s he fronted The Firm with Led Zep’s Jimmy Page.

Brian May, Paul Rodgers, and Roger Taylor. Queen 2.0

The Queen+Paul Rodgers tours would return Queen to North America for the first time in 20 years! I never missed a show in New York. However, this line-up never played The Garden.

Queen+Paul Rodgers released a studio album, The Cosmos Rocks. There was a live album too.

American Idol, a talent search reality series would enable a meeting that was pure fate. Adam Lambert, an American youth who was also out auditioned by singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Queen are his favorite group. Idol invited Brian May and Roger Taylor to perform with the show’s 3 finalists for its season finale. Adam came in second but in my opinion he really won.

Eventually Queen would announce touring with Adam Lambert fronting the group. It was made explicit that he would never replace Freddie Mercury. For the past decade now known as Queen+Adam Lambert touring the globe again.

Queen 3.0 has become the juggernaut that fans across the globe celebrate. The show has finally gone beyond the original line—up!

And this line-up brought Queen back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since Hot Space! The setlist celebrated the band’s live at the Rainbow concert in support of Sheer Heart Attack. They opened with II’s ‘Procession’ and Sheer Heart Attack’s ‘Now I’m Here’.

Adam Lambert has released new solo records while touring with Queen. He sang ‘Believe’ at the Kennedy Center Honors bringing Cher to tears!

His presence on stage is truly a sight to behold. Bringing back the flamboyance of Mercury without mimicking his moves. Adam’s voice is his own unique stamp. He can sing any Queen tune. He has a new album out now called Velvet.

The shows proved so successful that Queen returned to celebrate their News of the World album next time around. Complete with Frank the Robot in full mascot mode. Opening their shows with ‘We Will Rock You’ like they did in 1977. Brian May performed his solo against a backdrop of stars fitting for an astrophysicist.

Their current tour is centered around the global success of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” which tells Freddie’s story. Albeit with a completely incorrect timeline of events to create a cohesive cinema narrative.

In Freddie’s brilliant words it has been no bed of roses for Queen. For 20 years, 1971—1991, they reigned with the same line—up of 4 creative songwriters with extremely different personalities. Fans felt proud of their achievements.

Then the untimely death of Mercury from AIDS in November 1991. Queen ended. I always thought they could continue if the right elements fell into place.

Elton John performed with them during a final concert as Queen. Mr. John sang ‘The Show Must Go On”. He encouraged Brian and Roger to find a way. He said of their catalog of hits: ‘it must be like having a Rolls-Royce in the garage that you cannot drive anymore.”

Having them back today means so much to me. I want Queen to go on forever…

In my lifetime I have not played another artists music as often as Queen. They have rescued me many times with their life affirming works.

I have many other favourite music groups: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Judas Priest, Styx, and Elton John.

The Queen sound is unique and original. Their music is not rock nor disco nor black nor white. It’s Queen music.

The Queen catalog has sold over 300 million records worldwide. They are tied with The Allman Brothers Band at #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of Best Artists.

This image of the Classic Queen Line—Up on the Rolling Stone List of Best Artists.

In England Queen Greatest Hits is the top selling record in British music history. Greatest Hits II is #10.

The Queen studio album catalog seen below does not include The Cosmos Rocks. That album featured Paul Rodgers.

The Queen studio album catalog is seen here. All 15 LP covers. The final album with Freddie Mercury and John Deacon was Made In Heaven released in 1995. It blows my mind how all of their records are now iconic.

Waxing Rhapsodic

Today the world is quite different then the early 1970’s. The band’s legacy has become it’s own cottage industry. The Queen Online website is updated every day. The Online Store has a line of goods that any fan would enjoy.

The Royal Mint in the U.K. has issued Queen coins in sterling; The Royal Mail will issue Queen stamps on July 9th, 2020 featuring 8 album covers including The Game and News Of The World and a set of 4 concert images from their world tours plus a proper band portrait as seen below.

Queen become the third British band to receive this honour following The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

The sterling pound coins feature the band’s instruments and their logo. The piano has three keys shaded to mark the notes in Bohemian Rhapsody. Above you can see all 4 packet designs. A mini poster and full colour images and text about Queen are included. The coins are a singular design with the Queen on the back of each.

Queen have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted into the songwriters hall of fame and most recently were given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” became the highest grossing bio picture of all–time. Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.

The film won a Golden Globe for Best Picture.

On YouTube Queen+Adam Lambert released a new version of their classic “We Are The Champions” called “You Are The Champions” to help raise funds for Covid—19 relief workers via The World Health Organization and U.N.

Drummer and Vocalist Roger Taylor’s daughter appears in the video. She is a nurse!

To see this mobile phone created clip click here: https://youtu.be/7LcLqIHzNkY

This Fall two new books will be published: Neal Preston’s Queen photos from their Tours and The Treasures of Queen.

2021 marks the group’s 50th Anniversary.

Don’t stop them now!

Dear Readers

Thank you for reading my blog! To all my new readers, Welcome!

More Queen band features to come. Next week I will continue my posts featuring my photography.

Stay well! Wear a mask.

Updates from New York City/ Random Thoughts in Downtimeland

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  • The New York Times today gave voice to the famous since they are lacking a platform. What do they miss about their beloved city?
  • Dear readers I can tell you what I don’t miss. The noise. The crowds. The expense.
  • I have a strong immune system. I go out everyday.
  • I danced in the middle of 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and intersections that now stand empty. I do not miss traffic.
  • No sympathy for Disney. Are we not capitalists? You take risks with your investments. The government must stop their welfare for the wealthy. If Disney fails let it go away. Some other thing will come along for the 21st Century.
  • This just in, Disney+ using Hamilton as bait for more subscribers! It’s meant to be seen live.
  • The 7 pm banging of the pots has started to fade. Less and less volume now.
  • That homeless dude on the 6 train was right 2 years ago. Anyone of you may be jobless tomorrow. Did anyone listen to him? nah!
  • I do not “like” any of our politicians. They do not know what to do.
  • The people with means left the city months ago.
  • Some days are better than others. Just like before the pandemic.
  • I wonder how suburbanites will survive. They have to drive everywhere.
  • Now is the chance to lower subway fares. Ridership will not return to previous levels. Why run empty buses? We need to build a new transportation system. Monorail!
  • Our current Mayor will close streets to cars. Pedestrian only zones so people can walk and be distant from one another.
  • How about motorcycle only roads? A Harley highway.
  • New York City was all about luxury for the wealthy before this hit. Now that many of them have left for good how about converting the completed condo units into affordable homes for the rest of us? A rent strike for universal suffrage. Rents should fall back to 1960 levels.
  • Convert failed retail spaces into community use areas.
  • Our primary is now a go! Yay democracy.
  • Delegates count. It affects the party platform.
  • Haircuts? Hey guys, let it grow! We need non-conformity! Learn about rebellion. You can stand out. The Constitution allows for it, lol.
  • We should support Amazon’s workforce. This is retail today. The virus will not go away. Physical stores will never feel safe again. It’s nice to shop at a click with a solid returns policy.
  • Movie theaters are going to have to do a lot more to get us back. YouTube has a lot of great films from all over the world, no CGI needed. Stories about people are making a comeback following a decade of shlock from Marvel (Disney).
  • If independent book shops opened across the city with a medium size sales floor people could enjoy the experience. A no children under 16 policy would be nirvana. Book shops should sell books. No toys, no stationary.
  • New York will remain closed until at least May 18. Politicians are biding (pun intended) their time.

You Tube Allows Discovery For Viewers

World cinema abounds on this platform.

https://youtu.be/3Y2pPaqcHtU

Cut and paste the above address to view a beautiful 30 minute French film about a family that takes a sea voyage around islands and sees whales. The boys swim with dolphins, explore sea life, and enjoy what looks like one amazing childhood.

The choices are yours on YouTube. Why are you wasting money on the banal service of Disney?

Heavy Metal Rules

The corporate record labels forced metal away from the mainstream. It made the culture stronger. Metal listeners are hundreds of millions of people from over two dozen countries. We love Lemmy, Ozzy, Priest, Maiden, Metallica and a zillion other artists who play amazing music. It will last forever. A creature comfort. And always regains its stature when things go South.

Metallica are still America’s best metal band. “Hardwired To Self Destruct” is amazing.

The wearing of masks is so metal! Rock on. Up The Irons! Bang thy head that doesn’t bang.

That’s it for now! Just a quick update inside the city of New York 2 months into the pandemic.

The City Sleeps

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Another week is done. I have calendars in my apartment. Two in fact. One features puppies in silly outfits and poses to fit the month/season. The other is a New Yorker magazine cartoon-a-day.

The small things that went unnoticed are now prime pins in my mental machinery. They keep me safe. Taking an anti-depressant is the other component in this equation.

Here we are in New York without sitdown service in restaurants. One diner remains with delivery. It’s called Midnite Express after the drug trafficking movie from the 1970s.

Funny to think how the underbelly of society is operating now. Are they wearing masks too? Everyone is required to wear them now.

So with all this time on our hands we come up with projects. My latest was listening to the entire Bob Dylan catalog. I found out I could listen to 9 albums in one day. This infuriated my beloved husband but I was determined to finish in less than a week.

No theater. No baseball. No concerts. Summer will present a challenge. No day trips. May there be no heatwaves nor hurricanes. Oh, the city pools will not open. The last time that happened was the polio pandemic.

We should remind ourselves daily we must allow the health sector to do its best to curtail new illness. We should also keep in mind that all workers are valuable in any economy. Do not scapegoat.

At 7 each evening New Yorkers are banging pots and pans while cheering for nurses and doctors; food deliverers, store clerks; pharmacists, drugstore clerks. Hand in hand those with advanced educations and those with limited resources are working together to keep us all safe.

The city is quiet. You cannot help but feel how fragile society can become when faced with these unusual circumstances. New York pride was once about being open all the time. Things have changed.

Before the pandemic hit Manhattan the complaints to 311 (our city services number) over noise was hitting records. Subway ridership was bursting, and tourism was high.

Now those complaints are not happening and the subways are empty save essential workers. No tourists.

The past 2 administrations created a city for visitors. This has proved to be a shortsighted vision. Without their revenue now what do we do?

The city sleeps. Schools are closed. Life will not return to normal. Our lack of hindsight has proven to be our folly in 2020, funnily enough a year whose numbers literally mean healthy vision.

Last night at twelve Bob Dylan released another single, “I Contain Multitudes”, referencing Walt Whitman, Anne Frank, and the Rolling Stones! Mr. D is doing his part.

See you next week dear readers!

A United Front

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The gate continues to connect our current crisis to ideas expressed in the popular culture.

Perhaps the one franchise that gives me comfort in these trying times is Star Trek.

The late creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry.

I started watching the original series when it was first syndicated in the early 1970’s.

At that time the show returned on Saturday mornings with animation. Series regulars also returned to voice their characters.

Today I often think of the original stories as a way into thinking about our present situation.

The starship Enterprise had over 400 passengers. The sick bay had 6 beds.

It was mentioned on many episodes how humanity overcame inequality, war, poverty, and illness.

The sick bay onboard the Enterprise.

As a nation we are still reaching for the stars. Before Covid-19 NASA was talking about Mars.

Around the world there are never ending wars, poverty, and sickness. How can we ever hope to reach distant galaxies when our own is in such disarray?

This is what makes the Star Trek Universe so appealing and comforting. It presents a future in which all of humanity are exploring deep space as a United group.

Any perceived threats are met on a United front as an assault against Earth.

The mythos of the series competed against the realities of the 1960’s. Vietnam, civil rights, and political corruption were raging.

By decade’s end NBC canceled Star Trek after 3 seasons and just 79 episodes.

Viewers campaigned to save the show. Known as Trekkies, fans were devoted enough to get the animated series and a convention at the Statler-Waldorf hotel in Manhattan.

It’s important to note that the term Trekkie became stigmatized by those who felt Star Trek was too altruistic for it’s own good. Most of the fans today use the term Trekker instead.

The franchise now stands at 7 TV series, 13 feature films, and the animated series. Over 700 hours of viewing available on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and CBS All Access.

Discovery and Picard are the current series. I have not seen them since I don’t subscribe to CBS All Access.

I am returning to the original series and all of its sequels and films.

Of all the episodes “The Naked Time” stands out for today. The crew becomes infected with a virus.

Most notably the ship’s helmsman Mr. Sulu runs amok with fever as a barechested swashbuckler.

Mr. Sulu crazy with fever is a fan favorite episode.

Every time the ship’s crew faced illness Dr.McCoy would complain that vaccines take time. His many retorts have become part of the long list of famous lines from the series.

By the end of an episode you knew an answer would be found. We cannot ever be so lucky in reality.

But, Star Trek makes you feel better about humanity’s prospects for survival.

The Vulcans are a race of half-human people ruled by logic. Mr. Spock represents them as chief Science Officer. His most famous line is “Live Long and Prosper”.

As a signifier of how positive the affect the series has had on its viewers 1 in 3 Americans are fans.

Around the world millions more are dedicated to its ideals of possibilities and respect for all cultures.

Left-Right: Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), and Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy (Deforest Kelly). Star Trek The Motion Picture (Paramount 1979)

The United front of science fiction must still be an aim for humanity. The United Federation of Planets may still be fiction but we at least have a United Nations in reality.

I am a Trekkie. After a long break from it I have come back to Star Trek. Now there are many episodes to explore and favorite films to enjoy all over again.

Future blogs of The Gate will discuss Star Trek’s philosophy as well.

Please keep in mind this statement at the end of the first Star Trek feature film in 1979—The Human Adventure is Just Beginning…

I Want My N TV/ Essay

Featured

The gate has been reviewing records for several weeks now.

Starting today on this lucky Friday the 13th my blog will comment on the changed media landscape.

A bit of a rant in my opener…

Nobody alive today in America needs cable television. Internet service provides thousands of streams making broadcast/cable networks obsolete.

I strongly believe without a cable bill arriving each month I would still have my media diet satisfied.

This is my opening salvo against a cruel media culture that has consolidated its power. A small group of companies are damaging our ability to be a participatory Democracy.

Labeling people to reduce their voice is what we are doing. Liberal/ Conservative. Most of the citizenry live in the middle.

The recent surge of victories for former V.P. Biden shows how much of the democratic base wants the country to move back towards the middle ground.

Cable outlets are polarizing. Full of editorializing they just keep people apart.

I joined Amazon Prime when it started. They recently added a channel with metal concerts for a small fee. Still less costly than cable.

The media giants are advertising like crazy to convince you to stay.

So what if there is some hip series everyone says you need to watch. No, you don’t need to see it.

Netflix has great comedy specials, series, and films.

Likewise, Amazon Prime has series and films. You can rent first run movies too.

Blu-rays, 4K HD, and dvd are obsolete. If you are a city household you do not have a lot of space. Why clutter your place with movies you won’t watch.

All of the dollars saved can be put towards the move to a better space.

You are paying a monthly fee for their advertising. Cable channels are loaded with drug ads, political ads, and ads in general to make you feel bad about yourself. Who needs them? Nobody.

Think of all the propaganda created by mass media. An ideal version of life no one can live up to in sitcom land. When ratings fall have a wedding or a funeral.

24 hours “news” organizations are by their very design propaganda machines. Every 4 years they decide who is on each party’s ticket.

They even created a climate in which the general population agreed there were too many candidates.

The real conflict for democracy is our news programs are a branch of a corporate takeover of the public commons. Requiring them to turn a profit has placed all of the emphasis on tabloid stories.

If it bleeds it leads. Until the latest crisis arrived our local news was filled with violent crimes happening in far away neighborhoods.

Throughout its history TV was designed to deliver viewers to advertisers.

Streaming upended the business model of media. This is a good thing. We may break free of commercial messages.

Censorship lessens through streamed content. More stories are told. Diversity is not just tokenism. There are no announcements of a ‘special’ episode. You are not told you must see it.

Less regulation of the alleged public airwaves has enabled big pharma to send its message: you must sample the pill for this or for that condition you surely must have to battle each day.

Perhaps TV is why the US is one of the unhappiest countries on Earth.

You are bombarded with moronic personalities on talk shows and game shows which are cheap to produce.

You are told the only way to be happy is to get lots of stuff. Cars are still the most popular prize on game shows. Do they come with a parking space and free gas?

Right now I live in a small studio apartment with my husband.

When we eventually move into a one bedroom apartment I want nothing more than to strip down our material stuff.

I treasure records. No commercials.

Evan’s Gate will be here to comment on the culture at large. For now there are plenty of reviews out there.

When I talk with people they seem to not get why this shift of power in the public square is important.

Should Disney own everything you read, watch, listen to, or think about? They are dominant now. Are we becoming a Mickey Mouse dictatorship?

Trust me, this is not a good thing for a Democracy.

I will never accept conspiracy theories regarding our current affairs.

This blog will cover pop culture at large. This is a broad canvas with lots of interesting angles.

Just take notice how the crises of a virus has pushed away everything else. What happened to mass shootings and the rising level of anti-Semitism in America?

Have a lucky Friday the 13th.

Wilco’s Ode To Joy/Review

Wilco was formed in Chicago in 1994. After a year off including a 2 1/2 year hiatus from touring they are back!

Jeff Tweedy is a songwriter who can create limitless visions with few words. “You never change, I never change. Somehow we’re still bright leaves.”

Setting a somber yet glorious tone that never leaves you, Wilco’s 11th studio album is filled with magic and poetry.

Yearning to change in a reality that despite its limitations still provides life’s greatest joys.

Simple. Pure. Listen closely to this record. You may just feel better that there are more questions than answers.

The single, “Everyone Hides” is the closest thing to a pop hit in the Wilco soundscape. A reaffirming song about our all too human ability to sell ourselves short.

Fear of vulnerability stops us from becoming our most fully realized selves.

Mr. Tweedy continues to dig deep into the enigmatic nature of life; discovering a form of joy that is protective armour around that soft shell.

The set list:

  • “Bright Leaves” – 4:10
  • “Before Us” – 3:22
  • “One and a Half Stars” – 3:43
  • “Quiet Amplifier” – 5:50
  • “Everyone Hides” – 3:00
  • “White Wooden Cross” – 3:12
  • “Citizens” – 3:03
  • “We Were Lucky” – 4:57
  • “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” – 3:34
  • “Hold Me Anyway” – 4:00
  • “An Empty Corner” – 3:46

“Before Us” is a song that reminds you that we live in a continuum. Even at life’s turning point we are in the middle of something. Achingly beautiful with words that ring true:

“Alone with the people who came before us…I’m high for the people who came before us.”

I remember when wars would end”. Do you remember when wars would end? Now, when something’s already dead we try to kill it again.”

Depression is explored in “One and a Half Stars”. A strong desire to change is thwarted by the inability to get out of a bed two stories high; a prisoner of a domain either imagined or realized.

An internal engine at low hum is running throughout the songs. “Quiet Amplifier” resounds with longing.

Honey, no train’s gonna come. I’ve waited my whole life. I’ve tried, in my own way, to love everyone.”

Eternal questions of existence are internalized on “White Wooded Cross”. How would you cope with a serious loss?

Is it stranger to live?”

“Is it stranger to die?”

“Citizens” lifts the veil of civic pride to reveal we are the very personification of ‘white lies’ of our own making. “High times. High crimes. Medals for you to salute.”

“We were Lucky” has layers of guitar that tingle and reflect upon a life filled with beautiful moments. The sounds build to a humble flourish. Love is complex.

“Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”, “Hold Me Anyway”, and “An Empty Corner” are beautifully reflective works on par with their early releases.

Despite the foreboding nature of love we are consistently reminded that the gains outweigh the risks of exposure.

Wilco: John Stirratt – bass guitar, backing vocals (1994–present)
Jeff Tweedy – lead vocals, rhythm, acoustic and lead guitars, bass guitar, harmonica (1994–present)
Glenn Kotche – drums, percussion (2001–present)
Mikael Jorgensen – samples and sound manipulation, keyboards, synthesizers, effects, piano, organ (2002–present)
Nels Cline – lead guitar, loops, lap steel (2004–present)
Pat Sansone – keyboards, rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals, synthesizers, maracas, tambourine (2004–present)

Wilco in concert December 15, 16, 18, 19 at The Chicago Theater .

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Published by Doubleday/ 415pp/ September 10, 2019

A trinity of a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale”. The framing device applied here is the drafting of a record. One of the Aunts is writing about the Republic of Gilead at her present. She hopes it will be discovered by a future generation. Supposedly after the fall of this decaying state.

You will not be following OfGlen anymore. Fifteen years have passed since the events of the previous book.

There are two transcripts simply labeled Transcript of Witness Testimony 369A and 369B. ‘A’ is the memory of a woman who lived in Gilead; ‘B’ is the memory of a woman who lived outside in Toronto, Canada. These are their “Testaments”.

The organization known as Mayday has been aiding women who have escaped the theocratic Republic of Gilead via the Underground Femaleroad.

The Pearl Girls are the missionaries of Gilead. Traveling in pairs they hand out brochures to would be subjects. They visit the Clothes Hound, a used clothing shop in Canada. The business is a suspected Mayday front.

The novel does a great job of balancing the witness testimony. The Aunts are the holder of Gilead’s secrets. The keys to the kingdom are guarded by their ability to vet new candidates to their order.

The latest political upheaval concerning the Republic is the removal of Baby Nicole. Her escape is considered the ultimate act of resistance to the new order.

Protest marches in Canada against Gilead are happening. The rituals of the Republic continue to trap more women. There are mass executions. The state of the republic is seen in the early goings to be solid.

Old tech is employed to smuggle out the awful happenings of Gilead to Canada. It is called Microdot. The following explains how it works:

“Documents are photographed with a miniature camera that reduces them to microscopic size. Then they are printed on minute plastic dots, which can be applied to almost any surface and read by the recipient with a custom viewer small enough to be concealed in, for instance, a pen…not for nothing we at Ardua Hall say ‘Pen Is Envy.'”

The theocratic regime’s obsession with this escaped female baby becomes their achilles heel. Fanatics become blind to the contradiction of their deep held beliefs; murder is a tool to cement their foundation.

After the escape, Gilead closed down routes in Upstate New York. Mayday intends to send the now grown-up baby Nicole into the Republic; make public the secrets underpinning their system.

Founder Aunt Lydia is the vessel holding the regime’s best kept secrets. Her testament will undo their slave-like society. How she became indoctrinated is part of her testimony.

The Republic of Gilead was founded by four women selected by male commanders—Lydia, Elizabeth, Vidala, and Helena. In their former lives they were lawyers, judges, and real estate agents.

The geo politics are explained to Baby Nicole. The Republic of Texas went to war with Gilead resulting in a draw. The neutrality meant there would be no hostilities expressed in the future.

Their ability to keep order, secrets, and deliver punishment made them ideal candidates. They chose Aunthood to escape the certainty of death by firing squad.

Aunt Lydia’s statue sits in front of Ardua Hall, the residency of their order. Their status allows them to read and write. They have full access to the ‘Genealogical Bloodline Archives’.

Aunt Lydia spares Nicole’s life; the order of the Aunts becomes her calling. We learn of their indoctrination. There is a rulebook; chores; prayers.

To be matchmakers for the Republic they must know by blood the best possible outcomes. Unknown to the outside, suicide was becoming a crisis for Gilead. A young girl called Becka attempts to end her life rather than marry Commander Kyle.

Another would be bride, Agnes opposes Commander Judd, a Son of Jacob. Aunt Lydia becomes their lifeline. However, the other Aunt founders are not happy with this situation. The challenge to Lydia’s authority is part of the decay within Gilead.

Aunt Lydia’s admiration for Nicole is best summed up by her opinion—“The ability to concoct plausible lies is a talent not to be underestimated.”

While this happens on the inside, Baby Nicole will be escorted back inside; now to be known as Jade. She has undergone training by Mayday to become accepted by the Pearl Girls. The final touch of sin is a tattoo.

Once inside she insinuates herself into the order. The training will take years to complete. Both Jade and Becka become ‘supplicants’; newly named: Victoria and Immortelle.

The rituals of Gilead grind slowly forth. The wheels of righteousness sometimes roll over the foot of a true believer. There are chess like moves being made all the time.

Within the walls of Ardua Hall Aunts in training will share the secrets of their former lives. This adds another layer to the story. New knowledge; a crack in the edifice of faith.

Once I had passed my six-month exam and had been accepted as a Supplicant, I was allowed into the Hildegard Library. It’s hard to describe the feeling this gave me. The first time I passed through its doors, I felt as if a golden key had been given to me—a key that would unlock one secret door after another, revealing to me the riches that lay within.”

The devil is in the details. Gilead is based upon lies; untruths. There have been betrayals in the ranks. Commanders have violated the rules time and again. What would Jade, now Aunt Victoria, do with this new information?

Throughout the book the perverse culture of Gilead is spoken about for readers who may have skipped “The Handmaid’s Tale”. A smart writer pens a sequel that can stand on its own. This story does just that without being too simple.

The speculative nature of this fiction is reinforced with an imagined ‘Thirteenth Symposium’ following the conclusion. An academic gathering 70 plus years later; history is only as accurate as it is recorded.

Just speculating, but this may not be the final word on Gilead or The Handmaids.