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…”

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.

Bob Dylan’s Murder Most Foul

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At midnight on March 27th, 2020, Bob Dylan released “Murder Most Foul”, his first studio release since 2017’s Triplicate and first original song release since 2012’s Tempest.

American Elegy—Our Nobel Laureate Publishes Another Masterpiece

In a career now spanning six decades Bob Dylan has been through numerous phases in a life that has itself become the stuff of living legend.

Now revealed that this song is the third side on his upcoming, Rough and Rowdy Ways, he continues to inspire and write brilliantly about history.

His ability to connect our ‘modern times’ with the ancient culture that brought it about, specifically the Romans, enabled his new life as a Nobel Prize recipient.

Murder Most Foul is Mr. Dylan’s longest song. if you take the time to listen to this track you will learn a lot about this wonderful country and its brutal past and present.

You will also discover an underlying feeling of hope in the soft accompaniment with its piano, light timpani, and strings.

Dylanologists are going to have another great track to explore for many years to come. There are a ton of deliberate references to all kinds of cultural arcana in this track. Too many in fact for a single blog entry.

But herein I will discuss some of my takes on this peerless work. The closest thing to a spoken word song or a revival of the beat poet in the vast Dylan catalog.

First Section

It was a dark day in Dallas, November ’63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?”
“Of course we do, we know who you are!”
Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight

Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect
We’re gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing

It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh Wolfman, oh Wolfman, howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul

Here in the beginning of the poem we are explicitly told how Mr. Dylan feels about the day President John F. Kennedy was murdered.

Using a phrase as his title, he frames the dreadful event as a Murder Most Foul. As the track continues there will be an evolution or rather a de-volution through the following decades as America’s culture and politics slowly decays.

The great hope of a young, handsome, and brilliant leader is cruelly blown off the face of the Earth. The promise of a new frontier delayed by his killing.

Mr. Dylan further frames the President’s murder as that of a lynching. Mr. Kennedy was white on the surface, but he was also the nation’s first Catholic elected to the Presidency. In Bob Dylan’s view he was ‘led like a lamb to the sacrificial slaughter’.

The first verses also make clear how this crime was such an American scene. Committed in broad daylight in front of the world; ‘greatest magic trick ever under the sun’.

The Second Section

Hush, little children, you’ll understand
The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m goin’ to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age
Then I’ll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll
There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll
Stack up the bricks, pour the cement
Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President

Put your foot in the tank and then step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe
Don’t ask what your country can do for you

Cash on the barrelhead, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn
I’m going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride
The place where faith, hope, and charity died
Shoot him while he runs, boy, shoot him while you can
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye, Charlie! Goodbye, Uncle Sam
Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn
What is the truth, and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby, they oughta know
“Shut your mouth,” said a wise old owl

Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul

Now a tourist destination, the arts & entertainment hub of Dallas, TX was part of Kennedy’s fatal route on the day of his murder.

The last lines of these first 2 sections of verse connect to reinforce this crime as foul cold-blooded murder. ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s murder most foul; Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul’.

The actual neighborhood near the crime scene of Kennedy’s death is referenced following the pop culture explosion of The Beatles who became a salve for the real pain young people felt at the time. Deep Ellum, the arts and entertainment hub of Dallas, TX had a rise in crime too.

Referenced in the song’s second section above: ‘When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money on your shoe’.

‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you’, the famous Kennedy line to demand public service of youth is juxtaposed to remind people now trapped in poor communities not to expect any government assistance. The social contract was murdered too.

Explicitly calling out Woodstock and Altamont and the Age of Aquarius with the mythology of free love and the violence of Altamont. America has always created myths to soothe the wounds of very real crimes.

The reality of the made up summer of love is the real slaughter of men, women, and children in Vietnam. The daily death toll were surely murders most foul.

Mr. Dylan performs a conjuring trick as well raising the original sin of race hatred in a line that also references his hit “Hurricane”. Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street

Also quite cleverly references a Wes Craven horror film released in the decade that followed his hit song about boxer Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter.

The name covers Dallas’ real murder of a President and the fictional murders of teenagers in a genre called the slasher film. The cruelty on display in Dallas would continue to resonate for the decades that followed.

The Third Section

Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen
I’m riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine
Ridin’ in the back seat next to my wife
Headed straight on in to the afterlife
I’m leaning to the left, I got my head in her lap
Hold on, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap
Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give
We’re right down the street, from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and they took out his brain
What more could they do? They piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
Send me some lovin’, then tell me no lie
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up, little Susie, let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River, let’s keep hope alive
Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials
Parkland Hospital, only six more miles
You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline
Never shot anyone from in front or behind
I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier
Zapruder’s film I seen night before
Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more

It’s vile and deceitful, it’s cruel and it’s mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once and they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun”
Air Force One comin’ in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul

I set the third section above in big bold type since at this point forward the song becomes full and explicit. Brimming with anger at President Kennedy’s demise, whom Mr. Dylan likens to a King as the Kennedy White House became Camelot, then in a blink ‘his eyes, nose, and ears were filled with blood.’

The Zapruder film in some way becomes America’s first slasher film, only it’s real.

Mr Dylan describes the piece which he claims to have seen over 30 times, as ‘vile and deceitful’.

That first piece of social media created an infinity of conspiracy theories. I see it as a reflection on his own youth. In his youth the repetition is easily performed. Now, at 79 Mr. Dylan only needs a single reading.

Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free

This is my favorite line in the poem/song. Using Whitmanesque phrasing to connect Lincoln with Kennedy. Both men were after all the great hope of a wounded nation. Slavery in Lincoln’s era and Vietnam/Racism in Kennedy’s time. Both men were victims of murder most foul.

Mr. Dylan has undergone phases of life where he composed Christian influenced records. He has deep personal beliefs that crop up nicely here.

Declaring, ‘the Age of the Antichrist’ has just begun following the Kennedy assassination the nation saw a steep rise in cult activity, the crimes of Charles Manson, and satanic music also came into being in American culture.

Echoing the conventional wisdom that the nation had lost its soul are Mr. Dylan’s lyrics describing the Kennedy post mortem: ‘No soul was found where it should be.’

The Fourth Section

What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it’s thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that “Only the Good Die Young”
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names
Play Etta James, too, play “I’d Rather Go Blind”
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John Lee Hooker, play “Scratch My Back”
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Guitar Slim going down slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe

It’s Mr. Wolfman Jack to you. Bob Dylan has reached a point in his career that he can compose a poem that includes 1970’s icon Wolfman Jack.

This is a reference to the alter—ego creation that he underwent in the 1960’s, Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan; Robert Weston Smith became Wolfman Jack.

Also in the new age of the antichrist men were literally becoming beasts. It’s in this section that Mr. Dylan begins to recommend recordings using the word ‘play’ as a command.

It references his 2 years as a D.J. himself on satellite radio. Using famous titles/lyrics from the era’s violent refelctions include “Only The Good Die Young”, published in 1977, the year of the Son of Sam killings in New York.

Bob Dylan makes his listeners do a lot of history homework. I strongly believe this is why his work ranks so high.

Playing up the description of President Kennedy’s car of choice, ‘a long black Cadillac’, itself a coffin on wheels.

Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names

For my take these 3 lines set up why Bob Dylan has become such a master at connecting seemingly disparate ideas.

You see the ‘place where Tom Dooley was hung’ is in North Carolina, where the Wolfman took his last breath.

Being white, Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack not a lynching. Tom Dooley became the subject of many folk songs, a genre that gave artistic birth to Bob Dylan.

Tom Dooley is part of a sad American tradition known as Appalachian Murder Ballads. A murder most foul.

St. James Infirmary references blues music. An alternate title for the song was “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”) about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes and then dies of venereal disease. The theme ties in with Kennedy’s death.

Then closing the section with a simple notation of why the name checking will continue unabated for the rest of the piece—to remember with clarity write down the names.

Only an artist of Bob Dylan’s caliber tells the listener his intent in writing this or any other song/poem is to preserve it for the ages to come beyond his mortal years.

The Fifth Section (Conclusion)

Play “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good
Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey
Take it to the limit and let it go by
Play it for Carl Wilson, too
Looking far, far away down Gower Avenue
Play “Tragedy”, play “Twilight Time”
Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust”
Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust”
Ride the pink horse down that long, lonesome road
Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery
The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
Play it for the reverend, play it for the pastor
Play it for the dog that got no master
Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz
Play “Blue Sky,” play Dickey Betts
Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk
Charlie Parker and all that junk

All that junk and “All That Jazz”
Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd
Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd
Play the numbers, play the odds

Play “Cry Me a River” for the Lord of the gods
Play Number nine, play Number six
Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy”
Play “Down in the Boondocks” for Terry Malloy
Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin”
There’s twelve million souls that are listening in
Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death”

Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth
Don’t worry, Mr. President, help’s on the way
Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?
Tell them, “We’re waiting, keep coming,” we’ll get them as well

Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
They killed him on the altar of the rising sun
Play “Misty” for me and “That Old Devil Moon”
Play “Anything Goes” and “Memphis in June”
Play “Lonely at the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave”
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille”
Play “Deep in a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel”
Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp
And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp

Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums”
Play darkness and death will come when it comes
Play “Love Me or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell
Play “The Blood-Stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul”

In this final section of this elegiac piece Mr. Dylan reminds us of the worst scene of racial violence in the nation’s history.

The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in TulsaOklahoma.

It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.

This awful history was dramatized on the Premiere of HBO’s ‘Watchmen’. Here the line takes us back to the scene of the original crime.

He connects it to the currents of hate/racism that from 1921 became a tsunami that killed another American President.

Then swirling through the American history of Jazz music and its iconic progenitors he adds crime figures like Bugsy Siegel who builds Las Vegas and on and on in a dizzying meter of names that arrives at “Love Me or Leave Me” by Bud Powell.

This is Dylan’s response to the hateful crowds that state, America love it or leave it.

The final line is perhaps the most stinging reminder of how far America needs to go to overcome its bloody past and present: Play The Blood Stained Banner , Play Murder Most Foul.

‘The Blood Stained Banner’ was a Confederate anthem and a version of the Confederate Flag presented in 1865. Bob Dylan is telling the nation to never forget this happened.

And to kindly play the song just ended, his American Elegy, Murder Most Foul.

A Quiet Place

Featured

I stay at home because the most effective method of staying healthy is to enjoy a quiet place.

Our studio apartment is too small for two people. The size allows for easy cleaning. You learn how to share space.

My husband is so dedicated to my happiness. I always feel lucky to be with him. We share in the tasks of keeping our household together.

I have access to music of all kinds, books of all subjects, and movies/series of all genres.

As I evolved from arguing with people not equipped with a similar skill set I do not attempt the feat. People with set opinions never change. This is a life killing attitude.

I listen. Being quiet does not mean your mind is off. You are inside mostly. You tend to judge those around you. Winding up with a hard to tolerate level of noise is the price you sometimes pay.

All of the pointless uninformed opinions swirl like an infinite mass of absurd jokes.

Social media became a tool for the haves to show up the have nots daily. Now travel is seen as a risk one should not take lightly.

Crises exposes those with defaults on idiocy. The noisy vane overachievers have the largest burden. They must produce at all costs.

Constant pressure to reach for the brass ring results in stresses that can be deadly. The very few who must ride a nearly deserted transit system are risking all so that we may have a chance at survival.

I am loving my quiet place. I had just begun to work again before the stay at home order arrived. After completing the 5 day assignment the world changed.

Hey, I gave it my best shot. Now, I will stay happy at home. Making my husband happy makes me happy.

I know I must return to work someday. After nearly 2 months the solution is not clear. I think there must be a reform of society.

A stronger safety net should be created by cutting the military budget in half; going after corporations who have not invested in our way life.

The cosmos laughs at those who plan. Chaos has always reigned. We were just too busy taking selfies.

Rich nations need to have rainy day funds. Poorer nations need our help. If they suffer their hardships will spread until more fortunate lands feel the pain.

My coping skills are being tested. Each day I start with music. I have finally been able to grow into a lover of Jazz, Classical, and Opera.

Yes, dear readers, you are correct, I am done with Rock/ Pop. These times have made me take a hard look at myself. I am much more fulfilled with more mature art forms.

The small select group of artists I kept around include The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Styx, Queen, The Eagles, Elton John, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Grateful Dead.

Bob Dylan has become my top favorite. His lyrics are peerless. All of these musicians are timeless in their messaging. We need to really listen closely.

Closing my decades long rock period does not mean I cannot appreciate the positive impact it’s lyrics/melodies have had on me. It just means I needed to make room for other music.

I have learned for myself that I change every ten years. Taste moves forward. Letting go of past distractions is quite liberating.

My afternoons are spent with a book. Currently I am finishing a Star Trek novel, “The Lost Years”, about the years following the end of the Enterprise’s five year mission.

I read non fiction too. A history of France and bio of President Grant are on my nightstand.

In the evenings my husband and I watch Jeopardy!, The Price Is Right, General Hospital and Friends and/or The Big Bang Theory. Movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Comedy specials on Netflix.

My husband cooks. I clean. We make a great team. Thankfully we have no kids. No pets. We have each other. In our quiet place.

I hope you are coping during this unprecedented pause in our go-go culture. Just remember that for most people around the world this struggle is a daily norm.

Thank you dear readers for stopping by Evan’s Gate. Please follow me if you like what I write about each week.

Stay safe. Keep informed. We shall be together again.

Colorado/Neil Young & Crazy Horse/ Review

Neil Young’s 38th album, “Colorado”, released on October 25, 2019.

This is the first studio offering from Crazy Horse since 2012’s “Psychedelic Pill”.

The sounds you get these days are often produced so meticulously it’s miraculous there are any musicians left with real soul.

Crazy Horse have soul in spades. This latest offering is about climate change.

More to the point it’s a raw jammy statement of love for the planet; a pro-immigration, pluralistic mission from perhaps rock’s last angry man.

Crazy Horse are:

Neil Young (guitars, vocals, piano, vibes, harmonica), Nils Lofgren (guitars, vocals, pump organ), Ralph Molina (drums, vocals), and Billy Talbot (bass, vocals). They recorded Colorado mostly live in studio in the titular state. Neil Young produced the album with John Hanlon.

Recording a Crazy Horse album in Colorado.
  • 01 Think of Me
  • 02 She Showed Me Love
  • 03 Olden Days
  • 04 Help Me Lose My Mind
  • 05 Green Is Blue
  • 06 Shut It Down
  • 07 Milky Way
  • 08 Eternity
  • 09 Rainbow of Colors
  • 10 I Do

While none of these new compositions will strike a novice listener as anything hip or catchy they are not meant to be commercial.

These are brilliant musicians laying down jams that are recorded well.

In each piece is expressed wishes, hopes, and dreams of a world that cares about the eternal.

“She Showed Me Love” is an epic jam of 13:36 mins secs in duration.

On vinyl this album is a 3 record set. There is a 7 inch single of ‘Milky Way’ included.

Mr. Young wanted to make an album of lasting value; high quality playback was key.

The musicianship on display here is superlative. “Milky Way” is the first single; “Rainbow Of Colors” will be the second.

Frustration over the lack of universal understanding of the epic problems we face with a climate in decline is resolved in the scorching anger of “Shut It Down”.

The song’s second verse:

Have to shut the whole system down
All around the planet
There’s a blindness that just can’t see
Have to shut the whole system down
They’re all wearing climate change
As cool as they can be

The arrangements are not heavy handed. The delivery is what longtime listeners of this band would expect. A slow churn of political dissent that threatens to boil over.

By the record’s end you want more. In reality you must do your part so there can be more. An eternity of more.

Mr. Young has been recording since 1969. Now in his 50th year as a recording artist he shows no sign of slowing down; not giving in to an apathetic status quo.

He cares deeply for the songs he creates as an artist. His contributions to groups like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash are untouchable rock milestones.

Sometimes his solo works have been difficult to translate on first listen. Regardless, you must listen with a close ear, expecting to not get all the meaning within right away.

This album has those qualities. If you do the work you will get the picture. Much more transparent than some of his other works with insightful poetic lyrics in every song.

“Milky Way” is a poem. Universal themes of lost love, longing for connection, and cockeyed optimism are long held hallmarks of musical art. This track embodies all of it.

The repeating verse:

I was sailing in the Milky Way
Losing track of memories
That weren’t that day
Right by her side
As the stars flew by I did collide
With memory but somehow

I survived
And became free

A transient moment in time. Getting lost in the daze of lost/recalled memories and somehow able to move forward stronger.

As the lead single I felt strongly this track represented what the album as a whole says of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s work.

When a legendary artist releases new music there is a huge weight attached—memory of past glory.

“Colorado” just plainly states that we cannot collide with our past because we risk negating the present; become blind to our future.

According to SPIN magazine there will not be a concert tour this Fall to support the new record. Mr. Young is finishing up editing 15 films!

https://www.spin.com/2019/08/neil-young-crazy-horse-no-tour-15-films/

A companion documentary, Mountaintop Sessions, will be released soon, directed by C.K. Vollick.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse will play Winnipeg in February 2020. More dates to follow.

The Rhapsody 2019

To appreciate how Queen recaptured the hearts, minds, and ears of American fans in 2019 you have to turn back to what happened to them in the 1980’s.

Freddie Mercury’s ever evolving image from the 1970s to 1980s.

Music is a teeming mix of personalities bound together for long days and nights; the office changes every day. Management changes hands. Image is altered. Listeners grow up; one record can alienate an established fan base.

Following up a big album has been a challenge for most artists. Fleetwood Mac put out “Tusk” after “Rumours”; AC/DC released “For Those About to Rock…We Salute You!” after “Back In Black.”

Queen might as well have lobbed a hand grenade at its devoted hard rock following after “The Game”. Although there were two more albums until their next official studio effort between 1981 and 1982—“Flash Gordon” was a soundtrack and “Greatest Hits” ended a contract with Elektra.

Both records reminded devoted fans what they loved about them in sound and image. The greatest hits package was a smash.

In the past year Hollywood Records re-issued the hits album minus ‘Under Pressure’ with a new gatefold sleeve. It has been at the top of Billboard’s rock catalog chart for over 600 weeks!

“Queen Greatest Hits” re-issued on double vinyl
The inserts feature the art from each single packaged
in a gatefold sleeve.
Hollywood Records

The final album on their American label Elektra was “Hot Space”. A fresh approach that stripped away the excess of 1970’s rock. Also missing was Brian May’s guitar on the synth pop disco side of the proceedings.

Dance oriented on side one; Rock and R & B on side two. Cover art inspired by Warhol and conceived by Freddie Mercury had abstract images of each member’s face set against the pastel colors of a disco dance floor.

Timing is everything in music. Queen upended their American fan base. The album peaked at #22 on Billboard. “Body Language” a sparsely arranged disco track was the highest charting song at #11.

What kept them going was the belief they had more to prove. There were many countries that embraced their new sound too. Somewhere in the world each Queen studio album reached #1 on the charts.

Their biggest fan, Michael Jackson, found this album to be an influence on his new record “Thriller”. Listen to John Deacon’s ‘Back Chat’ and ‘Beat It’. You will hear the similar vibes in the arrangement of the music.

The band stopped touring North America. Freddie Mercury was adamant to play to growing audiences in countries where Queen had not played. American audiences rejected his new image. The gay macho clone in tight leather was too much for fans in denial regarding his sexuality.

While the band bounced back with “The Works” in 1984, their debut on Capitol records in the U.S. , releasing hit singles “Radio GaGa”, “I Want To Break Free”, and “Hammer To Fall”, it failed to bring them back to popularity in America.

Until his final tour in 1986 in support of the worldwide smash “A Kind Of Magic”, part soundtrack to the fantasy movie, “Highlander”, part Queen album, Freddie claimed new fans in countries around the world.

America had new hit makers in the 1980’s; Madonna, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and others became MTV favorites. Queen videos would air. With no tours scheduled people tuned out.

Their third Capitol album, “The Miracle”, was a pop rock sensation in Europe with five hit singles in release and no tour.

The band had innovative promo films made for their singles, including Disney animation for “A Kind Of Magic” and “These Are The Days Of Our Lives”.

Then a turning point arrived. “Innuendo”, Freddie Mercury’s final album was released. With its Led Zeppelin influenced title opener the band began to recapture its American base.

The music video for it utilized old footage of the band roto scoped with animation. Freddie Mercury was gravely ill while making this album. Yet he gave vocal performances that were among his best. His death found fans in mourning.

While Brian May and Roger Taylor thought the band was over there was a posthumous Queen album. “Made In Heaven” reworked some of Freddie’s solo songs into Queen tracks. The record became the biggest selling in Italy, Ireland, Spain, the U.K., and Germany. It performed well with their American fans too.

Then the group exited the public view until 2005! I never stopped playing their records. Missing them live was one of my greatest disappointments. Years heal wounds.

Queen+Paul Rodgers toured America. Part Queen; Part Bad Company. The shows brought them back to touring. Although the record they released, “The Cosmos Rocks”, did not meet commercial success, it remains one of my favorites. Even without Freddie, Queen remained innovative.

Freddie Mercury made his final wish to “Never Be Boring”. All the costumes he wore on stage; the ‘flamboyant’ image he created was unforgettable.

In the next phase came American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert, a gay American vocalist, who came to discover Queen via the hit comedy “Wayne’s World”.

Who could have foreseen such a reversal in fortune for a long dormant now classic rock group like Queen?

In the years between Freddie’s death and the new eras of touring, Queen would licence their music. Their hits showing up in TV commercials and movies kept them present in the public conciousness.

When they toured with Adam there was a new generation of fans. They loved the band. I was open to it because as a lifelong devotee the Paul Rodgers era was great but this allowed me to see them again.

The tours with Adam Lambert gave the band their best critical notices. Queen were returning to the front of rock’s vanguard.

Then a long gestating biopic of Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, came together in 2018. Rami Malek would star and eventually take home an Oscar for Best Actor. Now Queen were restored to their former glory.

Despite a compromised timeline of actual events in the band’s storied career, the film became the biggest biopic of all-time. The soundtrack album release has remained on the chart now a year after the release of the film.

In 2019, Queen’s Rhapsody Tour continued to sell-out arenas across the world. There were 2 nights at Madison Square Garden too!

Queen+Adam Lambert headlined the Global Citizen Festival in New York City; Freddie Mercury’s solo work is reissued on digital, CD, and vinyl; a Box Set is also being released.

“Never Boring” is a new CD box set.
Mr. Bad Guy—Special Edition
Barcelona with Montserrat Caballe
Never Boring—The 12 Inch Singles/B-Sides
Freddie Mercury Solo Videos
120 Page Hardcover Book
Double-sided poster

The band’s “Greatest Hits” became the best-selling record in U.K. music history; the “Bohemian Rhapsody” film soundtrack outsold every record during the first half of 2019.

Their Rhapsody Tour will play 5 nights at the o2 arena in England. British classic rock magazine, Planet Rock, has named them Band of the Year.

Their Rhapsody Tour has more dates in 2020….The Show Must Go On!

Queen+Adam Lambert
The Rhapsody Tour
Following the Summer dates in USA they move on to
Japan, Australia, and the U.K.

Woodstock At 50

Searching For The Garden

For thousands of years humanity has been seeking methods to restore a sense of peace among peoples.

Despite my non-belief, I think religion is still the source of our greatest imagined narrative. Despite the reality of suffering on a terrible scale people still strive for universal peace.

I think to understand why Woodstock is important today we must look at the culture that preceded the hippie youth movement.

Let’s begin with a rough review of the 1950’s and 1960’s as they relate to the rise of a New Left and Hippie rebellion in America.

The American Experiment

The seeds of a new nation were planted on soil enriched by slaves. A democratic system evolved to include, to assimilate, and to uplift.

The democratic model of Ancient Greece led the founders to forge a centralized government. There was immense suffering and bloodshed to make this happen. Many were excluded from the possibilities of America.

North America’s native population was decimated. Minority peoples were outsiders. Women could not vote; seek higher education.

A fractured society led to our civil war. Following the Lincoln Era, the newly freed slaves were murdered on a regular basis. Cultural resentment continued in America through WWII.

Americans of every race, creed, and class fought alongside their allies to defeat anti-democratic forces. Unfortunately, the strains of hateful ideology that threatened the world continued to infect our democracy.

The aftermath would bring an era of conservative value making. Discrimination was visible in segregation. Queers of any type were invisible. Any deviation from the straight and narrow was mocked and punished.

If you were white there were many rewards. Good jobs, new homes, and college educations were granted to this newly minted modern middle-class.

Father Knows Best

The 1950’s reinforced a culture where straight white males were the dominant cultural force.

Children were to be seen and not heard. Adults were the authority. Obey rules. Listen to your parents, go to school, and always work hard.

This separate and unequal society had a post-war baby boom that produced 70 million teenagers.

The new technology of TV provided people with a new way of viewing the world .

Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley reflected a new musical expression.

A strata of white middle-class kids rejected the materialistic path they were educated to value. The silver screen rebel arrived in the form of Marlon Brando & James Dean.

White kids started to hang with black kids outside of the Jim Crow Codes. Black leather jackets, rock n roll music, and drugs punched a hole in the wall of conservative white male hierarchy.

Then the 1960’s dawned with America at a cultural divide. The Korean War was followed by Vietnam.

Our politicians put the Cold War with Russia above our domestic problems. Communism was cast as the great threat.

Then a new generation helped elect our youngest President. The Civil Rights movement pressured elected officials to take apart systemic racism.

Amidst all of this cultural change came a youth quake seen and heard around the world.

The Beatles arrival in America in 1964 changed everything. Teenagers wanted to gather in large numbers. The message was heard in stereophonic sound: All You Need Is Love.

Tune In. Turn On. Drop Out.

In contrast to the previous decade in which the teenage rebel was portrayed as aimless, the Vietnam War gave the kids a cause.

The great disillusionment arrived with young people organizing against registering for war. Vietnam was televised every night.

American teenagers did not want to obey. The war was immoral. Racism was immoral. Promoting hate was immoral.

Rebels with a cause. America’s youth did not accept Vietnam as a just war.

The Woodstock Festival became the visible embodiment of what the kids had fought for all decade long. This generation had a style, moral code, and vision that rejected the path of inequality, racism, and war their elders had enacted.

Harvard Prof Timothy Leary told kids to tune in, turn on and drop out. Forget the crap you were told; a new way is needed.

Kids dressed in jeans, colorful vests, and sandals. They took drugs to open their minds and dropped out of straight society to protest the government.

Boys grew their hair long, went shirtless and/or barefoot. Girls went bra less and joined with boys to form new communities beyond the white picket fence.

Many burned draft cards. They marched in solidarity with blacks. The authorities were quite shaken by the rebellion. Then at decade’s end came the big event.

Billed as 3 days of Peace, Music…and Love. On farm land in upstate New York where the Bethel Woods concert pavilion now stands, the festival took place.

The organizers of the Woodstock Festival were four young men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Mike Lang. The oldest of the four was only 27 years old at the time of the Woodstock Festival.

The concert was envisioned to be a fundraiser for a proposed recording studio in Woodstock where many musicians lived at the time. Mr. Roberts was heir to the Polydent fortune. He bankrolled Woodstock.

The original proposed site in Watkill, NY was rejected. The town’s people passed a law against mass concerts. The hippies were not desirable to their town.

The hippie movement was influenced by Eastern religion, rock music, and experimentation with drugs. The youth of this era rose up in mass to protest the Vietnam War.

The Farm

Those American values formed in the 1950’s resulted in Michael Lang scrambling to find a new place for his festival. The township of the first proposal did not want hippies overtaking their community. Several towns declined to host.

He discovered a tract of land on the farm of Max Yasgur that had the right sort of shape for his concert vision.

Michael Lang, seen here on his bike, was the principal organizer of Woodstock.

The logistics got messy.

Tickets were $7 for one day and $18 for 3 days ($26 today) per day.

Fences surrounding the concert were not completed in time.

The promoters expected around 30,000 people. Over 400,000 came on the day closing down the NY state Thruway.

Instead of charging people the festival turned into a free “be in” the size and scale nobody could have predicted. Attendees created a community including makeshift playgrounds and camping areas.

On Day 2 of the festival thunderstorms shut down the music for hours. Chip Monck, the master of ceremonies for the fest, told people to come down from the towers. The monsoon like rains that came forced people to improvise sheltering in place.

Some of the concert goers stripped down, placing their clothes under tarps, and made the best of a tough situation. The temperature dropped quite a bit after the storms. Keeping clothes dry was essential to prevent hypothermia.

Goldmine magazine’s coverage of Woodstock provided an excerpt from Chapter 8 of the book “Back To Yasgur’s Farm” by Mike Greenblatt (Krause Books). Local police made a statement about the festival. Sullivan County Sheriff Louis Ratner said “I never met a nicer bunch of kids in my life.”

Goldmine Magazine’s Woodstock Issue and Mike Greenblatt’s Woodstock 50 book proved invaluable to this blog.

Main Event

Ritchie Havens performed his song, “Freedom”, to open the show. On Monday morning, with only about 30,000 people left, Jimi Hendrix took the stage with his new band, Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. His rendition of our National Anthem is now rock culture’s preferred version.

In between there were The Who, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Country Joe MacDonald, and Sha Na Na.

Poster advert for the Woodstock Festival.

Aftermath

Day 3. Wet sleeping bags, utensils, and the footprints of 400,000 plus souls.

The concert on a hill became an expression of hope for millions of people around the US and the world. Unfortunately the backlash against freedom (free love) followed.

When I was a kid people used to say if you remember Woodstock then you were not there. The wink and nod was due to the use of drugs.

However, in 1969 only 4% of Americans were smoking marijuana. Today more than 50% of people support legalization of the drug.

Woodstock’s organizers had debt of $1 million and faced many lawsuits following the festival.

The documentary film released by Warner Brothers was a hit. The box office receipts helped pay their debts down.

Opposing the war in Vietnam, the hippie counterculture changed our body politic in 1969.
The movie “Easyrider” was in theaters. The modern Gay Rights movement began. America’s unjust war continued through 1975.

1969 was an exceptional year. Stonewall, The Moon Landing, Civil Rights Law, and nearly half a million teenagers/young adults gathered on a farm upstate to express their joys, sorrows, and hopes for a peaceful tomorrow.

50 Year Anniversary

Here in New York City a photographic exhibition will celebrate this milestone at The Morrison Hotel gallery.

https://www.morrisonhotelgallery.com/blog/VBHT7G/WOODSTOCK-50TH-ANNIVERSARY—Join-The-Celebration-in-New-York-City

The Oscar-winning Documentary film is being screened in theaters across the USA on August 15th at 7 p.m. Check Fathom Events for details: https://www.fathomevents.com/events/woodstock-1970-50th-anniversary-directors-cut

The first nationwide screening of the Oscar winning Documentary in theaters since its original release in 1970.

To commemorate the performances at the festival there are some notable records being issued. The original triple LP Woodstock soundtrack album has been re-issued on vinyl.

Rhino, a subsidiary of Warner, will release Woodstock 50: Back To The Garden in separate vinyl and CD box sets.

Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane’s Woodstock sets have been released on vinyl.

History should not repeat. The proposed Anniversary Festival was cancelled. I think people need to live in the present. Dwelling too much in the past is not only depressing but bears no fruit.

What I do know about the 1969 festival and the culture that fostered it is you cannot copy the past.

We can remember why this event became important to us; there is no repeating it. The emergence of the hippie movement for peace was a flash point in America’s story.

In Mike Greenblatt’s book “Woodstock” he notes a press conference following the festival in which Max Yasgur stated:

“The kids were wonderful, honest, sincere, good kids who said, ‘here we are. This is what we are. This is the way we dress. These are our morals.’ There wasn’t one incident the whole time. The kids were polite, shared everything with everyone, and they forced me to open my eyes.

In my opinion, we must remember that Woodstock remains in the social fabric because it was a successful event.

Nobody was patted down to enter the grounds. The promise of music, peace, and love was fulfilled.

In the ensuing 50 years we have grown militant, selfish, and distracted.

Unkind Millenium

Uncertainty is the word we hear a lot today to describe how people are feeling about society.

The five decades since the Aquarian cultural awakening of free love has seen horrors we could not have imagined.

Cultural shifts have moved our society far away from those of the counterculture. We lost the surplus; Gained record debt.

The ruling political class has been more representative of a shrinking geographical minority than of the actual new demographic reality of 21st century America.

Without a military draft the country has become disconnected in the face of unending wars in Syria and Afghanistan.

Advanced technology allows our government to strike targets a world away. The population suffers under crumbling infrastructure; the military gets billions.

Smart phones enable never ending surveillance. We have become more paranoid as a people. Heads are bent down to the perpetual glow of a portable screen.

I know it all sounds dire. Today we face a lot of adversity. We must overcome…again.

Several movements have started to respond to this litany of potential disaster. The issues today include: Gun Reform, Women’s Equality, Prison Reform, LGBTQ Rights, and Election Reforms.

We serve each other. The people are more powerful than any group or political party. We can assemble and make something positive happen.

Always keep in mind that something special blossomed over 3 days in those grassroots on a farm in upstate New York.

This blog is dedicated to all of the people who made Woodstock happen in 1969.

Birdseye view of the over 400,000 people at Woodstock in 1969.
Evan’s Gate
A Music Blog for Misfits.

Superman is 80

The summer of 1939 was a milestone in American entertainment.

The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind premiered in movie theaters.

Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics.

In the first story told by creators Joe Schuster & Jerry Siegel our hero could not fly! He could jump a building in a single bound and lift cars over his head.

Over the next 7 decades there would be many creative teams assigned to Superman. In recent times DC comics restarted their comics at issue #1. So many changes over time. I will relate what Superman meant to me as a kid and now.

Television, Movies, Comic Books, and collectibles are the focus of this entry. Just some memories of how this character impacted my life.

In my early childhood television showed reruns of series broadcast in the 1950s and 1960s. There were sitcoms like “I Love Lucy”, “Father Knows Best”, “Dennis The Menace”, and “Bewitched”, sci-fi like “Star Trek” and “Lost In Space”, and then there was a comic book based series—-“The Adventures of Superman”.

I remember watching this series in black and white. George Reeves played Clark Kent/Superman and Noel Neill played Lois Lane. The opening titles were great. A voice over coupled with images described his powers as “faster than a speeding bullet, strength like a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it’s a bird, no..it’s a plane..no..it’s Superman!

Super TV

Watching all episodes of the series made me want to read the comic magazines from DC. The impact this made on me as a child was greater than the mark made when Jor-El, Son of Krypton, crash lands on the Kent farm in Smallville.

Described as mild mannered Clark Kent, he would report for the Daily Planet newspaper. His change into Superman was Clark dashing into a storage room at the newspaper or using a phone booth. He would loosen his tie and remove his eye glasses to cue the audience.

The narrative importance was lost on me back then but today has great meaning. The creators were Jewish kids from Ohio who used the ultimate immigrant story, Jesus or Moses, as their source material.

Like Moses placed in a basket, the baby Jor-El is placed in a space capsule. He is launched into space to escape the destruction of the planet by their sun. The baby lands on earth. Raised on a farm by the Kents, his secret is kept by them.

When Clark matures he is sent to the big city to begin a mission to “fight for truth, justice, and the American way” as Superman. The costume is made by his surrogate mother. The ‘S’ on the Chevron is a Kryptonian letter meaning hope. The comic books were crucial in discovering all of the details in this narrative.

You can see why these ideas would sail over the head of a child. The adventure was good enough for my imagination. The effects of flying were all done by green screen on TV. Superman flew at steep angles due to this limitation in effects. The sound mix was cool. Right before he flew Superman would take a few running steps then a sound effect would cue us sitting at home. It sounded like a lid being released from a power vacuum.

Super Animation

Through animation Superman became the hero you saw in print.

The Max Fleischer series was captivating. In the 1970s the Saturday morning series, “Superfriends” added Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman to the mix. As a kid I loved the cartoon, but later appreciated the animated series to be quite superior in quality.

Super Movies

In 1978 Warner Brothers brought Superman to the silver screen. Christopher Reeve, a mild mannered star of stage, became a movie star. Margot Kidder was Lois Lane. Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor. Ned Beatty as Otis, the dimwitted sidekick. Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Editor of the Daily Planet. And perhaps the greatest feat of casting at the time—Marlon Brando as Superman’s father.

The movie featured a score by John Williams (Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T., Indiana Jones, and many more classics) that was groundbreaking. His “Superman March” would stay as the theme of the series to come. There were 3 sequel episodes.

In the debut feature the arch villain Lex Luthor plans to blow up the San Andreas fault in Southern California to trigger a devastating earthquake. Lois meets Clark. Lois interviews Superman. The Fortress of Solitude is introduced.

Superman II brought back the entire principal cast. It focused on the three Kryptonian villains sentenced to eternity in the Phantom Zone at the start of the previous film.

Superman saves the Earth from a hydrogen bomb at the Eiffel Tower. He hurls the device into deep space. The ripples of the shock wave caused by detonation shatter the Phantom Zone barrier. Ursa, Non, and General Zod are set free with the same powers as Superman.

Terence Stamp (Billy Budd, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) is imprinted in my memory forever as Zod. Commanding all of humanity to “kneel before Zod” as he takes control of Washington, DC is quite a scene.

Despite Superman III being quite comic with Richard Pryor the story lacks in compelling elements. And Superman IV—The Quest For Peace is just dull. The franchise went dormant after this series. The next feature, “Superman Returns” featured newcomer, Brandon Routh. Then more recently, Henry Cavill starred in “Man Of Steel”.

There were crossover features like “Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” that failed to catch the public imagination. The future of this character is more certain in the weeklies published. The movies are demanding. In my opinion, the impression made by Christopher Reeve was indelible.

The late Christopher Reeve is my Superman.

In my young adulthood the man of steel returned to the small screen. ABC TV ran “Lois & Clark” Starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. Comic book artist John Byrne’s modern retelling of Superman’s origin where Clark is the dominant personality was the series’ inspiration.

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 12: LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN – Pilot – 9/12/93, The “Superman” story, focusing primarily on the relationship between Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman/The Man of Steel (Dean Cain), and his fellow reporter Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher), continued in this 1993-97 ABC series. In the two-part pilot, the reporters worked on a story about the space program being hijacked., (Photo by Bob D’Amico/ABC via Getty Images)

John Shea played Lex Luthor as a business tycoon with unethical methods. Lane Smith was Editor Perry White. The role of Jimmy Olsen changed hands from Michael Landes to Justin Whalin after season one. The show would run from September 1993 thru June 1997.

Super Culture

Since his first appearance on a comic book page 80 years ago Superman has become an iconic presence. Thousands of books, magazines, toys, games, trading cards, playing cards, clothing, and any matter of object imprinted with his image/logo are now a billion dollar industry.

Mego toys produced Superman action figures. Ben Cooper provided Halloween costumes. Our imaginations took care of the rest.

Super Books. The panels in a comic book provide more detail than any screenplay. I did not consider the artists when I was a kid. That is a focus you do not get until you are much older.

Curt Swan drew Superman in the 1970s. This portrait of the character became the standard for modern renderings of Superman. The Mego figure was based on this look. The costume in the first 4 films were also this design.

These stories were tales of adventure no movie could ever match. The Fortress of Solitude was my favorite. Although the rendering on film was quite beautiful I prefer the detail of the page.

Thanks for Reading!

Batman Turns 80

May 1939 was the debut of The Batman in National Comics.

Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced the world to their crimefighter 80 years ago. This blog entry are just my thoughts about the character. Caped Crusader, Dark Knight, or World’s Greatest Detective are all fitting monikers used over the years.

38 years on there would be the television debut of the Batman character in a primetime series that would air twice a week. Several episodes would be two parts long featuring a cliff-hanger ending in part 1 and concluded the next night. ABC aired the show for 3 seasons. This was my first memory of Batman. My generation saw the reruns on New York’s local stations WPIX 11 and WNEW 5 during the 1970s.

After school the reruns of Batman were always fun to watch despite not seeing the program in color as intended until the 1980s! We had a black and white set even after the networks were broadcasting in color. As a kid I did not care because the show was great. Several of the episodes were based directly on Batman comics published during the 1940s–1950s.

  • The episodes “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Smack in the Middle” were adaptations of “Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler” from Batman #171 (May 1965), written by Gardner Fox; in it, the Riddler, jealous of the attention Batman is giving the Mole Hill Mob, arranges a trap so Batman will apprehend the gang and give the Riddler the Caped Crusader’s undivided attention.
  • Many events of the episodes “The Joker Is Wild” and “Batman Is Riled” are based on the silver age comic book story “The Joker’s Utility Belt” from Batman #73 (October 1952) by David Vern Reed.
  • The episodes “Instant Freeze” and “Rats Like Cheese” were inspired by “The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero” from Batman #121 (February 1959) by Dave Wood and Sheldon Moldoff.

The series was so popular that a movie was produced for theatrical release. This would air during Superhero Week on ABC-TV’s 4:30 movie in New York. I watched it many times in my childhood.

Adam West’s Batman was funny, living pop art, and corny. For a kid it was perfect. I think the 1966 series is the most enjoyable of all the screen incarnations of the character.

The fight scenes between Batman & Robin and their nemesis plus henchmen were filmed at an oblique angle (aka Dutch) to literally show they were crooked! The animated comic balloons appeared on screen to spell out the sounds like in the comic books—Biff!, Pow!, and Splat!

The Greenway Productions team captured what comic books look like on the page. Never taking itself too seriously was the key to unlocking the imagination of its viewers. A line-up of movie stars all played the villains that to this day are hard to match. The later features on film in the 1990s attempted to place big stars as Batman and as various villains to mixed results.

On the small & big screen.
Top Row: Adam West, Michael Keaton and Christian Bale as Batman.
Bottom Row: Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Oscar Winner, the late Heath Ledger.

When the dynamic duo climbed up building walls there would be a cameo by a star or a fictional character looking out their window. They would have some chit chat that was quite funny. On YouTube their listed as “Window Cameos”.

You never knew who might open their window during a bat climb. Dick Clark meets the dynamic duo!
Edward G. Robinson makes a cameo!

Nelson Riddle provided a jazzy music score to accompany the action in Batman. Unfortunately the attempt to spin-off a Batgirl series failed.

However Green Hornet and Kato did get a full season of episodes. And the only characters billed as guest heroes! Yvonne Craig as Batgirl was the first time on television that a female superhero was featured in an ongoing role. Today, “Supergirl” is a prime-time series.

Created by William Dozier who was also the show’s narrator, Batman aired on ABC at 7:30pm between 1966—1969.
Van Williams as Green Hornet & Bruce Lee as Kato. It ran 1 season; 1966-1967.

I always thought that Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s creation had the best rogues gallery. The Joker (Cesar Romero) , The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and Catwoman (Julie Newmar) were the tops for me.

Many of the villains were taken directly from Batman comic books. There were also original characters featured since many celebrities of that time wanted to appear on the show. Milton Berle (TV’s first star) as Louie The Lilac, Carolyn Jones as Marsha Queen of Diamonds, and Victor Buono as King Tut are just a few of the many colorful villains added to the rogues gallery of Gotham.

37 villains appeared on the show. Click here for a full list: https://batman.fandom.com/wiki/Villains_of_Batman_%281960s_series%29

In 2016, television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz ranked Batman as the 82nd greatest American television show of all time.
Mr. Sepinwall is my hiusband’s cousin and the best TV critic in the USA

Because of the series I then followed animated series that featured Batman. Bob Kane created the animated series “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse” as a comedic series based upon his Batman characters.

The catmobile would roar out of a cave with Courageous Cat pointing his sky writing gun at the sky to reveal the opening title.

Superfriends was a weekly show featured on Saturday mornings in the 1970s. I also began reading the comics. Reading the Batman comics from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970s I saw the evolution of the characters.

Frank Gorshin (Left) and John Astin (Right) as Riddler on “Batman” (1966)
Cory Michael Smith as Riddler with
Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin on “Gotham” (2019)

I found out the series’ first season made most of the episode titles rhyme, “Hi Diddle Riddle, Smack In The Middle” was the premiere. It was a 2 parter that featured Frank Gorshin as The Riddler.

Later, in the 1990s, Warners produced Batman The Animated Series featuring the voice of Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as The Joker. This show captured the noir look of the 1940s Batman.

Batman: The Animated Series is an American animated television series based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. Developed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, it originally aired on Fox Kids from September 5, 1992, to September 15, 1995, with a total of 85 episodes.  For the final fifteen episodes, the series was given the on-screen title The Adventures of Batman & Robin, which was also used for reruns of earlier episodes. The series became the first in the continuity of the shared DC animated universe; spawning further animated TV series, feature films, comic books and video games with most of the same creative talent.

During the 80 years of Batman comic books different creative teams were entrusted with the growing legacy of Batman. When it began there was no Robin. The Batmobile looked different than it does now. Renderings of villains changed as well from era to era. Gadgets were added like the Bat-arang, Bat-rope, and everything else that you can think that fits his crimefighting techniques.

In the printed issues of DC comics Batman was known as The World’s Greatest Detective. Take that Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple! Then I discovered how much better the actual stories could be when produced in serial form week after week. In fact, Batman was the only prime-time show to air twice a week in its first 2 seasons other than the Soap Opera, “Peyton Place”.

The Bat-Copter, Bat-Boat, and Bat-Cycle were added over time. The series featured them when the series’ ratings began to fall in Season 3.

My first encounters with Batman on the page was in the 1970s. Neal Adams was drawing him. I was shocked how dark the stories were compared with the bright TV show. I think there are many interpretations I like but my first sight of it was that splendid TV series. The serialized format of the show evoked the movie serial of Batman appearing in theaters in the 1940s.

Just look for the word Omnibus in the title to find a collection of a specific artist.

Grant Morrison was the most recent series I read in the last few years. I loved this updated version. There was even a run of comics called “Batman Incorporated” in which every nation got their own Batman to fight crime.

Issue #1 of Batman Incorporated.

Over the last 80 years Batman has refelected our deepest fears of a world too chaotic to tame. Every generation has their Batman. For me it is the late Adam West. Then screen actor Michael Keaton starred in the feature film directed by Tim Burton in 1989. Following a sequel, “Batman Returns”, Val Kilmer (“Batman Forever”), George Clooney (“Batman & Robin”), Christian Bale (“Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”, and “The Dark Knight Rises”), and Ben Affleck (“Batman vs Superman”, “Justice League”) have played Batman in the movies.

Despite initial worry from fans, Michael Keaton was fine as Batman.
In 23 years time the Batcave went from technicolor to dark.
A Dark Knight of the media age emerged on screen.

********************************
Warner Bros featured the music of Prince, their biggest music star at the time, in the film.
Despite negative critical reaction, the film was a blockbuster.

The look Warner Bros. created with Tim Burton’s dark vision of the world of Batman stood in deep contrast with the TV series. This more serious treatment would be favored in the 1990s and 2000s.

Imagination is a powerful tool that develops in childhood. I had Batman toys in the 1970s. Played out adventures with friends in the park. The reason it’s important to read at least some of the stories on the page is simply because there are thousands to choose from each decade. You can see what each passing era was like for the characters and each creative team that was used to animate the adventures.

Every time Batman celebrates a milestone anniversary the comic book shops have compilations of the best Batman stories from each decade. There have been numerous comic book series devoted to the characters featured in Batman stories. Even Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler and surrogate father had his own series of comics.

The Batman character has appeared in TV, radio and movie serials, feature films, video games and animation. When he debuted in 1939 all of the new forms he would take only happened because audiences have been attracted to the stories. The people that got Batman on the air in 1966 were fans of the character.

Where does he get those wonderful toys?” is a line from the movie “Batman” in 1989, spoken by The Joker, played by Jack Nicholson. This line is probably the most memorable in the script. It evokes the countless number of toys based on the characters in Batman produced over 8 decades. There are Billions of dollars worth of toys every year dedicated to this enduring legend.

Since the 1940s Batman action figures have been produced. Above is pictured an 8 figure tribute.

The past 5 years, “Gotham” has aired on Fox as the latest TV version of Batman. For the first time the Batman character is not shown until the final episode which just aired a few weeks ago.

Focusing on the anarchy of a city wracked by serial crime and a crimefighter named James Gordon. The origins of the classic villains are depicted. Penguin, Riddler, and Selena Kyle (Catwoman) are present during the entire series. The origins of The Joker, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, and Bane are depicted.

The noir series was so dark I had to watch with the lights off to see it! There was a viewer discretion bumper at the beginning of every episode. The stylized violence was still the most graphic I have ever seen on a network show. The times did indeed change a lot.

Gotham is an American crime drama television series developed by Bruno Heller and based on characters published by DC Comics and appearing in the Batman franchise, primarily those of James Gordon and Bruce WayneDanny Cannon directed the pilot, and he is an executive producer along with Heller. The series stars Ben McKenzie as the young James Gordon. It premiered on Fox on September 22, 2014 and concluded on April 25, 2019.

No matter how the fortunes have changed for this enduring character in recent times there will most certainly be many more adventures written and performed in the next 80 years.

Warner Bros. announced a new feature film, “The Batman”, to premiere in 2021. Robert Pattinson (Twilight) will become the youngest actor to play the Dark Knight.

72 Years of The Batman. (Above) Every Bat symbol drawn to represent the enduring legacy of The World’s Greatest Detective

ELTON

Nearly 50 years ago a young would be singer appeared on the rock n roll landscape performing his first ever top ten single, “Your Song”. His first record, “Empty Sky”, was not released in the U.S. until 1975. He has 32 albums, over 300 million records sold worldwide, and currently performing live in arenas all over the world for the last time.

Reginald Dwight was his name. He played tennis. Piano lessons came at an early age. He performed a lot as a kid then eventually wound up in a group called Bluesology. Then he changed his name to become a rocker. He took the names of two bandmates in his former group, Elton Dean (Saxophonist) and Long John Baldry (Vocalist) to come up with his new name, Elton John. The name was a tribute to his mates. This would become a lifelong trait.

On Friday, May 31, a new biopic, “Rocketman” will hit theaters. Telling the story of his formative years including a difficult family life and his initial rise to rock stardom. The R-rated film stars Taron Egerton as Elton and Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin. I am quite excited about the film. Presented as a ‘real’ fantasy, the film will surely be a fanciful trip.

My listening over the years regarding Mr. John’s output has been quite spotty. Honestly I prefer much heavier rock than the pop he composes, but cannot deny his success. Quite frankly I feel he deserves his name to be singular like Cher or Sting. When researching for this entry I re-discovered how I first came into contact with his music.

Each listener comes to an artist’s work in different ways. Whenever I heard his name I pictured the oversize eyeglasses he sported. I learned about his name change and the construction of his public persona later on in books and magazines. I was a kid in the seventies. I was seduced by the camp and androgynous rockers of the time. Marc Bolan of T-Rex, Freddie Mercury of Queen, and Elton John are my favorite three of those days. Sir Elton is the sole survivor of that raucous era.

In 1967, Dwight answered an advertisement in the British magazine New Musical Express, placed by Ray Williams, then the A&R manager for Liberty Records.  At their first meeting, Williams gave Dwight an envelope with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had answered the same ad. Elton would compose the music to fit the lyrics. He would send the music back to Bernie in the post. The two men’s partnership endures to this day.

During the 1970s I was certainly aware of Elton John. ‘Crocodile Rock’, ‘Bennie and the Jets’, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ were performed on “The Muppet Show” which he hosted. It was not until the 1980s that I would listen to a full album of his work let alone purchase one of his albums. Then came the second moment of impact, a concert in the park, attended by 400,000 people and aired on HBO within 3 months of John Lennon’s death. This was a show that included Lennon’s song, “Imagine”.

Elton John’s Concert In Central Park (Fall 1980)

On the left Elton John started the concert in this flashy suit. On the right side he came out for his encores dressed as Donald Duck! I never forgot this show. When his next album appeared I bought it.

However, it was not until the appearance of his May 1983 release that I would be a fan for life. This was to become his best-selling album of the 1980s. “Too Low For Zero” was quite personal too. Mr. John’s turning point from over the top excess in the 1970s to a more conservative approach. The album was his arrival on MTV with hit videos made for every single released. ‘I’m Still Standing’ was his declaration of survival.

A cocaine habit and bulemia almost cost him everything. He was closeted until 1988 when he officially came out as gay. His AIDS foundation has raised countless millions for people afflicted around the globe.

Sadly, ‘Empty Garden’, a tribute to the late John Lennon had him reflecting on the loss of his friend. Unfortunately there were many to come. I came to understand him as a pop star with a defined mission to help those in need and never stop trying to reach new listeners. His longevity is remarkable.

Released
30 May 1983
Recorded
September 1982 – January 1983
Studio
AIR Studios (Montserrat) and Sunset Sound Recorders(Hollywood, CA).
Genre
Rockpop rocknew wave
Length
44:06
Label
Geffen (US)
Rocket (UK)
Producer
Chris Thomas

During the 1990s his image and career would change considerably. After the tragic death of Princess Diana he re-released ‘Candle In The Wind’ with new lyrics from Bernie Taupin. It became the biggest single of all-time.

The Disney Company hired him to perform original songs for their animated film, “The Lion King” which proved to be a global smash. Mr. John would win an Oscar in the process. He was now a film composer! With Tim Rice he wrote, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. Now kids of all ages were fans too.

Staying relevant is always a challenge for famous people. Elton John has managed to do so after many ups and downs. Following The Lion King would be hard. The movie “Billy Elliott” would be the ticket. The movie featured the music of T-Rex. Elton saw the film knowing in his heart it could be made into a stage musical with original music.

The Broadway production opened at the Imperial Theatre on 1 October 2008 in previews, and officially on 13 November 2008. The London production’s creative team directed and designed the Broadway production.  The title role was rotated among three young actors, David ÁlvarezKiril KulishTrent Kowalik, the last of whom had previously played the role in London.[25] The supporting cast included Haydn Gwynne, reprising her role of Mrs. Wilkinson from the London production, and Gregory Jbara as Billy’s father.
The production received rave reviews: Time called it a “triumph”; critic Liz Smith termed it “breathtakingly brilliant” and “absolutely, unequivocally awesome”; the Daily News said it was “so exhilarating that at times you feel like leaping”; the New York Post said it was “almost like being in love” and termed it “amusing, perfect and passionate” and “the best show you will ever see”; and the Los Angeles Times called it a “global theatrical phenomenon”. It has also been very financially successful, with $20 million taken in advance ticket sales. The production received fifteen Tony Award nominations, tying with The Producers for the most nominations ever received by a Broadway show,and winning ten. The original three boys in the lead role jointly won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. The production sold strongly and recouped its original investment of $18 million in 14 months. The Broadway production closed on 8 January 2012 following 40 previews and 1,312 regular performances.

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Too Low For Zero”, “The One”, “Made In England”, and “The Captain and the Kid” are my favorite albums. They cover 4 decades of pop and rock.

Elton is also known as ‘Captain Fantastic’ and Bernie Taupin is called ‘The Brown Dirt Cowby’.
32 Studio albums. I have a lot more listening to do!

I have seen Elton John perform many times. I worked at Tower Records in the 1990s. I got to meet Elton in person! He always shopped for new music every month. Always interested in what is happening in the current musical culture has kept him alive.

His performance Co-headlining Shea Stadium in New York City with Eric Clapton in support of “The One” was one of the best shows I have seen. Elton covered Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” in tribute to his fallen friend, Freddie Mercury. It was the first time I had heard a Queen song live!

Elton John & Billy Joel would tour together. I went every time. Each sang the other’s songs. Selling out football stadiums in this era was standard for the piano men.

Face To Face Tour Book 1995
Elton John and Billy Joel

Elton John encouraged Mr. Joel to tour. Today, he is his own music franchise at Madison Square Garden in New York.

At 72, Elton John can be proud of a life well-lived. Everything comes at a price. He knows his persona will be public property forever. Following his Goodbye Tour he wants to settle with his children and husband.

I think he will return for special events. His songs have been featured in movies, musicals, radio and television. The unkown Reginald Dwight became Elton John. He has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Sir Elton Hercules John. I will just call him ELTON.