Tim English is a noted authority on musical plagiarism. He has been in the Chicago Tribune and on BBC Radio 2.
His research is expertly presented here as a playlist divided into the four seasons that make up a year.
In this case the year is 1980. The creative rebirth of John Lennon and the tragedy of his death in the same year.
If you think you already know everything about Mr. Lennon you will be gobsmacked when reading this book. You will discover so much about the former Beatle you did not understand.
Why John Lennon stepped out of the music business for five years was the birth of Sean. He took on the new role of house husband. Today we accept this role for men as normal. In the 1970’s this was considered strange.
Mr. English informs his readers of all the music being released during John’s absence.
The tempermant of an artist is fragile. For a while John Lennon was musically set adrift after the sixties. The long shadow of The Beatles had to be accepted by him. He knew his solo work would never compete with that legacy.
We discover why The Beatles became rock’s most influential group. We find John struggling to find his next chapter.
Among the artists that made John want to record again are Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Bruce Springsteen.
He stayed on top of every musical shift in the seventies. He loved Donna Summer. Blondie were his favorite group. Along with The B-52’s, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello, new wave caugh his fancy as well.
Artists like John Lennon absorb the culture around them like a sponge. Their taste becomes eclectic. What they want to express musically is an exacting process.
Double Fantasy took several years to create.
This book provides the rest of the missing pieces. It’s a journey music lovers should take. You may find yourself learning how to be a better listener. Your musical taste will be much improved too.
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.
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.
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 Deaconon 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 byJohn 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Rainy day activities we used to call them. When there was nothing else to do kids had their favorite stock phrase, I’m bored! Then our parents would reply with their stock phrase, “use your imagination.”
We came up with games, fantastic worlds, and kept ourselves occupied for hours on end. All without the tech of today. It was never present. Our minds would become stronger in the process of inventing. You cannot miss things that were not invented yet.
Finding discarded refrigerator boxes was common during the 1970’s. We used them to build forts, roll down hills, and pretend just about anything our minds could invent!
A carboard box became a spaceship or a time machine. Adventures got played out complete with hand to hand melees to overcome villains. Then on our television sets came perhaps some of the most imaginative television programs on Saturday mornings to compliment our rainy day adventures.
There were 3 commercially supported networks, CBS, ABC, and NBC. New York City also had 3 locally based independent channels: WNEW–5, WOR–9, and WPIX–11.
These independent channels picked up the first ever re-runs in TV history. Network execs did not think people would watch repeats of old shows.
But to the children of that era every single re-run was a first time viewing. Every series from the 1950’s and 1960’s would get aired again. More on this topic in a future entry.
This week I want to talk about the programming of the 1970’s, my childhood. Saturday mornings became a special time of the week for millions of us.
Sid & Marty Krofft
Network TV in the 1970s programmed Saturday mornings just for kids. Cartoons, live-action space operas/adventures, and the brothers Krofft who had series on all 3 networks! At the top of their game there was a variety show based in Atlanta in 1978 called The Krofft Supershow. Hosted first by the Scottish hitmakers Bay City Rollers then the made up Captain Kool & The Kongs, featured 3 series: Dr. Shrinker, Wonderbug, and Magic Mongo.
When their first series originally aired on NBC in 1969 no one knew their everlasting impact. H.R. Pufnstuf was that first show. A fantasy adventure starring Jack Wild as Jimmy (Oscar Nominee for “Oliver!”), Billie Hayes as Witchiepoo, and Lennie Weinrib as H.R. Pufnstuf (he starred later as the Genie Mongo).
How the Krofft Brothers Named Pufnstuf
Of course the famous Mayor of Living island was named after Puff The Magic Dragon, a folk tune that at the time was a popular hit.
In their interview for TV Archive, Sid and Marty Krofft talked about the naming of their now iconic series. There are fun facts brought up as well.
My favorite fact was that The Beatles watched it every week. In England Pufnstuf was broadcast at 6 in the evening. Manager Brian Epstein asked for a 16mm copy of each week’s show!
At the end of every episode Pufnstuf and Jimmy tell viewers to keep those letters and postcards coming. Their fan mail was on average 10,000 letters per week!
Many college kids were watching the show. A lot of them thought the name Pufnstuf was drug related. Naturally the network’s standard and practices would have never allowed it.
A lad named Jimmy and his golden flute, Freddie, are lured away in Witchiepoo’s boat. The vessel attacks Jimmy sending him into the water. He finds himself washed ashore on the Oz-like Living Island. Its Mayor, the friendly dragon H.R . Pufnstuf, and his staff Cling and Clang rescue Jimmy. The rest of the series’ 16 episodes are Jimmy’s attempts to escape the island and various other adventures.
The Krofft shows featured musical numbers too. On Pufnstuf Jack Wild’s character Jimmy sang on several episodes. ‘Walking, Talking Boy’ and ‘Mechanical Boy’ are examples.
“The Magic Path” episode had the discovery of a special walkway that could lead Jimmy off the island! Then there was the scheme of using a box kite to fly him home.
Another big hit was “Sigmund and The Sea Monsters”. Star Johnny Whitaker sang the theme song, ‘You Gotta Have Friends’. He also sang on many episodes.
Sigmund was a misfit. Brothers Burp and Slurp were genuine monsters. Big Daddy and Big Mama were their parents, modeled after Hollywood gangsters of the 1930’s.
Johnny and Scott find Sigmund. They take him in to their clubhouse. Each episode has the boys protecting him from his awful family.
The popularity of these shows propelled stars Jack Wild and Johnny Whitaker to teen idol status. They performed beside the costumed Krofft characters at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A.
Krofft Series Roundup
H. R. Pufnstuf________________________16 Episodes (1969)
Land Of The Lost___________________43 Episodes (1974–76)
Sigmund and The Sea Monsters____29 Episodes (1973–74)
The Lost Saucer____________________16 Episodes (1975)
The Krofft Supershow________________16 Episodes (1976)
I watched all of these programs when they aired. The Krofft brothers had some star power too. “Lidsville” featured Butch Patrick of “Munsters” fame, he played Eddie! Charles Nelson Reilly also starred on the show as villain Hoodoo and with Phyllis Diller on “Croc’s Block.” “The Lost Saucer” starred Ruth Buzzie and Jim Nabors as androids named Fi and Fum. Richard Pryor starred on “Pryor’s Place”. Bob Denver of “Gilligan’s Island” starred in the “Far Out Space Nuts”. Martha Raye was Benita Bizzare on “The Bugaloos”.
The cost of producing so many live-action fantasy shows took its toll. Pufnstuf had 16 episodes that were reran throughout the 1970’s. To widen their audience, Sid and Marty Krofft produced a 98 minute feature film, Pufnstuf”, that featured Martha Raye as The Boss Witch and Cass Elliott as Witch Hazel and the original featured series cast.
“Land of the Lost” ran the longest. Eventual re–boots were produced in the 1990’s and 2000’s and a really bad feature film Starring Will Ferrell.
In 1978, Sid and Marty Krofft opened an indoor amusement park that took up 5 floors of Atlanta’s Omni Center, now home to CNN. It featured a giant sized pinball machine that people could ride through on specially designed vehicles.
Visitors rode the escalators to the top floor that featured a carousel. Then working their way down through the other floors and attractions. Upon exiting there was the familiar Krofft TV Productions logo.
Despite the financial failure of the Atlanta park, the brothers designed Krofft show themed rides for Six Flags in Georgia and in other theme parks across the U.S.
Krofft Gallery: (L–R): The movie ‘Pufnstuf’ (1970), Atlanta based indoor Amusement Park, the book ‘Pufnstuf & Other Stuff’ by David Martindale, and the Krofft TV Production logo seen at the end of each series’ episode.
The Stone Age and Future Age Enable The Scooby Age!
“The Flintstones” appeared in primetime a decade before its debut followed by “Jonny Quest” by Hanna–Barbera in the 1960s. At the dawn of the seventies ABC put Scooby Doo on the air. A group of teenagers along with their pooch and hippie owner Shaggy took on investigations of mysterious happenings in spooky houses and other nefarious schemes.
The series was an instant smash. Unheard of in TV Land that a cartoon would become such a cultural touchstone that a repeated phrase at the end of each episode would ring down through the decades: ‘we would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids!’.
The program portrayed teenagers as responsible, caring, and ultimately wiser than the adult villains they would apprehend each week. There were ghosts and ghouls aplenty. Shaggy was always scared to death but with the help of Scooby Doo would overcome his fears usually by accident to win the day. Fred, Velma, and Dafney were the trio of calm and cool. Many viewers later stated that Velma was Lesbian. The series had plenty of camp value in it.
As seen in the gallery below, Shaggy and Scooby were often the first to face each week’s featured ghoul. The ‘NEW’ Movies series brought a lot of guest stars to the show including Laurel & Hardy and Batman & Robin. Campy 1970s fun!
I woke up with my sibs every week to tune in for their latest adventure. You learned how to overcome adversity in a way. Scooby and Shaggy despite being scared out of their wits somehow rose to the challenge of catching crooks disguised as ghosts and monsters.
The show became the longest-running of that era. It spawned numerous spin-offs. ‘Scrappy-Doo’ also got his own series! As seen in the gallery below, Scooby’s offspring Scrappy proved so popular there was a spin-off.
I admit by the time I hit my pre-teens the magic of Scooby had waned. There were a lot of spin-offs too. I was hitting those pre–teen years when Saturday morning early wake-ups had lost their magic.
Today the streaming services like Amazon Prime premiered “Scoob!” a brand new animated movie. And of course there were the live action Scooby Doo movies. Puppy power indeed!
Public Television Introduced Sesame Street
PBS Introduces Zoom & The Electric Company
We’re Gonna Zooma Zooma Zooma Zoom! was sung by a group of children who were not professional performers. Each week they scripted the show! This included creating a made-up language called Ubby Dubby.
Skits were performed. Games were invented. And there was a Zoom Guest too. The Guest segment was a real kid who had a hobby/interest to share.
At the end of each show the kids invited the viewers to write in on a postcard to request a Zoom Card. On the front was a color photo of a Zoom kid and on the back was instructions on how to do a craft featured on the show at home.
I sent in for a card once. I got the instructions on how to make a calendar with drawers using matchsticks.
The Zoom kids would sing the address Boston, Mass 0-2-1-3-4….send it to ZOOM! at the end of the show.
Channel Thirteen (PBS) is the flagship station for Public Television in the U.S. Zoom and The Electric Company were produced following the enormous success of Sesame Street which premiered in 1969. Although these shows aired every weekday I always felt like they were part of my Saturday morning media diet.
“Hey you guys!” would be yelled loudly at the top of every episode of The Electric Company. This program taught reading comprehension to kids. Proper sentences, grammar, punctuation, and the rest would be featured in silly skits.
Fargo North was a detective character who used a decoder machine to put words in their proper order to form a sentence.
Rita Moreno (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony winning actress) was a featured player. Morgan Freeman played Easy Reader, a hip guy who read a lot.
There was animation too. The Adventures of Letter Man showed a superhero who had a letter on his chest he would use to spell the correct word to save someone from peril.
There was also a special appearance of a popular superhero—Spidey Adventure Stories! Spider-Man in live action!
The 1970’s made for a great childhood. The influence of the previous hippie days showed up in the various series featured this week. Commercial TV began to exploit the popularity of rock music, had kids who were not always show-biz types, boys with Red hair became idols, and there was a sense of escape from adult authority.
The following years Cable TV replaced Saturday Morning TV with Nickelodeon, the first Network for Kids. And MTV became the channel for rock music.
As you can see from this blog entry I treasure the memories I have in front of our black and white TV during those groovy times. They had a big influence on me.
For the full 5 minute interview with Sid & Marty Krofft regarding the naming of their Pufnstuf series just click here: https://youtu.be/MPW-8Db0LFI
http://www.BillieHayes.com is the website of the actress famous for playing Witchiepoo, she raises money for her animal rescue charity!Check it out!
A famous band does everything in their power to close out their career. Then fans get restless. Reunion rumours are spread. Then comes the press release announcing a new tour.
Following reunion news of My Chemical Romance, Rage Against The Machine, and The Black Crowes comes official word of a three act line-up sure to fill stadiums from coast to coast.
Motley Crue will tour with Def Leppard and Poison. If you came of age during the 1980s you may have owned their records and seen them live.
MTV had their videos in heavy rotation in that era too. Perhaps you saw Def Leppard’s ‘Photograph’ or ‘Rock Of Ages’; Motley Crue’s ‘Looks That Kill’ or ‘Dr. Feelgood’; Poison’s ‘Unskinny Bop’ or ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time’ to name but a few of several clips to have come out in those days.
For Motley Crue it’s the fan demand that pushed them to blow up their no more tours contract. Cynics will cry foul. A well orchestrated money grab after their biopic succeeded on Netflix.
Adding the Crue to the list of rock giants who played official farewell shows only to return a few years later seems a matter of course.
I think we are seeing and hearing how much acts like Queen, The Who, Kiss, and Ozzy Osbourne mean to their listeners. They have crossed generations.
Their style of music is not saturating the ears of streamers. Perhaps, the big sound of these groups are missed by the mainstream.
Motley Crue and Poison still have all of their original members. Def Leppard also has their line-up mostly complete. Guitarist Steve Clark died.
Although there have not been any new albums in the last 4 years their catalogs continue to be mined.
Fans know they will get a massive stage show backed with classic songs.
Having toured with Def Leppard in the past was a sign of things to come. Over the past 20 years they have been a consistent draw.
Part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1979, Def Leppard forged a new style of melodic metal music.
The number of fan favorites from all three of these groups should find healthy ticket sales.
Deservedly so. AC/DC are also expected to tour. It seems we music fans just can’t let go of our passion for hard rock in the pop vain. A renewed injection every few years keeps us going.
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.
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!
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.
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!