Right Place, Right Time

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Abrams; 379Pages; Now available

This memoir is truly inspiring. A kid from Long Island develops (pun intended) a keen interest in photography at the age of 5. His mother has her own darkroom.

After leaving college over and over decides to pursue his real passion—creating images with his camera.

I think he made the right decision. You learn when reading this story how much of life is just being in the right place at the right time.

Over the past 60 years he has chronicled rock’s most significant artists. Beginning at the 1965 Newport folk festival when Bob Dylan plugged in with an electric guitar for the first time to the birth of disco, punk, and new wave, his best stories are collected here.

You will truly feel as if you are with him during all the late nights, problems with deadlines, and hangovers.

Bob Gruen became close friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Ike and Tina Turner.

He spent a lot of time showing the world the day to day lives of these extraordinary people. He de-glamorizes the biz. You see the tough times these folks lived through to get their art in the hands of listeners across the globe.

At the drop of a hat Bob Gruen flew to London, Germany, France, Japan or wherever needed to lend support.

In the moment he captured many moments that still resonate today.

Led Zep in front of the Enterprise Starship aircraft; John Lennon in his New York city tee-shirt; The Clash on the observation deck at 30 Rock; Ike and Tina Turner doing just about anything.

Alice Cooper and Salvador Dali. Dali created the first ever hologram of Alice.

This book is the perfect gift for the music fan in your life. He photographed Queen before they were famous. KISS in 1978 on the 14th St subway platform which had phone booths!

A magical journey peopled by lots of fascinating figures including:

Elton John, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Tina Turner, Debbie Harry, The Ramones, Alice Cooper, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Who, Runaways, and on and on.

Bob Gruen reminds his reader of the authenticity of New York city’s great power to help re-invent those who seek a new life.

Filled with black and white photos and full color of many moments that shaped his long-term success you get a deeply affecting impression of what it truly takes to become a fine artist.

One of my favorite early moments was when he took photos of models. A young college student came to the studio. Years later he found out that would be model became movie actress Karen Allen who appeared in “Animal House” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Today, Bob Gruen photography is a thriving business. The countless hours of painstaking work along with the warp speed social life required to achieve it are worthwhile.

I strongly recommend you get a copy of this account.

Bon Jovi/ 2020

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Originally set for release on May 15, 2020 was a completed album with a breadth and depth of songwriting, titled for a challenging and pivotal election year.


Bon Jovi’s 2020 released through Island Records.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Along with all of America, Jon found himself unexpectedly experiencing a world-altering coronavirus pandemic, followed quickly by the staggering events of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing national movement for racial equality.

He knew there was even more to say about 2020. Writing from a home studio, two new songs were born: “American Reckoning” and “Do What You Can” encompass these events and made the album a complete body of work.  

Well known for his extensive philanthropic work, Jon spent the initial quarantine days and weeks with his wife Dorothea helping feed those in need at their JBJ Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, NJ. 

Later, the couple opened a Food Bank on the East End of Long Island to meet the food demands of the in-need population there. 

I had the privilege of meeting Jon Bon Jovi by chance at The Armory Art show in New York city.

I expressed my thanks to him for all of the good works. Also how much I was looking forward to his new album.

Not knowing the tour and album would be postponed made me think about all we as a people are facing together.

Without further ado, 2020 is a musical salve for a genuinely pivotal year. These 10 songs bristle with equal doses of joy and despair.

Addressing the pandemic, mass shootings and racial justice the music remains on a remarkably even keel throughout.

Bon Jovi has crafted a meaningful record that enables its listener to reflect on all that has happened to us while looking forward to the future.

Track List:

Limitless (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)

Do What You Can (Jon Bon Jovi)

American Reckoning (Jon Bon Jovi)

Beautiful Drug (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)

Story of Love (Jon Bon Jovi)

Let It Rain (Jon Bon Jovi)

Lower the Flag (Jon Bon Jovi)

Blood in the Water (Jon Bon Jovi)

Brothers in Arms (Jon Bon Jovi)

Unbroken (Jon Bon Jovi)

Tonight iHeart Radio will broadcast a special album launch for 2020. The band will play select songs from the new album plus Bon Jovi classics.

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.

Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ordinary Man’

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A decade since 2010’s ‘Scream’. Recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Ozzy Osbourne has released his eleventh solo album.

The production here is flawless. If you’re a longtime listener you will hear some pleasant echoes of past glories.

Released February 21, 2020
Epic Records/ Sony Music
Produced by Andrew Watt

Make no mistake this is Mr. Osbourne’s swan song. Being an iconic rocker is like performing the feats of Hercules albeit with the handicap of substance addiction.

Ozzy has been an open book during his career which has lasted for 50 years. His continuing struggles are once again part of his lyrics.

“Straight To Hell” serves to open the proceedings. Drug addiction takes center stage. The core of Ozzy’s adult life has been this threat of tragic end.

With a little help from his friends Slash & Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses) this is an ultimate warning. The high is short-lived; Hell will be the eternal destiny.

“All My Life” and “Goodbye” are tough to hear. Raw naked honesty from Ozzy about feeling like no matter what he always felt like he came up short in life.

Saying goodbye is the hardest task. Final farewells are something he had postponed for decades. Inspired by Post Malone, we get a sense this is really it.

The title track is another ballad in the style of ‘Goodbye To Romance’ off 1981’s solo debut “Blizzard of Ozz”.

Featuring Elton John, who shares Ozzy’s struggles with addiction, is pitch perfect.

Longing for redemption after decades of debauchery the plea is to not die an ordinary man.

“Under The Graveyard” is my personal favorite song on the album. A portrait of an addled existence full of self inflicted pain.

At 72 with the onset of his final challenge the lyrics make crystal clear how Ozzy feels about his mortality.

Even rock stars lose everything in the end. Yet he has been waiting for darkness for most of his career.

Every one of his recordings contains some cheeky wink as well to the devil inside.

Here we receive the invitation to consume the Ozman on ‘Eat Me’. Then even more dark humor on ‘Today Is The End’ and ‘Scary Little Green Men’.

On both tracks the sun is black and the sky is red. Is the sky falling? Can we escape our own destruction?

‘Holy For Tonight’ is a song of contemplating the end. Ozzy is not fearing his final days.

Just wondering what it will be like when it arrives. He is certain of one thing. It will be a long night. He hopes it can be holy.

The final song features Post Malone. A spirited rocker ’til the end, ‘It’s A Raid’, recalling the infinite moments of being caught with the goods.

Ozzy has been caught alright. In the crosshairs of addiction, fame, and death he will face it alone.

And with the millions around the globe whose love has been earned. This crazy train is about to pull into its final station.

Don’t be sad nor afraid. Just be happy Ozzy is still here making his music.

Thank You/Band Of The Year

This blog gets posted every Friday.

With each passing week I have seen my readership increase.

Keep spreading the word to friends who want to discover music.

At year’s end I would like to say Thank You for taking a few moments to read my blog.

There are so many things competing for our attention in this day and age.

Evan’s Gate will be here each week!

2020 promises a lot of potentially great releases from a wide spectrum of artists.

I will be covering new music every week.

Band Of The Year—QUEEN

During the past year no artist has approached the comeback of rock royalty in the British tradition known simply as Queen.

Their soundtrack album, “Bohemian Rhapsody” remains a top seller, even winning an American Music Award!

Their catalog has outsold all others this year as well.

Approaching over 300 million records sold worldwide, Queen are one of the best-selling bands in history.

The Rhapsody concert tour has sold out arenas and stadiums all over the world.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the most streamed song from the 20th Century with over a billion views on YouTube.

In 2020 they have a 10 show residency at the O2 arena in London.

Queen will celebrate their 50th Anniversary as a band as well.

I wish all of my readers a happy and healthy new year! Keep reading and listening.

T H A N K S.

Defenders Of The Faith

Rocka Rolla

Their debut release in 1969 on indie label Gull was a bluesy hard rock affair that went unnoticed by most.

Naming the band for a Bob Dylan song seemed off. “The Ballad Of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” is a crossroads tale of two strangers meeting on a road in the forest.

Only in hindsight does this become an ingenious origin for their moniker. If you listen to the song the idea is really cool. Judas Priest is a dark figure. Embued with a mystique that fits the band’s image.

Black Sabbath are widely acclaimed as the fathers of heavy metal music. The formative period for Judas Priest were spent in the shadows cast by the bigger acts of the time.

Until Deep Purple’s Roger Glover produced their major label debut, “Sin After Sin” on Columbia.

Sin After Sin released in 1976.

Covering Joan Baez’s “Diamonds & Rust” would broaden their sound. Their composition, “Vicitm of Changes” became a live staple during this era.

Early Priest at their best. The Ripper was revived as a live track in the 1990s.

Killing Machine

The late 1970’s was quite exciting for heavy music. Van Halen debut. Queen’s ‘News Of The World’ album goes multi-platinum in America. Judas Priest were about to unveil two metal masterworks.

Hell Bent For Leather became the band’s signature.

Judas Priest unveil their best work to date. The name of the record is changed to ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ in America (‘Killing Machine’ in the rest of the world). The band present a new image wearing leather and studs.

L-R: Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, and founding member Ian Hill.
Concerts feature Rob Halford on a Harley-Davidson bike.

Songs celebrating the biker lifestyle incorporate new guitar techniques that would become part of the heavy metal art form.

“Rock Forever”, “Take On The World”, and the title track formed a trio of anthems. “Before The Dawn” is a power ballad that I think tops them all.

Stained Class introduces the now famous logo associated with the band.

The record brought a sound that would continue to develop over the next three decades.

The band’s cover of the haunting ‘Better By You, Better Than Me” by Spooky Tooth became a fan favorite. The song was at the center of a trial years later.

Proving Their Steel

The dawn of the 1980’s would bring Judas Priest into the long out of reach limelight.

The album ‘British Steel’ stripped down the music to a lean muscular form. “Living After Midnight” became a rock radio hit. The song began their music video history.

British Steel heralded heavy metal’s rise in pop culture.

Priest continued to evolve using different sounds on each album. “Point Of Entry” followed in 1981.

Three singles with videos: ‘Headin’ Out To The Highway’, ‘Don’t Go’, and ‘Hot Rockin’ were all catchy songs that took pop melodies into metal.

Visions of motorcycle rides in the desert was the overall feel of the work.

‘Desert Plains’ was part of the current Firepower tour playlist.

“Screaming For Vengeance” became the defining statement that Priest were the metal band. The anthem ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ hit radio rising to the top. The band toured extensively. American rockers fell in love.

Their best selling album in America.

The album featured the first in what became a series of mythic metallic monsters on their covers.

The Hellion is a metal Eagle soaring above looking for justice for those who have been wronged. ‘Fever’ , ‘Devil’s Child’ , and ‘Ridin’ On The Wind’ are stellar songs often overlooked.

By 1984 heavy metal music was a primary force in the American rock scene. Small towns/suburbia felt besieged by the culture. Long haired kids in denim and leather; patches of bands decorated their jackets.

“Defenders of the Faith” in my opinion is still the modern most influential metal record. Every fan owns this record. The Metallion is the beast of choice on its cover.

It’s a take no prisoners anthemic, macho declaration of heavy metal glory.

The radio smash ‘Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” followed by the sex driven ‘Eat Me Alive’ and ‘Love Bites’ alarmed conservatives.

Defenders of the Faith laid down the metal gauntlet.

The band rose to the top. Then hysteria in the form of local teen suicide being blamed on the music. Judas Priest were blamed for a fan death. They were acquitted in court.

Pushing the art form of metal into new directions was part of the band’s mission. Their records always incorporated the latest technologies.

The Turbo Age

Then in the summer of 1986 the Priest changed direction. ‘Turbo’ featured guitar synths. Giving their sound a much more pop friendly polish. There was a decidedly mixed reaction.

Singles like ‘Turbo Lover’ and ‘Locked In’ gave the band great top 40 success. A lot of kids at the time listened to Priest for the first time.

The record was envisioned as a double record by the band. Columbia records would decline to allow such an ambitious project despite the band’s popularity.

Bound For Glory

“Ram It Down” was the second half of “Turbo” released separately. No metal beasts on their covers; anthems & ballads. I love both albums. Some fans became disgruntled by the new sounds.

The band even recorded a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ for a movie soundtrack. Quite a commercial move for a metal group. This track appears on ‘Ram It Down’.

The ups and downs are inevitable in the music business. Opinions change over time. Some of the more pop oriented moves are now seen as a blip in a history full of mostly metal glories.

After leaving the band for solo albums in the early 1990’s, Rob Halford returned as lead vocalist for an album that would once again raise the bar for metal music.

Ripper Owen’s Era

Things change. When their iconic frontman left the band the future became foggy.

A singer in a Judas Priest tribute band by the name of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owen’s became their vocalist. His nickname from a classic Priest song.

Two albums are released. It’s the 1990’s. “Jugulator” features a metallic beast on its cover. The music is solid metal. Fans were indifferent.

I had the opportunity to meet them after a show at Roseland ballroom here in New York. It was gratifying to tell them how much I loved their music and concerts. I gave Tim Owens a pat on the back. No one could fill Rob Halford’s boots.

Back On Top

“Painkiller” is arguably the best metal record ever made. The metallic biker on the cover is a winged hero. Every song is heavy. Halford’s voice was never better. The twin guitars of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing are at their peak.

The best of all their albums.

I got to see them in their peak years. Never a disappointment. The songs were always representative of their entire career.

“Angel of Retribution” was Rob Halford’s return to the band. A solid effort. During this time the band’s albums showed a marked return to their late 70’s early 80’s sound.

“Redeemer of Souls” was a great follow-up album to “Painkiller”; “Nostradamus” was a double album that returned the band to their roots. A decidedly non-commercial epic aimed at their most dedicated fans.

Today the band enjoys their fame. Rob Halford has the nickname, Metal God, for the song and his amazing voice. Always proud to be metal, the community loves Judas Priest.

“Firepower” was their 18th studio album released in 2018 and the tour is still going strong. Well received by critics and topping the charts the group is poised to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in 2020.

Firepower was a solid comeback album.

They are nominated for induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame in 2020.

Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison

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.

Motley Crue: L-R: Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, and Tommy Lee

Fans know they will get a massive stage show backed with classic songs.

Poison L-R: C.C. DeVille, Bobby Dall, Brett Michaels, & Rikki Rockett.

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.

2018 image of Def Leppard band members: Phil CollenVivian CampbellJoe ElliottRick SavageRick Allen.
Their “Hysteria” is the biggest selling hard rock album. Last year they were inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame.

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.

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.

Western Stars/Bruce Springsteen

Western Stars is the 19th solo album by Bruce Springsteen.
Produced by Ron Aniello on Columbia Records.
13 Songs; 50 minutes

A wayfarin’ hitch-hiker takes a journey back out to big sky country to reflect on a life gone past. Along the way we learn he was a B-movie Stuntman whose proudest moment was a scene with screen icon John Wayne.

Painting a deceptively simple picture of creeping isolation, lost love, and futile attempts to outrun a road that has to end, Mr. Springsteen has composed a romantic yet melancholy tribute to the American ideals of the West.

Remembering good times at a local cafe where the work is left behind; ‘Monday is a million miles away’. Forgetting the mounting sadness of lost opportunity because the western stars are out tonight.

The thematic thread woven through are light and dark; sunrise and sundown; the sun and the moon.

Evoking this vision are understated orchestrations that support the vocals in even tempo. At times the sweeping beauty of the notes will fill you with longing.

This is because our western star is waiting for his lost love to return. He knows this is a fool’s errand. “Tuscon Train”, “Stones”, and “There Goes My Miracle” are songs of tortured romance literally gone south.

The album’s centerpiece track, “Drive Fast” (The Stuntman), shows a physically broken man whose wounds are his only companion. The steel rod in his leg walks him home each night.

The last song on the album is “Moonlight Motel”. A memory of lost lovers enjoying an afternoon delight in a derelict place. The physical structures have gone to seed while their love blossoms. A place once made for nighttime pleasures becomes the sight of a self-made Eden.

Quite a beautiful album that is able to relate this tale of loss and loneliness without making its listener feel too sad. The melodies are uplifting; the vocals are empathetic.

In the daylight chasing wild horses, running for countless miles is enough to outrun the impending gloom. There is a deep abiding respect for this rugged place by the man at the center of it all—The Boss.

In lieu of a tour for this record, Bruce Springsteen makes his directorial debut on October 25, 2019 with “Western Stars”.

The film is a performance of the album with orchestra before an audience. An album, “Western Stars” Film Version will be released. It’s the same track list as the studio LP except for the addition of “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell.

“Sundown” is the first single released from the film version album. The new versions seem to have even more developed orchestration.

Western Stars opens in theaters on October 25, 2019. The concert film premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival.

E Street Stardom/Solo Magic

For decades now Bruce Springsteen has piece by piece constructed a music career that continues to inspire longtime listeners and attract newcomers.

He has enjoyed commercial success but did not count only on selling his music but by creating a persona that was larger than his self but true to who he is offstage.

After listening to “Western Stars” over and over digitally I found my own take. His E Street albums are the rockstar track built with hits like “The River”, “Born To Run”, and “Born In The USA”.

The solo albums have been allowed by an audience that deeply appreciates his hard work in not just entertaining them but making them think too. This is the internal track of non rock Lp’s that delve into Americana, Folk, and Protest music.

His catalog is like a puzzle with thousands of pieces. For years I was distracted enough not to see what he was doing. Building his following slowly in bars/clubs on the Jersey Shore then reaching a zenith with sold out stadiums. He never relies on just hit singles. He becomes by word of mouth a legendary presence. His audience bestows the nickname, The Boss, to signify to them what he represents in the music world.

The solo work allows Bruce to work on music that he knows will not sell stadiums nor spend weeks at the top of the chart. It’s material he hopes will alternately take listeners down musical byways that cannot fit into the mainstream rock frame of the E Street Band.

I feel there are few solo artists doing such consistently fine work as Mr. Springsteen. Bob Dylan comes to mind. The Boss seeks long term attachment with his audience. He gets it because of the trust built upon decades of great work both rocking and reflective.

I hope the puzzle is not near completion.

Bruce Springsteen is performing at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 5th. A benefit for Stand-Up For Heroes.

AC/DC Are Forever Young

On July 27, 1979 an album called “Highway To Hell” was released in America from an Australian rock group that called themselves AC/DC.

Although this entry is solely about their 1979 breakthrough, I talk about their origin. I do not assume everyone will know about their history.

Formed by brothers Angus & Malcolm, produced by their brother George, the record was licensed to Atlantic records for release in the US.

The entire Young family lived in Scotland until 1963 when the worst freeze in history dropped 8 feet of snow. The Young clan emigrated to South Wales, Australia.

Everything about them would seem unremarkable until you hear their blues boogie driven by memorable riffs and solid backing rhythm. Angus Young likes to hit his audience directly with memorable riffs.

I think their music is deceptively simple. Harking back to the origins of rock n roll their music was influenced by their brother George who scored hits with his group, The Easy Beats. Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Pete Townsend, Jimi Hendrix, and The Kinks were their idols.

The brothers Young had a sister named Margaret who saw ac/dc on her sewing machine. The lightning bolt between the letters signifying alternate and direct current denoted high voltage. She gave them their name. This moniker would prove genuine as the group was a personification of high energy electric rock n roll.

Angus Young went through a few ideas for his stage look. The funniest was a parody of Superman called Super Angus. Again, Margaret suggested he just wear his old schoolboy uniform.

My first encounter with this Aussie quintet was in 1979 at a store in Cross County Shopping Mall in Yonkers, NY. Pickwick Village was a shop that sold rock music memorabilia. T Shirts, posters, framed photographic images of bands, and lots of other goodies.

I came across an image in a frame unlike any being previously seen. His scowl was not scary but kind of cool. The frame had a simple label at the bottom that read: Angus Young of AC/DC (the band’s name was in logo form). Although I did not buy the item since I had never heard of him, it still made an impression.

Because of the band’s high place in rock history today it’s important to remember how most bands endure hardship to earn this status.

“Highway To Hell”, the sixth studio album from AC/DC, was produced by Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange. Bon Scott on vocals, Angus Young on lead guitar, Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar, Cliff Williams on Bass and Phil Rudd on drums.

It was the first time they recorded outside of Australia. The studio was in London. All 10 tracks were written by Angus, Malcolm, and Bon. Sadly, this would prove to be the final recordings of Bon Scott as lead vocalist/frontman for the group.

Despite Atlantic records not being happy with the band’s choice of title they released “Highway To Hell” with a photograph by Jim Houghton on the cover different from the Australian release.

They subtracted the image of the group engulfed in flame to a portrait. Angus wears his devil horns for the first time becoming the eternal problem child. Below on the left is the album cover in Australia. To the right a t-shirt with the American album cover.

In America, AC/DC broke into the top 40, hitting #17 on Billboard’s albums chart (U.K. #5). This put the band’s image in the spotlight in a culture that had many detractors.

The satanic implications were attacked by various authorities in America. This enabled the record to get more coverage. In fact, Atlantic Records embraced the commercial success of the album in print ads with copy that declared “an album worth selling your soul for.”

You may have noticed Angus is holding a tail! The song titles set the course for future releases. AC/DC became famous for their prankster approach to simple lyrics. This hard rock music was new at the time. The melodic strains would influence the coming decade’s groups like Van Halen and Motley Crue.

If you think hard rock is just purile and sexist you are missing the devil may care attitude of most artists. Along with the lust driven “Touch Too Much” is the counterpoint of “Shot Down In Flames”. Mischief is their midas touch.

In 1979 there was a heavy metal movement in Britain that brought Iron Maiden and Def Leppard to these shores. AC/DC’s image was assumed to be part of this culture. I know they are a solid hard rock outfit. This is fine. They were never a metal band.

Listening back to “Highway To Hell” for the first time in years I was surprised to find I heard how similar Def Leppard are in their sound to AC/DC. Sharing the same producer gave them a mutual vibe. On this album producer Lange instructed them to use backing vocals. This approach added new layers to their sound.

The tour for this record gave them exposure to arena sized audiences too. They opened for Styx, Kiss, Kansas, & ELO. Co-headlining a show with Cheap Trick was the next step up the ladder of rock stardom.

Prior to making the record Angus Young clarified that years spent on the road performing was its own kind of hell. Producer Mutt Lange (Def Leppard, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, et. al.) challenged them on every note. Their studio schedule was grueling.

Instead of their usual 3 weeks to record they spent 8 weeks at Roundhouse Studios. The now famous opening riff was almost lost. The demo of the track got damaged. Angus remembered it note for note. Each day was 16 hours of recording and re-recording.

Sexual innuendo has been a part of rock n roll since its inception. In the early 1970s, AC/DC had a glam image back home. In their pub gigs they were outfits of satan trousers. That would be stripped away to match their clothes with the raw power of their music.

Bon would don leather pants on occassion, but nothing glittery. Angus in his school uniform would prove to be the stuff of legend. AC/DC went through many changes before they got attention. They had a punk like attitude too. Bon in rough denims and no shirt.

“Girls Got Rhythm”, “Get It Hot”, “Touch Too Much”, and “Love Hungry Man” were all cut from similar cloth. Like Kiss, their music would be decried as too sexist and simple. Their response was to just play. The music was meant to be foreplay for a new generation.

They developed stage antics with Angus on Bon’s shoulders running all over while performing. Both would end up shirtless for the duration. In the middle of the show Angus would perform a striptease. Fans love them for their rock n roll bravado.

Their concerts would grow into spectacle. New songs would add props to the proceedings; better equipment would lead to lighting and sound unimaginable in the 70’s.

I read interviews Angus gave over the years in Circus magazine and Rolling Stone. He said the band always made the record they wanted to hear.

As long as they sold enough to satisfy the label they were happy. This humble approach paid off tremendously. Artists never know how a record will be received.

Alongside Queen, Kiss, Def Leppard, and Cheap Trick, the band hit the big time with this record. Because of significant sales their ability to make records without too much interference from their label continued to this day.

As of May 2005, the recording industry has certified “Highway To Hell” as 7x Platinum in America. This translates as 7 million copies sold.

The tour never played The Garden in New York. Their only stop here was up in Buffalo. Their fan following would soon enable them to play to larger audiences.

Like the other groups mentioned here, decades after their births in the 70’s, the Rock Hall Of Fame inducted them.

I did not start listening to AC/DC until my teen years in the 1980’s. Every record was on compact disc including this one. It was my 2nd AC/DC record. I have listened to them ever since seeing 4 concerts too.

The film “Let There Be Rock” played theaters in America in September of 1980, just 7 months after his death, it features Bon Scott’s final live performance in Paris on “The Highway To Hell” tour. This film is now a dvd/blu-ray set.

Bon Scott died from alcohol poisoning in February 1980. There was speculation they were finished. They recorded the 7th album with Mutt Lange. In tribute to Bon, it was called “Back In Black”. That album now famously sits atop the rock n roll heap as the 2nd biggest studio album ever sold in America.

Today, the band are about to announce plans for a new world tour and album. The death of Angus’ brother Malcolm kept them silent for 2 years. With this anniversary the group are showing renewed signs of life.

Over the decades of recording and playing concerts around the world Angus Young’s image has been at the core of their album cover art.

Dirty Deeds, Highway To Hell, Back In Black, Blow Up Your Video, The Razor’s Edge, and Black Ice are recommended.

The school uniform image has been refined to fancier silk suits. In their youth Angus also wore a satchel style backpack. He has evolved into a rock icon. He remains the sole founding member of the group.

A high school dropout who has had the same occupation for almost 50 years! He would be the first to tell you not to follow this example.

On the left is the refined version of the logo; On the right is the debut album, “High Voltage”, not available in the US until several years after the Australian release since there was no label interest.

AC/DC have never rested on their laurels. In their infancy the band recorded the track, “It’s A Long Way To The Top” (if you wanna rock n roll). Nearly 50 years on they are still exciting the world with their high voltage sound and image.

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To my regular readers, I appreciate your shared presence. We are all misfits that belong together.

August brings the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. The music festival became a historical moment for many reasons. Time to celebrate this main event.