A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘Queen’

A Review of 40 Years of Queen

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 1, 2015

40 Years of Queen40 Years of Queen by Harry Doherty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This happens to be the best book ever created. And I say “created” instead of “written” because it’s more than just a written book. It’s got tons of extras inside, like reproductions of tickets, posters, letters by the band members — it’s freaking AWESOME! Any Queen fan would love it and even people who aren’t fans would probably come away impressed.

The book starts out with the origins of the band as youngsters, where they grew up, how they got into music, their first bands and the formation of Queen. It covers each album, offering insights I haven’t seen elsewhere, has lots of beautiful color photos and even covers major tours. Queen probably performed before more people than any band in history. 250,000 South Americans at two shows. 350,000 Ukranians at one show. Millions in Europe, America, Japan, Australia. One of the most successful bands of all time. Of course, the book covers Freddy’s death and the subsequent formation of his trust set up to combat AIDS. That was a tragedy, but it didn’t kill the band, as the release of their album Forever last month shows. Thank God Brian and Roger are carrying on the tradition.

This book is well written. My only complaint, and this is minor, is small font. But otherwise, it’s a great book and I strongly, strongly recommend it!

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A Review of The Show Must Go On

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 5, 2013

The Show Must Go on: The Life of Freddie MercuryThe Show Must Go on: The Life of Freddie Mercury by Rick Sky

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book on Freddie Mercury could have been better and it could have been worse. Frankly, it was only mediocre. Even the cover is mediocre, like the author pulled some first year graphic art student out of class and asked him to draw Freddie looking like one of the Village People.

The book does have some interesting pieces spread throughout the pages, but it’s arranged so oddly, that it gives you a disjointed feeling. You start out eerily with his death, move on to his childhood in Zanzibar, jump to the “Beginning of Queen” chapter, which covers every Queen album ever released — not just the beginning. (Very odd.) Then you have chapters covering his hedonistic years in Munich, his infamous spending sprees, the great Live Aid performance by Queen and how that resurrected the band’s career, oh, and there’s a chapter titled “The Men and Women of Freddie Mercury’s Life,” all about Mercury’s sexual escapades. Really? Is this a smutty magazine or what? There’s a chapter on his collaborations, which really wasn’t necessary to the book, I thought, and of course a chapter on him with AIDs and the rumors that surrounded him for so long. The author interviewed several hangers on, but no band members, I believe, and very few people in general. Frankly, I don’t know how he got 200 pages out of this. I have other books on Freddie Mercury that do the great man more justice. This one just glosses over so many things, while ensuring that we know that Freddie did a lot of coke. Nice. One thing that irritated me toward the end of the book was his covering of the great tribute concert for Freddie after he had passed on. He cites Guns N’ Roses as covering “Queen’s hits ‘Paradise City’ and ‘Knockin on Heavens Door’ to rapturous applause.” SERIOUSLY? You couldn’t even get that right? Those weren’t Queen hits, you freakin’ idiot! Was this a typo or just poor reporting? It’s things like this that annoy the heck out of me about this book. Still, it was a quick, easy read and I might have learned one or two things about Freddie I hadn’t known. Maybe. Whatever the case, not recommended.

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A Review of Queen: The Complete Works

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 29, 2013

Queen: The Complete WorksQueen: The Complete Works by George Purvis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This was exhausting to read and it had to be exhausting to write. This is the most comprehensive reference book I’ve ever seen relating to a rock band, or any musician for that matter. It’s amazing how much information is contained in this book. As the blurb on Goodreads says, “Georg Purvis’s meticulous, session-by-session, song-by-song, album-by-album, tour-by-tour record of the band’s progress is the complete reference source that Queen fans have been waiting for.” No kidding. This book details every album, every song (even unreleased songs), every tour and set list, every side project and solo efforts of the members of Queen. It’s unbelievable! Now, I’ve been a big Queen fan since the mid ’70s, so I’m biased. Someone who’s not a fan probably wouldn’t get much out of this book. And even though I’m giving it five stars, there are some weaknesses. Redundancy is a big one. There are only so many descriptions one can read of the same tour for North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and South America with maybe three song changes in the set lists before boredom sets in. And I don’t care as much about all of the side project and solo work of the band members, so reading about Roger Taylor’s adventures with his band The Cross was uninteresting to me. But each song — are you kidding me??? That is research, my friends! The author of this book is a Queen fan, but also a strict critic who pulls no punches with songs he considers to be weak or bad. He also reports many of the reviews the band received, both good and bad. I learned a lot in reading this heavy 475 page book, and at times, it was highly enjoyable. But, as I mentioned, at other times it was drudgery. One thing the book lacked that surprised me was commentary on the album cover art. I would have enjoyed reading about that and am disappointed it’s not in there. There’s commentary on the videos, so why not the album art? However, I can get past that. I’ve read a lot of Queen books and have many more to read and while it often seems there’s not much more I can learn about the band, a book like this comes along and you realize how much you don’t know at all. It was a lengthy process to get through this book, but I’m glad I did. Recommended for any Queen fan.

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A Review of Mercury

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 27, 2012

Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie MercuryMercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit up front that I’ve been a huge Queen fan since the 70s when I was a kid listening to their music. They remain one of my favorite groups of all time, and I believe Freddie was the greatest front man of any band ever.

Now that that’s out the way, how was the book? In a word — splendid! I just put away a biography on another favorite of mine — David Bowie — cause the authors just seemed to want to skewer him and it really put a damper on my enthusiasm for the man. I had to stop reading it to save what I still liked about him. So I was nervous in picking up a book on Freddie Mercury, fearing something similar might happen. Not to worry. The author, Lesley-Ann Jones, does a truly magnificent job of thorough research and exhaustive writing to put out a rather unbiased book on a great singer, one which elucidates while still making clear that no one ever truly knew the man well. He was one thing to his family, another to his first girlfriend (yes, girlfriend) Mary, another to his lover Jim, another to his German lover Barbara, another to his band mates, another to his fans, and so on and so on. One thing that was clear was that his bombastic personality while on stage didn’t transfer to his personal life, where he was generally quite shy.

Jones starts the book with his upbringing on Zanzibar and his boarding schooling in India and interviews relatives, in some cases, fairly distant relatives. I mean, the author really went all out. It was fascinating to read about the band’s early struggles and the making of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen’s masterpiece. My primary complaint is not much time is spent on other songs. I would have loved more than one line about “We Will Rock You” or “Another One Bites The Dust,” and more than a paragraph or two on “We Are The Champions.” Some of the albums barely merit more than a paragraph, and while I know Jones wanted to chronicle their infamous hard core rock and roll partying, it gets a bit repetitive after awhile. I think more meat could have been added to the songs and albums, at least some of them.

It was sad to read about Freddie’s personal life, his love life. He was always being used and he seemed to never be content with one person, other than Mary, with whom he stopped having a sexual relationship after six years. Incidentally, I knew this, but Freddie left the vast majority of his estate to Mary when he died in 1991. One would have thought his gay lover(s), but nope, Mary. He also never clearly came out to his family. That I didn’t know. It was for religious reasons. It was great fun reading about Freddie’s enthusiasm about ballet and opera, about his run in with Sid Vicious in a studio when both were recording at the same time, about his spending sprees, his wild orgies, etc, etc. And face it, the man was a genius with a four octave range. What talent. Pity he had to die of AIDS so young. It was shocking to read how many of his friends and lovers were dropping like flies during the 80s. Really shocking.

I would have liked more about the band as a whole, but alas, the book was about Freddie, and if I want to read about Queen, I guess I’ll have to get a good Queen bio, eh? Great book, fun read, hard to put down, worth five stars….

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