Freddie Mercury

Tidbits V

and so we come to the final weeks of another year! Give yourself a big pat on the back! You made it! That’s not always easy to do, ya know? Don’t let any of that Holiday-type stuff get you down, because…totally not worth worrying about. In this day and age one can boycott the Holiday Season but I’m not that much of a revolutionary, so I’ll just ignore most of it. I had a pretty happening Thanksgiving and Xmas the last two years, so except for a dinner with some fam this weekend, I’m gonna be taking it easy.

Last month in Tidbit IV I wrote about how I had “discovered” The Aristocrats; a funky fusion band that stars guitar sensation Guthrie Govan. I’ve seen a lot of Guthrie on YouTube over the years; in addition to being an amazing guitarist/player/teacher, he has always introduced himself like, “Hey, it’s Guthrie” like it’s no biggie and he was the guy you smoked spliffs with the night before. But he has this very formal-type of British accent so it’s like you hung out and smoked spliffs with royalty the night before…Way cool. Anyway, I promised to buy the latest music and report back and true to my word, I have done that and now own the Tres Cabelleros album. The music is actually older than I thought; it was recorded many years ago in 2015. The band: Guthrie Govan guitars, Bryan Beller Bass and Marco Minnemann drums, convened at legendary Sunset Sound studios in Hollywood, USA and banged out nine absolutely FUSION tunes. I haven’t listened enough to write a proper review, but this music is definitely TIP-TOP great and recalls the best of Zappa, Jeff Beck, Satriani, Di Meola, but is also thoroughly original. All three musicians are fan-friggin-tastic and Guthrie does some totally mind-blowing things on the guitar. Much of this material is also online in video form, so you can check it out for yourself, without even buying the music! (But if it rubs you the right way, you should probably buy the music). I’m just not sure about the name…it’s more than likely a British thing. If you search for “The Aristocrats” though you either come upon a movie you probably don’t want to see or that dirty joke…that someone made a movie about that you probably don’t want to see. But I guess the band likes it and at this point it’s too late to change.

Speaking of buying the music, well that’s the other interesting part of this story. As you know, I have been doing my best to keep up with everexpanding landscape of the musical/guitar/instrument business and have written on the topic many times. How and where I bought The Aristocrats music is pretty neato because I didn’t get it on iTunes, or @Amazon or from some CD clearinghouse online or even a boutique dealer here in NYC that specializes in hard-to-find music that pretty much nobody is going to buy (proportionally I mean). I purchased the music through Jam Track Central, which is an instrument instruction site based in the UK. I had the option to buy just the band’s music or the music and some backing tracks or a Grand Pack that included tabs, backing tracks and the music. Pretty awesome and the exactly correct place for this band to be as the people who are going to be the most into it will probably (at least a few of them) want to learn how to play it.

I’ve certainly profiled other teachers, teaching tools and teaching sites over the years; that was always a major focus from the beginning of this blog. You can find a nice list in the right column. The JTC site is certainly in the same ballpark as DC Music School and The Rosenberg Academy, both of which I have written about here over the years. I’ve been a member/buyer of both places and now am a member of JTC! They even send me their Help Wanted notices! I also wrote in review of Gypsy Jazz stylist Romane’s CD Gypsy Fire, that the disc came with tabs and a second disc that contained backing tracks! So this is an idea that has been around for a while and is an effective method of organizing and providing content to a specific audience and “teh tech” allows it to be provided easily and at a low-cost. I’ll admit that personally, I’m too long in the tooth to be taking on a further guitar instruction, but that’s okay. I can still take advantage of the listening end and hopefully younger players will jump on all of this stuff and make good use of it because it’s a great way to learn a whole lot of cool stuff quickly!

In other news…Lately I have been a music reviewing machine! There is new content in the Rock and ALT/Jazz sections of the site and more to come! Look for The Aristocrats review soon! Great to read when you’re bored at work!

Finally, a few months ago in this post I questioned the purpose of Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, and sort of, kind of predicted it would flop. Boy was I wrong about that! I haven’t seen it myself but a few people I know, NONE OF WHOM WAS EVER A QUEEN FAN saw it, thought it was great and then proceeded to buy Bicycle Race or something! I guess that’s a good thing. One of these people is a younger female and it’s pretty funny talking about Queen or classic rock with her. Or anything actually. ‘Cause before she saw this movie no music produced prior to Shakira!! was worth more than a big EWWWWW. But now she’s an expert on Queen and 70s Rock. Whatever it takes to get more people into great music is fine with me! Movies like Bohemian Rhapsody function as stealth marketing for people who would never listen otherwise. If I would’ve given this chick a CD (LOL a CD…what are you? A million years old?) of Queen’s Greatest Hits it would’ve never been opened. But, by making an updated version of the story that checks all of the right boxes on current-year thinking and sensibilities with some hot young actors and actresses…GOLD MINE! Genius! Brilliant! So I guess I learned something there. On the other hand…I’ve gotten back to being semi-active on social media and have learned that there’s a lot of hate for Rock Holograms out there in the universe…so on that front…WINNING!

Tidbits II


*Insert Gratuitous Product Placement Here*

While this might look like a small amplifier, it is actually a Vornado mini-heater and what an appliance it is ladies and gentlemen! I don’t know about you, but where I live they are so concerned that I might actually be too warm that the building heat usually doesn’t come on until it’s around 20 degrees outside. I just love how these people look out for me!!!!! After a lot hot summer the last thing anyone wants in 40 degree weather is to be warm. Pfffft! So we invested in this little guy and while it won’t heat your finished basement, a 4-room condo or your house if you stop buying heating oil or whatnot, it will certainly function well as an augmentation device or do the job in a room or studio apartment. They have many different models and I think they are a pretty good company, so I’m going all in on the recommendation! Vornado makes a big deal about the safety issues and I was pretty paranoid about that in the beginning and still don’t run it overnight but, thus far it has worked like a dream. It’s also reasonably priced and comes with a 5 year guarantee. What does this have to do with guitar? Not much. But at least this isn’t another post about Led Zeppelin.

This is the future of music right here! At least until the holograms and machines totally take over. BABYMETAL is metal legend singer Rob Halford‘s new BFF. This is genius marketing because the potential nerd audience from metal + idol is mega-normous. Nobody else is gonna like it because it is completely cheesy even though the band makes all of the right noises. When the chorus above kicks in the song sounds like every other Japanese hard rock song that has ever been on Japanese television. Believe you me, I’ve watched enough to know. I think the girls sing their own vocals, so that’s a plus. Here is a hysterical clip of the band and Halford grinding it to Breaking the Law. I saw Judas Priest in 1984 on the Metal Conqueror tour. It was an extremely LOUD show (we were on the floor and the sound just pummeled you in the chest) and some of their tunes; Electric Eye, Green Manilishi, Hellbent for Leather, Freewheel Burning and Victim of Changes were pretty awesome. Of course they also played You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, which never sounded like a metal song to me and was the only Priest I ever heard on the radio except for Livin’ After Midnight. Fast forward to 2018 and there is almost daily Priest drama online. Since both of the original illustrious guitarists, Glenn Tipton and KK Downing are no longer in the band and Bob can do the thing here with the up-and-comers, I’m not sure why the Priest continues. Rock is now done by a lot of old people, but loud, hard rock or metal performed by old people looks really, really hard to do. Almost painful. Kiss are all pretty old and they are soon going to embark on a multi-year farewell tour. LOLOLOLOL!!! Wacky!

Likewise, Jeff Lynne’s ELO is going on tour next year because he just did a short tour and it was successful! OMIGOD! I’m not trying to be the old guy but…there is still a market for this guy and his brand of rock? Really? Is he gonna bring the laser show from 1977? That would be cool, I guess. My girlfriend saw that tour at Madison Square Garden on hallucinogens and still remembers it as one of the best concerts she ever saw! ELO was pretty successful in the mid to late 70s and I had the Eldorado, Face the Music and New World Record discs. Out of the Blue, the big double-record extravaganza was where they lost me, however. Too dense, too Genesis-y. I got it through the Columbia Record Club…yes I was a member in good standing! Not just some guy who got the special deal intro and didn’t pay! There were definitely people who would scam, but I fulfilled my deal because I was gonna buy the records anyway. Like Duh! I know I got Frampton Comes Alive and Pink Floyd’s Animals through Columbia too. Totally worth it! Don’t remember the others, but I bought Out of the Blue and then sold it to one of my friends because I didn’t like it. There were a couple of ELO albums after that and one of them contains the song that has “Bruce” or “Douche” in it, depending on how you hear. That song, Don’t Bring me Down, is ELO’s biggest hit in the US and Lynne has said that people hearing Bruce or Douche have got it wrong. He is actually singing a made-up word, “Grooss”. Sure Jeff. Incidentally, when you mishear a lyric like that (as many people do all of the time) it is called a Mondegreen:

…mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar and make some kind of sense. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in 1954…”

After the Bruce controversy Lynne retired to the studio and got into production and worked with the Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison and Tom Petty a lot. I wasn’t completely enamored with his production sensibilities, which were Beatle-esque, but a tad er, overused. The sound always reminded me a little bit of the Boston Sound and maybe Jeff should’ve made his sound into an amp or pedal system too, like the Tom Scholz Rockman amp doo-hickey.

I’m amazed the band still has drawing power and going to the show will certainly cost a lot more to than it did in 1977. I checked out ticket prices and WOW! Am I glad I don’t go to those kind of shows anymore. $80/pop to be in the nosebleed section and a ticket on the floor in front of the stage will run $245. I guess the Trump economy [LOLOLOLOLOL] is in pretty good shape if people have that kind of disposable income. It’s kind of a bummer that concerts like this are staged in places like Prudential Center or Bridgestone Arena, PPG Paints Arena, Wells Fargo Center. Whatever happened to names like The Spectrum? The Forum? Nassau Coliseum? Those were venues with a personality to match their names and images! Of course the sound sucked. The sound still sucks! All of these places are basically hockey arenas with the personality of a bank lobby anyhow.

…Still waiting for that A Life in the Death of Joe Meek movie to be released. Now…they are saying December 2018. I wrote about Joe and his contributions to rock n’ roll last year and am looking forward to checking out the movie with its many awesome guest interviews with their perspectives and retrospectives on Joe, engineering, crazy recording studio stuff and the early 60s. I hope it really does come out soon.

The NY POST has declared that the upcoming Freddie Mercury biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is not the Freddie Mercury biopic we deserve.” So I guess you can skip it. I could ask the question why anyone thinks the world deserves a biopic on anyone. I don’t really get the whole concept anyway unless it’s a biopic on someone from a couple hundred years ago. As reviewer Johnny Oleksinski points out, the movie ‘recreates’ half of Queen’s legendary Live Aid performance from 1985, but the “more thrilling, real performance is on YouTube.” Yes! There is oodles of real Freddie footage available for free. So, the point of this movie is? Also:

Malek can’t be blamed, however, for not having Mercury’s extraordinary voice. Some reports have said the songs heard in the movie are a digital blend of Mercury, Malek and a Canadian singer, Mark Martel. To my ears, though, it sounds no different from the band’s album tracks. So, the poor actor must lip sync to music that looks awkward coming out of his mouth.

He’s talking about a movie that has been 8 years in the pipeline! Amazing, isn’t it? The fact is nobody in rock and roll has ever been able to compete with Freddie Mercury as a singer, showman or personality, so the odds that some hipster actor is going embody all of the awesomeness just so it can be repackaged and sold to the wish we were there generation are pretty slim. The previews were seriously painful to watch and I wouldn’t make it through 10 minutes without wanting to stab myself in the face with meat fork.

Finally…this is Bill. He’s a cat. He’s just shy of 20 years old, so he’s an old cat. We inherited him from my mother when she passed away. He helps me write all of this stuff because he has great instincts for what sells on a blog. I don’t know how he came by these instincts, but he sucks at catching mice, so there you go. Prolly he went to college and then dropped out after a few semesters. He also likes pizza. I don’t know why…cats aren’t really supposed to like pizza. Unfortunately, in addition to being old, he is also hyperthyroid, so that makes him act pretty crazy. He likes to carry a rolled up sock in his mouth while howling at the top of his lungs. Like seriously loud. You wouldn’t even think an 8 pound cat could make that kind of noise, but he does. Sometimes an inopportune times, like say 2 in the morning. The hyperthyroidism makes him hungry all of the time…at least he thinks he is. He wants to eat every hour, but we have to nix that stuff. I say, “Dude! I’m totally starting to feel like a waiter here!” Lately he has become super picky about what he wants to eat…like “no I don’t want that can tonight either” level of picky. We made a JOB BLUTH level mistake by introducing him to sushi, boiled fish and boiled chicken. He doesn’t want canned food or even cat food anymore. So I fool him and put Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top of cat food so he thinks it’s pizza. I’m kinda glad my brain is a little bigger than his or it would cost a lot to feed him. We give him daily medication for his disease by rubbing methimazole cream on the inside of his ear. It’s pretty boss! Way easier than trying to give him a pill, plus it doesn’t seem to have any noticeable side effects. Unless howling like a crazy person is a side effect but I haven’t seen that. Sometimes he drinks too much and face plants and we gotta be all like, “DUDE seriously? At your age?” But the doctors say “let him have whatever he wants” and he always sneaks out when I’m not looking. Plus, it’s his money so what can we say, except “you’re gonna start paying for you medicine” but he totally wouldn’t buy or take it! Even though he has to because hyperthyroidism untreated will wear out the heart and kidneys really fast and one day he’ll just drop. I’ve tried to have this conversation with him, but he launches into that “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL OWNER” thing and I go “YEA NOBODY ELSE WANTED YOU!”. After that we both feel bad for a while, but we bond the next day, so what the hell? I let it go. Life’s too short to hold grudges and I know wherever she is, my mother is happy that we’re taking pretty good care of her cat and he’s pretty happy too.