Thursday, January 23, 2003

Fugazi, Sigur Ros, Medicine8, Spandau Ballet

Life is a meandering path of ups and down, hills and dales, cul-de-sacs and vast open spaces. Lining your path is culture, it influences your tastes, your beliefs, defines everything about you.

Sometime during your childhood however, you’ll be wandering along your path minding your own business, and all of a sudden you’ll be sucked into a huge vacuum, strapped to an operating table, injected with a fungus and fired back onto your road.

This fungus is your bad taste fungus, what it allows you to do is become attached to a particular thing that goes wholly against all your sensibilities. It’s why girls pine for the Flaming Lips and Bros in equal measure. Check out their CD rack, I guarantee you that amongst the Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci albums will be Take That and Party. The fungus did that. You can’t shake it; it will grow and subsume you as you get older. That’s why people who lived through punk still have Ronan for their first dance at their weddings. For me, nestling in amongst the Tim ‘Love’ Lee mix tapes and the New Kingdom albums is Queen, loads of it. Queen is my fungus and it currently occupies all six places in my CD cartridge.

I’m not talking about the poignancy of “These Are The Days of our Lives” or the supposed camp classic video to “I Want to Break Free”, I’m talking proper Queen, when they sang about Fat Bottom Girls, Lords and Privy Councillors, when they were Challenging the mighty Titan and his troubadours (in Seven Seas of Rhye). Yeah, I’m talking proper Queen, live with it bitch.

There are three things I like about Queen, firstly, how it links to my childhood. As a child your life is a small island consisting of your house and if you’re lucky a garden or street to play in. Occasionally a causeway will open up and your mum will take you down the sweetie shop, or to school. But more of less, your life is spent on your little island. I remember nights when my dad would return from distant lands (Woolworths, Hatfield) with a pristine vinyl copy of the new Queen album. It was a rare treat to be enjoyed, that and lemonade at my Granny’s. We’d listen to it on headphones that were bigger than my head, loud enough to make your ear drums vibrate.

The second thing is the sheer indulgence of Queen albums. The whole group split the song writing equally, and you can tell. Any song with sixteen separate guitar parts is a Brian May tune, complex drum patterns is Roger Taylor, funky bass riffs are all John Deacon, and of course, songs with lines like “Oberon and Titania watched by a harridan” is a Mercury effort. You can imagine it in the studio….

Roger Taylor “Morning fellas, I’ve just written a new song for the album”
Mercury “Morning Roger, cup of tea?”
Roger “No thanks, but I could kill for a bowl of cocaine”
Mercury “DWARF, two cups of tea, and another bowl of cocaine, right how does this new tune go, darling”
Roger “Well I need forty eight separate tom tom sounds and two hundred and forty six cymbals, no guitars and the bass and vocals way down in the mix.”

Roger Taylor’s drumming is audacious throughout early Queen albums, it seem that he considers it a slight on his abilities if he has to hit the same drum twice during a single song. Most of his drum rolls start midway through verse one and end somewhere around verse six (the bit about tatterdemalion and a junketer) just before Mercury’s 98 part harmonic interlude.

They were all at it though. Playing live, Brian May’s solos would last so long that the roadies used to pack up the kit, transport it to the next venue set up again and the rest of the band would start the next gig with a Taylor drum solo long enough for May to get to the next venue. It’s a little known fact that Queen were playing concerts continuously 24 hours a day seven days a week for most of 1972-1978. The guitar solo for Brighton rock was only written so John Deacon could get some sleep.

The final thing is the complete interactivity of the listening experience, air guitar? Of course. Air drumming is where it’s at, as an in car activity it’s both a thrill and very dangerous. From the outside you look like you’re being attacked by an angry bee, but inside you’re thundering through Ogre Battle. The danger comes during the bass drum solos, it’s way too easy to get carried away and mistake the car peddles for bass drum peddles causing you to either stop dead still on the motorway, or skidaddle over the top of a roundabout in the middle of rush hour.


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