Saturday, July 11, 2009

Celestial Licks Master Series

Way before YouTube and its league of armchair Brian May wannabes were showing you how to play his solos in super slo-mo, there wasn’t much available for tutorials on how to play like Brian.

That was, until the Star Licks Master Series of videos brought a how-to-play-like-the-pros approach to guitar playing and featured Brian in 1983.

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy through a bulk purchase of Queen items I made, and have—I’m ashamed to say—only watched it once. Here is what the back cover states (note: bolding is indicated as it appears on the sleeve):

Brian May
Brian May, founder of Queen, and one of rock’s finest guitarists, has set standards of excellence throughout his career. Always the innovator, Brian has contributed greatly to the success of the band and has influenced countless other musicians in the process. Few have been able to emulate the unique Brian May guitar style, which has become such a recognizable contribution to the Queen sound.

The Brian May Package
Brian explains in depth, how he creates “The Queen Sound” by taking you on a complete run-through of his equipment. This features his guitar (the fireplace), amplifiers (VOX AC 30’s), and effects (each individually demonstrated). In addition to all this, Brian takes you step by step through a fantastic selection of his hottest licks and solos, featuring material from 11 different Queen albums. Each example is played twice, once regularly and once slowly. during this incredible 45 minute tape, you’ll learn to play the licks and solos from such songs as: Brighton Rock, Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, Dragon Attack, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and many more. And finally, your tape would not be complete without spending a few minutes on harmony soloing, which Brian discusses and demonstrates at the conclusion of the tape. Your accompanying Star Licks booklet comes complete with easy to follow diagrams and notation, which correspond exactly to your Star Licks cassette, so there’s no need to read music. This is truly a unique opportunity for you to receive a “Private Guitar Lesson” from one of today’s foremost gutiarists, whose musical contributions have spanned over a decade of popular rock music.


The top label reads:
Star Licks Master Series
Brian May
Warning: Federal law probides severe penalties for unauthorized reproduction or use of copyrighted video tapes.
© 1986 Noma Video, Inc, Los Angeles, CA

The side label reads:
Rumark Video Inc.
P.O. Box 8, Postal Station S
Toronto, Ontario
M5M 4L6

If you’re interested in knowing more about the exact song list, the solo times, etc., there is a comprehensive description of the video contents on the Ultimate Queen website here.

My only beef with the video has nothing to do with the video contents: it’s that juvenile attempt at a “licking” metaphor with the ice cream cone. Thank goodness they changed their branding of this series to “Star Licks Video-Tutor: Master Sessions” and dumped that cone motif.

Brian’s astronomy background gives the “Star” Licks reference a whole different dimension, eh?


  1. Interesting piece on the Brian May video and StarLicks in general at:

  2. Thanks Anon. You're right, the Star Licks site has an interesting back story to Brian's involvement. I wonder how much the studio time cost them, as Brian warned.