Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Magic Years...in book form

Now that the remaining bricks and mortar record stores are really struggling to survive, they’re forced to turn to merchandise that isn’t as susceptible to downloads — legal or otherwise — like books, t-shirts, video games, and even iPod accessories. 

While I was scoping out the meagre CD selection at an HMV store a couple of weeks ago, I noticed this new Queen book on a table near the front check-out. I started to flip through one and confirmed to myself that I indeed did not have this particular title. What I found really interesting about this book was that in the first couple of pages, there are quotes from other famous musical artists and Neil Diamond’s name stopped me cold.

Neil Diamond endorsing Queen? Holy shit, I’m a huge Neil fan as well — so much so that I actually have his autograph — so to see that Neil has been listening to the same band I do was a shock. Not as shocking as seeing an album of heavy metal cover tunes by Pat Boone, however, but shocking nonetheless.

In a moment of hypocrisy, I ordered the book through an online retailer a few weeks later. Who can blame me? I got it for less than half the price that HMV was selling it for. I haven’t read it cover-to-cover yet, but at first glance it struck me as the print version of The Magic Years videos. Many of the same musical artists are quoted (i.e., Billy Squier) and lots and lots of backstage passes and ticket stubs are featured. It’s a collector’s dream to see the different record sleeves, concert programs, and such released through the years.

In a perfect world, what I would have liked to see more of were photos and juicy tidbits from the Jazz launch party in New Orleans, as well as interviews with experts who could deconstruct Queen’s music and give it a technical appraisal. 

It’s all well and good that Axl Rose and friends thought Queen II was fantastic, but I want to know why the music works from a songwriting point of view. Let’s hear from someone at Juilliard who can talk about music theory and history within their songs. What would Dr. Fred Hemke at Northwestern have to say about My Melancholy Blues?

Bottom line . . . I’ve waited nearly half my life for a compilation like this one to come along. Thanks Phil.

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