Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Hot August Night at the Opera?

My brother and I went to see Neil Diamond the other night since he’s back on another world tour; this one being the 40th anniversary of his Hot August Night live album. This was my third time seeing him in concert and as some readers of Queenville already know, I have his autograph . . . well, I think I do.

Sitting in the stands at the Neil show got me thinking about how he and Queen are connected. By all accounts, there’s not a lot of common ground between the two although I remember reading a Diamond quote in the Phil Sutcliffe book which came out recently. Here’s a shot of page 2 where it appears:

Seeing Neil Diamond sharing the same page as Geddy Lee, both waxing poetic about Queen’s influence on contemporary music, was a juxtaposition I did not expect. I wonder where Sutcliffe found that quote and what the circumstances were behind Diamond offering up his opinion on a band who travels a very different road than himself.

In mainstream culture, both acts have been featured on American Idol and Glee, although Queen’s appearance on both of those programs are significantly more pervasive than Diamond’s.

The soundtrack history of Queen and Diamond are similar, I suppose. Diamond released Jonathon Livingston Seagull in 1973 and won a Grammy for it. Queen released Flash Gordon in 1980 and definitely did not get a Grammy for it. Both albums did, however, make more money than the films in which they appear.

As well, they have both released albums with “jazz” in the title: Jazz and The Jazz Singer. Neither of them had any genuine jazz on them though.

There is minimal convergence between the artists on social media sites it seems. I did find this Facebook page that is one person’s celebration of both Neil Diamond and Queen. The fact that it only has one Like and no Friend activity doesn’t bode well for the person who created this page. Or maybe this person is too busy listening to his or her two favourite artists to maintain this Facebook page.

What about statistics for them? Both are heavy hitters in their respective genres but how do their numbers compare? Here’s what I could find:

Not much similarity, I’m afraid. Queen kicks butt in pretty much all these categories. What I didn’t partition out were how many of Queen’s 62 singles were Top 40 hits. Diamond’s 37 singles are definitely Top 40, according to Wikipedia.

With nearly twice as many studio albums under his belt, Neil still has less than half the number of album sales as Queen. In his defence, though, each Diamond album is carried by him alone, generally. Queen had four songwriters to help divvy up the workload.

What is really surprising in these numbers are the legion of Twitter fans that Neil has — more than three times the number that Queen has. Sup with that?

Perhaps the closest Neil Diamond and Queen got musically was in 1973 when Freddie, Brian, and Roger recorded material by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, the same producers who mentored Diamond when he was a newly signed artist for Bang Records in the 1960s.

Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Neil Diamond (c. 1966)

Speaking of record producers, Rick Rubin is an interesting modern-day connection between the two. Way before Rubin resurrected Johnny Cash’s career and then collaborated with Diamond on two albums, he ruined We Will Rock You in 1991 as one of the Hollywood Records remixes. Way to go, Rick.


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