Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Queen of the Night Time World

One of my Christmas gifts this morning was a deck of cards that were a tribute to the greatest rock ’n’ roll musicians of all time. Needless to say, I was expecting Freddie to be hiding in there somewhere, probably on one of the Queen cards. That would make sense, right? But would it be the Queen of Spades, the dark(est) queen?

Nope. It turns out Freddie is the Queen of Clubs. Well, at least it’s a black queen, so there’s a subtle reference to a Queen song. But apart from that, I’m sort of surprised that he wasn’t paired with the Queen of Diamonds since that would be an obvious tie-in to the Crown Jewels, royalty, etc. (All things considered, I’d just be happy if they could get his named spelled right. Doesn’t anyone proof these things before they go to press?)

Although Gene Simmons was featured on the Jack of Clubs, I would have thought that he’d rank higher given the “king” connotations that Kiss has acquired over the years: King of the Night Time World, or “Kings in Satan’s Services” (i.e., acronym of KISS).
Seeing Gene next to Freddie in this card line-up reminded me of when I saw the members of Queen made up to look like Kiss characters; and not just one image, but I’ve seen at least three . . . all courtesy of Michael Rutherford, the Niteowl.

I’m not sure how Niteowl chose which Queen members to transform into which Kiss characters, but he definitely didn’t select them based on instruments. John as Ace Frehley? Shouldn’t the “Space Ace” be Brian, the guitarist? I guess Brian’s hair matched Gene’s the closest so that trumped the instrument match-up.
The Freddie/Gene combo takes a weird turn as we can see in these penguin characters that apparently are being featured in Runescape, the world’s most popular online medieval fantasy game.
If you’re a hardcore fan of the individual musicians in the Hero Decks card collection, Final Score Products would like to sell you single cards from the deck as acrylic-encoated paperweights. I wonder how many of these they’ve sold. I wonder if they get a bulk sales discount from Hero Deck before they wrap them in plastic?


Friday, December 21, 2012

“People get shot by people, people with . . .”

“Anti-firearm” is a term being thrown around a lot recently due to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary last week.

Brian was calling attention to the issue of gun control way back in the early ’80s, when he penned Put Out the Fire in 1982. Was he trying to make a point about gun access in response to the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan a year earlier? The timing would be about right but perhaps there was another shooting incident in the UK that sparked Brian’s outrage. Wait a minute, it was probably Lennon’s murder that prompted Brian’s song, just like Freddie’s homage to Lennon with Life is Real.

As for the United States, I’m surprised that with their undying allegiance to the 2nd Amendment, the National Rifle Association hasn’t lobbied to get this anti-gun statue removed from the steps of the United Nations.

Photo by Patrick Brooks 
The shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT has again triggered the debate about gun control in the United States. Are the innocent lives of 20 children lost to a deranged gunman a stronger argument for restricting gun access than, say, those adults killed in Aurora, Virginia Tech, or Columbine?

If the shooter’s mother hadn’t had a stockpile of the damned things around the house, would her son have had the same opportunity to mow down as many lives as he did? The NRA’s initial response was simple and unapologetic: if the teachers at Sandy Hook were adequately armed, they could have reacted to the threat with equal force. In a twisted way, that logic does makes some sense . . . a gun is called the “great equalizer” for a reason, is it not?

And when a culture of fear converges with the Second Amendment and an obscure Stand Your Ground law, you get a dead teenager. Does the NRA blame Trayvon Martin for not carrying a gun and denying himself his [God-given] right to defend himself against trigger-happy neighborhood watch volunteers? Based on their statements concerning the Sandy Hook tragedy, it would appear so. What is this, the wild west? The minute you leave your house it becomes High Noon so you’d better bring your firearm?
This stats meme on handgun deaths has been making the rounds since the Sandy Hook shooting. As a matter of fact, to keep making the point, a current set of statistics like this are circulated whenever any mass shooting occurs in the United States. Unlike Congress-backed changes to implement more rigorous airport screenings due to one attempted shoe bombing, there is virtually no change to the laws for preventing similar catastrophes when it comes to guns and gun violence. Unbelievable.
Speaking of the wild west, here in Calgary we have something that comes close to it every July when the city puts on the Calgary Stampede. Locals and visitors alike dress as if it were the old west although but no one carries a holster and gun (fake or otherwise).

An American visitor to the Stampede last summer made the news when he and his wife were walking through Nose Hill Park (an open field green space) and were approached by two male youths who asked whether they had been to the Stampede yet. The visitor happened to be a Michigan cop and took exception to their questioning and through a letter to the editor, publicly acknowledged that he felt unsafe without his state-issued firearm to protect him for random encounters like this. (Maybe someone should remind/explain to him that police in the UK are still not armed during routine patrols and their annual handgun deaths are meagre, to say the least.)

The local media picked up on the story and it quickly became a talking point about the cultural differences between Canada and the United States, as this Calgary Herald writer explains:

And so, Americans, unaware of just how sick their handgun mentality is, continue to fight like crazy to prevent any kind of handgun-control legislation from being implemented. A 9 mm handgun, purchased legally, was the weapon of choice in Oak Creek, Wis., on Sunday when six people were killed and three more wounded by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple. One might argue that if the worshippers had carried guns, they could have killed the guy first. But sitting in a temple armed to the teeth while listening to a sermon about brotherhood and peace is ridiculous.
The same could be said about teachers at Sandy Hook if they were armed and ready for combat while reciting Dr. Seuss to First Graders.


Monday, December 3, 2012

O’Brien May?

Well, Movember is over and yours truly raised $1,120. It would have been more if I had time to guilt friends, family, and co-workers into honouring their promise to donate, but the end of the month came quickly and fundraising ended. While I was powering through Movember, however, I had plenty of time to think about my next Queenville blog and wouldn’t you know it, Rocky Horror appeared on my radar.

The Music, Theatre and Speech department at my university is currently in rehearsals for a production of Rocky Horror that’s set to debut in January. As part of a first-year visual communications class, design students were asked to pitch a poster idea for it. Out of the 30 or so entries, one would be selected as the official promotional poster for the upcoming show.

Not only was I asked to weigh in with my top two choices from the poster submissions, I remembered that I had the Director's Cut of the 1975 movie recorded on my PVR that was begging to be watched (again!) once I had a free moment. So the combination of Rocky Horror poster judging and Rocky Horror movie watching, I got to thinking that the Queen community and the Rocky Horror community have a lot in common.

At one point back in the mid-70s, Tim Curry and Freddie Mercury seemed to be cut from the same slab. Curry appeared as a shoo-in to play Freddie if a biopic was ever produced on his life, and Freddie probably could have pulled off the Frank-n-Furter character if a few circumstances were different — like Freddie being able to act, I suppose.

Not surprisingly, I’m not the first to raise the issue of Freddie playing Frankie. This Amazon album reviewer had this to say about the movie soundtrack:

“. . . the popular songs from the first half of the record (Dammit Janet, Sweet Transvestite, Time Warp, etc.) aren’t even the good ones. As the film develops the music telecopes in its ambition; the corny fifties throwback feel of the first three tracks is enveloped by swaggering, operatic pomp of which Freddie Mercury would have been proud. Achieving this was no mean feat by Tim Curry — outside the Queen singer I can’t think of anyone else who would have come close to pulling it off. By the time of the Floor Show medley and then the genuinely beautiful I'm going home, it’s impossible to not to be swept away by it all.”

Richard O’Brien, the creative mastermind behind the RHPS phenomenon, has actually crossed paths with Queen. In 1980, he had a bit part in Flash Gordon as Fico, an Arboria native and friend of the Baron. I wonder if he and any members of Queen partook in small talk at the film’s premier back in the day.

We know that Brian and Meat Loaf (Eddie from the RHPS) have done more than cross paths, they’ve actually collaborated on at least three occasions:

  • Brian plays guitar on the vocal version of A Time For Heroes, the theme song to the 1987 Special Olympics World Games (the instrumental version was performed by Tangerine Dream, whom Brian teamed up with at the Starmus Festival in June 2011);
  • Brian was a guest on Bad For Good, a Steinman-penned song that Meat covered on his Bat Out Hell III album from 2006;
  • Brian also lent his expertise to two songs on the latest Meat Loaf effort, Hang Cool Teddy Bear from 2010.

There’s even a fun little clip of Meat selling Brian’s book, A Village Lost and Found. I’d be curious to know the circumstances behind this video. My guess is, it was during Brian’s guest appearance on Hang Cool Teddy Bear as it would have been around the time Brian’s book came out.

Brian manages to pay tribute to both Richard O’Brien and Meat Loaf at the same time when he did a cover in 1995 of Whatever Happened to Saturday Night. I have this CD and actually prefer Brian’s version to Meat’s from the original 1975 movie.

In 2006, Meat tears down a Queen II poster in the opening sequence of Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, which I talked about in an earlier blog. Was the Queen II poster Meat’s idea or Tenacious D’s? It would have been around that time that Brian guested on Bat Out of Hell III and since Queen II (or the band for that matter) never really gets talked about in the actual movie (compared to other metal acts from that era), so I wouldn’t be surprised if Meat suggested the poster idea for that scene.

Remember when Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf made a guest appearance on Glee when the theme was Rocky Horror? It would have been super cool if Brian and Roger made a guest appearance on the episode where Bohemian Rhapsody was played at the Nationals.