Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bigot, Kween, and Queer?

Here in Canada, there’s a television series called Tribute Bands which has been rebroadcasting episodes on Much Music lately. When I first saw the program listing, I set up a series recording on my PVR in the hopes that Queen might make an appearance at some point. Who knows, right?

Sure, there are more well-known tributes to bands such as Rain (The Beatles) or The Pink Floyd Experience, but I thought the Queen tribute bands I knew of would at least warrant some coverage on the series.

The first episode that recorded was a Rush-themed show (Canadian TV series = Canadian band?) but the second episode was on Queen. The program originally aired in 2007 which obviously predates the formation of the penultimate tribute to the band — Queen Extravaganza from last year. (Hey, maybe Roger caught this Queen-themed tribute program which resulted in his online QE contest a few years later.)

The hour-long episode basically follows the history of three Queen tribute bands and their Freddie impersonators: One Night of Queen from Ireland (featuring talent show winner Gary Mullen); Almost Queen from the United States; and MerQury from Germany (although by watching this episode, you'd think they were Canadian).

The struggles faced by these three bands in achieving any modicum of tribute success are considerable compared to those faced by the fast-tracked promotion of QE through the official support of Roger and Brian themselves. These bands earned their reputations through old-fashioned hard work fostered by a common love amongst the members for the band and their music.

Seeing the three tribute bands on the show got me thinking about what other tribute bands could be out there, or have been out there. After a few days of searching online (including a generous portion provided by Shane’s Queen Site) there appears to be at least 79 tribute bands that have channelled Queen. Remarkably, only a handful of these bands have dead URLs or a lack of obvious evidence that they were still active, so the worldwide demand for Queen tribute shows seems to be quite strong. Here’s the full list of band names:

What struck me as I researched the bands were not only the sheer quantity of them but also the diversity of regions from which they’re based. No surprise, the United Kingdom has a strong showing with 23  tribute bands. For whatever reason, though, Italy lays claim to the most at 25!

What’s up with the love for Queen in Italy? I know that they’ve had a robust Queen bootleg community for years so perhaps the popularity of Queen tribute bands is further proof of some long-standing, deep-rooted fandom over there.

Since they can’t use the exact name Queen, most of the bands on this list settled for a moniker that has some connection to the band, either through song titles, song lyrics, royalty, or combination thereof. But what about those band names that have no obvious connection like Pilsen, The Pilgrims, Silk, or The Vipers? Well, Rain is a Beatles tribute band, so I guess it could work as long as the branding and promotion is strong enough.

The two names that were not like the others, though, are Bigot and Queer. Unless there is some cultural or linguistic wordplay going on that I’m not understanding, I wonder why they’d opt for such derogatory labels.

Another aspect that I find puzzling from a legal point of view is why the “sampling” of Queen’s musical intellectual property (i.e., bassline from Under Pressure) is considered an unethical business practice to the extent that Queen Productions will pursue the matter in court, but the sampling of their proprietary visual identity (i.e., typeface design, crest, legacy artwork) — used by pretty much all of these tribute bands to some degree — is literally ignored by Queen Productions. What’s the difference, I wonder.

Did the Queen Extravaganza experiment — and subsequent media coverage — brought about by Roger and Brian give billionaire Mark Cuban the idea to put together an American Idol-ish reality show aimed at tribute bands? Maybe that question will be answered when Cuban’s newly launched AXS-TV network wraps up their series called The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands, which “…pays tributes to the legendary sounds, songs and artists especially of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.”

As an aside . . . Cuban, as you’ll remember, has at least a passing connection to Queen when his beloved Dallas Mavericks won the championship back in 2011. You can see how it all ties together here in an early Queenville blog entry.

Queen Nation, an American band listed among the 79 tribute bands above, is scheduled to be one of the acts for the new show on May 13, 2013. I wonder if Cuban and the producers considered inviting QE to perform. Surely, that would be a good test of the promises Roger made about their musicianship, right?

Wait a minute, maybe not. Most of the viewers would probably expect a Freddie impersonator, in which case they’d be very disappointed since QE is about being loyal to the music rather than recreating the spectacle of a Queen show.



No comments:

Post a Comment