Sunday, August 4, 2013
JEFFREY MORGANíS MEDIA BLACKOUT #379
Sun, August 4, 2013 | link
THE RETURN OF JEFFREY MORGAN’S MEDIA BLACKOUT #379!
Before I thank Machine Rock for ghost writing this column over the past month, I’d
like to reprint something I wrote in 2008 that originally appeared on pages 172 and 173 of the exhaustively-titled hardcover
coffee table tome Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History Of The Crown Kings Of Rock:
Queen – Hot Space (Elektra) :: This is
it, fight fans: the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Vegas touts have bet fat bundles of bucks that most of you machismo
mustachioed Mustaphas turned to this page first just to see which unlucky pug drew the short straw and had to be
dragged into the ring to tackle this, the most contentiously divisive long player in the entire history of Queen’s decades-long
undisputed heavyweight reign.
Well, get ready to take
a back catalogue bath if you bet the farm expecting a first round canvas-kissin’ dive because not only did I ask
for this unwanted undertaking, I’m more than eminently qualified to wax rhapsodic about it, seeing as how I
was first on the front lines when I similarly assigned it to myself for review in the October 1982 issue of CREEM: America’s
Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine. You could look it up—but just in case you’re still too ’luded out
to look, I’ll save you the trouble and reiterate for ya what I wrote over a quarter of a century ago:
“Hot Space is Queen at their high-techiest: a chrome ’n’ glass
altar paean to contemporary, vacuous lifestyles. Side one preaches a fairly cool gospel of dance ’n’ sexuality
which can be sung to any gender, age or species you choose to name; while side two is a moral exercise in ‘keep yourself
alive’ polemics, capped by the nth appearance on vinyl of ‘Under Pressure,’ the survivalists’ anthem
of the ‘ME’ decade—a decade too late.
“This is (no snickering please) a concept album, whose central core suddenly becomes clear when one realizes
how the last song on side one musically reiterates the previous melodic passages while its lyrics foreshadow those about to
heard on side two.”
What a load of malarkey,
right? Mebbe so, but I’m willing to wager that those two breathless paragraphs gave Hot Space far more respect
than an unsympathetic listener like you ever did. Besides, any album that can so thoroughly polarize a populace has
got to have something going for it. I could go on, so I will.
The key to decoding this vexatious vinyl lies in its cover design—an ostensibly innocuous pattern
which nevertheless was deemed important enough to merit its own special credit: Album package concept by Freddie Mercury.
And although the untutored eye might very well wonder just exactly what kind of concept could possibly be divined in such
a deceptively simple squaring off of four primary colors, the answer becomes apparent when one realizes that the cover of
Hot Space is nothing less than Queen’s enthrallment with the 1978 Milton Bradley game Simon made manifest.
Simon was an electronic musical memory game that became
an immediate worldwide pop culture phenomenon, the likes of which lasted well into the ’80s. It’s no coincidence
that Milton Bradley was prescient enough to unveil the subliminally seductive Simon at New York’s notorious discothèque
Studio 54, which was disco’s hedonistic headquarters for rampant drug ingestion and promiscuous public sex—and
it’s no coincidence that pop culture vultures Queen latched onto that hip happening as an apposite means of expressing
themselves both musically as well as stylistically.
Talk about playing the game: by cleverly crafting the cover of Hot Space as a Simonesque simulacrum that precisely
duplicated the game’s color coding and sequencing, Queen was signaling their use of Simon’s capricious flashing
lights and repetitive robotic tones as an aesthetic template for their own foray into the increasingly extreme hedonistic
characteristics of the genre—a fearless infusion of buxom beats and overly-endowed sounds coupled with an overtly socio-sexual
subtext of calculated carnality.
Space’s one flaw is that it demurely holds back instead of lustfully going all the way. By prematurely pulling
its punches and hedging its bets with a second side serving of servile rock songs, Queen stray from their salacious source
material and opt instead to placate their audience by adhering to their public persona as preeminent pop purveyors rather
than stay faithful to their true nature as aural carousers.
Of course we can only imagine what an unfettered and unabridged version of Hot Space would’ve sounded like;
one that bawdily broke free from societal customs and held no truck nor trade with the staid conventions of classic rock.
But let’s at least be thankful for what we do have: a ribald record with a licentious legacy that rarely receives
any respect; a debaucherous disc whose unfortunate fate can best be summarized in two words:
SIZZLING VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Queen – Queen On Fire: Live At The Bowl (Eagle Vision) :: But
that was then and I’m back in the here and now to tell ya that Queen On Fire: Live At The Bowl is the absolute
greatest Queen video mine eyes have seen the glory of—and I’ve eyeballed ’em all from the long-haired
Hammersmith Odeon yuletide tempests; to the short-shorn Rio and Barcelona bacchanalias; to what up until now had been my own
personal favorite: the rarely seen, by invitation only, private party footage from Robert Frank’s decadent Queen:
Nuremberg Night Rally documentary.
So when I
said five years ago that “we can only imagine what an unfettered and unabridged version of Hot Space would’ve
sounded like; one that bawdily broke free from societal customs and held no truck nor trade with the staid conventions of
classic rock,” little did I know that this video would be about as close to having that prayer answered as we’re
likely to get.
That’s because Queen
On Fire: Live At The Bowl was filmed, you guessed it, in England during the Hot Space tour, which
means we’re treated to no less than three out of the five songs which comprised that album’s first side, all of
which get the aforementioned unfettered and unabridged classic rock transcending treatment thanks, in no small part, to the
discothèque ticking of Mott The Hoople’s very own Morgan Fisher rocketing on the 88s.
But if you’re not a Hot Space adherent like I am, don’t worry
’cause there’s over twenty other numbers to round out the set, thus ensuring that just about every essential
Queen sports anthem you’d want to hear is here—including “Guitar Solo” which has never appeared on
any Queen studio album to date.
you are a Hot Space adherent like I am, you’ll still be in mourning that band dropped “Staying
Power” and “Back Chat” and “Action This Day” like a hot spud after The Works came out,
making this is the only chance you’ll ever have to see those songs performed live.
And speaking of bearing
witness, as if that wasn’t bad enough, to add insult to injury, the guitarist actually has the unmitigated
gall to knock the singer’s ten gallon sombrero right off his noddin’ noggin during the middle of the solo
in “We Will Rock You”—all without missing a beat.
And you’re still wondering why Freddie recorded Mr. Bad Guy.
Be seeing you!
Sunday, July 28, 2013
JEFFREY MORGANíS MEDIA BLACKOUT #378
Sun, July 28, 2013 | link
JEFFREY MORGAN’S MEDIA BLACKOUT #378 MACHINE ROCK’S MEDIA
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeffrey
Morgan (@CREEM) is on vacation. Ghost writing his column for the next few months will be valued colleague MACHINE ROCK (@MachineRock) who promises to try and ape, as closely as possible, Mr. Morgan’s idiosyncratic; emdash-addicted; comma-eschewing;
alliterative; run-on sentence style of writing. Let’s see how well he shovels it this week:
Susan Tyler Hitchcock – Frankenstein: A Cultural History
(W.W. Norton & Company) :: Not since Martin Tropp’s Mary Shelley’s Monster: The Story of Frankenstein;
and the Marcia Huyette illustrated edition of Leonard Wolf’s The Annotated Frankenstein; and the Bernie Wrightson
illustrated edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein; has there been such an essential volume
on the subject as this one. Not only does Hitchcock exhume every last bit of monster minutia there is to find, she stitches
it all up into a socio-political pop culture context that’s never dry and always entertaining. Even if you think you
know everything about the novel’s creation and its subsequent appearances on stage; in print; on screen; in the courtroom;
and beyond, you’ll find an additional wealth of fascinating facts harbored herein that you never knew existed.
But in a book full of horrors, the most terrifying fact of all can be found on page 263
wherein Hitch writes: “Alice Cooper disappeared from the music scene for more than a decade soon after his 1971 hit
record Love It To Death. But he blasted back in 1986 with a new album, Teenage Frankenstein.”
These words she speaks are true. After he released Love It To Death, the career
of Alice Cooper went to Hell thanks to such back-to-back bombs as Killer (1971); School’s Out (1972);
Billion Dollar Babies (1973); Muscle Of Love (1973); and his worst selling album ever: the vastly unpopular,
arena-emptying, delete bin denizen Welcome To My Nightmare (1975). Good thing he recorded that comeback album Teenage
– Constrictor (MCA) :: Includes the hit single “Teenage Frankenstein.”
SIZZLING PLATTER OF THE WEEK: Tim Curry – Fearless
(A&M) :: And speaking of Frank N. Furters, what an undisputed heavyweight champ this guy is. Graduating at the
top of his class with an honors degree in summa camp smartass from the Dean Martin “Who Gives A Shit?”
school of music, he waxes three albums and then calls it quits before the ennui sets in. Meanwhile, hailing from 1979, Curry’s
second solo squib after Rocky Horror is his undisputed dizbuster best in that contains all three of his urban mondo
manifestos: “I Do The Rock” and “Paradise Garage” and “Charge It.”
Never content to sing one note straight when half a dozen bent ones will do, Curry proves
that he’s the master of arch theatrical enunciation powered by a projected to the cheap seats delivery. Which explains
why, when he’s not busy quoting from Lou Reed or sniping off a series of ad-libbed asides worthy of Ian Hunter, he’s
happily hamming up his wittier than thou lyrics with an over the top scenery chewing ethno dialect that makes David Lee Jagger’s
neo-Negroid vocal affectations seem positively phoneticist by comparison.
Besides, anyone who can successfully sell a fractured rhyme such as “I’ve always liked DiMaggio
and Rockne’s pretty Knute, you know?” with a straight face deserves a spot in your record collection.
Be seeing you!