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Sunday, August 4, 2013



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:

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.

Paradoxically, Hot 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:

No sympathizers.

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.

Unfortunately, if 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!
Sun, August 4, 2013 | link 

Sunday, July 28, 2013



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 Frankenstein, huh?

Alice Cooper
Constrictor (MCA) :: Includes the hit single “Teenage Frankenstein.”

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!

Sun, July 28, 2013 | link 

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