Brian May, lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, outlines the making of the group’s 1975 classic hit “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I have to say though Queen is still an outfit I can’t quite make up mind about, so saying I love to hate them probably sums it up best.
Seems I’m not the only one though. If I remember rightly, a poll carried out by a radio station in the English Midlands, sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, of pop/rock songs their listeners both loved and hated, saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” voted the most loved. The very same poll also saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” voted the most hated.
Pop, however, remains stubbornly public and resistant to impressionistic thought-spilling – right now, it feels like the music that’s most explicitly committed to real-world social matters. Hit club tracks are built for dancing and courtship; R&B and country singles catalogue, in precise and unflinching detail, every last swoon, sob, and smashed-up car window that results from people, narcissists or not, getting involved. Scan down the Hot 100, and the songs talk with increasing frankness about ego, beauty, money, cheating, posturing, partying, and every other element of solid gossip.
Some of you astute Bay Area residents may have picked up news of recent Lou Reed sightings in the greater San Francisco area and we have indeed been working at our home studio at HQ on and off over the last few months. In what would be lightning speed for a Metallica related project, we recorded ten songs during this time and while at this moment we’re not exactly sure when you’ll hear it, we’re beyond excited to share with you that the recording sessions wrapped up last week.
With talk (and little else so far) yet again of British rock band Stone Roses reuniting, I guess that means there will be talk of a third album. Wouldn’t that be something? In the meantime let’s bask briefly in past glories with their 1994 track “Love Spreads”.
To make a rather sweeping statement, the existence of rock ‘n’ roll rests pretty heavily on distortion. Music historians talk up the genre’s origins as a blend of musical traditions, its challenge to cultural mores, etc. But, really, without at least a bit of crunch, rock wouldn’t have a lot going for it. There’s some satisfaction in this; rarely is the crux of an art form so precisely identified.
And from at least The Bends to the present, they’ve commanded the attention of the musical press and the rock audience as one of the top ten – or higher – bands at any given moment. You might have loved Radiohead, you might have been bored by them, you might have wished they’d gone back to an earlier style you liked better, but you always had to pay attention to them, and know where you stood. For 18 years. That’s an astonishing achievement.
And basing a song on a saxophone solo in early 1978 was a none-more-punk gesture. As were the decisions to use that sax solo as the “chorus”, and to open the song with it. It is, of course, one of the most recognisable instrumental solos in pop: Slash of Guns N’ Roses is alleged to have used it as the basis for his guitar solo on Sweet Child o’ Mine, and in 2008 Rolling Stone magazine – perhaps swayed by the phrase “rolling stone” in the lyrics – voted it in their list of top 100 guitar songs.
On the night of the infamous 1967 Redlands drug bust, Keef was so far gone on LSD that when the police arrived at his Sussex country mansion, he mistook them for uniformed dwarves, welcoming them in with open arms.
The era of stars treating hotels as a combination of drug den, brothel and racecourse (Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham once rode a motorbike down the corridor of Los Angeles’s notorious Continental Hyatt House – one of the more printable Zep hotel stories) has been superseded by a much more businesslike attitude. These days, Saffer says, what your typical act wants is blackout curtains so they can sleep during the day, a late check-out (ditto) and somewhere safe to park the tour bus. They also appreciate little extras like a spa – Dizzee Rascal has used the K West’s sauna.
Meanwhile, Lord Lennon remains one of the most recognisable figures in British public life, although it is seven years now since he stepped down as an unusually sanctimonious Archbishop of Canterbury (catchphrase: “Nobody is more popular than Jesus”). And Paul McCartney – oh dear. With his affable manner and easy charm, he was always one of the easiest Tory MPs to like, but the expenses scandal – a second home on the Mull of Kintyre! – really did him in. Perhaps he should have joined a band after all.