Journal Archive – June 2004

It’s Thursday Throwback time yet again, with another selection of posts from my old Bolt journal. After 3 busy years, this was my last month of exams for my Accounting & Finance course at university. Euro 2004 was also getting everyone excited, and I found another top 100 list that I wanted to share. So I hope you enjoy going through this latest set of entries!

Note: Each time I publish a new post from my archive, the previous post is backdated to the year it was originally written, so my blog remains tidy and chronological. You can see all the archive posts together by visiting the Journal Archive category.
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October 2020 Favourites

Here we go again. It’s time for Lockdown 2: Electric Avenue, so the cases don’t get higher. It’s not quite as severe as the first one, with education settings remaining open in particular, but there are still very tight restrictions nonetheless. And it had been inevitable for some time. The use of different ‘tiers’ to set regional rules was keeping the infection rate lower than it otherwise would have been, but it wasn’t quite doing enough to drive cases down. So we didn’t have a choice, sadly, as many other countries have found.

There are still lots of reasons to be optimistic, thanks to the ever-improving knowledge about the virus, the better treatments now available, the developments of mass testing, and the very promising results of vaccine trials. But right now we have to be vigilant to get through the winter safely, and it’s important to take care of ourselves and look after our mental health during this time.

I feel relatively calm about it thankfully, as I’m fortunate to have a steady job, priority grocery deliveries, family support, regular contact with friends, blogging projects, local walks, entertainment, etc to help pass the time. And we’ve pre-ordered our meat for Christmas from a farm we like, so that gives us peace of mind too. I still greatly miss seeing friends in person and visiting interesting places of course, nobody wants this. But right now my mother and I feel safe and comfortable, which is the important thing. We’re more prepared than the first time around, when the uncertainty and panic buying made it really difficult to begin with. So we know we can get through it, having done it once already.

But for many other people it’s going to be a lot harder, due to physical and mental health issues, loneliness, loss of employment and business, financial worries, family and domestic problems, the loss of loved ones from the virus or other causes, and so on. So please do help others if you can, either by direct support or by charitable donations, because every little bit helps. And do also sign the petition by Mind calling on the Government to invest in a Winter Mental Health Support Package.

And if you’re in a position where you’re struggling, then my thoughts are with you, and please know that you’re not alone. And don’t be afraid to seek help or support, there’s absolutely no shame in that. If you’re unable or too anxious to talk to someone you know, then there’s lots of advice and support available from the Samaritans, counsellors, mental health charities, other charities relevant to disabilities and health conditions, support groups on social media, etc. I know it’s easier said than done – I’ve had to confide in friends about difficult things in the past, most of us have to at some point in our lives. But having any kind of support network, even if it’s just one person you can reach out and talk to when you need it, is a massive lifeline. Use it.

And to my American friends, who are going through a stressful period with their election right now, we’re all thinking of you too. You’ve had enough to deal with in 2020 on top of the pandemic as it is, without this in the mix as well. At the time of publishing this post, the outcome is still not clear, but I sincerely hope that common sense and decency prevails in the end. Stay safe out there.

But anyway, with all that said and done, let’s get into my latest monthly update, which is what you came here for in the first place. In this post and video for October there’s plenty to mention as usual, including my latest appearance on national radio, my walks out and about, and the various bits of entertainment I’ve been enjoying. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you find it interesting!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Live Around The World with Adam Lambert

Over the last few months, because they’re my favourite band of all time, I’ve started posting deep-dive reviews of Queen’s original studio albums, to celebrate their 50th anniversary (so far covering their debut album, Queen II & Sheer Heart Attack, with the rest to follow in the coming months). There’s such a huge legacy of amazing music that it’s a joy digging through it all yet again (as if I need an excuse), making lots of fun discoveries along the way.

However, it’s also important to acknowledge their current work, as original members Brian May and Roger Taylor are still keeping the Queen machine alive today, with Adam Lambert as their new frontman. The Queen + Adam Lambert (Q+AL) collaboration has been running for nearly 10 years, after they started performing shows in 2011.

Yet in all that time, they’ve never released any albums or DVDs (apart from a Japanese exclusive live release in 2016). So if, like me, you haven’t attended any of their gigs, then you’ve been limited to watching fan footage online or catching their TV appearances if you wanted to experience them in action.

But now, having been unable to tour for most of this year for obvious reasons, they’ve just released a compilation of live performances called Live Around The Worldon CD, DVD, Blu-ray and Vinyl, with additional merchandise available too.

It stormed to number 1 in the UK album chart in its first week, making it Queen’s 10th album to hit the top spot, 25 years since the previous release that did so (Made In Heaven), and 45 years since their first number 1 album (A Night At The Opera). They’ve now jumped ahead of Bob Dylan to reach joint 6th place in the list of artists with the most number 1 albums, level with Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart and Eminem. It’s also Adam Lambert’s first number 1 in the UK, and it’s reached number 1 in Australia as well.

So I wanted to review it and give you my thoughts. And just to be clear, this isn’t sponsored or gifted – I bought this myself and all opinions are my own. So I hope you enjoy!

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September 2020 Favourites

Autumn is now upon us, as is the second wave of the pandemic, and I know this will be a very difficult period for many, just as the whole year has been. So I hope you’re all continuing to keep safe and well as best you can.

For my part I’m still doing fine thus far, and still keeping myself occupied. I’ve been getting out and about more, and have continued to enjoy various forms of entertainment at home. So here’s my latest post and video roundup, in which nothing is sponsored or gifted as usual. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Sheer Heart Attack

After the release of Queen II (which I reviewed last month), Queen made the most of its rightful success by going on tour in the UK, even playing in the Devon seaside town of Paignton where I was raised a decade later, and having their biggest gig at the Rainbow Theatre in London. They then embarked on their first ever tour of the USA, as the support act for Mott The Hoople, a role they’d also taken on during a UK tour the previous year.

Although Queen knew what they wanted and were keen to do their own thing, they also took the valuable opportunity to observe Hoople closely, and learnt a lot from them about performing live. The outcome was an everlasting respect and close friendship between the two groups, as recognised by the inclusion of All The Young Dudes during Freddie’s Tribute Concert in 1992.

Freddie didn’t enjoy being a secondary act however, recalling it as “one of the most traumatic experiences of my life”. But it’s Brian who can truly describe the experience in such terms, as he was struck down by hepatitis towards the end of the tour, from a dirty needle used for vaccinations earlier in the year, forcing their remaining gigs to be cancelled. He spent 6 weeks in hospital, doing a bit of songwriting when he could, while the rest of the band started to work on other new material in his absence. The initial joy at being discharged and returning to the studio was short-lived for Brian, however, as it transpired the hepatitis had aggravated an undiagnosed stomach ulcer, sending him back to hospital again.

When he was finally able to resume normal life weeks later, he found the band had been very busy on the new album, adding songs he hadn’t yet heard and leaving spaces for him to add his guitar and vocal parts. He later described it as being “very weird, because I was able to see the group from the outside, and was pretty excited by what I saw.” See this clip from the Days Of Our Lives documentary for a bit more detail into how it came together.

Despite those setbacks, what ultimately resulted was another wonderful record, that went to number 2 in the UK and number 12 in the USA. Having been excessively complicated with Queen II, deliberately and delightfully so, they now wanted to aim for a more chart-friendly sound with comparatively simpler rock songs. But there were still many carefully constructed layers and harmonies, and the use of varied styles and instruments, across all of the tracks. So it was still quite a complicated production really, and the glamour and majesty of Queen was still very much forefront. But this album marked the transition from their progressive rock roots and fantasy songs to the more accessible classic style of rock and pop that they became best known for.

The cover contains a nice photo by Mick Rock of the band members spread out on the floor, shining from the glycerine and water they’ve been covered with. The band wanted it to look a bit like they’d been washed up on an island. It’s a nice look, and is perhaps reflective of the metaphorical rough seas they had to battle through to produce the album. I imagine Brian in particular was quite exhausted by the end of it.

So yet again it’s a pivotal part of the band’s story. And here are my personal reviews of each of the tracks, along with many other related versions and performances that have caught my attention. I hope you enjoy!

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August 2020 Favourites

Hello again. Hope you’re all keeping well and have been enjoying the summer safely. Thank you for the many birthday wishes too, they were much appreciated. I went out to celebrate the occasion, and bought a few things to treat myself, which I’ll mention during this post.

Apart from that, I’ve been out for a few walks, and have continued to keep myself occupied and entertained in various ways at home. So as always there’s plenty to mention for the month in this latest post and video, none of which is sponsored or gifted. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Queen II

Following on from my in-depth review of Queen’s debut album, we now move on to the imaginatively titled Queen II, released in 1974. It’s not a very well known album amongst casual greatest hits consumers, but there are many in the Queen fanbase who regard it as their favourite of all the band’s studio releases. It’s certainly one of mine, it’s amazing.

Artists including Axl Rose and Steve Vai have cited the album as an influence on their own work. And Brian May once told Classic Rock Magazine that it was his favourite album for a long time too, only superseded by Made In Heaven decades later. So the band themselves are very fond of it. They certainly prefer it to their first LP, which they were never fully happy with.

Centre booklet spread from the Queen 2 album. The 4 band members are dressed in white against a white background, so only their heads are visible. Again they're in a diamond formation - Brian at the top, Freddie at the bottom, Roger on the left and John on the right.

And it’s easy to see (or indeed hear) why Queen II gets so much love, because this is where things really start to get interesting, with its intricately arranged, artistically multilayered and beautifully harmonic compositions in a mixture of styles. It’s essential to listen to the album with headphones to fully appreciate how much work and perfectionism went into it. And they had more of a structure to the album this time, with a White side containing more emotional songs (4 written by Brian and 1 by Roger), and a Black side presenting songs in more of a fantasy vein (all written by Freddie).

Queen were ready to experiment, explore and be excessive. They were keen to push the boundaries and the technology, even wearing the oxide layers off the tapes as they added more and more musical layers to get a grand orchestral effect. And they were determined not to be bossed around or fit in with any expected norms. Yet remarkably they completed the recording within a month. Check out this clip from the Days Of Our Lives documentary for an insight into how it came together.

This was their moment. They needed to stand out from the crowd if they were to have any chance of success. And they did. The album reached number 5 in the UK, staying in the charts for 29 weeks and achieving Gold status, a significant improvement over their debut. Their dominance of overseas markets was still yet to come, but they were already doing a bit better there too, peaking at number 49 in America.

So here’s my review of each of the tracks, including a look at alternate versions, live performances, covers and more that I’m aware of, as explained in my previous post. And as I’ve said before, I’m not a music expert, just a very keen fan, and I’m sure there will be other Queen fans who disagree with some of my opinions, which is fine. Ultimately, this is all just for fun. So I hope you enjoy!

A black drawing of the Queen crest on a white background, below the album's title Queen 2. The crest has a large phoenix with outstretched wings looking over a large letter Q. A royal crown sits inside the Q, on the bottom, while a small crab sits on top of the Q. 2 lions and 2 fairies complete the picture, 1 of each sitting on each side of the Q and facing towards it.

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 17-19

Hello again. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Many of the restrictions are being eased at the moment, which is good, but a few are also being reimposed as and where necessary. So please keep taking all the necessary precautions that we’ve all come to know so well, including the new requirements for wearing face coverings (which are perfectly safe and there are valid exemptions, including for some disabled people). And do be aware that the self-isolation period has been extended to 10 days in England if you have symptoms or test positive for the virus. We mustn’t let our guard down now.

I have started going out a bit more regularly again, in this lovely hot weather we’ve been having, particularly for some nice walks around my local area. I’ve also been to my local supermarket to get a few things for the first time in 12 weeks, and had no problems there. I was in and out very quickly, with a mask on of course, and it felt very safe. And that was just during normal shopping hours on a Saturday, not the priority slot for disabled and elderly customers (which I’m very glad they’re still doing). So things have really settled down there, and all the hard working retail staff deserve a lot of credit, among the myriad of amazing people who have kept vital services operating in recent months.

But perhaps most importantly, I’ve finally got my hair cut! Even if it doesn’t look much from the photos, I can tell you it feels so much better, it’s much more manageable now. And everything was done safely – we now have to book appointments with our hairdresser instead of just walking in (and it doesn’t have to be far in advance, we got a slot within a few days), plus they’ve got hand sanitiser for customers, the staff are wearing visors and there’s a stringent cleaning routine.

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I do intend to venture back into the city as well, now that we’re allowed to use the Tube again. The last time I travelled on the network was March 14, nearly 5 months ago. But I have been keeping an eye on the situation. And because TFL have a very strict cleaning regime with no reported problems, there’s lots of travel advice on their website, the passenger numbers are still relatively low, others I follow on social media have recently been getting back on the Tube and other trains and feel safe doing so, and I’ve acquired face masks and bottles of hand sanitiser, I do feel it would be safe to travel at quiet times to see what it’s like. So if things continue to be alright, that’s what I intend to do during August. Hopefully that’ll enable me to start meeting up with friends again too. And, incidentally, talking of meeting special people, congratulations to Captain Sir Tom Moore on receiving his knighthood recently!

But of course, I’m still keeping myself happily occupied at home as well, so I’ve got various bits and pieces I can mention from the past few weeks in this latest post and video, none of which are sponsored or gifted to appear here as usual. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Debut Album

Queen are my favourite band of all time. Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon produced such incredible songs, albums, videos and live performances throughout their reign, with their own exceptional and wonderful sound, gifting us a magical legacy that will live on forever. Their music always makes me feel good, or in tougher times it makes me feel supported, and I never tire of listening to them.

Freddie’s premature passing will forever remain a heartbreaking loss, as nobody else has (or ever will) be able to match him. Yes, of course there are many other fabulously talented singers and musicians whom I also love, but Freddie was very much a one-off, in the best possible way. There was even a scientific study analysing his amazing voice a few years ago.

It’s also essential to credit the contributions of Brian, Roger and John too, of course, all of whom are awesome musicians in their own right. And as well as being great performers, Queen are the only band where every member has composed more than one chart-topping single, and all 4 members were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. And there are many other impressive sales figures and single statistics out there, including 50 incredible facts from the Official Charts, if further proof were needed,

I first discovered Queen back in the 1990s when I went to see a tribute act in concert with some school friends. I already knew a few of their biggest hits, naturally, but the show opened my ears to so much more. I immediately got Queen’s Greatest Hits compilations, then in later years dug deeper to explore their albums and videos, and have continued to be in love with them ever since.

And we’re now approaching a highly significant milestone, as it will soon be Queen’s 50th anniversary – although exactly when you celebrate it depends on which date you use. They first performed under that name on 18 July 1970, hence I’m posting this exactly 50 years on from that date, as it’s as good a reason as any. However, the lineup was only finalised when John Deacon joined the band on 1 March 1971. So the latter is really more appropriate, and for that reason Queen are going to be officially celebrating their 50th in 2021. But hey, as our actual Queen has 2 birthdays every year, I think her majestic musical namesake can have 2 as well, right?

With that in mind, therefore, and because I have plenty of time to kill given the current worldwide situation, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to do a deep dive into all of their albums, DVDs and other bits and pieces, and write some reviews in the process. After all, there’s so much to explore, with such a wonderful variety to their music, and they weren’t afraid to be ambitious and experimental. Even now I sometimes discover new things that I hadn’t noticed before. It’ll take me a while to do all of this, of course – I’ll try and do a post every 2 or 3 weeks, but we’ll see how it goes. In any case, it’ll be fun to go through their output in detail, and I hope you enjoy coming on the journey with me!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 15-16

Hello again, I hope you’re all keeping well. Or if you’re not doing great at the moment, as is the case for a couple of my friends (who by strange coincidence have the same name), then I hope things improve very soon. And if you’re enjoying the greater freedoms that have been granted to us recently, then please continue to be careful and safe. As proven by Leicester here in the UK, which has had to revert to a strict lockdown again, we can’t afford to be complacent.

It’s also strange to think that we passed 100 days of lockdown in week 15. That seems to have gone by quicker than I’d expected – although I know for many that time will have dragged terribly, and certainly early on I found it difficult like everyone else. But I’m glad I’ve been able to settle into a new routine and adapt during that time. I did look into things like gaming, quizzing and exercising but, as I’d rather expected, they soon fell by the wayside! Connecting with friends, homeworking, blogging, music, TV and film have all got me through it, and are continuing to do so. And now it’s reasonably safe to go out and about again to some extent, which is good as well.

So here’s my latest post and video update for the past couple of weeks, with news on disability events and my first outings in months, along with films, comedy and music that I’ve been enjoying. None of it is sponsored to appear here, but I was paid to attend one event as you’ll see. I hope you enjoy looking through it all!

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