April 2022 Favourites

Hello again, I hope you all had a good Easter. My mother and I happily over-indulged on hot cross buns, Easter eggs and other unhealthy things as usual, but hopefully I’ve offset that a bit with the long walks I’ve continued doing. And I’m glad to say my mother had her 4th Covid jab over Easter too, without any side effects.

As well as the treats and sweets and my feet on the streets, another big part of April for me was rounding up things from March, as there was a lot to share about my trip to Milton Keynes. In particular, I wrote detailed reviews, including lots of photos, about the museums I visited, the We Will Rock You musical and exploring the theatre district. Meanwhile on Youtube I included a travel vlog in last month’s Favourites video, and shared some footage from Bletchley Park. So do go and check all of that out if you haven’t already.

Apart from that, I didn’t go to any museums or theatres in April, but I’ve got quite a lot in the pipeline on that front, with lots of exhibitions I want to see, and a variety of shows booked for the coming months, among other things. And there’s a potentially big opportunity on the horizon that I can’t talk about just yet, but it might prove to be very interesting. All of which means I have a busy year ahead, and it’s caused me to reassess how I use my time, especially as we’re all emerging from the depths of the pandemic and making a bit of a fresh start.

I’ve therefore decided to cut back on the Favourites videos I do with these posts. They do take a fair amount of time to produce, and I’ve done about 60 of them over the past 4 years, which is pretty good going. I’d rather focus on my writing, and I’ll continue doing these detailed blog posts every month, as I have a lot more time and flexibility to construct, edit, update and correct them, compared to videos. Plus I have a variety of other things that I want to write about in the months ahead. I’ll still do little updates on my Youtube channel every so often though, and I’ll continue to share footage from my outings and travels there (indeed, there’s a very special video coming up shortly). But I just want to keep things a bit simpler on the video front, that’s all.

So with all that said, let’s get on with this month’s roundup. Apart from my walks, there’s also quite a bit to tell you about the various forms of home entertainment I’ve been into, including a special 50th anniversary tribute to one of my favourite radio shows. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Jazz – Part 2

Last updated 4 April 2022

As always with Queen’s albums, Jazz is a mixture of famously popular hits and underrated lesser-known gems. The first side, which I reviewed in my previous post, is proof of that on its own, with Fat Bottomed Girls and Bicycle Race making a particularly big impact. But the second side is also a fantastic collection of songs, by far the most significant being Don’t Stop Me Now by Freddie of course, for which there is a great deal to write about. Plus we get both of the tracks that Roger contributed, 3 more compositions by Brian, and another song by John. So this is my in-depth review of Side 2, with the usual mix of alternate versions, live performances, covers and more. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Jazz – Part 1

Following News Of The World, an album of raw energy that spawned the mega-hits We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions, on top of their previous successes, was always going to be a very tall order for Queen. But, as always, they weren’t deterred by that, and opted to explore a variety of musical styles on their 7th album (though not including jazz itself as the title might suggest). And it didn’t do them any harm, as the LP peaked at Number 2 in the UK charts (held off the top spot by the Grease soundtrack), and Number 6 on the US Billboard Chart, going Platinum in both countries.

Overall the album perhaps isn’t as stunning as some of their previous work, but only because of the incredibly high bar they’d set themselves, and it’s still really good in its own right. For a start, it gave us their well-loved songs Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race and Don’t Stop Me Now, a trio that makes it worth the price of entry alone (although surprisingly the latter wasn’t a big hit to begin with). And the other ten tracks are an enjoyable mixture too, with some relatively obscure gems amongst them as usual.

The heavy criticism it received in the music press at the time was certainly unwarranted, with the band even being described as “fascist” and “creeps” with “polluting ideas” by Rolling Stone reviewer Dave Marsh. But it was often fashionable for music critics to bash the band, and reviewers tended to be thrown off guard whenever Queen tried something different (which was always), not knowing how to react to it and simply not ‘getting it’. Queen’s humour and sense of fun often went over journalists’ heads.

Hindsight has been kinder though, with retrospective reviews often being more favourable, such as Loudersound ranking it as their 4th best album, and Rolling Stone magazine admitting they were wrong. It is now rightly acknowledged that the album is rather underrated, as it’s never had as much attention as some of their earlier work.

And so, as the latest instalment in my Queen At 50 series, this post is my personal run-through of all the tracks on Side 1 of the album, including the usual mixture of alternate versions, live performances, covers and more. Freddie Mercury dominates here, with 4 of the 6 songs written by him, while Brian and John contribute one each. Then in my next post I’ll share my review of Side 2. I hope you enjoy!

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February 2022 Favourites

Well, what a month this has turned out to be, as the world lurches from dealing with a nasty microscopic invader to a much larger and more evil one. I’m not remotely qualified to talk about the catastrophe unfolding overseas, but my thoughts are with the Ukrainian people at this unimaginably horrific time, along with all those working to support and defend them, and all the journalists reporting from the area. A lot of courage is being shown out there against the onslaught, supported by unprecedented unity amongst countries around the world, all far greater than Russia had bargained on.

There are many ways to help the Ukrainians, including donations to appeals by the Disasters Emergency Committee, British Red CrossUNHCR Refugee Agency & United Help Ukraine, along with children’s charities Save The Children, UNICEF & Voices Of Children, as some examples. But it’s also important to find ways to help yourself, your children and others, given that a lot of the news is very distressing. For example, there’s no shame in muting words on Twitter, unsubscribing from news feeds, and generally reducing how often you access the news on TV and online, as I’ve been trying to do. It doesn’t mean you don’t care, it just gives you control over how much you’re exposed to it, so it isn’t too distracting or overwhelming. It’s also great to see that the BBC are making use of shortwave radio and the dark web to make the news available to Ukrainian and Russian civilians who would otherwise be prevented from accessing it.

All of that has completely overshadowed everything else of course, in what was already a busy month for news, with the final Covid restrictions being lifted in England as we cautiously return to relative normality, the excellent gold medal won by Great Britain’s female curlers and the silver won by the men in the Winter Olympics (and good luck to our Winter Paralympians too!), plus the rough weather from Storm Eunice that caused myself and many others to get sucked into a live stream by Big Jet TV, of planes attempting to land at Heathrow, with Jerry Dyer‘s entertaining commentary. There’s certainly been a lot going on!

As for me, however, things have been pretty quiet this month, as expected. I haven’t been to any museums or theatres for a start, but I am getting back into all that stuff in March, where I’ve got quite a lot booked or planned. And I did still go out and about in February. In particular I was delighted to do my first bit of socialising this year, when I met up with a good friend for a meal in Pizza Express and a walk around Regent’s Park. And I’ve had some nice long walks in Central London, ticking several more streets off my map. You can see a few photos of things I saw on my Instagram & Facebook pages, including Westminster Cathedral, the Little Ben clock outside Victoria Station, and nearby sculptures called Lioness and Lesser Kudu & Essential Bonds.

Apart from that though, it’s mainly just a few TV shows and films that I have to mention in this month’s post and video. So this is going to be relatively short, but I hope you enjoy!

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January 2022 Favourites

Hello again, welcome to my first roundup post for 2022. It will come as no surprise that this has been a pretty quiet month, due to the traditional lull in activity after the madness of Christmas, coupled with the need to be cautious due to the Omicron variant. A few people I know have caught Covid for the first time recently, and it hit them worse than a normal cold or flu – but crucially their booster jabs provided the vital safety net that stopped it becoming severe, so they were fine. It’ll get me eventually, I have no doubt, and I know my booster will protect me when that time comes, but I’m doing my best to swerve it for as long as I can.

Nevertheless, I have been out and about quite a bit this month, mainly for walks by the Thames and in nearby parts of Central London – including some sights along the North Bank – so I can continue ticking off streets on the map that I’ve been gradually filling in since 2020. I haven’t gone to any theatres or museums, but I do have plans to get back to them soon. My calendar for the year is already starting to fill up nicely, with a few things booked in for March for starters, including a little getaway for a week, and other stuff beyond that.

So as I haven’t got any outings to talk about, this month’s Favourites post and video is purely about the entertainment I’ve been enjoying on TV and online. There’s nowhere near as much as at Christmas of course, and there’s one show in particular that’s had considerable attention online, but there are other bits and pieces to mention as well. And none of this is sponsored as usual. So I hope you enjoy!

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November 2021 Favourites

Hello again, hope you’re all keeping safe and well despite everything going on at the moment. I’m happy to say that I’ve had my Covid booster jab, which really helps to further educate and strengthen the immune system, and thus greatly reduces the chances of severe problems if you do get ill with the new variant. Plus Mum’s had her flu jab and I’m hoping to get mine at some point. So we’re as well protected as we can be for the winter now.

The latest developments haven’t stopped me going out and about and being generally busy either, as I’ve been making the most of my time. So during November I was interviewed on another national radio show, had lovely days exploring London Zoo and the Illuminated River project, enjoyed stage and film versions of a Dickens classic, watched the latest series of Doctor Who, saw various comedies, got absorbed in the new Beatles documentary, heard ABBA’s new album, and celebrated Freddie Mercury’s life on the 30th anniversary of his untimely passing. And none of it is sponsored or gifted as usual. So I hope you enjoy my latest post and video roundup!

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Science Fiction, Triple Feature – Part 2 – Rocky Horror Soundtracks

Hot patootie, bless my soul, I really love that rock and roll! The legendary songs from The Rocky Horror Show, including the legendary Time Warp, are a crucial part of its joy and appeal, as they’re catchy, funny and occasionally moving. Richard O’Brien actually wrote some of the songs before he came up with the idea of Rocky Horror, and found that he was able to slot some of them in.

So as the second part of my Halloween trilogy – after discussing the film and related productions, and before I talk about my recent experience at the live show – I thought I’d do some brief reviews of the relevant albums and songs I have in my music collection, and a few of the other recordings I’m aware of, as it’s always interesting to hear different interpretations. I certainly haven’t mentioned all of the music that has ever been released in relation to Rocky Horror, but I have covered most of the commercially available releases. So I hope you enjoy!

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August 2021 Favourites

Hello there, hope you’ve been having a safe and enjoyable summer, especially if you’ve been able to get out and about more.

I still haven’t been out anywhere special because of the ailments I’ve been dealing with over the past few months, which I admit has been difficult and frustrating sometimes, as it’s so hard to get any proper help at the moment. Hence this post is a bit late this time around, as I’ve only recently felt up to doing it. I think I might finally be getting somewhere, thanks to some help from an osteopath at a private clinic and figuring out a few changes I can make myself, but I’m not entirely sure yet. And even if I am right, it’s going to take a while for my body to settle down and repair itself anyway.

In any case, I do have a referral for physiotherapy on the NHS, but the earliest they could give me (when I booked in July) was a phone consultation in November. So I’m going to take it easy and see if I can hold out until then. But if I get worse, or if the NHS cancel due to Covid pressures and give me another long wait, then I’ll have to pay to go private again, as 1 in 5 people are having to do right now. It’s important to say that everybody who works for the NHS is amazing and wonderful, and they deserve all our praise, love and respect, but the fact remains that the system is so woefully under-funded and under-resourced that it makes life very hard for staff and patients alike. So we’ll see how things go. But thank you to all the friends who have been keeping in touch and checking in on me, it means a lot.

Still, enough of all that. There are much more interesting things to mention in this month’s post and video, including my birthday, sports and lots of entertainment as usual. None of it is sponsored or gifted as always, apart from my birthday presents of course. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World – Part 2

Last updated 16 March 2022

Welcome to the second part of my review of Queen’s 1977 album, News Of The World. In the first part I looked at how the album was created, the character of Frank The Robot that graces the cover, the 40th anniversary box set, and some related documentaries and interviews. I then focused exclusively on just the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions – as they naturally deserve a great deal of attention given their popularity and cultural impact.

For this second part, therefore, I’m going to look at the other tracks on the album. Even though they aren’t as widely played, and thus not as well known, as Rock You or Champions, there are some underrated gems here without a doubt. So I hope you enjoy!

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June & July 2021 Favourites

Hello again! Apologies for not doing a Favourites post last month, but I’ve continued to have issues with sciatica and other little aches and pains. I am a bit better than I was, but I still need a bit of help to get over it and reduce my risks going forward. It’s been frustratingly hard to try and see someone about it, but I’ve managed to book an appointment with an osteopath, and I hope things will start to improve more soon. And for the time being I just need to be careful!

Consequently I haven’t been out much, even after all legal restrictions were lifted here in England on 19 July. And when I do go out, even though I’m fully vaccinated, I’m still sanitising my hands, wearing face masks and socially distancing when appropriate – not out of fear, but out of simple respect for others. We can’t shut ourselves away forever and we do have to learn to live with the virus, but we can’t be complacent or selfish either. There is a balance to be reached. So I hope you’re all staying safe and being sensible, and you’re not being pinged too often with notifications by the NHS Test & Trace app (which I’ve never had as my phone’s too old for it – but I am getting a new phone soon, so that could change!).

In this latest post and video, therefore, I’ll mainly be sharing the entertainment that has kept me happily distracted as usual. But there is also one trip out that I’ll mention, and other bits and pieces too. And I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by anybody I mention here as usual. So I hope you enjoy!

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