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 – A Day At The Races – Part 1

Happy 50th Anniversary to Queen! Although they first performed under that name on 18 July 1970, it wasn’t until John Deacon joined on 1 March 1971 that the group had its final, official line-up, so the latter date is more appropriate. And as they’re my favourite band of all time, I started doing a special Queen At 50 series last year, reviewing each of their albums and songs in obsessive depth and excessive detail. So, if you haven’t already, do check out my first post about their debut album for a longer explanation of why I’m so into them.

For this post I’m moving on to their 5th album. The musical majesty and stellar success of A Night At The Opera was always going to be a tough act to follow, and impossible to beat. But Queen were up for the challenge, and set about making A Day At The Races between July and November 1976. They produced it entirely by themselves for the first time, now that they had sufficient experience and were keen to give it a go, instead of employing Roy Thomas Baker like they had before. They continued to use engineer Mike Stone though.

The album was designed to be a companion piece to its predecessor with a similar variety of music. So it was again named after a Marx Brothers film, and Groucho Marx sent a note to congratulate them on their success and their “sage choice of album titles”. It also had a similar cover design to the previous album, with the colourful Queen crest on the front, but everything was on a black background instead of white this time. Brian later expressed a wish that both Opera and Races had been released together, as “the material for both of them was written at the same time, so I regard the two albums as completely parallel.”

The band are also credited in fun ways in the sleeve notes – in addition to the usual mentions of vocals, piano, guitar, etc, Freddie is the “Choir Meister” and contributes “tantrums”, Brian is the “Leader of the Orchestra”, and Roger provides “Pandemonium”. John is merely credited as playing Fender Bass and doesn’t get anything extra, which is reflective of his nature as the quiet one in the group.

A Day At The Races 2

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Night At The Opera – Part 1

This is the big one, the album that launched Queen into the stratosphere. The previous release, Sheer Heart Attack, was already a joyous collection of majestic variety that sounded like perfection to many, and its predecessor Queen II was also (and still is) held in very high regard. And yet the band still felt they were learning and developing, and they were keen to push things further still for their next album.

They were also having a fresh start, having moved to EMI Records and recruited new manager John Reid (who also managed Elton John), after ending their contract with Trident Studios under a dark cloud. Queen hadn’t been getting paid fairly for the success of their previous work, due to the contract they’d signed up to, and that contract was very expensive to get out of. So they were broke, which placed considerable pressure on them. It was now all or nothing. Their next release had to be a big success, otherwise that would be it, Queen would be no more.

But they were up for the challenge, and determined to show the world what they were capable of. They had also been told by their new manager to make the best album they’ve ever done, with complete freedom to do whatever they wanted. So they made the most of the opportunity.

They incorporated everything they’d learned and played around with up to that point (clear influences can be heard on their earlier albums, e.g. songs on Queen II like My Fairy King), and took full advantage of the studio technology available to them (using 7 studios altogether). They had carefully written lyrics and distinctive melodies (with all 4 band members writing at least one track each), a range of simple to complicated song structures, multi-tracked harmonies (now working with 24-track tapes instead of 16), a myriad of musical styles and instruments (using what felt best for each song rather than sticking to a particular genre), and big production values. It was the most expensive album ever made at the time. And they named the album after a Marx Brothers film, even becoming good friends with Groucho Marx as a result.

Their incredible efforts gave us their first and most successful number 1 single, plus the first chart hit to be written by their bass player, and many other beautiful songs. It held the number 1 spot on 4 of its first 7 weeks in the chart (held off on the other 3 occasions by Perry Como’s 40 Greatest Hits, a very different record entirely!). It stayed in the top 40 for 34 weeks (including 12 weeks in the top 10 & 16 in the top 20), and as recently as last year it was still poking its head into the lower end of the Top 100 every so often, which it will continue to do now and again in the future, each time a new generation is introduced to the band in some way. Inevitably the most famous track on this album is the one that regularly draws people to it time and time again.

A 2-page spread from the Night At The Opera CD booklet, one photo on each page. On the left, Freddie Mercury sits in front of a microphone, wearing a leafy-patterned jacket over a white shirt and white trousers. On the right, John Deacon sits playing the bass guitar, wearing a yellow t-shirt and blue jeans

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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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