My MK Getaway – We Will Rock You

Considering I’m a huge Queen fan, as evidenced by my ongoing Queen At 50 series of ridiculously obsessive album reviews, it seems hard to believe that I’ve never seen We Will Rock You before. But when it was in London I lived too far away to get to it easily, and I wasn’t aware of audio described performances back then either (if they even existed at that time), so I didn’t go to the theatre much as I often couldn’t see what was going on very well.

In its early days there was also a part of me that was uncertain how well Queen’s songs would transfer to a stage musical, or how such a wildly varied catalogue of hits could possibly be shoehorned into some kind of coherent story. Some theatrical adaptations of songs can be rather bland or overly cheesy, rather than captivating entertainment. And anyone you compare with Freddie and the original band is always going to be inferior to some degree. So I’m always a bit wary of anyone covering their material, some of which is rather complex in its structure and harmonies. Plus the story, written by Ben Elton (who has returned to direct the 20th anniversary tour), also sounded a bit silly when I first heard about it. And there seemed to be a lot of reviews by critics that were less than favourable.

However, much like my early misgivings about the Adam Lambert touring collaboration, the more I learnt about the Queen musical and the more popular it became as time went on, the more interested I became in going to see it one day. I got the soundtrack album, which demonstrated how they’d adapted the songs, and I’ve seen various clips of the cast on TV, DVD extras and online over the years, all of which have helped to fuel my interest.

And so finally, in March this year, I had the opportunity to see the 20th anniversary touring production, when an audio described performance was announced at the Milton Keynes Theatre. Hence that was my main reason for visiting the town. I just decided to make a week of it to see other things as well, including the museums I’ve written about in my previous post.

March 2022 Favourites

Well, that’s more like it. March was a very busy month for me, as I’ve been getting out and about a great deal again. In particular, I’ve just had my first little getaway in well over 2 years, as I spent a week in Milton Keynes, where I attended an audio described musical and visited a few of their museums. Meanwhile back in London I went to another theatre show, had plenty of walks, and watched various TV shows and films as usual.

So there’s a lot to get through, and it won’t all be in this post. I’ve already written a separate detailed review for the play I went to in London, and I’m sharing dedicated posts about my Milton Keynes adventures too. So all of that stuff will just be summarised below, with relevant links added so you can find out more.

That said, however, my Favourites video accompanying this post includes an extensive vlog filmed during my Milton Keynes trip, which will give you a good insight into what I got up to. And in this post I still go into detail about the other entertainment I enjoyed back in London too. So there’s plenty to check out here, none of which is sponsored or gifted, and all opinions are my own. So 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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Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World – Part 1

Last updated 26 April 2022

1977 could have been the year that Queen’s reign came to an end. With punk rock very much in the ascendancy, having gained traction over the previous few years, there was a greater appetite for raw power and simplicity in rock music, rather than elaborate and fancy progressive rock. And Queen’s last album, A Day At The Races, despite being an excellent collection of songs, hadn’t sold quite as well as its behemoth predecessor A Night At The Opera, with some critics and fans feeling that it was more of the same without any notable improvement. So it was going to seem too repetitive if they did the same kind of thing yet again.

The band were perfectly happy to adapt and take on the challenge though, and indeed were already keen to try something different from the multi-layered, complex productions they felt they’d done enough of by this point anyway. So even without the emerging competition from the punk scene, it was already the evolutionary path they were heading down.

As a result, News Of The World marked a shift towards a purer hard rock sound, and took just 2 months to record (compared to 5 for A Day At The Races). The tracks still had some beautifully arranged harmonies and instrumentation thrown in, but not as lavishly and prominently as before. There was also a change in how evenly the writing credits were distributed, with 4 tracks now written by Brian, just 3 by Freddie, and an increase to 2 each for Roger and John. And the band produced the album themselves, with assistance from engineer Mike Stone, now they had the experience and confidence to do so themselves.

It all worked out very well, resulting in another great selection of songs. And so, as you’ll be accustomed to by now if you’ve followed my posts to date, this is my personal review of each of the tracks, including a look at alternate versions, music videos, live performances, covers, etc, along with other bits and pieces that I’m aware of.

In this first post, in addition to more general discussion about the album, I’ll be focusing specifically on the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions – as they’ve had such a colossal cultural impact and there’s a lot to discuss in relation to them. In Part 2 I will then move on to the other great tracks on the album. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Day At The Races – Part 2

Last updated 22 March 2022

Happy Japanese Queen Day! Following on from the wonderful variety of tracks on Side 1 that I reviewed previously, Side 2 of A Day At The Races continues to entertain with a mixture of offerings. It starts off with one of Queen’s most enduring and hugely popular hits, before taking us on a journey that ends up in Japan at the end of the album, which has important relevance to today, as explained for that particular track. So there’s plenty to cover as usual, and I hope you enjoy this latest set of reviews!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Night At The Opera – Part 3

Last updated 18 February 2022

This is the final instalment of my deep dive into Queen’s epic 1975 LP, following on from Part 1 and Part 2. There is also a bonus post about Bohemian Rhapsody cover versions, but this post explores the rest of the main material.

The album of course finishes in style, courtesy of their biggest hit of all time, followed by a patriotic instrumental at the end. So let’s get straight on with it, as there’s plenty to discuss. I hope you enjoy!

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Journal – November 2002

Here are some more extracts from my journal. You know what to expect by now – university work, socialising, CDs, DVDs, gaming, TV, etc. This hasn’t been a very eventful month, but there are a couple of interesting top 100 lists, and my favourite moments from Children In Need, among other little bits and pieces. So I hope you enjoy!

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