Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PC rhaps about Gowers

Media Moment: 61st Primetime Emmy Awards on CBS
Queen Related: Bohemian Rhapsody mentioned

John Hodgman, the “PC guy” from the Apple TV spots, was providing additional TV viewer commentary to Neil Patrick Harris’ hosting duties during the Emmy Awards the other night.

When Bruce Gowers won an Emmy for his work with American Idol, Hodgman mentioned that Gowers was also responsible for directing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, among other video credits.

Let’s connect the dots, for a moment. Gowers directed BoRhap, Gowers directed American Idol, BoRhap featured lots on American Idol, Queen guests on American Idol, Hodgman and Gowers appear on Emmy Awards, Hodgman is actually a Mac user in real life, Brian May is a longtime Mac user.

So does that make Gowers a Mac or PC guy?


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gaga over body paint

I’ve been hearing Lady Gaga’s name quite a bit in the celebrity news lately and it got me wondering if there’s a Queen connection to her name.

Sure enough, my wife dug a bit into Wikipedia and found that she got her nickname from producer Rob Fusari:

“Music producer Rob Fusari, who helped Gaga write some of her earlier songs, compared her vocal style to that of Freddie Mercury. He nicknamed her Gaga, after the Queen song Radio Ga Ga. She began to use it as her stage name and was known thereafter as Lady Gaga.”
There’s a bit more information on Rob Fusari’s Wikipedia article as well:

“In 2006, Rob signed Lady GaGa to a production deal. After developing a unique electro disco pop to this songwriter and creating her stage name Lady Gaga; ‘We were working one day in the studio, and Queen’s Radio Gaga came on and I was like you are so radio gaga...so gaga became her nickname.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lady GaGa does a cover version of Radio Ga Ga at some point. Personally, I’d be curious to hear her interpretation of it. Although she cites glam rock (Queen and Bowie) as influences, we don’t really know the extent of her Queen/Freddie fondness as it appears that her current Queen-ish identity is due to Fusari’s influence more than her own.

Now, someone please tell me which is the correct spelling: Radio GaGa, Radio Gaga, or Radio Ga Ga?


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pop and Politics

Media Moment: Get Up, Stand Up documentary on PBS
Queen Related: Queen featured throughout

I recorded this Bob Marley lyric-inspired documentary last night to see what musical events would be featured and, if I'm lucky, get to see some Queen. And I did.

With the exception of a few songs (notably from The Works), Queen steered clear of proselytizing through their music, although their global popularity surely guaranteed their participation in certain activist efforts.

Get Up, Stand Up is a comprehensive look at how music has been intertwined with political movements of all stripes. From turn-of-the-century labour strife songs to Woodstock to Bono trying to save the entire planet, the film covers a lot of territory in two hours and Queen makes an appearance quite a few times.

  1. The opening scene is a crowd/audience shot and there are obvious Queen banners being held up. I couldn't tell whether this was Live Aid or another Queen show.
  2. A few seconds after the opening scene, there’s a montage of other musical events and, first up, we see Freddie blowing a kiss to the crowd.
  3. At the half-way point in the show, there is a montage of what’s coming up in the second hour and there is a Freddie at Live Aid shot.
  4. When the time period gets to the mid-’80s, Live Aid is a featured event and the first musical act shown is Queen performing Radio Ga Ga. This song clip seems to go on for a few seconds longer than most of the other Live Aid performers that were included here.
  5. Moving on to the early ’90s, Freddie's Tribute Concert is highlighted and they show Tie Your Mother Down (with Joe & band), Liz Taylor's speech, and Bowie/Lennox doing Under Pressure.
  6. Just before the end credits roll, there’s a crowd shot with someone holding a Freddie "There Can Be Only One" banner.
  7. As a final bookend to the documentary, Freddie makes one last appearance after the end credits and just before the final sponsor thank-yous. Just a static shot of him to close the program.

What surprised me was where Queen did NOT make an appearance in this film—during the segment on Sun City and the apartheid protests in the early ’80s. While Little Steven was urging a boycott of South Africa, Queen was down there playing to an integrated audience—which ultimately got them blacklisted for a spell. I suppose they redeemed themselves in the world’s eyes during Live Aid and their repeated support of Nelson Mandela over the years.

To my surprise, who should appear in the end credits? The Torpedo Twins, Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher. That easily explains the Queen segments since they had all of those clips archived anyway. . . they just needed to get permission from Jim Beach, who they thanked in the credits as well.

I guess this is the documentary that’s been keeping them busy since going bankrupt the year before.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Chris Chronicle on Cash Crunch has Queen Clip

Media Moment: Debt Trap story on Dateline
Queen Related: Clip of I Want It All

Remember that Circuit City TV spot last year that featured I Want It All as the camera pans across a wall of big screen televisions? The first few seconds of that commercial have made a short and rather subtle appearance in a Chris Hanson’s Debt Trap story for Dateline NBC the other night.

Again, I wonder who at NBC made the call to use that clip. Was it someone who is a Queen fan and wanted to do some shameless Queen promotion under the guise of news? Or did someone merely do research on pop song titles that epitomized greed, stumbled across the Queen tune, and then coincidentally found the Circuit City clip which conveniently provided a nice greedy visual at the same time?

I suppose whoever edited the story could have easily dropped in Money by Pink Floyd or something by the Beatles and the pop culture status quo would have been maintained. But I suspect that there’s a Queen fan parading as a producer or editor over at NBC.

It just goes to show that as the upstart Queen fans from the ’70s and early ’80s, who are now in senior creative and management positions at agencies and studios around the world, are contributing to the mimetic qualities of many Queen songs by incorporating them into other forms of communication.

And if the process repeats itself for another 20 or 30 years, that’s okay by me.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Me, Myself & Freddie

Media Moment: Elton John documentary
Queen Related: Freddie sightings

This documentary on Elton John, produced just after his Red Piano show in Vegas wrapped up, takes an interesting approach to chronicling his career. They take old footage and insert the “current Elton” into the frame and he actually comments on his own history and on-screen behaviours—warts and all.

Since the documentary was only 60 minutes long (at least the one they aired on MuchMusic here in Canada), I was curious to see whether Queen and/or Freddie would warrant a comment from Sir Elton as I figured his appearance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was close to his heart.

Nope, no mention of Freddie and the boys. He talked a lot about working with John Lennon, knowing Princess Diana, hanging with Rod Stewart, his marriage to Renate then David, The Lion King soundtrack, and—the turning point for him regarding AIDS—Ryan White. And since Ryan died in 1992, the same year as the Tribute Concert, I guessed that he didn’t have time to cover two events in the same year.

However, there are two sequences in the documentary where Elton strolls past a wall of framed pictures showing him and his celebrity friends, and there’s him and Freddie in one frame on the bottom left of the wall. Okay, I thought, that’s better than nothing.

At the end of the show, it returns to his gig in Vegas and then a “voice” welcomes some of his old friends onto the stage, and the first one to magically run out on stage is Freddie (obviously lifted from the Magic Tour footage).

I don’t know if having Freddie appear first is symbolic of something special between them, or whether the documentary’s producers just liked how the image of someone running onto a stage worked during that end segment. At this point, the Vegas audience begins a standing ovation, which coincided with Freddie’s appearance. That was a nice tie-in.

I’m just glad that Freddie made an appearance in the (abridged) version of Elton’s life and career.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happy birthday, Freddie

Well, Freddie would have been 63 today and we can only wonder what his musical legacy would have sounded like had he not succumb to HIV/AIDS 18 years ago.

There’s no doubting that Brian and Roger’s continued recording under the Queen banner reflects their desire to march on musically, and I’m sure Freddie would have kept going as well.

What we will never know, however, is where his musical genius would have taken him and the band. Hey, if we thought that Montserrat and Bruce Dickinson would end up doing a BoRhap duet, then who knows what his influence would have brought.

Freddie really was a musical virtuoso especially since the odds were against him being a rock star from the beginning. I guess the stars aligned just right on his birthday to take him from an obscure island off the coast of Tanzania to the top of the charts.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Piven talks poisoning

Media Moment: Late Show with David Letterman
Queen Related: Crazy Little Thing Called Love clip

Jeremy Piven, the pilloried thespian who took ill during his Broadway debut last year was on Letterman to address his critics after nearly dying due to mercury poisoning.

Apparently, his levels became toxic even prior to his Broadway show, the producers were aware of his condition, and he went on with the show as best he could. He claimed to Letterman that it was the toxic levels of mercury found in the fish he had been eating for the past number of years that put his health in jeopardy and NOT the yellowtail sushi that was the culprit, claimed by the media.

So what music would accompany his appearance on the show? As Piven came out, the band played a disguised-as-jazz clip of CLTCL . At first, Piven’s connection to CLTCL was not obvious (as most of Schaffer’s choices are), but once Piven mentioned “mercury” to Letterman, there it was.

I wasn’t too impressed that Freddie was being indirectly associated with the near-death of Piven, however. Maybe the spin should be that “Mercury,” the messenger god, has something to say about humanity’s poisoning of the world’s oceans, instead.