I don’t feature my own adventures on here very often as I generally like to write about things objectively. But there are some times when that just goes out of the window and you have to give a very personal viewpoint. I’ve never been an autograph hunter, or a conventional fangirl. Come to think of it, I’ve never been a conventional anything. But maybe there are just times when you need to get out there and meet one of your heroes, whoever they are.
Since I started doing this blog a few months ago, I suspect now you have all worked out that I am a longtime admirer of the amazing Dr May. As I’ve been a Queenie since the days of Seven Seas of Rhye, I’ve been with him for the long haul. There are many reasons for this; he’s an incredible musician and songwriter, an astrophysicist, an animal rights campaigner, an activist who wants to change the political structure of the UK, an author and much more. He’s also pretty damn gorgeous.
Those of you that I “know” via Facebook and Twitter will be well aware that Tuesday 30th June was Asteroid Day and the premiere of the movie 51 Degrees North. I’ve been tweeting about it a lot as Brian composed the film score and was going to be one of the VIP guests at the premiere. I’d bought my tickets for this several weeks ago and was to be meeting up with two others from the QAL2 Facebook group, one of whom had come all the way from Kansas.
This event was an opportunity for me to pull together a number of my interests; if you’ve followed this blog through from the start you might remember that I’ve had an amateur interest in astronomy since I was very small. I was one of those kids that followed the space race and asked for astronomy books as birthday presents. Sadly I was crap at physics, so ended up being a muso that liked astronomy and science, not the other way round.
So, what is Asteroid Day? It’s a recently instituted event that was the brainchild of a film-maker rather than a scientist. The young and talented film-maker Grig Richters was deeply affected by a BBC documentary called Asteroids: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He also came up with the Asteroid Day declaration which you can find at http://www.asteroidday.org/ – sign up!
Briefly, asteroids are those millions of lumps of variable-sized rock floating around in the solar system. While we have managed to track most of the larger ones, there are hundreds of thousands of smaller ones out there that could do us considerable damage. The declaration wants to push national governments and scientists into increasing the detection of them one hundred fold. The thinking behind this is that the more of them that we know about, the better we will be able to keep tabs on them and defend ourselves against them in the years to come. As asteroids have caused at least one global extinction, this is pretty heavy shit and we absolutely must protect our beautiful and unique planet.
51 Degrees North came about as an artistic expression of the scientific realities about asteroids – that one could hit us again. The treatment of the subject moved away from the standard “disaster movie” recipe and was a combination of close-shot drama, interaction with social media, drone shots of London and CCTV footage showing London’s reaction to an imminent asteroid strike. I’m not going to issue any spoilers as I think this movie needs to be seen, so hunt it out when it is widely released, or buy a copy.
To greet us, London was as hot as Hades, so this poor, fragile Brit was desperately trying to find ways to keep cool. This wasn’t helped by the evening not starting awfully well; the VIP event seemed to collapse under poor management and got abandoned. Unfortunately the VIP guests weren’t aware of the problem until it was too late. I’m just going to draw a veil over this part of the evening to avoid my own irritation about it.
I met up with some hardcore Queenies who were also sitting on the front row and after a few preview trailers, Brian introduced Grig Richters and the film. Following that, there was a panel discussion featuring a panel of eminent astronomers, including the Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees, plus Dr Brian and Grig Richters. They talked about some of the wider issues surrounding Asteroid Day and then asked for questions from the floor.
Now, I have to confess that under these sorts of conditions I am incredibly competitive; I really can’t help it. I love being around academics and the opportunity to interact with these guys was irresistible. I’d done some homework about the asteroid threat and the available technologies to deal with them, so my question was about NASA’s current options of the use of nuclear weaponry and the latest research into tractor technology that could be used to destroy or deflect an incoming asteroid. I even got in a quip about us not being able to rely on Bruce Willis or the Starship Enterprise.
They seemed to like it, as I got great answers from two of the professors. For me, the panel session was over far too quickly as I could have listened to those guys discussing astronomy for hours. The rest of the panel left for the after-show party and Dr Brian became the centre of attention as it was obvious there was a lot of his own fans in the audience. So it was time to join the queue, despite being boiling hot and in severe need of the bathroom. Sometimes you just have to stick it out to get what you want.
Dr Brian was a perfect gentleman with the people waiting to speak to him; he was presented with a beautiful book by some of the guys who had collected together pictures of the QAL tour and seemed really touched by this.
Then suddenly I was the next person and I was astonished that the first thing he said was to thank me for the great question I’d asked the panel! I hadn’t expected that at all. Also, I took the rare risk of getting in front of a camera; I avoid them like the plague usually but this is all part of the memory. Shame my hair was a bit of a mess…
I was lucky enough to get a minute or two to chat with him, and I was able to tell him that I was the person who’d played Lucy on the radio a few days ago (my Twitter and FB pals will know about this, as it caused quite a few tweets over the weekend. I do community radio and on our Saturday afternoon show I put Lucy on the playlist. The lovely @foxvegas tweeted the news to Dr Brian and he’d picked it up. I’m pretty sure we were the first UK station to play it, which was something of a coup). He remembered that instantly, which also surprised me, so he must have been really pleased the song had got some airtime. He was holding my hand at that point, which was incredibly distracting!
Dr Brian asked me what I thought of Adam’s voice and was very quick to tell me what a marvellous singer he thinks he is; he really lit up when he was talking about him. I also had the opportunity to tell him that I write this blog and that I’ve always loved Queen’s music because I have a classical background. I wish I’d had more time to speak to him, but I think I managed to cram quite a bit in.
And what was it like to meet my own particular hero? It was a hell of an experience. Dr Brian is very attentive and listens intently; he engages with every single person he speaks to and is completely charming. He has an astonishing aura; when he is playing or addressing an audience he is truly dazzling and when you stand next to him, you become aware that he is a beautiful soul. You feel as though you are the only person in the room when he speaks to you and he is a perfect gentleman. The great thing for me was that I was completely in the zone, so I’ve got a really clear recall of it. I was coherent and articulate; I didn’t get an attack of the wibbles – I was just so pleased to meet him at last I think I was determined to enjoy every second of it.
Queen have been the days of my life; I’ve followed them for over 40 years and their music has seen me through so many things. I saw them in Hyde Park in 1976; I’ve tracked them through hit records and not-so hit records, the triumphs and the tragedies and more recently, the phoenix rising from the ashes in the form of QAL. Brian has been the core of Queen’s sound and is one of its originators. He’s written some of the songs I love most of all, and his many other interests show what an entrancing and astonishing individual he is.
This absolutely was something on my bucket list; for years I’d never considered that I would ever get a chance to meet one of my rock heroes; I’m not the type who is tenacious enough to hang around stage doors for hours, but Asteroid Day was a unique opportunity for me and I’m so glad I went for it.
I think everyone should try to meet one of their heroes; it’s good for the soul. It’s thoroughly uplifting and it doesn’t really matter whether it’s someone who is a worldwide hero, or just your hero; they could be a rock star, a politician, a teacher or a religious leader. Bob Dylan described as hero as “someone that understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom” and I think that suits Brian perfectly.
It’s just good to be able to acknowledge your own particular hero as someone who’s an inspiration to you – and to thank them for whatever reason it is. So if you get the chance, do it; don’t pass it up. But enjoy it; it shouldn’t be traumatic – so take a piece of advice from Adam and “be in the moment”, that way you get enough adrenaline to put you in a good place but you don’t get overwhelmed and go into a meltdown. Plan out what you’re going to say, smile and say it. It’s actually remarkably easy.
So this is for you, Dr Brian. Thanks for punctuating my life with incredible music and for being such a wonderful soul.