Life begins at 40 – A Tribute to Bohemian Rhapsody

First of all, I haven’t forgotten about the rest of the Don’t Stop Them Now tour, or that Adam has been out and about doing solo work, but real life is seriously getting in the way at the moment. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will try to catch up with everything soon, and also hopefully include some material from other contributors who were lucky enough to go to South America.

There has been a very important music anniversary this weekend, as on 31st October 1975 this happened:

(video from Queen Official’s YouTube uploads)

This extraordinary song, which by right shouldn’t have been a single release at all, has managed to be the third best seller ever (behind Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas and the “Diana” version of Candle In The Wind). It’s even been number one twice in an identical version, the only song ever to manage this feat.

How the hell did Bo Rhap happen? Do we have any idea why it’s captured the imagination the way it has for four decades? What makes it unique? And is it really a rhapsody?

Pic credit: Queen Official

Pic credit: Queen Official

There have been masses of column inches written about this song over the last 40 years; there is a very detailed entry about it on Wikipedia and there have been all sorts of analyses done of it, including how it’s put together musically and various theories about what the words mean.  So I’m not going to go over stuff that already exists, but instead give you my take on why I think it’s become an iconic piece of music.

At the time Queen recorded Bo Rhap, they were very much at a crossroads.  Locked in a legal battle about finances, the band had hit records, but were broke – in rock star terms, at least.  They needed something massive, but record company executives were very doubtful about a six-minute song getting the radio play that would make it a hit.

Enter an anarchic DJ called Kenny Everett.

Pic credit: Wikipedia

Pic credit: Wikipedia

Everett had a completely eccentric broadcasting style which gave him considerable notoriety. He pushed the boundaries a little too far for the BBC’s tastes at the time, and got himself sacked from Radio 1 in 1970.  He moved over to Capital Radio and whilst there worked hard to champion the bands that he believed in.  One of them was Queen and he was the first DJ to air Bo Rhap on the radio – in fact, he managed to get it played no less than fourteen times on that first weekend. He utterly believed it was a record that was going to blow everyone away.

(video from QueenMuseum.com’s YouTube uploads)

Once Bo Rhap had made it on to the airwaves, the public imagination was captured and as they say, the rest is history.  It spent an unprecedented nine weeks at number 1 in the UK in 1975-76.  It also spawned what is acknowledged to be the first “real” pop video.  Queen were never keen on Top of The Pops; in any case they were touring at the time the song was number 1 and it would have looked pretty ridiculous to attempt to mime a song of that complexity.

Its second spell at number 1 came after Freddie’s death in 1991 and it became the first song to be number 1 twice in the same version, and also the first song to be number 1 twice at Christmas.  It has won many music industry awards and has also been voted high in many polls of favourite songs and influential songs. In 1992, it featured in the film Wayne’s World and even won an MTV Video Music Award for this appearance.

Pic credit:www.leetergesen.com

Pic credit:www.leetergesen.com

Bo Rhap has also managed to transfer into many different mediums.  It has been covered by artists as diverse as Elaine Paige, Montserrat Caballe and Kanye West (although the less said about that, the better).  It’s been played on fairground organs, by symphony orchestras, in carillons (that is, on bells), and sung by cats, choirs and even the Muppets.  This is a particularly fab version by a girls’ choir – wait and see what they do with the headbanging section!

(video from Katie Lee’s YouTube uploads)

I think that the song’s sheer versatility is the reason why it’s captured the imagination and also why it’s so unique.  I must have heard it thousands of times over the 40 years it’s been around, but it simply reaches the places that so many other songs don’t because of the way it’s been put together.  It’s almost impossible to classify; is it a ballad? Opera? Hard rock? It’s actually all of these things and more.

One of the most striking things about Bo Rhap is that is doesn’t have a chorus; it is composed of a number of very different sections, with very few of the thematic ideas repeated.  Most pop songs are written to a format that is:

Introduction – verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge (or middle 8) – chorus – conclusion (musos like to call this a coda)

There are some variants to this, but most of the time there are a number of verses, a chorus and a bridge section.  This form of songwriting isn’t new at all and there are similar “verse and chorus” song structures that go back hundreds of years.

But in the late 60s, prog rock moved away from this style and into structures that were much more associated with classical music.  There were even a number of experiments at putting prog rock and classical music together, such as Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra, which was recorded in 1969. Many other prog rock bands used these experimental styles and some early Queen songs, such as My Fairy King and The March Of The Black Queen were clearly influenced by them.

Pic credit: Lex van Rossen

Pic credit: Lex van Rossen

In addition to the prog rock influences, there is the “opera” factor.  Multi-layered vocals in pop songs had been used before; they were beloved of the Beach Boys and just a few months earlier in May 1975, 10cc released I’m Not In Love which used massed vocal effects.  But as ever, Queen used the “too much is never enough” principle and recorded 180 voices (Freddie, Brian and Roger x 60; John Deacon didn’t sing) to build the central section of the song.  It isn’t just lots of voices; it has hints of Mozart and Verdi and at the time, sounded simply outrageous.

There is a recording of the vocals and guitar solos isolated; this is well worth listening to as you can hear how the vocals have been constructed.  The thing that jumps out at me immediately is how accurate everything is, both from the point of view of timing and also the tuning; these are three guys with untrained voices (except for Roger’s choirboy training) and they are precise as some professional choralists. It’s also very interesting to hear the rasp of the guitar strings in this stripped-down version, as that’s often covered up by the sound engineering processes.

(Video from NetMusic.com Presents: ‘Vocals Only’ Videos YouTube uploads)

And what about the lyrics? There have been pages of discussion about these; are they Freddie working out his issues with relationships, even expressing his homosexuality? The opera section has been taken apart word by word, and although there are many theories, there is no definitive version and Freddie himself wrote it off as “nonsense that rhymed”.  If the band know the real mearning of it, they’re not saying.  From the point of view of someone who has spent the last 30+ years around opera, I think it’s a pretty good pastiche of what you would expect opera to sound like.  Is the “Galileo” reference about Brian’s background in astronomy? Scaramouche is a character in Commedia dell’Arte, which Freddie was fond of, and Figaro definitely appears in a couple of popular operas. Make your own choices on all this…

My view about Bo Rhap is that a piece of music with so many different thematic ideas shouldn’t work; in most hands a composition like this would be disjointed – overloaded even.  But I think it shows the touch of genius that the song moves seamlessly from section to section and from style to style.  Between the four of them, and steered by Freddie’s overview of the song that he had in his head, they managed to stitch this together in just the right way.

And – is it a rhapsody? According to the wonderful Wikipedia, in music a rhapsody is defined as “a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality”. So… yes, I reckon it is.  It ticks all of those boxes and bought together rock and opera in a way that nobody else has done before or since.

Many happy returns, Bo Rhap – I tweeted a couple of days ago that people will still be listening to it in 2075.  I doubt I’ll be around then, but if someone could have a seance and let me know, I’d be very grateful.

Pic credit: Queen Official

Pic credit: Queen Official

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A Tale Of Two Cities – Rio and Porto Alegre

Continuing on with their rapid fire tour of South America, QAL played at the legendary Rock in Rio festival and then travelled south to Porto Alegre. It must have been an amazing experience for all of them, for different reasons.  For Brian and Roger, it was the return, 30 years after the first festival when together with John and Freddie, they blew the place away.  I’m sure they could never have imagined getting the chance to be there for a second time. For Adam, it was a debut at one of the biggest festivals in the world. No pressure then.

QAL south america

Pic credit: @linyoliveira

After a really solid performance at Sao Paulo, Rio was a considerable step up for everyone.  Not only was there the issue of that enormous crowd, but there were logistical challenges – which I think did have an effect on the overall show.  Of course for Porto Alegre they were back to their usual arrangements.  For this reason, rather than do a straight review, I think I’m going to make a few comparisons between the two gigs as there are some points of interest that I’ve seen talked about on Twitter.

OK, the most obvious difference is that for Rio, QAL were part of a much, much larger show and for Porto Alegre they were the reason for the show itself. But – the buzz on Twitter about Rio was that QAL were one of the most eagerly anticipated and talked about bands.  They have been huge on this continent for decades and the fans have never forgotten.  Of course, that sort of expectation adds its own stress to the situation.

rock in rio

Pic credit: therealrobv (Instagram)

As it was, Rio – although an amazing gig, wasn’t entirely trouble free.  First of all, the band were dealing with a rather different stage space.  This sounds an odd thing, but when you are used to working with a familiar stage set, it can be very off-putting dealing with a strange one.  Your journeys around the stage are different and this can be a vital factor; injuries from falls can be very unpleasant (remember what happened to Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters earlier this year?).  Sight lines to your fellow players are altered, lighting states will vary and some lighting cues may work differently (or not at all). And with Rio being a festival involving many other performers, rehearsal time is limited and detailed run throughs are generally not possible.  Therefore you have to get on stage and get on with it – and hope that you don’t get too distracted.  Even the most seasoned performers can slip up under these conditions.

There were definitely some technical issues; these included mic failures – this was particularly noticeable during Save Me when Adam had to be rescued by some very quick work from Rufus, as you can see in this clip:

(video from MegaEverton81’s YouTube uploads)

There were also a few bits of unfathomable lighting and I noticed one or two tuning problems for Brian – I’m guessing that this was down to the heat and humidity, as guitar strings don’t like being subjected to this sort of thing and I think the onstage temperature would have been in the high 90s, even at midnight. Adam also mixed up one or two vocal lines; a couple of bits of Don’t Stop Me Now were in the wrong order, but this time he absolutely nailed The Show Must Go On, which is one of the songs that he’s slipped up in before now.

(video from Queen + Adam Lambert Live (unofficial)’s YouTube uploads)

So, before I move on to Porto Alegre, this whole thing about performance errors.  It’s caused a few bits of furious debate on social media.  Of course, the Adam haters have picked up on his slips and don’t approve; in fact some of the QAL disapprovers have also hinted that other errors are a sign that the rest of the band ought to give up and draw their pensions. Reasonable criticisms? Not in my universe, I’m afraid, although anyone who disagrees is quite at liberty to create their own parallel universe and live happily in it.

At the other end of the scale, I’ve also noticed a few of Adam’s fans getting very upset at the implication that he could get lyrics wrong. Here’s a thing; if you perform live, things can and will go wrong – and this happens to absolutely everyone. I’ve never met a professional performer in my life who hasn’t made an error at some point. I’ve done some beauties, and I can honestly say that there is nothing compares with the utter terror of forgetting your words. Having your teeth out or doing a bungee jump just doesn’t compare; your brain turns to soup and everyone knows you’ve fucked up. That’s how it feels, but actually what happens is that your professional training takes over and you cover it up.  Most of the time your audience don’t realise a thing.

But – there are people who notice errors; I notice them, but that’s because I spent years at music college learning how to notice them…. and criticise them,,, and obsess about them.  And years later I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the time, it can spoil your enjoyment of the music.  Errors happen because it’s live and dangerous – and that’s the way Queen have always done it.  They could take the easy way out with tapes and all sorts of other devices to relieve the stress of performance and make everything safer, but that’s not what they want.  They want that risk; they want to dive off Niagara Falls every time they perform and if there are little slips, who cares? Nobody dies and the music is still amazing.

porto alegre

Pic credit: @linyoliveira

Now I’ve had my little rant about that, let’s move on to Porto Alegre. This was different again from Sao Paulo and Rio. and the word on Twitter was that this was easily the best yet. As I have to try and earn a living by working during the day, I couldn’t stay up half of the UK night to watch this one, so had to catch up later with social media and the material on YouTube. it’s been more difficult to find clips with a high sound quality as the TV stream for Rio was excellent and there wasn’t anything comparable to watch.

The standout thing about Porto Alegre was the joy. I think in many ways, Rio was quite a tough gig; it would have been very emotional for all of them, for different reasons and sometimes that can get in the way.  But when you can stand there and perform for the love of it, we all get that love too. Don’t Stop Me Now shows this beautifully, although the sound on this clip is a bit patchy, I’m afraid.

(video from vanglam76’s YouTube uploads)

By all accounts, Porto Alegre sounded incredible. I’m hoping that when some of the other guys I know get back home, I’ll be able to get some reviews from them to post on here. With a bit of luck, more clips will be uploaded on to YouTube to give us a better idea of how good it all sounded. The important thing is that the guys were obviously able to really relax into this performance and it just demonstrated how well they work together.

Today there have been some more encouraging sounds about more QAL in 2016.  When interviewed about his feature-length 3D film project, Dr Brian was also asked about the possibility of more music being on the agenda.  The article from Billboard is here:

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/6707893/brian-may-diableries-film-queen

And in any case, if they are enjoying themselves so much performing, Don’t Stop Them Now?

QAL – The Return: Sao Paulo

After what has seemed like an unbearable wait, they’re back.  South America is rocking to QAL and they are sounding as good as ever.  Since the last echoes faded away in Sheffield, there have been thousands of fans waiting for this and the anticipation has been almost unbearable for everyone.

The excitement was further built up by Brian tweeting that there would be “at least ONE big surprise”, so there was plenty of speculation as to what this could be.  Ideas ranged from John Deacon returning to play a couple of songs, to a whole host of new songs – including Lucy. There was a further hint from the Queen tour blog that there was some unfamiliar material in the setlist.

The early birds queueing up outside the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo were able to hear snatches of the sound check and there was a rush of excited tweets yesterday afternoon that Keep Yourself Alive and Great King Rat had been heard – and also Ghost Town. But this didn’t seem to sound anything like the recorded version and a couple of tiny snippets of it posted on YouTube had a distinctly “hard rock” edge to them. Nobody reported hearing Lucy in the sound check, but there were rumours of it being included in the set somewhere.

Over here in the UK, keeping up with concerts in South America requires more than a touch of insomnia and not inconsiderable stamina. Sao Paulo kicked off just after 2.00 a.m.in my part of the world and the strains of One Vision from the audio stream woke me up. I think I must be attuned to those opening chords.

Pic credit: @scubadan21

Pic credit: @scubadan21

We’d already been warned on Twitter that getting reliable audio or video streams out of the arena was going to be difficult as the Wi-Fi signal was poor and even the crew were having to use 3G.  There must have been a lot of crossed fingers worldwide, but I managed to pick up most of last night’s action through a patchy Mixlr stream and some intrepid souls who were trying to broadcast through Periscope.  Great efforts in difficult circumstances guys!

Today (in between feeling like one of the living dead), I’ve managed to catch up on some of the YouTube footage as the sound quality from last night was a bit variable and it was difficult to get an accurate idea of how things really were in the arena.

So, how was it for me?

It completely exceeded expectations. Brian, Roger and Adam had only a few days to rehearse but everything sounded as tight as ever.  Queen have always worked on the premise of trying to get their live performances as perfect as possible; sound, lights, pyrotechnics – it all has to be just right and they have always put a lot of energy into putting on a great show for their audience. “Too much is never enough” applies at all times.

South America have always loved Queen; they were the first major rock band to tour Latin America and they broke attendance records by filling massive arenas. The setlist for Sao Paulo was immense – twenty-eight songs; all the regulars from the UK/Europe tour plus some of the “occasional” numbers such as Days Of Our Lives, Don’t Stop Me Now and The Show Must Go On.  And Ghost Town; the sound check wasn’t just a red herring.

Pic credit: Queen Official

Pic credit: Queen Official

I’m far too sleep-deprived to work my way through the whole set, and in any case there are a number of other tour dates to talk about before the end of September. So, in the order they appeared in the setlist, these are my highlights from Wednesday night:

  • Love Of My Life – Brian’s tribute to Freddie that never fails to bring a tear to the eye. This is one of the songs that the South American audiences really made their own in the 80s and they were in amazingly good voice.  This is so worth a listen:

(video from vanglam76’s YouTube uploads)

  • Somebody To Love – this is always one of my favourites and Adam’s voice was at its bodacious best for all that ornamentation and killer high notes. Freddie’s homage to Aretha Franklin is such a great showpiece for Adam’s voice and the crowd were clearly loving it
  • Ghost Town – this has become something completely different.  While the original is a lonely, dusty place on the edge of Hollywood, populated by tumbleweed and pale spectres, the new QAL version is dark and brooding; Transylvania with Dracula and a demon guitarist.  Transformed into hard rock, I thought this was tremendous and for me, it made complete sense of a song that I’ve struggled with.  It’s also great to see that Brian and Roger’s backing of Adam is so steadfast and including one of his own songs in the set is another demonstration of this

(video from MFranklin1910’s YouTube uploads)

  • Who Wants To Live Forever – this has been a QAL favourite since the iHeart Radio gig and Adam nailed it yet again. His vocals are so impressive on this incredibly difficult song and whenever they perform it, you are aware that an audience of thousands are holding their breath
Adam sao paulo 1

Pic credit: @scubandan21

  • I Want It All – this is another song that is a fantastic blend of voice and guitar. It’s one of Queen’s powerhouse numbers and is a huge crowd pleaser.  As usual, Adam and Brian started it with the “riffing” improvisation that became so popular during the UK and Europe gigs earlier this year. This is one of those spectacular songs that you can listen to again and again
  • We Will Rock You – I’ve picked this out as one of my highlights because I think there had been a conscious decision to give another reminder of Rio 30 years ago.  Adam reappeared bedecked in the Brazilian flag and the crowd went absolutely wild. And this is such a brilliant pic!
Pic credit: I don't know! Photographer please identify yourself...

Pic credit: I don’t know! Photographer please identify yourself…

Those were a selection of the best bits for me, but there were many, many more that I could pick up on; the crowd reaction to Killer Queen, more beautiful singing from the audience during Save Me, Brian’s guitar solo (I haven’t found this on YouTube yet, but look out for it as it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard him do), the roars of approval at Bohemian Rhapsody.  it was all there and it was all good and it was almost as though they had never been apart.

The audience reactions were great; the place sounded as though it was absolutely rocking and I think they would happily have stayed there all night to listen to more.  This was been a triumphant return for Brian and Roger and an amazing introduction to South American for Adam.  They just seem to win wherever they go, and once again it was heartwarming to see the two “originals” from Queen enjoying their music so much. This tour has been called “Dont Stop Them Now” and I feel sure that they are going to want to do more in 2016, particularly as next year sees a number of very significant Queen anniversaries.

I suspect Rio will be even better than this and I’m off to get some sleep in preparation for another very late night tomorrow.

Adam at Fusion – a Review

It’s a looooong time since I last went to a music festival of any sort; I don’t normally “do” them, let alone pop festivals, so just for you this poor old bird braved the Fusion Festival in Birmingham today to go and see Adam perform live as a soloist, so that I could write a review.  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.  Seriously though, as I’m a latecomer to the wonderful world of Glamberts, I’d never seen Adam perform live as a solo artist, so I was curious to see how he handled himself – and also how he sounded doing his own music.

Pic credit: Carole Humphreys

Pic credit: Carole Humphreys

For readers elsewhere in the world, I need to explain a little bit about the Fusion Festival.  It’s held in my home city but is a comparative newbie, having only started in 2013.  It’s billed as a “family-friendly” festival and is pop-orientated.  So, it ain’t no Glastonbury, or Reading, or Download; it’s aimed at an entirely different audience. The three-day event was originally going to be headlined by Justin Bieber, but he was replaced by McBusted after withdrawing a little while ago. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of Justin Bieber’s music, so I will tactfully refrain from any further comment…

Adam was a late addition to the festival lineup, much to the delight of the UK Glamberts as I think many of them had felt that they had missed out on seeing Adam do much in the way of live performance when he was over here in June doing promo for Ghost Town.  This was therefore a great opportunity to catch him live, particularly as there still isn’t any information forthcoming about The Original High being toured in this part of the world (or any other QAL dates, cough….)

So, it was off to Cofton Park on the south-western edge of Birmingham earlier today.  I have to say that I wasn’t one of the die-hards who got there at impossible o’clock this morning, like the ladies below.

Pic credit: Diane White

Pic credit: Diane White

I arrived mid-afternoon during the set by an Irish band called Hometown; I gathered from my Glambert mate Rachel that I was fortunate to have missed out on garage duo Gorgon City (hmm).  Hometown were followed by X-factor alumna Karen Harding and then a most curious interlude led by a DJ dressed as a frog, accompanied by some giant inflatable green and purple fruit that looked rather like boobs (at least, they did to my warped little mind).  This was followed by an R&B/pop artist called Conor Maynard.

I’m sorry guys, I don’t get R&B – it just jangles around in my brain and falls out of my ears. So, moving swiftly on from my issues with this type of music, the next artists to appear were a boy band called Union J.  Again, this outfit have come through the X-factor system and were evidently semi-finalists a few years ago. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. They looked OK, sang in tune, managed good harmonies and also did a very nice rendition of I Can’t Make You Love Me.

Finally, Adam was next up; one or two of the Glamberts had come very well prepared:

Pic credit: mine! (I'm a crap photographer so this is an achievement)

Pic credit: mine! (I’m a crap photographer so this is an achievement)

Adam launched into a very slick, five-song set. In order, the songs he performed were Evil In The Night, The Original High, Another Lonely Night, a quick trip into his older material with Whadya Want From Me and finishing with Ghost Town.  If you haven’t seen any footage yet, because I’m writing so soon after the event there isn’t much on YouTube apart from the event’s own Periscope recording, which you can check out here:

(Video from adamlambert_pic’s YouTube uploads)

I’m sure there will be more fan videos available soon, so keep watching out for links on Facebook groups and Twitter – and of course through the many Adam-related fan sites. There are also tons and tons of pictures online and I wish I had the time and space to go through everyone’s and give you all a shout out, but Adam was captured beautifully here by Helen Bovill just as he was setting up to sing:

Pic credit: Helen Bovill

Pic credit: Helen Bovill

Adam has had one hell of a schedule in the last couple of months; last night he was in Poland and I’d be surprised if this isn’t catching up with him a bit; I think he looked tremendous (if a wee bit tired).  I like the “less is more” look and he has gone back to black in the hair department in the last few days, possibly for the QAL South America tour which is coming up soon.

Vocally he most definitely didn’t disappoint.  In some ways, it’s a shame Adam has to do recordings as there is simply no comparison with hearing his voice live.  As I’ve said before, there are so many more colours and facets to it that recording equipment doesn’t capture.  He also plays with the vocal lines more in live performances, usually by adding extra top notes which allow us to hear that incredible vibrancy he has up there.

He sings and performs with great ease and because he has that trained singer’s knack of knowing that you have to think through each phrase, it’s very easy to get the sense of the words and because of that, when he sings a song it hangs together well.  (Thinking through phrases: this is a “singer” thing and I know it sounds mad, but if you think of a song in whole sentences rather than as a bunch of individual words, it makes a huge difference to the overall performance).

For me, it was also very interesting to hear Adam in direct comparison with a bunch of other singers, quite a few of whom had come through the talent show structure as he had.  He has an outstanding voice; that eye-popping upper range and the ability (and nerve) to take his head voice into those stratospheric regions where many other male singers dare not go. He also showed us the full extent of his range across the 18-minute set; Evil In The Night has plenty of lower notes that we don’t often hear from Adam and of course, The Original High unusually features a lot of his falsetto register.

Pic: credit: Rachel Jones

Pic: credit: Rachel Jones

So what didn’t work? Vocally Adam’s set was was great and I think that as usual he put plenty of himself into the overall performance, but I don’t really get the need for the dancers in Ghost Town; for me, they’re a bit of a distraction and his voice doesn’t need anything to disguise it.  Neat Adam is fine; I don’t think we even need Adam on the Rocks, if you know what I mean.

The song I enjoyed most was Another Lonely Night; Adam really gave this his all.  It was the central song of the set and he went for it; plenty of high notes and great energy; it’s one of my favourite songs from the new album and even makes an old fart like me want to dance.  He also gave a really sensitive performance of Whadya Want From Me; it was good to hear him sing something from his older repertoire.  I would have loved to have heard the mashup of Trespassing and Another One Bites The Dust, as I think a British audience would have reacted really well to it; even though there were a lot of young people in the audience, Queen spread themselves far and wide.

And talking of Queen (you knew I’d get them in somewhere!), I do wonder if Adam has taken a little leaf out of Queen’s book in the way he performed today’s set.  Music festivals are a bit odd – they’re totally unlike “real” gigs; your time is limited and you have to be able to get in, do the job and then get out again ready for the next band or artist to set up.  You therefore have to be a bit of a ninja and make your mark quickly.  When I was watching this afternoon, I was initially slightly surprised that Adam didn’t chat with the audience as much as some of the other performers did.  But in doing that, he would have taken the time away from the music, which after all is what he was there for.  He chose to perform his short set in a very “seamless” way, just as Queen did in their landmark set at Live Aid 30 years ago.  They had a restricted time frame and wanted – needed – to make the biggest impact they could.  So they packed in as much music as possible and their performance is still feted as one of the best ever under those conditions.

I think we’ll have to wait and see if today’s appearance at Fusion has broken some more ground for Adam in the UK – as I said at the start of this, it’s not a massive festival, but it’s got him out to an audience who might be new, or who might have watched that New Year’s Eve concert on the BBC and needed another reminder of his talent.

The only guest missing from today’s party was Lucy; such a shame she wasn’t able to show up as I think it would have been a huge surprise for the audience.  Maybe she’ll make an appearance in South America, but I guess that Dr Brian is a bit busy with the rest of his many interests at the moment.

It’s less than three weeks to Rock In Rio; how I wish I had a teleporter (and a ticket!). I think it could be awesome.

Meeting a Hero Part 2 – Shar’s Story

Sorry guys, it’s been a little while since I last got here.  I’m up to my eyes with other writing at the moment, but I haven’t forgotten about the people who call in here for a read.  I am going to be writing a lot about fandom in the fairly near future, but for now there is a follow up to my tale of meeting Dr Brian – and this is about a hardcore fan’s very special adventure.  This is a long read, so get the wine, or the chocolate, or the cookies.

Shar is one of my fellow admins from the QAL Fans United 2 group on Facebook.   We’ve never “met” in real life as I’m a Brit and Shar lives in New South Wales in Australia.  However, we have got to know each other over the last few months and our small group of admins have managed to egg each other on to achieve our dreams.  We also very enjoyed living through each others’ experiences.

Like me, Shar is a long-time Queenie and was a huge fan of Freddie, and also like me, she was devastated when he died. How could we go on? This is her amazing story, in her words, with a few little comments from me.

Pic credit: liveaid.free.fr

Pic credit: liveaid.free.fr

“Having loved Queen from a wee age, and absolutely adoring Freddie throughout my life,  it seemed when Freddie died, the music didn’t; but I never really “fangirled” anyone since that horrible day in November when we lost Freddie. To me, the whole era with Paul Rodgers just didn’t exist, as to me he did not fit in with the rock royalty that are Queen. So I skipped that phase completely.
 
I never really got into  American Idol thing at the time, so I think it was fate that I just happened to flick through the channels when there was nothing else on TV.  I saw this young guy; black hair, quite plain, about to sing for the judges. Adam Lambert was his name. He seemed a little cute, and hoped to God he could sing.  Then there was “that” question, “what are you going to sing for us?” To which he replied “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  I thought, oh Hell, please don’t make a mockery of it like so many had before!!
 
He had me at “Mama”….. This guy was good.  Poor Freddie could rest easy as he didn’t have to start spinning in his grave.

adam audition
 
I watched. Week after week that spunky young guy come onto the stage and give it his all. I didn’t care that he came second; he sang We Are The Champions with Queen and made a great job of it.  He was always a winner to me.

Out came his first song, his first album… He did his Glam Nation tour which came to Australia.  I painfully slept out overnight to get tickets, only for the third person in front of me to be the last one to get them before they sold out!!! I could have died right there and then!
 
I followed Adam, his music, what he was doing, who he was doing… (even!).  I came across other Glamberts who kept telling me that he was an amazing and awesome guy.

Then it happened; Adam began appearing with Queen, here a little, there a little. I was totally blown away how much he just fitted in with Brian and Roger, and of course, doing the Queen catalogue which had only ever been done before by our Freddie!! I hoped and prayed that this could be the start of something Amazing! AND IT WAS!!! Queen + Adam Lambert began touring together. America, Asia, and OMG…..

On the 5th May 2014, The announcement was made that Queen + Adam were heading Down Under!!  My phone and Facebook had never seen so many text messages or notifications as that day, because everyone I knew, who knew me, wanted to tell me it was happening!
 
I GOT MY TICKET, I was in Heaven; this, was what euphoria felt like – my idols, with my idol, and I was going!  I think I cried through half of the concert, seeing Brian and Roger, seeing Adam, and seeing my first love, Freddie, on the big screen. And boy, Adam certainly made that Queen catalogue come alive.
 
For 3 weeks after the concert, I cried. I was so emotional. I’d actually seen Queen, and Adam.”

Pic credit: masslive.com

Pic credit: masslive.com

My path must have crossed with Shar’s a little while after this, as I turned up on the Facebook group while QAL were touring Europe.  We’d obviously been hooked by those live performances in exactly the same way and thought that the combination of Adam with our old Queen heroes Brian and Roger were a match made in Heaven.  Extraordinary things started to happen…

“I think a whole new meaning of fangirl happened right there, as I was hooked on Adam so much more having seen him live, sing Freddie’s songs; I was just head over heels for the guy.  I was 45 years old and acting worse than I probably ever did in my teens. I still fangirled over Freddie, but my spark had ignited and became a flame for this Adam Lambert!

Fast forward a year, and life really hasn’t been the same.  Adam finished the QAL tour, for now and then there was the excitement that something new was coming?  This was answered when The Original High was released on 17th April 2015 – a different, more mature Adam (but he still sounded like sex on a stick).  Of course, this new album had to be promoted; whispers became promo events, which became appearances and this is when my life changed forever.”

This is where our Admin brotherhood moved up a gear; Adam was coming to Australia and there were opportunities – golden ones – for Shar to meet her new hero.  It was time for a bit of encouragement and enabling…

“MEETING ADAM….

The internet is a wonderful thing; there are Glamberts all around the world and they’re a mine of information about Adam’s activities; every radio interview, every TV appearance.  I saw some of my online friends meeting him for real;  I wasn’t jealous – maybe just a little bit envious, but I wanted so badly to meet him for myself and was terrified I would never get the chance.

Then, a Sydney Radio Station held a competition, Adam Lambert was appearing at the Red Room  there.  A fellow Glambert, (Granbert??) and I had made a pact. If she won, I went, and vice versa. So for two whole weeks, we rang and rang and rang to no avail. But I didn’t give up. Adam was going to be in Sydney, I was going to stay in Sydney and find him, just to hug him, no matter what.

And more than this, I wanted Adam to sign my arm, so I could run to the nearest tattoo studio and get it tattooed over. That was  number one on my bucket list! I sent an email to Nova FM, the guys running the competition, and asked if Adam would be doing any interviews for the Red Room, as I told them my dream to have Adam’s autograph on my arm to have it tattooed.

I never got a response.”

Pic credit: pantip.com

Pic credit: pantip.com

“But then, the unimaginable happened. Nova, the radio station, was giving away more tickets, just for the Adam Lambert show in Sydney. This was it – my opportunity was not dead yet.    At 9am sharp the lines were open and the first caller got the Golden ticket.. I felt like Charlie trying to get into Willy Wonkas factory!

I dialled the number as quick as I could, and it rang.  The voice on the other end asked who they were speaking to? I couldn’t even get my name out properly, before stuttering, “Have I won?” The DJ told me I was the first caller, and I began hyperventilating; I screamed at my hubby that I had won, and I was going to see Adam – OMG!!

Suddenly, a diary of Adam’s appearances in Sydney came up; he was going to be everywhere in Sydney.  With my trusty laptop, I began an endless barrage of emails to everywhere Adam was going to appear. Can I see him, can I get audience tickets? In each and every one of those emails, I explained I wanted this tattoo so bad, but not ONE of those people replied.  So, where to go from here? I had the encouragement of people in my
Facebook group, telling me never to give up, go get my dream. I have them to thank for a LOT (True, Kym!)

I began to call the television stations. Can I get tickets to the audience? Then, a lovely girl at one of the stations obliged, and I got tickets to Adam’s appearance on the morning show.  Result!

Just three days before I headed to Sydney, I hear that I’m going to see Adam at the Red Room, AND in the studio of channel 10 for the morning show. My God, my head was spinning. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. Then, while I was in the car park at the local shops I got a call from a guy claiming to be PR for Nova, the radio station where I had won the tickets. He asked me if it true that I wanted Adam’s autograph on my arm to get it tattooed? I said of course and he asked if I would come into the studio to talk to Fitzy and Wippa (the DJ’s) about how Adam crazy I was, and if they could arrange the autograph, would I get it done live on air in the studio?

I was absolutely up for this but I started asking if this was a prank, or whether he was for real? He said it was all above board and to come in at 9am on the Thursday morning.  At that point he told me that the autograph would be on a piece of paper, signed by Adam. Me, being me, said I wanted proof it was his. He asked me to TRUST them, and said it would all be above board.

Hello insomnia – my mind could not turn off the fact I was getting Adam’s name on my arm.

Pic credit: gallery4share.com

Pic credit: gallery4share.com

Thursday morning came; Maureen and I made our way to the studio. We were led into their boardroom, where we sat for what seemed to be at least an hour. Ben, the PR guy came and said he had to shut the door as Fitzy and Wippa were on air, and any noise from outside could affect the taping.. To which I turned to Maureen and said that’s shit, don’t they have soundproof glass? 

Eventually, Ben came in, asked how I pronounced my name, and handed me a mic. Maureen was led down the corridor a little, and I was directed into the studio with Fitzy and Wippa.  As he opened the door, I looked up, and THERE HE WAS!  My dream had been handed to me on a plate and I felt like the luckiest person in this whole wide world.

‘Hi Sharlene’ he said – and with those words everything bad in my life was null and void.  There was Adam Lambert looking directly at me, with this beaming smile that could melt a zillion hearts… I “think” I said OH MY GODDDDDDDDD…. Before my knees buckled and I fell flat on my arse!! Everyone in the studio oohed and aahed, we all laughed and Fitzy picked me up off the floor.  Did I faint; I’ve no idea.”

(video from Fitzy and Wippa’s YouTube uploads)

Adam got off his chair, came over to me and asked if I was ok? He then put his arms out, as I was still in shock, covering my mouth, trying so hard not to cry. As he hugged me, and wow, did he hug me; I placed my hand around his neck, so I could feel how soft his beard was for Marianne (another one of the QAL2 admins – we were on a mission!), trying to smell him (as that’s what everyone says? What does he smell like?) kissed him on the cheek, and then hugged him so tight.. He smelt fresh, like a summer breeze fresh?

He then pulled the chair out for me, and as I sat down, he touched my shoulder and asked again if I was OK. I  was just about able to tell him I was fine. 

We were on air now; Fitzy and Wippa welcomed me to the studio, and asked what it was about Adam I loved so much? I said that for every moment in my life, there is an Adam song.  When hubby and I argue, its  “Waddaya want from me?” and when I walk down the street and I’m feeling great, its “Strut”; he thought that was sweet. I just couldn’t get my head around what was going on  in that radio studio – but my smile still stayed on…

Fitzy pointed out that I already had a tattoo which says “anyway the wind blows”.  Adam thought this was cool and gave me a high five. I told him I had loved Queen all my life, and when Freddie died, the music wasn’t the same until he had come along to sing with Brian and Roger as QAL.  At this, he reached over, touched my arm and thanked me.  All the time I was sitting there, he just kept smiling!

The DJs also asked about my Adam mementos; I have pillows, photos and posters; my hubby refuses to have these above the bed because his name is Andrew, and he’s threatened to kick me out of bed if I say the wrong name during an intimate moment.  He laughed really hard at this.

Pic credit: Fitzy and Wippa

Pic credit: Fitzy and Wippa

Then Fitzy asked if I wanted Adam to sign something, and I pointed to my arm.  They handed him a pen and he gently and slowly signed his name on my arm. Wippa (the other DJ) and Adam had a chat about him being asked to sign other strange requests to sign other parts of fans bodies…

There were two other guys in the studio; I assumed that they were maybe members of Adam’s band, but they were introduced to me as people from Bondi Ink, a famous tattoo shop in Sydney. I was asked if I was ready to be inked and he gave me another high five.

Adam led me over to the corner and I sat down with him beside me on a stool as the tattoo artist go to work.  I sat there staring in complete disbelief.  Then he got his phone out and took a photo of me getting the tattoo – so somewhere, I’m on Adam’s phone – me! While the tattoo was being done, he asked several time if I was OK and whether it was hurting.  It honestly wasn’t; I think he’s the best anaesthetic I’ve ever had in my life.

We also chatted about the QAL Fans United 2 Facebook page (great plug Shar!), the people on there who inspired me to never give up on meeting Adam.  The group is also where I had met Maureen; she was brought into the studio and just kept hugging him! So I dubbed her the Granny grab, and everyone, including Adam had a good laugh at this.

When the tattoo was over, he said it was nice work and asked if I liked it? I told him I had dreamt about this for so long; he touched my arm again and said I was too sweet!

Maureen and I were asked if we could wait outside while they did a bit more of the interview, and Adam said he would come out for some photos as soon as he was done. I hugged everyone in the studio, and thanked them from the bottom of my heart for giving me this unbelievable
once in a lifetime dream.

Pic credit: Fitzy and Wippa

Pic credit: Fitzy and Wippa

“Waiting outside the studio, I was shaking my head in disbelief.  How on earth had I been lucky enough to have this experience? I think Maureen was in shock  too as she was stressing about her hair. The people at Nova kept asking to see the tattoo, saying that I must really LOVE Adam! 

The interviews finished; Maureen asked Adam to sign her CD, and I asked someone if they could take a pic of me with him. I was sure I was about to go into cardiac arrest standing next to him.  We chatted about the Red Room and The Original High; I told him I had one unopened copy and the one from iTunes. He laughed at this and said I was dedicated.

I joked that I was really glad I hadn’t had to resort to buying chloroform so that I could kidnap him to meet him; he had a cheeky grin at this and said he was very grateful.  

It was time for Adam to move on; he thanked me for being a fan and said he would see me later at the gig and again in January with the TOH tour.  I said I would make it to as many of the gigs as I could.  I got another huge hug and started to cry . When we got to the foyer, Adam was in the lift, and before the doors shut, he said “Bye Bye Sharlene” and waved to me…..

I don’t know how the hell I made it outside, or into the taxi to go back to the motel.  I rang my hubby, and he was so happy for me, saying I deserved this moment, and to take it all in.

That night, at the Red Room, during Adam singing, Waddaya Want From Me” he came and stood in front of me and sang, “thanks for loving me, coz you’re doing it perfectly”….. Right then and there, I cried my eyes out! Here he was, Adam Lambert, singing to me.

It didn’t end there though…

The next day at Studio 10, sitting in the audience, the interviewer said to Adam, we saw this morning that an Aussie fan had your autograph tattooed on her arm? Adam explained what had happened and some of my fellow Glamberts who had been at the Red Room pointed out to him that I was there.  He came straight over and spoke to me, then I was asked if I would continue liking Adam, or whether it was just as phase (as if!).  I said that I would always love him.”

(Recording edited by @mmadamimadamm)

“Since then, I heard an interview Adam had done after my day in the studio with him, and he was asked was it true that a fan was tattooed in front of him. He called me an ‘amazing fan’ which were just about the best words I have ever heard. 

As I am typing this, the tears are rolling down my face Kym, as this experience is just the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me, apart from being married and having my kids.

This was such a happy, yet emotional roller coaster, I don’t think I ever want to come down xxxx”

Like I said at the start, this is an amazing story – a five-star, solid gold fandom experience.  I suspect they don’t come much better than this.  I’d like to thank Shar for sharing her story for my blog as it’s great to hear other experiences of being a fan.  It’s a unique and unforgettable experience meeting your hero and of course she will have that tattoo for ever.

Good on ya Shar – I’m glad we managed to enable you a little bit, but I’m sure you would have made it anyway.

 

Meeting a Hero

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.

Pic credit: brianmay.com

Pic credit: brianmay.com

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.

Pic credit: astronomy.com

Pic credit: astronomy.com

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.

Pic credit: brianmay.com

Pic credit: brianmay.com

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.

Pic credit: @AsteroidDay

Pic credit: @AsteroidDay

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…

Me - purple hair and all, with the lovely Dr Brian

Me – purple hair and all, with the lovely Dr Brian

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.

Pic credit: The Guardian

Pic credit: The Guardian

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.

The Original Highlights

I’ve just realised it’s just over three weeks since I last did an entry – it doesn’t seem that long! It’s not just abject laziness or a QAL-deprived coma, there are a number of reasons. I have honestly been waiting for The Original High to arrive so that I could listen to it and write about it here; I’ve another major writing project in the pot at the moment away from this blog and sometimes, life just gets in the way.

Pic credit: Warner Bros

Pic credit: Warner Bros

Enough already – I’m sure you’ve all been immersed in interviews, catching up with TV appearances and listening out for Adam on the radio, so I bet you’ve not missed my ramblings at all.

I’ve noticed that there have been a number of reviews of TOH already, so I’m not going to go for the classic track-by-track format as that’s probably overkill in terms of the word count and I’ll end up saying the same things that everyone else has. As the album has only just been released, there are a huge amount of interviews online about it, so there is no shortage of information!  So, as I like to be different, I’ve decided to write about my Original High-lights and why these particular tracks have appealed to me, in terms of the songs themselves and how Adam uses his voice on them.

Adam has told us himself that this album is about the pursuit of happiness and indeed, what happiness is.  That’s a very human quest and it would be difficult to find many people out there who aren’t also looking for it.  I know I’ve spent a lot of time on this particular quest during my life and although I’ve run into it a few times, it’s elusive and hard to hold on to. It must be an even more difficult pursuit when you have lived several years in the public eye and although there are all the glamorous things – the concerts in front of adoring audiences, the red carpet events, the parties; the flip side of it can be an intensely lonely life in a place where it can be hard to find and keep relationships going.  Happiness can be found, but it’s often when we are least looking for it.

Certainly a lot of the lyrics are about lost love and soul-searching, the result of Adam spending time alone in Sweden when he was working on the songwriting. All the previews of the album have majored on the songs being darker than both For Your Entertainment and Trespassing, and I do agree with that.  There is a lot more loneliness in there which surely reflects the place he was in at the time.

Pic credit: iHeart Radio

Pic credit: iHeart Radio

Now, I’m the first to confess that a lot of the styles on TOH are not really that familiar to me; the great majority of what I listen to is classic rock, indie, Britpop and a lot of classical music, some of which would probably make you want to run away screaming. Electropop is not a thing in my music collection and other than when I used to hang around in gay clubs in the early-mid 80s, I’ve never been a disco bunny (my terminology!).  So a lot of this is unfamiliar territory for me and so I’m working mainly on my gut reaction to the songs and whether I like the overall feel of them.

So, which ones have jumped out at me? I think these are my top five in reverse order:

5: Underground – a dark song that belies its heavy dance beat; to me, the lyrics are about being trapped and entangled by love – hints of 50 Shades of Grey maybe? I have to say I was slightly taken aback at “velcro” popping into the rhyming scheme when I first heard it, but the thing we Brits always say about English is that it’s a constantly evolving language. I realise some of this might be a touch of Scandinavian humour creeping in too. Aside from that, the whole song is very melancholic and quite raw; Adam uses a combination of his lower middle voice for the verses and then flips over into his trademark high, belted head voice for the hook, with quite a bit of double tracking to add more high harmonies. It’s all underpinned by a heavy, rather gothic bass line that I find quite hypnotic. Touches of snare drum are added for drama for the second verse onwards.

4: The Original High –  this is about that first hit of something, whether it’s love, drugs, drink or fast cars – and the quest to find it again.  Remember the blog a little while ago about addiction; the dopamine rush that sends you into thrills and chills, then sends you into desperate withdrawal until you get lucky again?  This is what this song is all about. In comparison to Underground, the album’s title track is an injection of Californian summer; it has more than a hint of the surf sound to my ears.  I may well be associating Adam’s use of his falsetto voice with the sound of the Beach Boys, who have long been one of my favourite sounds of the 1960s.  Again, it’s using the vocal devices of lower notes for the verses and up into the stratosphere for the hook, with additional double tracking to add intensity to the higher sections. It’s uplifting and danceable – even for someone like me with two left feet (let’s just say you’re never going to see me on Dancing With The Stars, even when I have written my best sellers).

3: Ghost Town – this is the song that we’ve heard the most; the first one to drop from the album, so it’s become quite familiar over the last few weeks.  The to this lyrics are more obscure with shades of songs like American Pie; there are twists about the artifice of life in Hollywood and being abandoned  with an empty heart.  Despite the dance beat the song is ultimately lonely and has a multiple personality; there are three different styles for the verse, hook and bridge and there’s a sort of irony to the house feel of the song that I’m sure won’t have escaped listeners.  Just tonight I have been sent an extremely interesting version of Adam’s performance on the Jimmy Fallon Show (from one of my wonderful German Glambert friends). This is one of those “vocal isolation” tracks where the backing has been cleverly edited out, leaving the voice exposed.  This enables us to hear Adam’s voice raw and almost naked (his voice, not the rest of him – control yourselves!)  What is incredibly interesting about this is that you can hear his technique working; the relationship between speaking voice and singing voice are very easy to pick out.  Other things that stand out for me are his ability to sing through vocal phrases with an even intensity, which is one of the reasons why Adam’s voice always sounds so smooth and easy on the ear.  It’s also easy to hear the little bits of technical finesse like the emotional cracks in his voice – this is well worth listening to; do it quickly in case it gets taken down!

(Video from adamlambert_pics Vimeo uploads)

2: Another Lonely Night – despite the feel of the song, this is another one with shades of loneliness and about trying to let go of a lost love. But this is another song with a distinct summer feel to it and for some reason reminds me of ABBA; they’re my “guilty pleasure” pop group from the 1970s and I think they turned out some really excellent songs. ALN has a lot of forward movement and I like that; songs with drive are always attractive to me.  Now, I do have to admit to being just a tiny bit convulsed when I first heard it, because of THAT noise. Is it a moo? OK, I know some Glamberts are getting a bit irritated about this now, but hey, I’m a Brit and I have a Brit’s silly sense of humour, so just forgive me on this one.  Whether or not it’s a moo, it’s a good song and this is why it’s number two on my list. It’s very singable and it shows off Adam’s lovely high head voice very well.

And so it’s time for number one.  You know what it is, don’t you? If you’ve been following this blog since I started rabbiting on about Adam, Queen and singing, you will have come to understand my musical tastes by now.

Pic credit: Derbyshire Times

Pic credit: Derbyshire Times

1: Lucy – I’m sorry guys, I’m so predictable. Give me the intensity of music that’s based around electric guitars and I’m a happy girl.  This is the song I’ve been waiting to hear since the track list was announced (to some epic flailing on Twitter!) and it’s fulfilled everything I wanted.  Adam, Brian and the Red Special – the Holy Trinity of eargasms.  Right from those first, insistent guitar chirps, you know this is going to be great.  It’s dark, brooding and is a cautionary tale about getting too deep in the wrong situations. Adam’s beguiling voice blends perfectly with Brian’s irresistible guitar sound – as we all knew it would after hearing  all those QAL performances; they produce a real power between them that comes across so well.  Brian’s solo section is spine-chilling (and yes, I wish there was more of it!); the first few times I tried to listen to the album in entirety, I physically couldn’t get past Lucy as it fried my brains. This is a beautiful piece of music; it’s got the X-factor and for me it stands out as the supreme track on TOH. I guarantee I will be a fangirl mess if this gets performed live and I’m desperate for it to be a single release; it’s a real chance to engage Brian’s/Queen fans and if anyone from Warner is reading this, think about it guys. This is a killer, and if this is an indication of the sort of music Adam and Brian could produce together. there’s going to be an enormous queue of us waiting to buy it. Lambert and the Riff Lord – what a match made in Heaven that would be!

(Video from Adam Lambert Official YouTube uploads)