A Tribute to Queen

CD cover for A Tribute to Queen, by Classic Rock magazine
Amusing reworking of the classic ‘A Night at the Opera’ album cover by Queen, which was drawn by former art college student Freddie Mercury.

I love Queen. This year (2005) has been the twentieth anniversary of their classic album “A Night at the Opera”, and therefore also of Mercury’s extravagant magnum opus Bohemian Rhapsody hitting the #1 slot in the charts.

Classic Rock magazine this month features Freddie Mercury on their cover, and includes a fantastic cover CD called “The Crown Jewels – A Tribute to Queen” which you will not be surprised to learn contains twelve Queen songs played by a wide variety of artists.

My highlights:

  • Bohemian Rhapsody (from A Night At The Opera, 1975) sung by Grey DeLisle
    Grey DeLisle is the voice of Daphne Blake in the Scooby Doo cartoons. What an incredible voice — soft, breathy and with the creamy texture of Brian May’s guitar — and a really laid back, soulfull rendition of an already classic song.
  • Fat Bottomed Girls (from Jazz, 1978) played by bluegrass band Hayseed Dixie
    I’m generally not an enormous fan of old-school, traditional American music, but this is just genius. I’ll never look at a banjo in the same way ever again. What I love about this is that the song still has integrity as both a Queen song and as a Hayseed Dixie track. They’ve truly made it their own.
  • It’s Late (from News of the World, 1977) by Anthrax
    I love Anthrax anyway, and especially John Bush-era Anthrax, and this is just a fantastically faithfull and heavy rendition.
  • Another One Bites The Dust (from The Game, 1980) performed by Batfish Boys.
    Kicks off with a rendition of “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, while all the way through the bass is pumping out John Deacon’s solid bassline.

From the inlay sleeve:

Elsewhere, the CD is littered with members (past and present) of Dream Theater, Kiss, MSG, and Racer X

Ones that got away? Well, late in the day we did discover that Bruce Dickinson recorded a version of Bohemian Rhapsody with Freddie’s pal Montserrat Cabballe. Which was news ever to Iron Maiden‘s management.

Now I would have paid extra to hear that one! And if one cover CD wasn’t enough this month, Uncut magazine have a CD entitled John Peel’s Festive 15 featuring, amongst others, Half Man Half Biscuit, The Sugarcubes, Billy Bragg, The Bhundu Boys, and Pavement — all of them artists that I discovered listening to John Peel’s late night shows on BBC Radio 1. Festive stuff indeed.

Christmas shopping

Photograph of queue of cars at a standstill in Tesco car park
A long queue of cars at a standstill waiting to get out of the Tesco car park today.

How glad am I that I didn’t take the car down the road to do some “first-minute” Christmas shopping! (I had planned on doing it a couple of weeks ago, but got sick.)

Despite still feeling physically wobbly and weak, I felt that it would have been rude not to get Jane and my brother something for Christmas, and with a couple of cheques to pay into the RBS my mind was made up.

Hmm… But should I take the car down or not? It’s not far, about 1 mile, but I’m wobbly. I could just park nearby on a side-street at the bottom of the road. But what if everyone has thought that? In the end I wrapped up warm and headed out, having hunted unsuccessfully through the house for my winter hat. Turns out, it was in my coat pocket all along!

Here’s what I discovered:

  • The Panasonic earphones on my Sony cassette-Walkman are rubbish. With megabass activated the drums and bass sound like tarpaulins flapping in the wind. (No idea why I’ve got mismatched earphones and Walkman.)
  • Prong rock! But I knew that anyway, I just wanted to tell you that.
  • The RBS are still open on Christmas Eve-Eve – I half-expected them to close at midday. And weren’t nearly as busy I expected they would be. But then, most people are probably out spending their money, rather than paying it in.
  • Guitarguitar is a great place to get those last-minute presents for a guitar-playing brother. (There was another Mr Saunders being served in front of me!)
  • I forgot about lunch … d’oh!
  • Disappointingly, the JCB song CD single doesn’t have the video on it. But I still bought it — “I’m on a mission from God!”
  • Tesco was busy. Very busy.

Last year I was speaking with someone who works at our local Tesco who said that in the days leading up to Christmas they were taking in over £1,000,000 a day. Over one million pounds each day?! That’s incredible. But then our local Tesco is the size of a small town with a car park that any half-decent factory in Detroit would be proud of.

I’m glad I didn’t take the car in the end. The roads were congested, the car parks were worse-so. And I got a bit of exercise, to boot. Come the New Year I must find a healthier way to balance life. More exercise, less chocolate. More cycling and public transport, less taking the car. That’s the plan.

I bet it snows!