Well, my stats are booming and all because of this particular post, written right at the start of my blogging career. Regular visitors will know I’ve had a bit of a cinema-fest going on of late before life starts to get really busy again, and this week I managed to catch the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.
It hasn’t received universally fantastic reviews, but for those of us who enjoy rock and pop folklore, it is I feel, a must-see film. Rami Malek played Freddie brilliantly I thought and having to act with those teeth must have been a challenge in itself. (Freddie was apparently born with an extra 4 incisors but forewent the intervention of a dentist in case it affected his voice.) We got a great insight into the early days of Queen and the background to the making of those epic records. The film ends with footage of the Live Aid concert where they pretty much stole the show (and formed the basis for this post). The best way to go I think. We leave the cinema with a smile on our faces, remembering Farrokh Bulsara at his prime, just as he would have wanted.
I wrote yesterday about the Celtic rock band Runrig and how their rousing live performances induce mass participation, especially when at home in Scotland.
The performance most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “the note heard round the world”.
Forgive me WordPress for I have sinned – Much of the last seven days has been spent over on Facebook as it was my last week at work and I wanted to share pictures of the various colleagues who were to become my best friends over a 30 year period. As anyone who visits here knows I am a bit of a hoarder, and there was no shortage of material to work with as I’ve always been the custodian of our memories, wherever I’ve worked. The exercise was a resounding success and the surprised comments from friends have been rolling in thick and fast, with promises that we’ll keep in touch, have a reunion etc. That remains to be seen but it has been a very sociable week indeed, culminating in a dinner and drinks “leaving do” last night.
The departure from the world of secure employment came about because of this – I think I’m a bit of a dinosaur in the world of offices as I like my pin boards, folders and stationery. Sadly all the tools of my trade had to go earlier this year as we adopted what is commonly known as agile working i.e. no fixed desk, no paper, no clutter and no talking! I decided that the sterile world of the modern day office was not for me. Goodness knows how we kept the ship on course all those years with just so much paper to hinder us, when instead we could have had terabytes of data at our fingertips with no idea of how to turn it into meaningful information.
Anyway, a new life awaits me but I cannot help but feel very sad that the old one is now behind me – The world of the ’80s office was a much less pressurised one and, dare I say it, a lot more fun than it is now and I miss that. On the way home from work for the last time the song These Are The Days Of Our Lives came on the radio and it summed up how I was feeling:
When we were kids, when we were young (I was in my twenties)
The days were endless, we were crazy (lots of work nights out!)
Sometimes it seems like lately – I just don’t know (the world of agile working?)
Those were the days of our lives (of my working life definitely)
Those days are all gone now but one thing is true – When I look and I find I still love you (the happy memories will never leave me)
These Are The Days Of Our Lives by Queen:
This song by the band Queen was released as a double A-side in the UK in December 1991, after the death of Freddie Mercury. It entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 1 and remained there for five weeks. It also received a Brit Award for Best Single in 1992.
The accompanying video was the last to feature Freddie and was released in black and white to hide the full extent of his illness. With a knowing farewell look straight at the camera, Freddie whispers “I still love you” as the song ends, which were his last ever words on camera.
RIP Freddie, RIP the 1980s Office.
These Are The Days Of Our Lives Lyrics (Song by Roger Taylor)
Sometimes I get to feelin’ I was back in the old days – long ago When we were kids, when we were young Things seemed so perfect – you know? The days were endless, we were crazy – we were young The sun was always shinin’ – we just lived for fun Sometimes it seems like lately – I just don’t know The rest of my life’s been – just a show.
Those were the days of our lives The bad things in life were so few Those days are all gone now but one thing is true – When I look and I find I still love you.
You can’t turn back the clock, you can’t turn back the tide Ain’t that a shame? I’d like to go back one time on a roller coaster ride When life was just a game No use sitting and thinkin’ on what you did When you can lay back and enjoy it through your kids Sometimes it seems like lately I just don’t know Better sit back and go – with the flow
Cos these are the days of our lives They’ve flown in the swiftness of time These days are all gone now but some things remain When I look and I find – no change
Those were the days of our lives yeah The bad things in life were so few Those days are all gone now but one thing’s still true When I look and I find, I still love you, I still love you.
Well old friend, it’s been a very sad but oddly uplifting few days. I wrote my first letter to you back on Tuesday when the news of your death was still raw. Since then I have pulled together all the old vinyl and CDs (from both the Wham! and solo years) and had a good wallow through your back catalogue. There is much there to give joy but also material there that now breaks my heart – I don’t know about the Cowboys but I hope you are now with the Angels. A cringey thing to say I know, but I had to include that song somewhere as although not a massive commercial success in its own right, it is still my favourite from your album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1” (there never was a Vol 2 but that of course is another story).
Cowboys and Angels by George Michael:
When I say it has also been an oddly uplifting few days, that is because we have now heard about some of your (hitherto anonymous) amazing acts of generosity. You were always at the forefront whenever a charity concert or single was in being put together but most of us had no idea just how many random acts of kindness you were responsible for over the years. You helped out at homeless shelters and always stood up for the downtrodden – A prince among men.
But I have jumped ahead. In my last letter to you I did a fair bit of reminiscing about all that went on in both of our lives during the Wham!years of the early ’80s but what happened after that? – I think we both kind of grew up. You carved out a successful career as a very credible solo artist and I stopped being a flibbertigibbet, moved to a new town and took up a responsible job. Ok, so I still was a bit of a flibbertigibbet, but I now lived on my own and had to travel long distances to meet up with my old friends – When I did, it was just like old times.
In 1987 you released your first solo album “Faith” and during one of our reunion weekends that year it was played constantly – The girls were mightily taken with your new “look” and we found it quite amusing that so many young men were trying to recreate that look, what with the designer stubble, the leather jacket, the shades and even the glove – Looked great on you but on anyone else it just kind of looked silly. One of my friends had actually been given a video of the single I Want Your Sex by her boyfriend, as a present for her birthday – A few raised eyebrows about that one as how could one ever compete with “Gorgeous George” in the bedroom department!
But you were exhausted after all the hoopla that came with the promotion of “Faith” George, and to be honest so was I – Living in The Highlands of Scotland but spending every weekend travelling around the country was also exhausting and I started to make friends locally and even got myself a boyfriend who was to become Mr WIAA – Hurrah I hear you say (after getting bored with my stories of the on-off nature of my relationship with boyfriend no. 1 during the Wham! years).
In 1990 you released a much more contemplative album called “Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1” and the first single from itPraying for Time had lyrics that concerned social ills and injustice – We were starting to realise what kind of man you really were. This album was a very different affair and it alluded to your struggle with your artistic identity. Vol 2 never did appear and shortly after, you ended your record contract with Sony.
One good thing that came out of your dispute with the record company is that you had a fair bit of “gardening leave” and threw yourself into appearing at benefit concerts and such like. The one that has gone down in history, is when you took part in the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 along with Queen, Lisa Stansfield, Seal, David Bowieand many others. For some reason I can’t remember watching this concert live on telly at the time (put it down to getting engaged, married and buying and selling a property in a four month period) but it was obviously repeated in 1993 ahead of the Five Live EP where five tracks from the concert were released on a single EP, with all proceeds going to the Mercury Trust. This time we did see it, and my goodness it gave me goosebumps. You know when you witness something truly exceptional and your version of Somebody To Love with the other members of Queen really was exceptional (check out that note at 1:16).
Somebody To Love by George Michael and Queen:
Around this time I always had a blank tape in the VCR (remember those) and if something special came on telly I would quickly press “record”. This performance of Somebody To Love was revisited many times over the next few months – To see you, giving it your allGeorge, in your gorgeous coral-coloured jacket (a great choice by the way) and blousy gold earring, was joy personified.
And here is where you feature in a really important moment in my life, and that of my daughter’s as it turns out. A couple of years later I found myself “with child” (blame theI Want Your Sex video) and it was suggested that we take a few cassette tapes with us to the labour suite come the hour. It all gets a bit frantic when everything starts to happen so we quickly grabbed the bag and two tapes to take with us – One was by Dina Carroll (not thought of her in ages) and the other was the Five Live EP. Despite the rush to get there things did not end up happening very quickly at all and we spent all evening, all night and then part of the next morning awaiting darling daughter’s arrival – All to the sounds of you George, plus those of Lisa Stansfield, Queen and occasionallyDina Carroll. Very apt really, and excuse the schmaltz, but she truly has been “somebody to love”.
I will admit that once you have a family, music has to take a back seat, especially if you are the mum I think, and I am sorry George but my attention to you was a tad neglected over the next few years but I did appreciate your “Older” album when it came out in 1996 and of course I had to buy “The Best of Wham!” in 1997, and then “Ladies and Gentlemen” in 1998. Funnily enough, by this time darling daughter was becoming a little character in her own right and one of our favourite things to do of an afternoon was to dance to your songs. One of the best for this was Club Tropicana where we re-enacted the long pre-amble with the sound of the car pulling up, the footsteps, the cicadas and then the opening of the doors to “Club Tropicana” – Fun times and needless to say she did become a bit of an aficionado of musical theatre and at one point we thought that a life on stage might be for her.
Oh George, here I am running out of words again and I’ve only got to 1998 but of course that was also the year that you kind of let yourself down a bit. None of us who were fans cared whether you were gay or not but you did “out” yourself in a very public way by getting arrested in LA – You say it was a subconsciously deliberate act, which it probably was, and it did give us the very entertaining Outside later on that year. Didn’t endear yourself to the LAPD with that one though, did you?
I can see, as fellow Chain-Ganger George (coincidental name) suggested last time, that this will have to be a game of three thirds as opposed to two halves, so until next time, thank you again Georgios Kyriacos for all the great music I have had the privilege to revisit this week due to your very untimely demise. I would much rather it had been under very different circumstances, but there we are.
Until next time, RIP to the Cowboy and the Angel who tried very hard to find “somebody to love”.
Cowboys and Angels Lyrics (Song by George Michael)
When your heart’s in someone else’s hands Monkey see and monkey do Their wish is your command Not to blame Everyone’s the same
All you do is love and love is all you do I should know by now the way I fought for you You’re not to blame, everyone’s the same
I know you think that you’re safe Mister Harmless deception That keeps love at bay It’s the ones who resist that we most want to kiss Wouldn’t you say?
Cowboys and angels They all have the time for you Why should I imagine that I’d be a find for you Why should I imagine That I’d have something to say
But that scar on your face That beautiful face of yours In your heart there’s a trace Of someone before
When your heart’s in someone else’s plans Things you say and things you do That they don’t understand You’re not to blame Always ends the same
You can call it love but I don’t think it’s true You should know by now I’m not the boy for you You’re not to blame Always ends the same
I know you think that you’re safe Sister Harmless affection that keeps things this way It’s the ones who persist for the sake of a kiss Who will pay and pay Cowboys and angels They all have the time for you Why should I imagine that I was designed for you Why should I believe That you would stay
But that scar on your face That beautiful face of yours Don’t you think that I’d know They’ve hurt you, before
Take this man to your place Maybe his hands can help you forget Please be stronger than your past The future may still give you a chance The future, the future, not the past
That scar on your face That beautiful face of yours Don’t you think that I know They hurt you before
Last time I wrote about rousing live performances that induce mass participation. The performance most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “the note heard round the world”.
Radio Ga Ga by Queen:
There had been quite a build up to Live Aid day, but what we had mostly been hearing about, was the sheer logistical nightmare of having so many artists performing on one stage on one day. Also, there was to be a parallel concert in the US, in Philadelphia, with Phil Collins jetting between the two venues. Harvey Goldsmith, the promoter behind the staging of the Wembley show, was a man under pressure to deliver. Bob Geldof, who with Midge Ure had first come up with the idea of raising money for the Ethiopian famine crisis by making a charity single (Do They Know It’s Christmas?), was now the main driving force behind the event. A man renowned for his dishevelled appearance, Bob was now looking even more so than ever, but there could be no denying that his passion for the cause was immense and who could forget his impatience with the presenters when they just weren’t taking the business of money pledging seriously enough – “F**k the address, let’s get the number”, “Don’t go to the pub tonight, stay in and give us the money”, “There are people dying NOW so give us the money” and so it went on…..
But back to Radio Ga Ga – It was actually written by Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor and the silly sounding song title belies the fact it has some very serious lyrics about the state of the music industry in 1984. The emergence of MTV and the pop video in the early ’80s led a lot of artists to think visuals were going to take over from radio and the aural-only music experience. Ironic really as Queen had been one of the first bands to make a film to accompany their 1975 masterpiece, the triumph that was Bohemian Rhapsody. They needn’t have worried however as all these years later people are still making records, and although the visuals can be really impressive they have never taken over, yet.
It has become a cliché, too often used by talent show judges, but it is fair to say that Freddie “owned the stage” that hot summer’s day in 1985. He was in control, and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. I think the band did have the advantage over a lot of the younger artists that day in that they had experience on their side, both in terms of age (Freddie was nearly 40 – hard to believe looking at the footage now and also hard to believe that six years later he was dead), and in playing in front of these large crowds. I think they knew the impact the concert would have on the careers of those taking part that day, so they had hired a large theatre to practice in during the build up to the concert.
Having written about a few extrovert artists now who have this ability to create such magic on stage, there is a common personality trait amongst them all – They are generally very shy people. Surprising to those of us who are not that way inclined but I think that’s where the balance lies – If you are a shy person you need to create an alter-ego as an outlet. David Bowie in the ’70s was very shy, thus his Ziggy Stardust creation. Elvis Presley was very shy, and Freddie notoriously gave few interviews due to his shyness. All I can say is thank goodness we were given the privilege of watching them perform and although all of the above have now sadly passed away, we are lucky to still have amazing footage of them in action. In the Radio Ga Ga lyrics, Roger Taylor was worried about the visuals taking over, but that has never happened, and thankfully we get to share them with the generations to come.
Radio Ga Ga Lyrics (Song by Roger Taylor)
I’d sit alone and watch your light My only friend through teenage nights And everything I had to know I heard it on my radio
You gave them all those old time stars Through wars of worlds invaded by Mars You made ’em laugh, you made ’em cry You made us feel like we could fly. Radio.
So don’t become some background noise A backdrop for the girls and boys Who just don’t know or just don’t care And just complain when you’re not there
You had your time, you had the power You’ve yet to have your finest hour Radio, Radio.
All we hear is Radio ga ga Radio goo goo Radio ga ga All we hear is Radio ga ga Radio blah blah Radio, what’s new? Radio, someone still loves you!
We watch the shows, we watch the stars On videos for hours and hours We hardly need to use our ears How music changes through the years.
Let’s hope you never leave old friend Like all good things on you we depend So stick around ’cause we might miss you When we grow tired of all this visual
Just in case you’ve never seen Bob in full flow on Live Aid Day, a record was made sampling his now infamous lines. Just shows what you can do nowadays with a clever bit of technology – Love it.