GREG PRATO - Long Live QUEEN: Rock Royalty Discuss Freddie, Brian, John & Roger
January 3, 2019, 4 months ago
Timed to coincide with the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic, here's an interesting (and somewhat different) idea, interviewing other musicians about Queen. BraveWords scribe Prato wisely opts for names outside the rock/metal universe too (as some of those quoted are decidedly low rung entities: Does any Queen fan care about the thoughts of the Meat Puppets, Butthole Surfers or several cover bands?), most notably P-Funk creator George Clinton, 50s crooner Pat Boone, Yoko Ono and members of the Commodores. It's not all retrospective, as some are contemporaries of the lads in Queen and, truth be told, there's some non-musicians included as well, industry insiders like Brian Slagel, ex-Rip editor Lonn Friend, DJ Eddie Trunk and producer Flemming Rasmussen. It's not all B level stars though. Amongst the more than 100 interviewees credited, Dee Snider, Scott Ian, Rob Halford, Michael Schenker, Paul Stanley and Tom Keifer all offer at least one recollection.
The book is divided into nine sections, like how they discovered Queen and favorite songs/albums. Did they ever meet their idols (usually as established musicians, not kids/fans and no interactions w/ Freddie)? Recollections of seeing them in concert (few did)... even discussing the merits of Queen “inventing” thrash, with players from the heavier end of the spectrum: Obituary, GWAR, Megadeth. The format is basically a string of quotes, listed alphabetically, by last names, with no connective text, or editorializing from Prato. In that regard it's similar to the old recurrent Mike Myers/SNL sketch, as Linda Richman: Coffee Talk. Prato throws out a brief chapter title intro for everyone to “Discuss!” Since they appear alphabetically, rarely are the best quotes up first, nor are any similarities (agreeing or diverging opinions) juxtaposed.
You know luminaries are only going to say nice things, even if they have virtually no connection to Queen at all, so it's the perspectives that make this book. Like the guy who discovered “We Are The Champions” from the 80s film Revenge Of The Nerds, a far cry from most, who (given their age and the era) first heard the band either on FM radio or on LP, at a friend's house. Bygone era! The influences chapter is a bit technical, talking about layering sound, Brian May's tone, picking technique, etc. Sorry, but the segment about producer Roy Thomas Baker's role in Queen's success rings hollow for fans. Sure, musicians have an opinion, and fans know their favorite albums, but doubt the average Joe understands what makes Tom Werman different than Tom Allom, let alone how George Martin, Andy Sneap, Zeuss, Max Norman, Terry Date or Michael Wagner contribute to a band's sound.
The short (five page) aforementioned debate about the origins of thrash is more in tune with fanaticism (just look at Internet forums) as is the KISS vs. Queen section (ten pages). The final chapter, which is assorted quotes, that don't fit any of the other categories, offers some of the best material.
Don't learn much new about Queen, but will, in regards to the individual interviewees. I can foresee the author, and others, attempting this format, with other notables, in the future. Going forward, would prefer to see a more judicious compiling/organization of band/like-minded quotes and staying away from pointless “Don't remember when, or which album, but always a great band and/or big fan” platitudes, regardless of speaker's stature.