The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


The Beat Plays On Even With Him Gone …
August 19, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Queen

Today is the birthday of Queen bassist, John Deacon.

John has always been the least well known member of the band – despite writing such mega hits as Another One Bites The Dust and I Want To Break Free – and he likes it that way.

John turns 70 today and while Roger Taylor and Brian May are continuing to fly a version of the Queen flag … John stepped down the moment Freddie died.

In many ways he has become somewhat of a recluse – occasionally popping up in a newspaper when someone has taken a photograph of him and then sold it to a tabloid who then runs a headline about how much he has changed since his rockstar days, as if it’s a piece of investigative journalism.

Pricks.

However the reality is John has always been a reluctant rockstar.

He has a degree in electronics.

He got married very young.

He had kids very early.

He rarely did interviews.

He never dressed up for concerts.

He even took 5 years to believe the band would be successful, despite global tours and worldwide number 1 singles.

And while it has been well documented he has suffered depression for a long time – made worse by the passing of his best friend, Freddie – he was no shirking violet.

John was – and arguably still is – the businessman of the band, ensuring they always receive the monies owed to them while structing deals to ensure they benefited the most.

He also once left a note on his bass during a Queen recording session that simply said, “gone to Bali” after getting pissed off with the band.

With all this, it’s safe to say Mr Deacon is a complex individual and yet he was loved by the band. On one level they protected him – accepting he was who he was and not asking him to change – while on the other, they constantly encouraged him to express himself … whether that was in terms of music or, after a glass or 2 or vodka, taking the piss out the band or the music business in general, of which you can see a glimpse of it at 2 mins 40 seconds here.

When I lived in London I saw him in a little Toyota with his daughter … laughing away and smiling and for me, that was a wonderful way to see him.

Because despite being worth $170 million and having lived, seen and helped create some of the biggest musical moments in life, his place of comfort and happiness is living small.

Out the spotlight.

Out of the conversation.

Out of the drama and noise.

While many may never understand that, no one can begrudge him it.

Happy birthday Mr Deacon. You’re a quiet inspiration.



Drummers Are Animals …
July 26, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Anniversary, Birthday, Cars, Comment, Creativity, Queen

In rock bands, the drummer is always seen as the crazy one.

The one who would throw a television out of a hotel window.
The one who would be the first to throw their head into drugs.
The one who would blow all their cash on fast cars and stupid houses.

And is it a stereotype?

Yep …

OK, so there were some high profile drummers who lived this life – Keith Moon of The Who, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and Steven Adler of Guns n’ Roses to name but three – but the reality is this idea of ‘drummer crazy’ likely got burned in people’s consciousness thanks to Animal from the Muppets, the stories of the numerous drummers in the brilliant rockumentary, Spinal Tap and the fact drummers smack the shit out of things for hours on end as their form of musical expression.

But there is one drummer who seems to have a brilliant middle ground between crazy and cool and that’s Queen drummer Roger Taylor.

Not to be mistaken with the drummer of Duran Duran drummer who has the same name … Roger was always the most ‘rock star’ of the band.

Not just because he played the drums – though he did play drum solo’s in the early 80’s featuring timpani drums and a bloody enormous gong – but because he has a long history of buying and crashing exceedingly fast cars and big houses – not to mention having a vast number of relationships with a cavalcade of beautiful and intelligent women.

Hell, he even once wrote a song called, I’m in love with my car.

But while that might represent the wild side of rock n’ roll, the cool side is he’s a batchelor of science, a devoted father of 5 [of which one, Rory, was my doctor in England] a well regarded music producer and composer, passionately committed to preserving the legacy of Freddie, creator of a range of Taylored By London merchandise and still touring the globe playing sold out stadiums as the drummer of Queen.

He turns 72 today.

SEVENTY BLOODY TWO.

And while my loyalty will always be more towards Brian than Rog … the fact he is the drummer of my favourite band, has the same name as my wonderful Dad and is still cooler as a 72 year old than many ‘stars’ who are a 1/3rd of his age, he gets my best wishes and thanks.

Happy birthday Mr Taylor.

To celebrate, here are 3 videos that show the best of him.

The first is the insane drum solo he did when Queen were at their musical and performance peak. The second is him singing I’m In Love With My Car in concert. And the last is the drum solo battle he had with his son – Rufus – on the last Queen + Adam Lambert tour.



Happy May Day …
July 19, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Birthday, Childhood, Comment, Queen

Today is Brian May of Queen’s birthday.

He will be 74.

SEVENTY FOUR.

Given he recently had a heart attack, it’s amazing he’s alive.

But what’s even more amazing is that he is still touring … still playing massive venues all around the World and still has a career in contemporary culture.

I love Brian May.

Specifically his guitar playing.

In many ways, he was the inspiration for me picking up a guitar in the first place. He’s also the reason I desperately wanted a Gordon Smith guitar one Christmas because it sort-of resembled his Red Special.

When I was in my teens, I was sort-of obsessed with Mr May.

His songs.
His softly spoken voice.
His curly hair and curly guitar lead.
Even the way he held his guitar, let alone played it.

He was my favourite member of Queen – not just because he was the guitarist, but because he was the only one in the band that kept writing rock songs – and while the years have helped me pull back from full stalker status, I still felt a ridiculous thrill when I finally bought a copy of his own handmade guitar.

He is one of the few guitarists out there who truly has a distinctive sound.

And in his youth, he was also one of the most inventive guitar players that ever lived.

He remains ridiculously humble … which is why one of my favourite videos of him is from 1991 – 6 months before Freddie died – where he finds himself in a very small club in New York with the infamous Les Paul [inventor of the guitar that shares his name] playing the blues.

Here he is – one of the world’s most successful, well known and highly regarded guitarists – slightly overwhelmed to be playing with Les and his band.

It’s nice thing to witness, especially knowing that at the time, he was not only facing the challenges of seeing his friend and band mate die, he was entering a bout of depression that he said made him contemplate taking his own life.

Mr May is one of those souls who appears to be quite vulnerable. Having read so much about him, it seems his childhood – while happy – was also one where he was expected to conform to the expectations of the times. Or more specifically, to the times his parents grew up in. His father in particular had very strong views of how his son should behave and was apparently mortified when he heard he had given up the chance to have a career in science to become a rock star.

Fortunately, in the end, he got it.

Apparently it took seeing Queen perform at Madison Square Gardens – after being flown on Concorde – but he got it. Bizarrely, I would imagine that was better for Brian than the fact he was playing Madison Square Gardens in the first place.

So happy birthday Mr May. I hope you have a special day.

You will forever be a special person in my life.



Never Phone It In …

Yes, it’s a photo of Freddie.

But this is not just a tribute to him … well, not really.

The reason I love that photo is the intensity of performance.

The bulging vein. The closed eyes. The focused frown.

This photo was taken from their concert in Montreal, on their 1980/81 ‘The Game’ World Tour.

In fact, it was taken 10 years to the day before Freddie died.

But what I love about the photo is that despite Queen having been touring for years – and that concert coming at the end of an 18 month tour – he’s still bringing everything to the moment.

No short-cuts.

No lacklustre performance.

Just a show designed to leave an audience blown away.

I say this because one of the easiest mistakes agencies make is getting bored of their work before an audience is bored of it. A tiredness of going through the slow process of client acceptance. A hunger to move on to the next thing. Excitement of other opportunities that allow a fresh start.

And I get it. I get it A LOT.

But while playing a concert to 50,000 adoring fans and selling a campaign to a bunch of people in suits is pretty different … passion goes a long way in winning both parties over.

So while things should not take as long as they often do to get over the line … making sure you bring your commitment, focus and passion to meetings can go a long way at winning the audience over to your way of thinking.

And if that doesn’t change things – or worse, you see no desire from your audience to be part of something great – then maybe that’s when you need to adopt another Rockstar trait … which is get on the tour bus, speed out of town, never look back and go find an audience who value you – and will reward you – for being at your best.



Memories As Music …

OK, full disclosure, this is a post about Queen.

It’s also a post about parents, love, death and sentimentality.

So in some ways, it might be ‘peak-Rob blogging’.

But it’s not about me, it’s about a story I read recently that I just thought was beautiful.

OK, so it kind of reminded me of the time my Dad surprised me by buying The Works, Queen’s 1984 album, but most of all it just reminded me how music and memories are so deeply entwined that it has the capacity to act as some sort of temporary time machine.

And that is pretty wonderful.

With that, here’s the story …

For what it’s worth, my dad took me to see Queen at the L.A. Forum in’77.

I was 10.

This band Thin Lizzy opened for them. I remember thinking, “Who is this Lizzy chick?!?”

Then the lights went out, and Jailbreak began. I’ve never been the same …

All this is the introduction to one of the greatest moments of my life.

If ya have a moment, here’s the story …

I was 9 when I saw the full page ad in L.A. Times Calendar.

My parents had just divorced.

The Forum show was on my 10th birthday.

I called Dad …

“Hey Dad, um, Queen is playing on my birthday …”

“Yeah, I know. I tried to get tickets, but they’re sold out.”

[Damn!]

So Dad picks me up on March 3rd, and says “Let’s go to Sizzler for your birthday.”

“Okay, Dad, sounds great.” And it did, because I was thrilled to be with him.

So on the way to Sizzler, we ‘happen’ to pass The Forum.

In HUGE flashing lights: QUEEN TONIGHT!!

I thought ‘Oh man, what a dick! How could he torture me like this?!?’

I said nothing about that and we ate.

Afterwards on the way back home, we pass The Forum AGAIN.

Dad says …

“Oh, can you grab something out of the glove compartment for me?”

“Sure Dad,” I reply.

I open it and there – on top of the papers – is an envelope.

“This, Dad?” I ask.

“Yeah. Open it for me, will ya?” he says.

Guess what.

2 FUCKING TICKETS TO SEE QUEEN TONIGHT!

I will NEVER forget the sheer joy of that moment.

I still have the tour program.

Dad passed away, and at his memorial, I jammed all my brothers and nieces and nephews into my van and BLASTED Bohemian Rhapsody.

When it ended, there was complete silence.

It was freakin beautiful.

Thank you for reading.