Glamour Rock Classic Music

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Queen Bohemian Glam Rock

Queen was a British rock band formed in London in 1971, consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead singer), Brian May (guitar), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor(drums). Before joining Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor had been playing in a band called Smile. According to Wikipedia, Freddie Mercury (known then by his birth name of Farrokh Bulsara) was a fan of Smile, and encouraged them to experiment with a more elaborate stage presentation and musical style. Queen is generally known for their camp, audacious style; their rich and diversely textured vocal harmonies; and their descriptive, poetic and sometimes haunting lyrics. Mercury then joined the band and changed the name to Queen, while also taking the stage name Mercury. In 1973, Queen signed their first recording contract with EMI, and this was also the year of their first major tour. In 1974, Queen.

     The roots to the formation Queen date back to 1968, when guitarist Brian May was a student at London’s Imperial College along with bassist Tim Staffel, and the two decided to form a rock band. May placed an ad on the college notice board for a drummer, and Roger Taylor, who was a dental student at the time, auditioned and got the job in the group called Smile. While attending Ealing Art College, Tim Staffel became friends with Farroukh Bulsara (Freddie Mercury). Staffel subsequently went on to join another band, which did not achieve any success.  Bulsara became a big fan of Smile, and after joining the group, changed the name to Queen.  Meanwhile, Queen went through a number of bass guitar players before they came upon John Deacon, and once Deacon joined, the rock group was ready to start rehearsing for their first album. Bulsara adopted the English name Freddie and took the stage name Mercury, named after a line in one of Queen’s early songs My Fairy King that says “Mother Mercury, look what they’ve done to me.”

     At first after Queen recorded their demo tape of songs, no record companies were interested.  In 1973, Queen signed their first recording contract with EMI, and this was also the year of their first major tour. In 1974, Queen released Queen II, cited as one of the greatest Glam Rock albums of all time. Queen enjoyed good success with Queen II (1974), but it was with the release of Sheer Heart Attack (1974) and A Night at the Opera (1975) where the band gained international success. After the band played six consecutive nights at New York’s Uris Theatre in 1974, Brian May collapsed and was diagnosed as having hepatitis, and this event may have inspired the title of Sheer Heart Attack.  It was the album A Night at the Opera that contained Queen’s massive hit,” Bohemian Rhapsody,” which stayed on the UK charts at number one for 9 weeks. Their 1977 album News of the World contained two of their most recognizable songs, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” -both staples of sports arenas everywhere.

     The single “Killer Queen” reached #2 on the British charts and became Queen’s first US hit. It combines camp, vaudeville, Brian May’s guitar virtuosity. An important comment must be made about the outstanding and at times absolutely astonishing guitar skills exhibited by Brian May. If you listen to “Keep Yourself Alive” or “Stone Cold Crazy” the guitar playing is truly amazing, and you wonder ‘how does he do it?!’ The high-speed rocker “Stone Cold Crazy” is technically classified as “speed metal”. A Night at the Opera is one of the most expensive albums ever produced, according to Wikipedia, and the title is taken from a famous Marx Brothers movie of the same name, and the accompanying music video is considered the first “true” music video.

     In the late 1970s, Queen toured extensively, including a famous free concert in 1976 on London’s Hyde Park, as well as sold-out shows in New York’s Madison Square Garden and Earl’s Court, London. In 1978 and 1979, Queen literally toured most of the world, with the US and Canada in 1978, and Europe and Japan in 1979. The 1980s saw the release of the album The Game, with its hits “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust”. The album topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks. After attending a Queen concert in 1980, Michael Jackson suggested to Mercury backstage that they release “Another One Bites the Dust” as a single. In 1981, Queen travelled to South America and became the first rock band to play in Latin American stadiums with some of the largest concert crowds in South American history. In 1980, Queen collaborated with David Bowie on the single “Under Pressure” after Bowie happened to drop by the studio where Queen were recording. Later in 1981, Queen released the compilation Greatest Hits, which is the best-selling album in UK chart history, going 8x platinum in the United States and selling over 25 million copies worldwide.

     The sentinel events in the history of the band were the Live Aid concert in Wembley Stadium July 1985 in front of a TV audience of 1.9 billion. The final tour by Queen with Freddie Mercury was in 1986. This was a pre-cursor to Freddie Mercury’s AIDS illness, which fans began to suspect due to Mercury’s deteriorating and gaunt appearance beginning in 1988. Mercury denied that he had AIDS until upon his deathbed (only 24 hours before he died on November 23, 1991), he read a prepared statement acknowledging the disease.

Queen most recently toured in 2005 with Paul Rodgers (formerly of Bad Company). See Queen’s website for current news. It is astonishing that Queen have several tribute bands that garner international audiences, although Queen themselves still tour and record. See Fan Club or Brian May’s website   {Editor’s note: many of the information in this blog came from Wikipedia.}

New York Dolls Ultra Glam

The New York Dolls are an American Glam Rock band, formed in New York in 1971. Their sound, style,  outrageous, in-your-face behavior and pretty-boy dress, trash guitar and lyrics took the world by storm in the 1970s. The New York Dolls influenced many New Wave and Glam Metal rockers in the 70s and 80s, especially American New Wave artists such as the Ramones, Blondie, Television and Talking Heads

Additionally, they are credited as having been a major influence to the great “hair metal” bands that came out of the Sunset Strip in the 1980s. The website states “The New York Dolls quickly made an impact with their fat-lipped Jagger lookalike (lead singer David Johansen) and junked-up guitarist (Johnny Thunders). All the while, the rest of the band looked like ‘brickies’ in drag.” The initial stellar line-up for the Dolls were David Johansen (lead singer), Johnny Thunders (lead guitar), Rick Rivets (guitar), Arthur “Killer” Kane (bass guitar), and Billy Murcia (drums). Rivets was later replaced by Sylvain Sylvain.

Guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and drummer Billy Murcia went to junior high and high school together in New York, and started playing in a band called “The Pox” in 1967.  Murcia and Sylvain started a clothing business called “Truth and Soul”; Sylvain took a job at a men’s boutique across from a doll repair shop called “The New York Doll Hospital”. Sylvain claimed this was what inspired the name for the band. In 1970, Sylvain and Murcia recruited Johnny Thunders to play; although Sylvain apparently had to teach Thunders how to play the guitar. Meanwhile, Rick Rivets and Arthur Kane had been playing in a band in the Bronx and joined the band. When Thunders decided he did not want to not want to be the front man, David Johansen joined the band. Their first rehearsal tape was called Dawn of the Dolls, and the band’s first performance was Xmas Eve 1971 at a run-down hotel in Manhattan, the Endicott Hotel.

According to Wikipedia, the band was influenced by vintage R & B, early Rolling Stones, the MC5, and glam rockers Iggy Pop and the Stooges as well as Marc Bolan of T-Rex. Due to Johansen’s jazz and rhythym & blues influences, the NY Dolls albums contain cover versions of songs by Bo Diddly, the Drells, Sonny Boy Williamson and the Coasters.

The New York Dolls’ career started to take off after they obtained a manager and were asked by Rod Stewart to open for him at a London concert. Shortly after this, drummer Billy Murcia died of a drowning accident after getting intoxicated with drugs and alcohol. Back in New York, the Dolls auditioned drummers and selected Jerry Nolan, a friend of the band. Mercury records signed the band, and their first album New York Dolls was produced by Todd Rundgren. The Dolls were fairly misunderstood by the main stream rock crowd/audience of the 1970s. In a poll with then popular rock magazine Creem, the band was voted both the best and worst of 1973. In the 70s, the band toured the U.S., also appearing on UK music television show “Old Grey Whistle Test”, where the host of the show derided them as “mock rockers” -meaning that he thought they were a clone of the Rolling Stones. Johansen does look like Mick Jagger, but the sound is Glam Rock, whereas, the Stones are more mainstream, arena rock.

The original New York Dolls classic Glam Rock sound was short-lived after the band broke up in the late 70s. Thunders and Nolan quit the band while on tour in Florida in 1975. Blackie Lawless replaced Thunders. The band played its final show in 1976. The New York Dolls have had a devoted following, influencing many of the “hair metal” bands to come out of the Sunset Strip in the 1980s. The Smiths’ Morrissey, having been a longtime fan of the band, and head of the UK fan club in the 1970s, organized a reunion of the three surviving members (Johansen, Sylvain, and Kane) for the Meltdown Festival in 2004. (Johnny Thunders died in New Orleans in 1991 of an alleged methodone and heroin overdose. He also had been suffering from leukemia.) The group continued to record and tour from that point on. They are currently on tour with Motley Crue and Poison (in 2011).

Watch the attached video of their performance in the 1972 of “Looking for a Kiss” on UK Television (apologies for the obnoxious TV announcer’s initial voiceover in the video). Also, stay tuned for future podcast with Slade, Quiet Riot and the New York Dolls. Allright!