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Being a Queen Fan Pt 1, Me and Bob

Hi folks. This is about my first years as a queen fan. I’ve told you in the first post how I had initially got into the band, to the point of trying to be a completist and because of Queen’s back catalog, there is a lot to get and I got it all, except for Live Magic until 1994. This is about my years as a fan, from 1991 to 1994, when I had graduated from high school.

To refresh our memories, I had a room mate who is as much of a music fan as I and we were close friends at the time and shared much the same childlike sense of humor. We are both blind and he plays piano, while I play guitar. I did initially take piano lessons at the school, but I hated it because of repetition and learning to read music. I also thought that the music was boring and I had no interest in being a concert pianist, even after getting into Queen and Freddie’s piano playing. I left that to my buddy Bob Reid, who was my room mate during that school year. Oh yes, I went to a boarding school in Brantford Ontario, known as the W. Ross Macdonald School, which is a school for the blind and we even have deaf and blind students. The staff were all sighted and more and more staff who were blind, would eventually work there, as some would have graduated from the school. The first teacher we had who was blind (when I was there) was a woman with a guy dog. No, I have no plans to get a dog, either as a guide or a pet as animals and myself do not go well together. I love dogs and I love cats, but I’m not equipped to own a pet. If they could learn to communicate in English using real words telling me whether they are hungry, want to play, or anything else, then we’d be in business. Anyway, I digress.

In 1990, my previous room mate had given me the 1981 North American version of the Greatest Hits album, which had Keep Yourself Alive and Under Pressure as part of the track listing, along with 12 other songs which had appeared on the 1981 British version, which I guess is now the definitive version of the album around the world. Bob had the same album and his version had noise reduction on it, in order to combat tape hiss. Anyway, it sounded awful and to make things worse for him, my copy had the album version of Keep Yourself Alive, while his copy had the version with the early US fade. Yes, I hate that version too, but that;s the way it goes I guess.

In early 1991, Bob was playing Queen, while I was still in my Beatles phase and I soon came around, as I had the Greatest Hits album and when Innuendo came out, we both listened to the Rockline episode with Brian and Roger as guests. They even took a question about Vanilla Ice sampling Under Pressure, which had made me mad even before I had jumped into the Queen pool. I’m still angry that he had done the sample, but I have since heard him talk and he seems like a nice dude and I’m trying to let it go, but it’s really hard.

Anyway, soon after Rockline I would buy Innuendo on tape and I quickly realized that Queen had clicked with me better than The Beatles, simply because of the guitar. I had always been into metal even when The Beatles had dominated my music listening and Queen was the gate way back home (so to speak). If you think about it, doesn’t the descending guitar Melody in Innuendo in A minor played by Brian kinda remind you of something which Iron Maiden had done previously? It did for me and shortly before then, I had heard Queen on a metal show, which also sealed the deal and I was on a mission to find out what I had been missing for years and of course, I would and I will have more on that below.

I had started buying all of the albums (at first on tape), but I had decided that I liked Queen too much so I made the switch to CD’s and that switch would be completed just after Christmas, when I had bought all of the albums on CD, some of which I previously had on tape. I gave the tapes to friends whom I knew also liked Queen, but they weren’t as obsessed as me at the time. I should also mention that the order of the albums I would eventually own was partially in part controlled by Queen albums coming out on CD, but not in order of the album releases like in 2011. I also had my sister’s copy of the News Of The World album and I would listen to it on weekends while at home. So, the spring of 1991 was full of Queen on my walkman at school and Queen on record at home. However, there was more to come, as I would get more of the albums on CD.

To go back a bit, Queen had signed with Hollywood Records in 1990 and would release Innuendo in 1991, along with the rest of Queen’s studio albums and Live Killers, but not the 1981 Greatest Hits album, which was owned by another label. However, some Queen albums were available on CD and tape in the US and Canada on Capital Records in the 80s, between Hot Space and Innuendo. I had bought The Works on tape and The Miracle on CD in the spring of 1991 and I was happy to hear all of what I had missed of the two albums, even as The Works would begin with Radio GaGa. Don’t get me wrong, I love GaGa, but it isn’t and hasn’t been a proper album opener for me, because of it’s demeanor, compared to the next song returning to Queen’s hard rock roots with a track from Brian. I remember listening to it in the school van and me and Bob were excited and then, the rest of the album came along and I grew to appreciate it, even GaGa as a song in its own right, but not as an album opener. I will get more into that when talking more about The Works in a later post.

Some time in June, Bob had been given a copy of A Night At The Opera on tape, with side 1 ending with Keep Good Company and on side 2 before BohRhap was Seaside Rendezvous. He was so lucky and I wanted it so bad so, he kindly put it on tape for me, but he forgot to bring the tape back to school the final week of the year. So, he gave me the ANATO tape (which I would take good care of throughout the summer of 1991 and i brought it back in September, when we exchanged tapes. On one side was ANATO and on the other was a Queen documentary hosted by Axl Rose, which had aired after the St. Louis incident and before the Use Your Illusion I and II albums. I had also spent the summer, looking forward to any new releases on CD and at the end of August, I went out to get Queen on CD and Jazz on Tape. Then I came back to school and I was teased mercilessly for liking Queen by the jocks, as I didn’t know anything about Freddie’s bisexuality and frankly, not giving a shit. I think the real reason was that Queen were an old band and did not put out the same type of music which was popular among those who appreciated hair metal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have all of the armaments to back me up, meaning all of the albums and all their hard rock songs and there were some people, who just didn’t get it until Queen had become cool, thanks to the BohRhap video in 1992. In other words, they were not true music fans and just bandwagonists. I kept my love for the ballads and the other shit to myself, as the guys who were ragging on me liked metal, like I do too. I even loved the 1991 Metallica album and I was so happy that it did well, along with Slave to the Grind by Skid Row. After all, the title track was fast like speed metal and the album was heavy, but not brutal like extreme metal. That was what I was into in the 80s and now.

Also during the summer, I had heard Queen live and it was the 1975 Christmas Eve concert as it was and not the newly tuned version which was released in 2015. I remember hearing Ogre Battle and thinking that it reminds me of Iron Maiden. I also heard Freddie’s vocals and thinking that he wasn’t the same singer live, as he was in the studio. I was disappointed and when I had heard Spread Your Wings from Live Killers, my heart sank. Obviously, I love Freddie, but a real bugaboo for me was how Freddie sang live, VS. in the studio. In other words, Freddie played it safe vocally unlike his personality on and sometimes off stage. That bothered me for a long time and to an extent, it still does and tuning his vocals for more recent live albums doesn’t help. I’d rather hear him as he was, with authenticity and with as little fixing as possible. I realize that the idea was to make the live experience different from what we had heard at home, but I always believed that you should sing the exact melody of the song and sometimes, Freddie did and it would be just enough, to let you know that you were hearing a specific song. When I had heard Queen’s Live Aid performance I was so happy to hear Freddie hitting all the notes, as Bob and myself thought that he couldn’t do it. Anyway, I digress

By the time November 24th rolled around, I had all of the albums except for: Flash Gordon, Live Killers, Queen II and Live Magic. I had bought all albums (except for Live Magic) just after Boxing Day and had discovered the British imported 1981 Greatest Hits, but I didn’t get it until May 1992. I was in no real rush to get any Greatest Hits albums on CD, as I had no idea what would happen with the 1981 North American version at the time. Obviously, now I do and that will be another story for another post.

In March 1992, I had bought Classic Queen and that was my first Queen compilation I would purchase, along with a tape by comedian Bill Cosby, featuring most of his classic bits. Yes, I also like comedy and I will get more into that later on. I was really happy with the CD, until I realized what it actually was. To tell the truth, I prefer Greatest Hits I and II and I’m glad that we here in North America can own both albums without them being imports. The only thing I didn’t like about the compilation is that some songs were edited, like on Classic Queen. The Classic Queen, version of The Miracle and One Vision were shortened and The Miracle was downright edited, as apposed to having a trimmed beginning and ending. It also felt rushed to me and I noticed immediately that they used the same masters from the albums except for a few tracks, which were edited and in some cases, it was the single versions of tracks. For the first time, we would get the single versions of I Want It All and Hammer To Fall on a compilation in North America, while Under Pressure has a different mix which is dryer and you can hear some parts better than on the original. If you do a search on Youtube, look for Queen Under Pressure (Classic Queen Mix) and the same with The Miracle and One Vision and then you will understand why I have no love for this compilation, despite it shifting many units here in North America. It may not have done as well as Greatest Hits II, but it did do well none the less.

Speaking of Greatest Hits, I also dislike the 1992 Greatest Hits as it is another slapped together compilation and without any apologies, including all of the same mixes which appeared on the CDs of the albums which tracks were taken from. The only pluses about both compilations were that when they were put together in 1992 in a boxed set, a third CD was included with the Queen For An Hour interview and Thank God It’s Christmas on it and I know I had mentioned it in my Christmas post, but I just had to repeat it here.

Back at school, it was in the music wing where I had met the least resistance to Queen and I had also got an electric guitar for Christmas in 1991. Having my ax gave me strength and the will to push on in pushing Queen on people. We also had a lab ensemble and I was allowed to contribute as others would do, with Dragon Attack and I think it is because of how little complexity is in the song. It was easy for young people to learn and the drummer didn’t have to do much more than play a beat and maybe do some fills. Our drummer was a little guy, who was the size of a 7-year-old, but he was actually 17 and we had become close, since we were both on the wrestling team and we’re both small. We liked much the same music, but I don’t think he was all that into Queen. However, I think he did respect them and after all, Axl Rose is a Queen fan and Trevor (that was his name) was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan and we both loved metal. Unfortunately, he was also balled and had a speech impediment so it was hard to understand him on the phone, but not as difficult if you were right there with him. However, he was no dummy and did well in school. Sadly, I heard that he died a few years after he left the school. I don’t know how, but I had heard that he had follicle cancer which was the reason why he had no hair.

So, the music wing was my escape from the crap I had to deal with when trying to spread Queen throughout the school and those who were bigger than me. Somehow in 1992, when Queen had become popular in North America all that shit went away, but I knew that it was phoney, in that they were just kissing my ass and jumping on the Queen bandwagon because they were popular again. I made tapes for them with the essential songs and songs I felt represented Queen as the rock band and particularly, mine and their musical tastes. I don’t know and I don’t care if they even still have what I did, but I know I was right, as most of those people only listened to music, but were not invested in it unless it was popular.

This was all during the 1991/ 1992 school year and I have one more story from that year I would like to share here. I was in the school’s choir and no, we didn’t do any Queen songs. During the fall, we were invited to go to the school for the blind in Columbus Ohio and its counterpart in Louisville Kentucky. The latter school was because we got to visit the American Printing House For The Blind and in case you are wondering, I do read brail. I don’t have any brail material on me, but on the elevators in our apartment there is both print and braille. I was also lucky enough to learn to read raised print so I know my letters and numbers in both print and brail.

Anyway, I was excited to get the hell out of the school and all the shit I had to put up with, from the non-believers I was surrounded by, who did not take music and were more focused on sports and anything else outside of music. This trip was set for April 1992 and we had to raise money, in order to rent a coach with a driver, in order to take us from Branford to Columbus, to Louisville, to Columbus and back within five days. We left on Sunday April 26 and we would arrive back in Brantford on Thursday April 30th, the same week of the Los Angeles Riots taking place.

During that trip our choir and the schools from both Columbus and Louisville would get together, to participate in something called Ameraflora. I’m not sure if I had spelled it correctly, but here comes my Queen moment. On one day we were either practicing or something, one of my friends had found a Queen fan among the group, who was from somewhere in Thailand. We talked for a bit and unfortunately, I hadn’t stayed in touch. One of the songs they had mentioned was a piano instrumental version of Friends Will Be Friends, similar to Forever and I wonder if that exists. I almost forgot, that I would play queen loud on the bus on the way to both schools and back. I was excited because Bo Rhap was back in the charts again and I had fun scanning radio stations to hear whether they were top 40 or rock. The top 40 stations played it at a faster speed, while rock stations played it normally. Oddly, my coppy of the British Greatest Hits has all of the songs at a slightly faster speed and higher in pitch, similar to top 40 radio. Thankfully, this has been corrected with remastering and on digital releases.

During the 1992/ 1993 school year, Queen were more popular at the school and so, I had won. No, not really, but I like to think I had declared victory over those haters. Anyway, I would continue to add to my Queen collection, with Greatest Hits II in July 1992 and both Freddie solo albums around the same time. Later around Christmas 1992, I would buy some CD singles from the Innuendo era and a couple of Freddie singles too. I had no sooner payed for them, then I had learned that HMV in Toronto (where I was at the time) had Back To The Light as an import. Thankfully, I was patient enough to wait until February 1993 and then, I bought Back To The Light and when I got home, I had basked in Brian’s playing.

Later on that summer, I would purchase an interview disk with an interview with Brian talking about A Kind Of Magic and I had found the same interview on another CD package, back in the summer of 1992, with the British BohRhap CD single on one disk and the interview on the other. After the summer of 1993, I had moved to buying other artists, but Queen would always be there as I would stick to bands who sounded similar to Queen such as Extreme and Sweet and their propensity for glam rock and harmony vocals, similar to Queen. Plus, they had influenced some metal bands so, why not? That would extend to grunge, when I had discovered that Soundgarden would play with Brian in 1993 and Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone was a Queen fan and especially of Freddie. Apparently, so was Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden. I was also a fan of Pearl Jam, long before I had learned about Andy being a fan of Freddie, but I had heard that a couple of members were in Mother Love Bone with him, before Andy died in 1990. Of course, this would lead to the Temple of the Dog project headed by Chris Cornell. Anyway, I digress.

In March 1994, Bob had let me know about finding Live Magic in an HMV somewhere and next chance I had, I went and snapped it up. You can’t imagine how happy I was and when I got it home, I had listened to it and sang along with Freddie, as loudly as I could, trying to copy his vocal delivery and distortion. I could do that at the time, as I only had my parents to deal with and I was in my own room in the basement, where I wanted to be all along. I had slowed down with buying Queen as I had no idea if any of Roger’s solo albums were available on CD or not and I didn’t know his discography well enough, to know what Iwas looking for. The only way I even knew of The Cross was from the Queen For An Hour Interview and thankfully, all of that would change in the next 29 years.

I would graduate from high school in 1994, at the age of 21 and me and Bob lost touch with each other, with no bad blood between us. He went his way and I went mine and the last time we had met was in 2005, at the Toronto Coach Terminal, when Greyhound Canada was still active and the terminal was bustling with activity, with people buying tickets to go all sorts of places from various bus companies throughout Ontario. Now, Greyhound Canada is no longer, dew to the cOVID-19 pandemic and there is a new bus terminal, replacing the Toronto Coach Terminal at Bay and Dundas.

Queen wasn’t the only thing Bob and myself had in common, as we both loved comedy and we both loved The Flintstones. One comedian whom I’ve always loved and apparently Bob had most of his albums, was George Carlin, the same man who gave us Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television and got some heat from it, by getting arrested in Milwaukee Wisconsin, for using those words during a summer festival. I’m not going to put them here, but you can easily find the original bit on any and all streaming services. Also, I recommend looking up his books and audiobooks if you are into his comedy. Brain Droppings is certainly worth recommending and anything else you may find. It’s comedy, but it is thoughtful and it tought me how to put together lists and blog posts like this. Check out his comedy albums on any digital or streaming platform you use and there are so many from different eras of his career, that I can’t recommend just one. So, try the Classic Gold first and if you like that, you can go from there. It’s a compilation made up of 3 of his 1970s albums and if you want to know and hear more, that’s where Google comes in handy.

Bob and I haven’t been in contact with each other since we last saw each other in June 2005 and I hope to connect with him some day. In the mean time, I will remember the times we spent together as friends and as collaborators, on various projects such as our school yearbook.

That’s it for this post and in the future, I will talk about my Queen fandom from 1995 the present day. Here’s a hint, Queen have never really left.

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Published by blindgordie

I am a blind at birth human and love to write. I have many interests and they are all in all 3 blogs I have here. Hopefully you enjoy reading them as much as I have had both fun and a hard time putting together each post.

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