freddie mercury

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“The Life and Music of Freddie Mercury”

Published February 5, 2018 by Maryanne

Jayne's picture 1

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Rob Fusari and Maryanne Christiano Mistretta (photos by Jayne DiGregorio)

Pear Tree’s Learn & Listen Series presented “The Life and Music of Freddie Mercury” (February 4, 2018) at Kinnelon Public Library, Kinnelon, New Jersey.

Maryanne, a Queen fan since the 1970s, began the presentation by talking about the life of Freddie Mercury, born in Zanzibar, an island on the East Coast of Africa; how he worked at the Kensington clothing market in England, and soon became a member of Queen; his life with Mary Austin and Jim Hutton; and his solo career.

Audience members were invited to share their memories of Queen.

Maryanne ended the “Learn” portion of the show by reciting the lyrics to the Queen song “Teo Torriatte” first in Japanese, then in English.

Then Maryanne made the audience clap to the tune of “We Will Rock You” to cheer Rob on to the stage.

Rob Fusari, three-time Grammy Award winning producer, put on an incredible performance, singing, playing keyboards, and guitar, and telling stories about each song. He performed “Radio Gaga,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “We Are the Champions,” and “The Great Pretender.”

Rob ended the show by encouraging the audience to sing the chorus of “We Are the Champions.” The energy in the room was electrifying! The audience wanted an encore, and several audience members cheered for an original, which he did.

It was a show many will never forget! Freddie Mercury would be proud.

Jayne's picture 8.jpgRob Fusari (photo by Jayne DiGregorio)

For more information on Rob Fusari, visit: https://www.robfusari.com/

For more information on Pear Tree Enterprises, visit: https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

I Wanna Be Where the Boys Are!

Published July 3, 2015 by Maryanne

records 2The best girls are diehard music fans!

Big truth here (and what my husband says makes me special ♥).

Whenever there’s an event, other wives/girlfriends run off to smoke a cigarette, take selfies in the bathroom, check their smart phones …. whatever! But I’m happy being left behind with my very good looking husband and all the other guys talking about MUSIC!

An interesting stereotype right? But 90 percent of the time it is true.

I’ve been a diehard music fan since I was a kid. (It’s all documented in my book “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X). And from day one, it was apparent that girls weren’t as interested in music as I was. One of my touchy little girlfriends scolded me saying I talked about Freddie Mercury too much. My mom said she was right.

I felt defeated until I realized, that’s exactly the kind of girl a guy likes — one who knows music. And for that very reason, I always had more guy friends than girlfriends. A guy once said to me, “Every girl wants to be told she’s different. But you … you’re really different!”

I wrote about this on Face Book yesterday and surprisingly, I got the “thumbs up” from quite a few of my female friends! It lead to an hour long conversation from one girl I was friends with in the 1990s. We took a walk down memory lane discussing all the bands we saw together and then shared the highlights of some of our favorites that we saw in later years. It was the most fun I had on Face Book in ages and I don’t see something like that happening again soon, as females bonding over music is rare. This is why, in my second book, “Love Cats” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YBGVJQS/) I had two girlfriends, Janey and Valerie, being big music fans.  This way, the book could be more attractive to male readers who normally wouldn’t read chick lit.

Actor Scott Schiaffo, best known for his role as the Chewlies Man in Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” endorsed “Love Cats” saying, “Maryanne’s zeal for life and passion for creativity shines through in all of her work. Here in her first book of fiction she gives us multidimensional characters mitigating love and growing pains as they manicure their pop culture lifestyle at the tail end of the ’80s. It’s romance — Gen X style! I could not get enough of Janey and Beck.”

I was thrilled that Scott enjoyed my little romance novel. Of course with so many musical references you can’t go wrong when it comes to hip guys from the Gen X generation! And that’s just it … guys who are big music freaks really are the best guys. I always found musicians and music fans to be the deepest, smartest, funniest, dedicated and most honest. Sure, there are some that fit the stereotype of being cheaters and assholes, but there’s definitely more that are not. In our circle, all the musicians and music lovers are super guys that anyone would enjoy being around. Hey, maybe that’s why I don’t mind being left at bar with them!

So, ladies, perhaps I can inspire you … when your group runs off to wherever for whatever, why not stay behind? That’s where all the fun is!

Now enjoy some cool tunes:

Queen + Adam Lambert at IZOD, New Jersey (July 24, 2014)

Published July 24, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5357Getting psyched!

My 51st birthday will be on August 19 and one of my gifts from my husband was taking me to see Queen + Adam Lambert at the Izod last night!

Now, first a little background. How much do I love Queen, let me count the ways! I’ve been a fan since I was 12 or 13 in the 1970s. I got every album they made at that point and listened to each song on each album, every single day, in the order they were recorded! I memorized who wrote what song and all the liner notes of who played what featured instrument on all the songs. As well as all the lyrics. To this day, if you call out any Queen song from the first five albums, I can tell you who wrote it.

The first time I saw Queen was in 1982 with Freddie Mercury. I saw them again 10 years ago, with Paul Rodgers. And last night with Adam Lambert. All three times were special and unique.

The anticipation build up was off the hook. They had a little problem with the curtain, delaying the show by a half hour. A pre-recorded “Father to Son” from Queen II was played and I lost it. “They’re going to play this?!” But it was just a tease. However, they opened with “Now I’m Here” from “Sheer Heart Attack”  then went into “Stone Cold Crazy” from the same album.

“Fat Bottom Girls” was next, followed by yet another from “Sheer Heart Attack” — “Lap of the Gods”! I was losing it, it was just one great song after another! Then “Seven Seas of Rhye” from “Queen II.”

Then Adam Lambert camped it up during “Killer Queen.” A red velvet couch was brought out for him to ham it up on (he couldn’t even keep a straight face and he was cracking up). He drank from a bottle of Moet and then spit it into the audience, followed by a few cute double-entendre jokes. He even had panties thrown at him. “Somebody to Love” followed and this was the first time you got a true taste of Adam Lambert’s astonishing vocals. He was a stellar front man — a wonderful choice. Yet, the entire band worked together as a group and everyone had their spotlight. Adam appeared extremely grateful to be part of the act and raved about how he loved Freddie and even bowed down during May’s ever-so-sweet guitar segments.

It was cute when Brian May asked a cheering crowd, “How do you like the new guy?”

And in equal cuteness, Adam Lambert endearingly referred to Brian as “Doctor Brian May.”

One of the most special moments, which I saw Brian perform back in 2005, was when he played “Love of My Life” — a song originally played by Freddie on a harp — on his guitar. Brian sang beautifully too. During this time Adam Lambert took a break and after “Love of My Life” Brian was joined on stage with others, including Roger Taylor, his son, Rufus Tiger Taylor (who looks just like his dad!) to do a bare bones version of “’39” followed by “These Are The Days Of Our Lives” which featured a touching tribute to Freddie Mercury.

Then came a great bass solo by current touring bassist, Neil Fairclough and an exciting drum battle between the Taylors (which is probably why “I’m in Love with My Car” was forfeited).

Adam Lambert returned to sing a duet of “Under Pressure” with Roger, followed by “Love Kills,” (a Freddie solo number), then “Who Wants to Live Forever.”

And then the moment we were all waiting for — a Brian May guitar solo, which featured riffs from “Brighton Rock.” (Also during the show, I don’t remember when, but there was a tease of “White Man.”) After the solo, Adam Lambert took front stage again and sang Brian’s hit, ‘Tie Your Mother Down” (which was sung by Freddie on “Day at the Races”).

After “Radio GaGa” Adam broke into a sexy little number called “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and then the grand finale of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was off the hook with their modern stage show. They had a monstrous “Q” lit up with the tail of the “Q” leading all the way out into the audience. Inside the “Q” there were video segments throughout the show. A second drum kit was set up in the front for some of the softer numbers. The light show was mind blowing and there were raised platforms on each side of the stage where Adam Lambert and Brian May would perform.

Throughout the night band members did several costume changes and Brian May looked like the true guitar god he is when he was wearing a gorgeous gold poncho, reminiscent of the white one he wore during ‘Night at the Opera” days back in the 1970s. And Roger Taylor still looking as cool as ever, looking like Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll in all white and dark sunglasses. And at this time I’d like to give a shout out to Spike Edney on keyboards.

Queen encored with “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”

Definitely a night to remember! My husband brought me two t-shirts — a sexy tank with the Queen crest in red foil and a tour shirt with Adam Lambert. I am ECSTATIC!

SAM_5379Adam Lambert (vocals), Roger Taylor (drums) and Brian May (guitar)

SAM_5426Adam Lambert

SAM_5435After the show, am I in heaven?

Almost Queen, Duke Island Park, Bridgewater, NJ

Published June 29, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5127Joseph Russo as Freddie Mercury

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My husband and I saw this amazing band so many times and they are absolutely amazing. “Almost Queen” is an appropriate name, as they truly nail every song — and I should know, I’ve been a diehard Queen fan since I was 12 years old — back in 1976!

Sadly, this show was one of the shorter sets. I’m such a Queen fan, I could listen to them perform all night. It’s always great to hear songs from my teenage years that I loved so much and listened to every song, in order that they recorded on all the albums, memorized all the lyrics, all the music, and who wrote which song.

Some of the songs tonight included: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Love of My Life,” “’39,” “Somebody to Love,” “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy,” “Radio GaGa,” “Fat Bottom Girls,” “Bicycle Race,” and “I’m in Love with My Car.”

This was a great “warm-up” for next month, when I see the real Queen again at the IZOD. I saw the original Queen with Freddie Mercury in 1982, Queen with Paul Rodgers in 2005 and now I’ll be seeing them with Adam Lambert.

If you never get to see the real Queen, I guarantee Almost Queen is a super replica. Joseph Russo never breaks out of character as Freddie, though doesn’t try to BE Freddie, but rather keeping his legend alive.

Randy Gregg is awesome as John Deacon and he’s great with the crowd. As a side note, he plays with another favorite 1970s band of mine — Angel (who I hope to see someday!)

John Cappadonna is fabulous as Roger Taylor. He even has a gong behind the drums! Very authentic!

Steve Leonard is phenomenal as Brian May, a guitar genius.

After the show, I got to have my picture taken with Joseph Russo and John Cappadonna. Thanks guys!

SAM_5125John Cappadonna, Me and Joseph Russo

SAM_5106Me and my husband enjoying the show

One Night of Queen at Count Basie Theater, Red Bank, NJ

Published April 11, 2013 by Maryanne

Gary Mullen - One Night of QueenGary Mullen as Freddie Mercury (photo swiped from One Night of Queen website)

I am a true, diehard Queen fan. The first five albums, I know better than the back of my hand. I can tell you every song, in order, who wrote the songs, who sang lead vocal and what special instruments were used in addition to the basic guitar, drums, bass and vocals.

Whenever I go to see a Queen tribute band, I don’t expect much, because #1, there was and is only ONE Freddie Mercury; #2, even if the band was awful (and none ever were), it’s still great to hear all those old songs performed live.

I only saw Queen once in 1982. Then I saw them again in 2005, with Paul Rodgers. Then I saw Almost Queen, an amazing tribute band, many times.

Last night I saw One Night of Queen, featuring Gary Mullen and The Works: http://www.garymullenandtheworks.com/

Now, Elvis fans categorize Elvis into two categories: Young Elvis (the Sun record years) and Las Vegas Elvis or Fat Elvis.

Queen fans similarly categorize Queen: Glam Rock Freddie (the first five albums) and Gay Freddie (when he cut his hair and grew a mustache). I’ve yet to see a Freddie impersonator do Glam Rock Freddie, which as a Queen fan I am totally craving! Maybe someday, somewhere, I hope to see that.

Gary Mullen made a spectacular Gay Freddie. For the entire evening he did not break character and his banter in between songs was hysterical, in true Freddie fashion, prancing about,  teasing the crowd, acting naughty and even encouraging audience members to pat him on the ass — which they did (both female and male fans). He had Freddie’s moves down to a science. I think some fans actually believed Mullen was Mercury, even though he looked more like Freddie’s lover, Jim Hutton, who wrote the book, “Mercury and Me,” which isn’t a bad thing.  He made the show so much fun, so lively …. a real hoot and Freddie would be pleased.

Mullen sounds a lot like Freddie and has a lot of passion in his vocals. Unfortunately the other members of the band lack the vocal chops, so the evening was filled with songs by Freddie Mercury and Brian May (which Freddie often sang), omitting songs by Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, like the hit “I’m in Love with My Car” and older songs like “Ogre Battle” where Taylor would scream outrageously.

What lacked in vocals was made up in musicianship. The audience was treated to amazing bass lines from Billy Moffat (who actually played like my favorite bassist of all time, Japan’s Mick Karn); extremely impressive David Brockett duplicating Brian May’s unique guitar sound; a stellar drum solo from Jonathan Evans; and Malcolm Gentles holding it all together on keys. (Mullen did not play keys or piano as Freddie did, but came out with guitar during “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”)

When One Night of Queen started to play “Bohemian Rhapsody” I said to my husband, “Let’s see how they pull this one off.”

They pulled it off just like Queen did — by lowering the lights and playing tapes of the operatic vocals. Queen’s, not theirs. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

The most astonishing part of the evening was Brockett performing “Love of My Life” on guitar, which was originally done on harp. Gorgeously done!

My one  issue — not just with this band, but many bands both tributes and originals —  is always when live artists don’t play entire songs. I’d rather hear less songs but fuller songs. I want the whole enchilada! It’s the most annoying thing to hear your favorite song sliced to pieces (like they do on American Idol) or missing lyrics. It’s like having a skip in your favorite vinyl record or tuning in to your favorite song on the radio when it’s half over. So I was disappointed with a few songs that weren’t done in entirety, like “Brighton Rock.”

But I definitely had a fabulous time at this show.

The song list included:

“Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Fat Bottom Girls,” “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy,” “Killer Queen,” “Somebody to Love,” “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions,” “Keep Yourself Alive,” “Under Pressure,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and so much more. They played two long sets with a break in between, when Mullen encouraged the crowd to go to the bar!

I’d definitely go see One Night of Queen again, a fun trip down memory lane for this major Queen fan! I wanted to buy a “Fat Bottom Girl” t-shirt, but while it may have seemed like a good idea when you;re under the influence of a New Castle Brown on tap and high on Queen euphoria, I highly doubt in my regular state of mind I’d have the guts to wear it. HA!

SAM_0529Dennis and I enjoying the show!

Always Musicians

Published March 2, 2013 by Maryanne

ian-mitchell-bay-city-rollerIan Mitchell of Bay City Rollers (photo swiped from Google search)

Last night my husband and I were talking about our childhood crushes and he asked me if I ever had a crush on a television star or if it was always musicians.

It was always musicians.

A late bloomer, I didn’t have my first real crush until I was about 11- or 12-years-old and it was on Ian Mitchell of The Bay City Rollers. He was just the cutest thing and I started buying all the 1970s Tiger Beats and 16 magazines just to have a lot of pictures of him. Ian Mitchell wasn’t an original Roller as he was first featured on their “Dedication” album.

Shortly after that musician crush, I moved on to Freddie Mercury of Queen. A classmate said that I “go from one extreme to the other.”

Freddie MercuryFreddie Mercury

My crush on Freddie Mercury lasted at least two years from ages 12 to 14. Again, I went crazy with the magazines, but Freddie Mercury wasn’t in 16 and Tiger Beat, I had to move on to Creem, Circus and Hit Parader. Soon all the pictures of Ian on my wall were replaced with Freddie Mercury pictures and posters. I got all the Queen albums and stole my mom’s vitamins, thinking they would help me stay awake to watch Queen on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, which came on at 1 a.m. on Saturday night.

I still have my year book album and the entry a friend wrote, “I hope you marry Freddie Mercury someday.”

Crushes on musicians soon became a reality because from my first boyfriend onward it was always musicians. And if someone I was interested in wasn’t a musician he  had to at least have a record collection bigger than mine or the relationship was doomed by me being bored with him.

Music is my favorite thing in the world and there is just something so special about a person with musical talent. Maybe subconsciously because I fail in this area, having no rhythm or even the desire to pick up an instrument — even after trying so many: guitar, violin, viola, keyboard, singing lessons, the best I can do is sing back-up or write lyrics (at least they are GOOD lyrics!)

I also think, as an independent kind of person, a musician naturally respects that independence. I think a lot of women would agree that it’s annoying if someone counts on you 24/7 to make his life complete. That kind of energy is just undo-able! It’s nice that if you feel you want to read a book or something, your significant other can go off in his studio and practice a song.

Music is such a God-given talent and I’m always impressed by people (both men and women) who can express themselves musically. As much as I love art and reading and even yoga as an art, music will always be my favorite thing in the creative field.

People who gravitate to music whether they have an actual talent, or just a great appreciation as I do (having a huge music collection and an extreme need to hear  live music as often as possible), seem to be the most sensitive, easiest to talk to, most caring, most amazing people. And funny as hell, I might add. (What’s that saying, every musician wishes he could be a comedian?)

There are those who keep up with the Joneses, but I prefer to keep up with the Tom Joneses and the Davy Joneses. So I have a confession to make: if I can’t talk music with someone, I just ain’t interested!

Many years ago when I was very young (early 20s) and super single (as in no prospects at all on the horizon!) one of my young co-workers wanted to fix me up with someone. When she showed me his photo I was impressed. He looked like a young Elvis. And then he was even cuter in person. He was kind and generous, treating our table of six to a wonderful meal. But when I asked him the magic question, “What kind of music do you like?” He said he didn’t know.

What kind of answer was that? I knew we weren’t going to get far and I didn’t even kiss him goodnight. I mean, this guy was a total catch — for another lovely young lady, but not for me.

I need to talk music!

Oh yeah … over the years I’ve dated actors, artists, other writers, but always came back to musicians. It is true, music makes the world go ’round. While most young women dream of a romantic dinner, my favorite dates were always concerts, whether it was in an arena or just seeing a local band in a dive bar. Music is, was and always will be the romantic back-drop to my life. And my soundtracks are endless. Each and every song I know reminds me of a story (or several stories) of my life.

Now I’m not saying that EVERY musician is the cat’s meow. Oh no, definitely not! I’ve dated quite a few “winners” (meaning “losers”) that were musicians. For instance, there was one, no TWO actually, who were such ego maniacs that they got offended if I listened to any music other than THEIRS! (Eww, right?)

And then there was another who was so high on himself he actually said he thanked his mother for being so good-looking. Eww, again!

And then what’s that saying, “What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?” HOMELESS! It is so true that to the stereotype that SOME musicians are moochers, as well as cheaters, and flakes, and stalkers and everything else you’ve heard. But that is true with everyone (male and female alike). You just have to find that jewel in the haystack and then life is super duper good!

So while some relationships with musician were horrific, there were several that I’ll have great memories because they were simply cool and treated me right. It’s all about respect and I’m always happy knowing that even if someone wasn’t “THE ONE” I could still have that mutual respect and enjoy myself for as long as the mutual infatuation lasted. And when I see these dudes in bars or what not, I will always say “Hey, how ya doing?” It’s all good and I always wish them the best.

In spite of all the stereotypes, there are a ton of musicians out there who are hard-working, stable, loving, adoring, loyal and family-oriented. Deep down, I always knew this!

I finally met the musician of my dreams when I hooked up with my husband late 2005. Actually, I knew my husband since I was a teenager, as I used to follow his band Pharoah. And for about six months I was part of their theatrical stage show, but Dennis and I never really had a long conversation, it was more like, “Hey, how are you?” I always thought he was cute though, but neither of us were ever available. I always had a boyfriend and he always had a girlfriend.

In late 2005, Pharoah played a benefit concert for the drummer, Nelson, who lost his wife to cancer. That was the first time Dennis and I actually had a real conversation and a few weeks later we started dating and became inseparable. The sparks just flew!

We married 11/9/11 and are so happy.

Maryanne at Pharoah showMe in front of my husband performing as Dennis Lords in his band, Pharoah

Dennis - Characters 2007Dennis playing with The Characters

One of the coolest things about my husband is that he’s not only a musician but a music fan! He is not intimated or jealous of other musicians, but rather in awe. Together we have the most massive collection of records and CDs.

We always have music playing in our home, both upstairs and downstairs. When we get ready to start our day, we’ll have blues or swing or The Monkees playing downstairs; and upstairs I’ll have the Sex Pistols or Sophie B. Hawkins or HIM.

We always go to live performances, especially in the summer when there are so many free concerts to take advantage of.

Once in a blue moon we’ll create together and write a song. We’re always having fun and being silly. We love taking long rides, listening to the radio and talking about anything and everything.

This is why I’m so happy all the time! My husband makes me complete in so many ways. He’s my go-to person when I’m sad and always there for me through thick and thin.

Parents may encourage their daughters to marry a doctor or a lawyer, but I say to be truly happy, marry a musician!