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Did You See the Movie?! Yes, But Real Life is Better!

Published July 30, 2019 by Maryanne

SAM_2908Me, in front of Queen tour bus a few years ago

I loved the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But ever since it came out, I hesitate to wear my Queen t-shirt. Before the movie, if I wore a Queen t-shirt, true fans would speak to me about the band I loved so much since I was 12. And I’d have a conversation I’d truly enjoy; especially if fellow Queen fan was a little older than me and saw an earlier version of Queen. Or better yet, when they did the double bill with Mott the Hoople! I’m all ears to hear about that!

These days, when I wear a Queen shirt, it’s no longer about the rock band Queen, but the Hollywood movie about Queen, played by actors.

A typical conversation will go like this:

“You like Queen?”

“Yes, I saw them perform many times! Even with Freddie Mercury!”

“Did you see the movie?”

What’s wrong with that conversation? I share with you that I saw Queen perform with Freddie Mercury and you ask me if I saw the movie? I’m sorry for being a music snob, but this is just not right. A similar conversation happened regarding Elton John a few weeks ago. The song “Rocket Man” came on the radio in a store and a woman in passing said, “I love it!”

I said, “I saw him perform in concert twice. Once in Central Park, 1980; and in the ’90s at Madison Square Garden.”

I should have seen it coming…

“DID YOU SEE THE MOVIE?!”

I quickly walked away to avoid further conversation. YES, YES, YES, I SAW THE MOVIE! I thought to myself. It was a great movie! But why, all of a sudden, is a movie about an artist, played by an actor, more interesting than an live concert with that very artist performing?!  

Years ago I was working at a magazine. The vice president was an older gentleman, who happened to see Elvis Presley perform, as a warm-up act to Hank Snow! My mind was blown. I wanted details, details, details! And more details! Can you imagine seeing Elvis Presley as a warm up act?

Now imagine if I was to ask, “Did you see ‘Elvis and Me’?” What a conversation killer, right? Do you see where I’m going with this?

Don’t get me wrong, over the years I’ve seen many good movies about the lives of musicians, singers, and even criminals. But can I inspire you? Don’t stop at the movie. Instead, explore.

After I saw the movie “Man on the Moon,” I purchased anything I could get my grubby hands on about Andy Kaufman. I didn’t go around talking about the movie for months. I wanted MORE. Much more than a movie could offer. I read books written by people who knew him. I watched all the old “Taxi” shows that he was featured in. I watched Andy Kaufman in action on various television shows.

All this stuff took time to accumulate because back then it wasn’t as easy as it is today with all the internet access. Back then the internet was just taking off. Which brings me to being a young Queen fan and searching for months in the mid-1970s just to find their album Queen II in a record store. There was no Amazon back then.

But that was part of the fun! Digging for stuff about the real thing was cool. And uncovering real truths is cool. Like finding out that the REAL Mr. Arnstein wasn’t quite the charmer he was in “Funny Girl.” Like finding out the real Bonnie Parker wasn’t nearly as hot as Faye Dunaway. Like finding out the real Andy Kaufman was even more crazy than he was portrayed as in “Man on the Moon.” Like finding out the Doors concerts were much more mild than portrayed in Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” movie. In fact, I was told by a person who went to a Doors concert that they were boring.

See, this is why you can’t rely on a movie alone. Movies are often Hollywood-ized. They take snippets of a life and put them into a 2.5 hour film. It’s entertaining, but it’s not the complete picture.

When I read on a Queen Facebook page that a fan saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” over 50 times since it came out last November, I cringed. Why not spend that time exploring the real work of Queen? They have a grand library of studio albums from 1973 to the time of Freddie Mercury’s death. Plus several live albums, videos, and books. My favorite is “Mercury and Me” by Jim Hutton. I loved the book so much that I reached out to Jim Hutton, via his publishing company. This was back in the 1990s, before everyone had email. I forgot I wrote the letter and about three weeks later I received a handwritten letter from Jim Hutton himself! The letter was actually a homemade card, featuring his new kitten in a Christmas tree, since he didn’t get to keep any of Freddie’s cats after Freddie passed away.

The takeaway here is, movies are all fine and good. Yes, we all love movies. Even me.

But, don’t stop there. You can start by getting out of the theaters and going to a live show. It’s fun and exciting. Explore more of a band; not just the greatest hits. Take movies with a grain of salt. See it once or twice. If you have to see it again, wait at least a year. In the meantime you can learn more from reading books, watching interviews on You Tube, and purchasing full albums or CDs, not just the songs you like. You might just surprise yourself and say, “Real life is better!”

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books (in which she mentions Freddie Mercury in both, and how he inspired her as a child, teenager, and still today!):

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

Lyrics From Queen’s First Album Manifested in The Band’s History!

Published May 19, 2019 by Maryanne

Queen album coverQueen’s Debut Album

While many people jumped on the Queen band wagon after seeing the film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” I was a fan since 1975, just after their album “A Night At The Opera” came out. I loved the music so much, I went backwards and got their prior albums, “Queen” and “Sheer Heart Attack.” Note that it took me some time before I found “Queen II” because back then you couldn’t order from Amazon. You physically had to go to a record store. Each week, I’d got to Korvettes and actively seek Queen II.  I was thrilled when I found it and FINALLY had the complete set of Queen albums. To this day, almost 45 years later, I favor Queen’s first five albums.

In the late 1990s I was writing for several NYC news publications, mainly The Westsider and The Chelsea Clinton News (which covered the Chelsea and Clinton areas of NYC).

When I reviewed the play, “Mercury: Life of a Rock God” it dawned on me … lyrics in the song “Great King Rat,” written by Freddie Mercury were a foreshadowing of what was to come with Freddie’s failing health, and eventually death. I had to write that in my article because it was something a true Queen fan couldn’t overlook.

Check out Freddie Mercury’s lyric in “Great King Rat” …

“Great King Rat died today
Born on the twenty first of May
Died syphilis forty four on his birthday.” 

Both syphilis and AIDS are transmitted by unprotected sex. And Freddie Mercury died at the age of 45, one year older than his Great King Rat character. It truly is a bizarre coincidence. And a sad one. But Freddie Mercury wouldn’t want to be remembered with pity. Far from a “rat” — he truly is the Great King (make that the Great Queen!) Let’s remember him that way!

After the success of the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” it dawned on me how sustainable Queen has been in their career. I think back to the 1970s when I was a kid and recall how hard it was to find a Queen record or a poster. Now there’s Queen memorabilia everywhere. I recently got a Freddie Mercury Bobblehead doll. Just Goggle “Queen” and you will not come up empty handed at all. Collector’s rejoice! Thanks to the overwhelming success of Queen, if you want something, you got it.

While it was Freddie Mercury who said, “I’m not gonna be a star, I’m gonna be a legend,” it was actually Roger Taylor who predicted the band’s success with his lyric in “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll” …

Everybody in this bum sucking world
Gonna know just who you are

It’s pretty safe to say that Queen is now a household name. But back in 1973, when Queen’s first album debuted, who would have known? In the song “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll” Taylor could have been talking about any band or any rock star, but it was his band Queen that manifested the magic of the song and made it way over the top!

Freaky, right? Keep reading …

“The Night Comes Down” also on Queen’s debut was written by Brian May in 1970 shortly after Queen formed, following his break-up with Smile. Brian May admitted to being a Beatles fan, and there seems to be a nod to The Beatles and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” in the song with the following lyric:

When I was young it came to me; And I could see the sun breaking; Lucy was high and so was I…

In the past year, due to all the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody” there was a Lucy who was high, right along with Brian May. That would be Lucy Boynton who played Mary Austin in the film. How crazy is that? What are the chances of an actress playing Mary Austin having the same first name as someone written in a song by Brian May 50 years ago?!

Lucy-Boynton-and-Brian-May-Fox-party-e1551134444579

Lucy Boynton and Brian May riding high on the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody”

There is one more crazy Queen coincidence that I can’t take credit for, but other Queen fans will appreciate if they have all the albums. I saw this in a letter in Circus magazine after “A Night at the Opera” came out. I am so sorry I can not remember the letter writer’s name, but this is something incredible he figured out. If you count all the Queen songs, in order, from the first Queen album to “A Night at the Opera” you will discover that Brian May’s song “39” is the 39th song recorded.

You can not make this stuff up!

Queen fans, comment below … Are there any more coincidences you’ve noticed Queen’s career that manifested from their lyrics?

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books (which both mention how she was inspired by Freddie Mercury): 

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

Almost Queen, Duke Island Park, Bridgewater, NJ

Published June 29, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5127Joseph Russo as Freddie Mercury

SAM_5126

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!