Posts Tagged ‘Brian May’

Liberal Star Candidate in Cambridge

April 14th, 2011
Comments Off on Liberal Star Candidate in Cambridge

Occasionally I join in on the fun over at the Cambridge Citizen. Here’s my latest:

During elections, parties struggle to get name candidates, people who have had previous success and can use their name to help the cause along. Based solely on their past, these star candidates often get responsibilities beyond what a rookie politico normally would. Liberal MP Ken Dryden and Conservative MP Julian Fantino are both examples of this phenomena.


Here in Cambridge, the Liberals have stepped up and nominated Queen guitarist – and, not unimportantly, Doctor of Astrophysics – Bryan May. This is a brilliant choice which, frankly, the Liberals don’t seem to be capitalizing on.

On the campaign trail Michael Ignatieff could come out to the faithful giving him the We Will Rock You clap, and Bryan May could step up and play the solo. That would pump up the crowd.

Ignatieff, instead of quoting Bob Dylan, should be sprinkling Queen quotes through his speeches:

Stephen Harper says he is for families.

I’m here to tell you, if he gets the majority he craves, he will tie your mother down, tie your mother down, lock your daddy outdoors.

That‘s not good for families.

Staying with the same song, instead of his tired speech about “that guy being in contempt of the house,” how good would Ignatieff sound if he said:

You’re such a dirty louse go get outa’ my house’.

When Prime Minister Harper attacked during the debate, Mr. Ignatieff could have sung back:

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single little civil word from those guys… (waves his arm n the general direction of Stephen Harper)

Take that American Canadian idol.

Now, if I can improve Michael Ignatieff’s speeches and debate performance markedly, imagine what professional speech writers putting actual effort into the project could come up with.

After Bryan May wins the riding of Cambridge – and the Doctor of Astrophysics will undoubtedly beat the Chiropractor because he is, after all, a much better guitar player – think of the benefit to Canadian’s as a whole. In an effort to reach across the aisle and work with the other parties, Bryan May could play guitar when Stephen Harper gets the itch to gig.

This has the double benefit of improving the band – because Bryan May is one of the best half-dozen guitar players in the world, and he’s a waaaaay better singer than Stephen Harper – and improving relations between the two parties.

In fact, I think other parties should join the trend a create a truly great Commons House Band. The NDP for instance could get Police drummer Stuart Copeland to run in Regina. This would have the double advantage of giving the NDP a strong criminal justice spokesman. The Bloc could put up Who bassist Jean Entwistle in Mink DeVille, which is, I believe, part of the townships. The Green Party could confuse the hell out of everybody and nominate Mama Let Him Play singer and guitarist Gilles Doucette in Vancouver. With a band like that, The House would certainly be rockin’.

Excuse me, the phone is ringing…

Hello?… Yes… Uh-huh… not the same guy… Queen guitarist spells his name with an I… M-a-i?…

Oh, B-r-i-a-n… Yes, as my name is Brian with an i, I suppose I should have noticed that… Does this mean Bryce Springsteen won’t be running for mayor?

election '11 , , , , ,

The Freedom of Music: Kimono my Propaganda

December 12th, 2010


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

A quick story:

In late 1974, Sparks were one of the biggest bands in Britain…. There was only one shadow on the duo’s horizon. They had just dismissed their lead guitarist. So they… began casting around for a suitable replacement. Somebody well known. Somebody respected, but somebody whose career was maybe on a distinct downward spiral. Somebody… like Brian May.

… His band, Queen, had shot their bolt…

“I did like the band,” May reflected. “I loved ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us.’ Anyway, they came around, the two brothers, and said, ‘Look, it’s pretty obvious that Queen are washed up; we’d like to offer you a position in our band, if you want.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t think we’re quite dead yet.”*

sidebar-4You get that? The boys in Sparks thought Queen guitarist Brian May might want to lose his washed up band and join the one that was bound for greatness. Of course Sparks were in the year when they would record their two greatest albums, Queen was still a whole year away from theirs. But nowadays you can be forgiven if you ask of Sparks, who?

I am one of the worlds few people who would rather listen to Sparks 1974 album Propaganda than Queens defining work of a year later, Night At The Opera (featuring Bohemian Rhapsody). What is surprising is, I may not be the only one.

It was probably more than twenty years between having a discussion of any sort with somebody about Sparks. They would, and still do, occasionally churn out a new album, having gone through an euro-electro-pop phase in the early 80’s. In 2009 they released their 22nd album, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergen. Yet I have never known anybody to buy one, never saw a Sparks CD and never heard of anybody replacing their copies of Propaganda or Kimono My House on CD.

I had forgotten about Spark completely, actually, until about two years ago when I stumbled on an MP3 download of the aforementioned 1974 albums. I downloaded it, assuming they would be an embarrassing memory, rather like Loverboy. Instead, I found in Propaganda an album that I remember loving, and still think is an excellent album. In fact, if I was piecing together a list of my 100 best albums, Propaganda would be on it. The other album, Kimono My House, which actually came first, is almost as good.

I’ve been doing the rounds of record stores, record shows and that sort of thing a fair bit lately. Now that “vinyl is back,” there seems to be more opportunity than there has been in years to browse records. On top of used, there is a fair bit of new vinyl records out there, including a big whack that is being re-released all these years later as “160 gram vinyl.” To understand it, 160 gram vinyl is short for, “much better quality than we sold you back in the day when we could take you buying our product as a given.” They are, finally, providing really good quality vinyl albums, and they are doing so at a price point that would commonly be called, not cheap.

Of the albums that has been re-released, and is in stock in every store I’ve been in that sells new records, the most surprising has to be Kimono My House. And it’s not just there. It keeps turning up wherever I buy records. Last week I was at a record show and saw three copies of a record I have never seen at a record show before. Last week a Facebook friend posted a video of This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us. I was shocked that I knew somebody who remembered this band.

For the uninitiated, Sparks circa 1974 is hard to explain. Singer Russell Mael and his Charlie Chaplain/Hitler look-alike brother, keyboard player Ron, are the heart of the operation. Russell sang in an operatic falsetto over a solid rock and roll beat. When I say operatic, don’t think Bohemian Rhapsody, rather like Grace Bumbry singing Sausalito Summernight. Or, more aptly, Luciano Pavarotti imitating Grace Bumbry singing Sausalito Summernight. And yes, I know I just described a somewhat obscure band using a somewhat forgotten, if not obscure song. But Sparks are like that, in that they are unlike anything you have ever heard before.

Here’s a prediction: if you decide to check out Sparks after reading this you will either like them a lot, or dislike them… a lot. There really is no middle ground. If you can get past the operatic vocals, there is some great rock and roll being played. And once you get past the vocals, you will find you like the vocals, and soon, you will start to understand the vocals (hint: he doesn’t sing as fast as it sounds like he’s singing). Once you get to that point, well Kimono My House is available just about everywhere records are sold these days. You’ll want to be getting it before it disappears again.

From I Hate New Music, page 50.
Thompson, Dave. I Hate New Music: the Classic Rock Manifesto. New York: Backbeat, 2008. 49-50. .

The Freedom of Music , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,