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Thank you for the music

A recent unexpected purchase (I really need to stop going into discount booksellers, it is not good for the bank balance or for already straining book shelves) has given me a better insight of one of the passions of my childhood – the rock band Queen. This will not be much of a surprise to close friends or anyone who came to my 40th birthday and my mercifully brief flirtation with seventies glam rock outfits. They were one of the few bands that while active managed to cross generations by employing a range of styles within an overall branding based on rock and quality. It is now a bit of cliché, but if you ever need proof of just how good they were, the twenty minute set at Live Aid in 1985 pretty much tells you all you need to know as they definitely steal the show. The joke in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens that any tape left in the car long enough turns into ‘Best of Queen’ is worryingly true considering that the first Greatest Hits album is the best-selling album of all time. I have no doubt that if Freddie Mercury had not died in 1991 the band would still be producing quality albums. But it all came to an end before I could enjoy Queen at their best – i.e. live.
 In fact they had retired from live performing in 1986, so I really never had a chance to go to a Queen gig. I love live music; the Lovely Wife and I try to go to several gigs a year, and while it is not planned as such the eclectic selection of music is part of the fun. I think it is a real blessing to have wide music tastes although once again it gives me problems in the wallet and storage space department (while I will download the odd song there is something reassuringly solid about having a physical copy). We try to catch people on the way up if possible, if only to keep the budget down, or people we really like but are not in the mainstream (the wonderful Duke Special, for example, is a must to catch if he is over from Northern Ireland). This year we have managed to fit in the Duke (twice), Train, Of Monsters and Men, Midge Ure, Dorset folk duo Ninebarrow (in a tiny venue in Poole) and The Who (with 70+ thousand others in Hyde Park). But I‘ve never really managed to catch the iconic acts from my childhood. Queen, Dire Straits, Genesis – all were no more before I was potentially able to go to a gig (or at least have a shot at affording it). Actually, this is not quite true I did see Genesis play, but only supporting the so-so ‘Calling all Stations’ post Collins so I am not sure I really count that. I do not feel hard done by. Just a little sad not to round off my relationship with music I like by adding the live experience. There are risks involved of course. The band can turn out to be rubbish or in a bad mood on the night – a terrible Midge Ure gig we went to over ten years ago where he was in a terrible mood and rude to the audience (there were extenuating circumstances, but even so) meant I never went to another gig until recently, when he was back to his usual likeable self that I had experienced at many other gigs prior to a bad night at Shepherds Bush. And Midnight Oil were interesting, the only band I have ever seen who seemed to actively be antagonistic to their audience (mostly ex pat Australians). But I have been lucky that there are very few gigs I have been too that were a waste of money, at worse some have been just a little disappointing. But some have been ridiculously good fun, and not always who you would expect. When we go to see Scouting for Girls or The Feeling, we expect it to be a good night and the music is infectious and they are enthusiastic live performers. Back in the mid-1990s soap actress Nathalie Imbruglia had a massive album ‘Left of the Middle’ that I adored – rather nervously I booked to see her at The Forum in Kentish Town. She was spot on and full of energy, although had to come to an end as once you’ve done your whole album and your entire collection of B sides you do not really have anywhere to go! That taught me not to jump to conclusions, and I’m still drawing up the list of who we can see next.

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