Tag Archives: Freddie Mercury

Hear the new Cheap Trick Song For The Price of Your Email Address

It seems like only yesterday that I was complaining about the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame nominees. I was 100% convinced that classic rockers Cheap Trick were going to get shut-out their first time on the ballots…but I was wrong! Not that it really matters (to quote Freddie Mercury, “nothing really matters…”) but the band was able to get into the Hall of Fame. Rather than legitimizing the band, this move only serves to legitimize the Hall. Only slightly, of course.

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Anyway, the band has a new album coming out this year titled BANG ZOOM CRAZY HELLO, which is a really awful title but I’ll give the band a pass because they’re legends. The band has released a brand new song off this forthcoming album on their website. The song, which is titled “No Direction Home,” can be downloaded for the price of your email address. I would say that the song is free but as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So, if you don’t mind getting emails from Cheap Trick, you can hear the brand new song.

Is it worth the potential spam? I think so. While “No Direction Home” is by no means the greatest Cheap Trick song of all time, it’s a pretty catchy little diddy. It’s a very Beatle-esque piece of power pop with a few ELO-like production flourishes. I really enjoyed the sugary-sweet melodies and the lyrical hook. It’s classic Cheap Trick, through and through. There’s a guitar lick that sounds very familiar to me, almost like something from an early Clapton song. I’ve been trying to work out which one for the past few days, but it has thus far eluded me. I will say that the absence of long-time drummer Bun E. Carlos is a bit of a bummer (what the hell happened there?) but I guess we can’t have everything, can we?

Anyway, if this song is any indication of the quality of the new album then we should all be really excited. Click here to download the new song.

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RIP David Bowie

I’m sitting at my dining room table on the Monday after the David Bowie has died and I’m trying to figure out what to write. “Heroes” is quietly seeping out of the wireless hi-fi I use to fill my house with music, and it feels both absolutely perfect and totally wrong. I think the problem is, like many people (I think), it wasn’t until he died that I gave David Bowie his proper due.

David Bowie was a rock star. David Bowie was a poet. David Bowie was an artist. David Bowie was an actor. David Bowie was a style icon. David Bowie was weird in a way that wasn’t always cool or accepted (at least initially) but he was always true to himself. When I think about all the ways he impacted me both as a rock fan and as a human being I find myself really amazed.

David Bowie

1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

I laugh whenever someone says “that’s freaky” because I think about the Flight of the Conchords bit where “Bowie’s in Space.” My wife and I have a private joke about her driving related to the song “Moonage Daydream.” He played Tesla in my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. How can David Bowie be so many things? Because above all else, David Bowie was a true artist who managed to find a way to stay in the mainstream and on the outer edges of culture.

The first time I heard David Bowie and knew that it was David Bowie was when I got into Queen and heard his (amazing) duet with Freddie Mercury “Under Pressure.” That he steals the show out from under one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen should be all anyone should ever need when it comes to Bowie’s rock credibility. But then there were the albums, the width and breadth of which I have only just begun to fully examine. Would you believe that I only last month sat down and listened to DIAMOND DOGS? That’s a fucking brilliant album. David Bowie has at minimum six records most rock fans consider essential.

I wrote a review of ALADDIN SANE a few years ago and to this day it’s probably my favorite Bowie album…however in recent years I’ve started to reconsider HUNKY DORY. And then there’s ZIGGY STARDUST to re-evaluate and reconsider. The man’s catalogue is so expansive, I could spend the next few years just exploring his music. And I probably will. Last week, on his 69th birthday, David Bowie released his final album BLACKSTAR. I’ve only heard the title track, and even though it’s really freaky-man (ha!) I feel like I owe it to Bowie now that he’s gone to dive fully into his last album. Weird space jazz? Just another page in the book of Bowie.

Goodbye, David Bowie.

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Wake the Dead: Putting Dead Musicians Back on Stage?

Everyone please welcome my good friend, Brian Conradi to the Defending Axl Rose family! Brian runs a really awesome blog devoted to all-things animated called CARTOONS FOR BREAKFAST.  He’s a great writer and I feel privileged to have him be the first outside person to contribute to DEFENDING AXL ROSE.  Without further ado…

Remember back in April at Coachella when a Tupac “hologram” performed onstage with Snoop Dogg?  To see a dead artist back onstage (and performing with another LIVE  artist) made my mind rush with possibilities.  A guitar duel between Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix?  AC/DC featuring both Brian Johnson AND Bon Scott?  A reunion of all four Beatles?  The sky was the limit.

Then I thought about it a little more: would it be that neat?  I mean, sure it’s cool to see the first time, but after a while, wouldn’t the novelty start to wear off?  Having been to Universal Studios in Orlando quite a few times, I can safely say that I’m no longer dazzled by all of the bleeding edge technology that goes into the attractions.  It’s fun, sure, but they don’t have that “Wow!” factor anymore.  Maybe that’s just me being cynical though.

Apparently Clint Eastwood didn’t get the memo.

More importantly, does it really honor the lives of these artists to bring them back to life for the sake of profit?  Digital Domain is the digital effects company that made the Tupac image, and they are already in the process of trying to corner the market on bringing dead people back to life. In their last quarterly report, CEO John Textor bragged to investors about creating a projection of Elvis and putting a show together around the country in places like Las Vegas and Branson, MO to boost the company’s revenue.  Never mind the fact that DD’s stock has dropped 75% in the last four months and that John Textor believes that animation students should pay to work on animated films for free.  There are literally hundreds of companies that can pull off this kind of parlor trick.  Recently, businessman Tony Reynolds told Yahoo! News that he is using another VFX company to create a Ronald Reagan projection that was originally going to be unveiled at the RNC in Tampa last week but had to be delayed.

I know that families and estates have control over the likeness rights of the departed, but is it right, particularly in the case of artists who spend their lives expressing themselves, to project them onto a stage and sing and dance to sell more tickets?  Recently, celebrities like Paul McCartney and Madonna have been making moves to try and prevent themselves from undergoing any posthumous publicity.  It was even a topic on “Talk of the Nation” today.  Now that we have the capability to use computers to literally recreate a person, the question of using a person’s likeness after his or her death is an important topic for those who live in the public eye.

Tupac can’t hear you cos…well you know…

I wish that I had been around to see Freddie Mercury, Janis Joplin, and Frank Sinatra perform, but they are dead and never coming back.  I’ve made my peace with that.  No amount of digital puppetry can ever truly bring these visionaries back to life and truly let us know what it was like to be there.  The projection technology itself (a fancier version of  the 19th century “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion) is neat and could have some cool applications, but this just feels cheap to me.  One of the best things about these musicians is that they left behind a legacy of legendary music for us to enjoy forever.  We may never be able to see their faces or hear them live, but they have still left us a chance to peek into their souls and really see who they were.

To find out more on why John Textor deserves your scorn and plenty of other groovy stuff related to cartoons and animation, check out Brian’s blog Cartoons For Breakfast.

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Highly-Unscientific Rock Poll: All-Time Greatest Front-Man

Sometimes there are questions too big for one man. Sometimes, in the search for ultimate truth, we must seek the guidance of others. And then there are times when one wants to increase traffic to one’s blog by actively seeking participation of one’s small readership by stoking the fires of eternal debate…

Yes friends, it’s time to review the lastest statistical disaster I like to call my HIGHLY-UNSCIENTIFIC ROCK POLL!  It’s been a while since this poll was conducted, sorry that it took so long for me to get my act together but I had some stuff come up and I wasn’t able to devote myself to DEFENDING AXL ROSE like I should have/like to. I knew that this poll would be controversial but I didn’t know just HOW near and dear Rock Frontmen were to people’s hearts. What makes a good font-man?  He (or she) has to be charismatic in addition to being a good singer/performer.  A good front-man is like an ambassador for his/her band.  Musicians can be pretty difficult to get along with and some of the best technical players are completely unable to connect with human beings–and that’s where a front-man comes in.  Unlike just about every other part of a band, a front-man is really hard to replace  (more on that later). Anyway, I opened Pandora’s box and asked DEFENDING AXL ROSE’s followers “Who is the All-Time Greatest Front-Man?”  Here are the results:

8, 7, and 6 (no votes) Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, and Kurt Cobain:  Honestly, these were all solid choices and the fact that MICK JAGGER got ZERO votes should tell you how cut-throat this poll was.  Jagger pretty much came to define the classic rock front-man: the swagger, the bat-shit crazy dance moves, the delivery. Roger Daltrey is another excellent “classic” front-man in the same tradition as Mick Jagger.  The Who was an explosive band (literally, go ask Pete Townshend about how explosive they were–if he can hear you) and to front a band like The Who was no easy task.  More than just being a rocker, Daltrey paved the way for more theatrical front-men when The Who started doing rock operas. Kurt Cobain was the most modern front-man on the list and as such, Cobain’s role in Nirvana was much different than tossing his hair and strutting around like a rooster.  Cobain helped popularize the “tortured” front-man.  By making himself less accessible to fans, Cobain drew us all in closer.  That’s very different from Jagger’s chicken-dancing.  Still, as awesome and important as these front-men were (seriously, try to picture their respective bands without them) they got no love from my poll-takers.

3. (TIE one vote each) Axl Rose, Robert Plant, and Lemmy Kilmister: I bet you thought I voted for Axl Rose, didn’t you?  Well as much as I love and respect Axl, I didn’t vote for him.   And from the way this poll panned out, not very many of you voted for him either.  Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s self-proclaimed “Golden God” only got one vote as did Motorhead’s fugly metal-head Lemmy Kilmister.  Lemmy and Mick Jagger are the only two front-men on this list that I’ve actually seen in person and let me tell you–Lemmy was waaay cooler in person.  He’s ugly, loud, brash and he know it. Robert Plant’s mellowed significantly over the years, so I can understand why many people don’t hold him in as high regard, but in his hey-day he was considered a force of nature.  Guitarist Jimmy Page has spent the past 30 years trying to find someone as dynamic as Plant to front his music–and he’s come up dry.

Axl. Axl, Axl, Axl…what happened?  He’s a bit like Mick Jagger mixed with Cobain’s stand-offishness, mixed with a gallon of gasoline and asshole.  I think he’s a brillant front-man but I think he shot himself in the foot with his inability to work well with others, a trait that every good front-man needs.  A front-man fronts a band, he doesn’t just represent himself–which Axl is often guilty of doing.

2.  Ozzy Osbourne (2 votes):  The Oz Man Commeth! I recently took a long car trip and one of the things I listened to was Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, what a band that was!   Ozzy’s great because he has fantastic range both vocally and the kinds of songs he can do–scary ass Satan songs? Check.  Whistful ballads? Check.  Rockin’ anthem? Check.  The bitting the heads off stuff sure helps, too.   He’s a legend of hard rock and I was not surprised he came in second.  There’s a reason he’s got an entire FESTIVAL named after him (he married a pushy ball-buster, I kid! I kid!).  There’s a (mostly complete) Black Sabbath reunion hitting the road right now and I would love to check them out.

Before I talk about the #1 I feel that I should acknowledge that there were a few requests that I add a few font-men, specifically Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame and Bono from U2.  I didn’t add these two because frankly, I’m not a Radiohead person (nothing wrong with them) and Bono slipped my mind.  Initially I wasn’t going to do anything but ignore these requests…then I thought about it and decided that what I would do is have another poll and then have the winners of each poll battle it out.

But that was before Freddie Mercury swept this poll.

#1. Freddie Mercury (13 votes): This doesn’t really surprise me.  When the topic of font-men come up, Freddie’s name always comes up.  You want charisma? Mercury had more than enough, he was oozing charisma.  Queen’s a awesome rock band because they were so many different things: gay/straight, operatic/balls-to-the-walls rocking, playful/dead serious–but despite their duality, they were always amazing.  How badass was Freddie Mercury?  He was still writing and recording music right up to his death.  How committed to his art was Freddie Mercury? Doctors told him for years to fix his overbite and he refused, he was worried correcting his teeth would change the sound of his voice.  That’s commitment.  That’ s love.  And you know what? He did it all for you, the listener.   If I was on my deathbed, you better believe this blog would be the last thing on my mind.  Freddie just wanted to make music and he did.  He complimented his bandmates and helped make them superstars. A few years ago, Queen re-formed and tried to solider on with Paul Rodgers, a legendary front-man in his own right (he was in Free and Bad Company).  How did that go?  Not so well…it wasn’t that Rodgers was bad–he just wasn’t Freddie Mercury.  Freddie Mercury is the greatest rock front-man off all-time.

Poll Closed.

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Over-thinking Taylor Swift’s “Mean”

So that wacky country music has been getting under my skin again.  I’m still hearing “Red Solo Cup” about three times too many during my work-day, but that’s not what I’m going to complain about today.  Today I’m picking on Taylor Swift.  I don’t know why I like picking on country music, it’s like kicking a puppy–it’s easy to do but only psychopaths really get any pleasure out of it.

I guess I’m a psychopath.

I’ve heard “Mean” a few times (and seen the video) but it wasn’t until last week that I’d figured out why I loath this song.  You see, this song is pretty much the epitome of everything that is wrong with modern country music.  The song is Swift’s response to her critics (uh, like…who is that? Who is picking on Taylor Swift so much that she needs to write a song about it? Other than fat, nerdy bloggers, I mean).  Does she call them heartless bastards? Does she use an elaborate metaphor to cut them like a knife, while at the same time show them what a class act she is?

If only...

No. She calls them “mean.”  And even though that’s really stupid and childish, that’s not the problem that I have with this song*. No, my problem with this song is the line that says: “Someday I’ll be living in a big old city/And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”  I cringe every single time she says that.  I sit, hunched over my desk at work and GRIND my teeth to dust with rage.  What a moron.  Does she understand what the hell she’s doing?  This song is a complete and utter slap to the face of all that is country.

Country music isn’t about how great the fucking city is.  It’s about horses, beer, wide-open spaces, and outlaws. It’s about lovin’ your woman and standing by your man.  People from the city are lost souls, lonely and out of touch with themselves and each other. The city is not a shining oasis, it’s a place to be despised.  At best, city dwellers should be pitied.  This, my friends, is what is wrong with country music today. Country music today is being made by city people.  For Taylor Swift, the city represents a way to escape some unnamed bully (who can’t “hit” her anymore) but that’s not how I see it.  I see it as yet another chapter in the war for the very soul of America.

It’s the Federalists vs. the Jeffersonians.  It’s agrarian vs. industrial.  It’s trees vs. paper money.  Country music used to be about THE country, it used to present an idealized version of rural America that appealed to people in both the city and the country**.  But today country music is nothing more than shitty rock with a twang.  It doesn’t speak to anyone or have anything unique to say.  Good country music, like good rap music, should seem to only speak to both a very specific segment of the population WHILE at the same time appeal to a wider audience because of it’s universal themes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all country musicians should stay neatly packed into a box or preconceptions and cliches.  I think it’s fine to rebel and say “screw the country I’m gonna hit it big and move to the city,” but that’s not what Swift’s song is saying.  If you really listen, the message of “Mean” is “you are a mean asshole so all you’re ever going to do is live out in the country.”

But I ask you: what the hell is wrong with living in the country?  It pisses me off that a popular country audience has had so much success with a song that’s essential a big middle finger to a large portion of her audience.  I’m not really mad at Taylor Swift, I’m mad at her fans who are too stupid to see what a sham this song is.  It bums me out to think of little kids–living the country AND the city–listening to rich phonies like Taylor Swift.  What about the people being abused (or whatever the song is a bit vague) in the city? Is there a special ghetto in the cities for urban meanies? The message is confusing.

Ultimately when I hear this song at work it’s the words of the late, great poet Freddie Mercury that I turn to: “Now they say your folks are telling you/Be a super star/But I tell you just be satisfied/To stay right where you are.”

*Though I can’t imagine a 60 year-old Taylor Swift singing this song, it’s barely appropriate for a 20-something woman.
**which is actually a really dirty, bleak place with just as many problems as the cities.
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