Bohemian Rhapsody

Yesterday Kish and I went to screen Bohemian Rhapsody, which tells the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen.  Biopics about rock stars have become something of a genre unto themselves these days — according to the previews yesterday, there’s another one coming out soon about Elton John, by the way — and Bohemian Rhapsody is a worthy addition to the playlist.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODYThe film begins as Mercury and Queen prepare to perform at the Live Aid concert, then takes us back to the group’s earliest roots.  We meet Farrokh Bulsara, a buck-toothed baggage handler at a British airport who dreams of doing something bigger.  He finds a struggling band called Smile playing in pubs, and when the group loses its lead singer, Queen’s journey begins and Farrokh becomes Freddie Mercury.  The film traces the artistic arc of the group, which became one of the most inventive, boundary-breaking bands of the ’70s — as the song that gives the film its name attests — and the band steadily moves from playing small towns to filling some of the largest stadiums in the world, with the flamboyant Mercury leading the way.

As the band’s story is told we get glimpses into Freddie Mercury’s personal life, from his frosty relationship with his Indian parents and their Zoroastrian faith, to his long-term bond with a woman he called the love of his life, to his embrace of his gay lifestyle and ultimately to his discovery that he had AIDS at a time when that diagnosis was viewed as a death sentence.  And, as always seems to be the case with rock star biopics, enormous success and fame have their price, and we see Mercury dealing with drugs and alcohol, leaving the band that was like a family to him, and supporting the creeps and hangers-on who always seem to find a way to latch on to the successful creative minds and sap them of their unique energy.  But Mercury breaks the downward spiral, sheds the leeches, and reunites with the group just in time for a triumphant performance at the Live Aid concert.

Bohemian Rhapsody has been criticized for glossing over some aspects of Mercury’s life, especially his sexuality, but the film is telling a wide-ranging story that simply doesn’t allow it to delve deeply into every relationship — whether it be Mercury’s relationships with fellow bandmates or his relationships with his lovers.  The result is a film that increased my appreciation of Queen and the dazzling personality who was one of its principal creative forces.  And Rami Malek is himself brilliant as the brilliant Freddie Mercury.

Why are there so many rock star biopics?  I think it’s because the music world is home to a lot of very interesting stories that are well worth telling.  The story of Freddie Mercury and Queen is one of those stories, and Bohemian Rhapsody tells it well.

Invasion Of The Geriatric Rockers

We’re on the cusp of the summer big-name rock concert season.  Hey, who’s out on tour this year?

rod-stewartDon’t look now, but it’s a lot of the same acts that were touring 40 years ago, soon to come to a sports stadium or outdoor amphitheater near you.  The list of tours this year includes Queen, Foreigner, Boston, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart.  Rod Stewart, in case you’re wondering, is 72 years old, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is 69.  And as for Queen, their iconic lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died more than 25 years ago.  But neither advanced age, nor the death of original band members, nor concerns about wrinkles, hair loss, gum disease, adult diapers or iron-poor tired blood can keep these dedicated rockers from their appointed tours.  Just don’t be surprised if their contracts requires that the dressing room be equipped with Geritol rather than bottles of Jack Daniel’s.

The promoters call these “nostalgia acts” — which doesn’t exactly seem consistent with the whole notion that rock ‘n roll has a youthful, cutting edge, rebellious element to it.  When you’re a “nostalgia act,” around 70 and still playing songs that you first released when disco was king, you can’t fairly lay claim to the “rebellious” label any more. But there’s a strong market for concerts by these geriatric rockers because their music still gets played on “classic rock” radio stations, and the people who first heard their songs when they were in high school are still out there, willing to spring for tickets to hear “Cold As Ice” performed live one more time.  If you’re a performer, why not cash in, make some money, and give your fans what they want?

I’m torn about this, because I think it’s weird to see 70-year-olds strutting and rocking out on stage, and I wonder if these codger acts don’t crowd out younger musicians who’d like to get some stage time and radio play.  At the same time, in the past few years I’ve been to concerts to see two long-time performers — Stevie Wonder and Bob Seger — and they both put on really good shows.  So I’m taking a live and let live attitude, and figuring that if Rod Stewart wants to sing “Hot Legs” again, and his fans want to hear it, why not let them?  But I think I’ll pass.

Happy 65th Freddie

Today, September 5th would have been Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday. Of course I had all of Queen’s albums when I was younger and I think he has arguable one of the best voices with one of the broadest ranges of all time. Unfortunately he died in 1991 after a battle with HIV at the young age of 45. Below are two of my favorite Queen songs in his memory.

 

The video’s speak for themselves – I hope you enjoy them as much as I still do !