Category: Stranger Than Fiction

Rush Cover (in progress) 2 - Copy (2)Writing The Rush Chronology is a bit like archaeology. You go in with a good amount of information and end up discovering things you had no idea were hidden in the past. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have all been involved in other artists’ projects at different points in their careers and these are some of those extra-curricular appearances beyond the Mackenzie Bros.’ “Take Off” and Max Webster’s “Battle Scar.”

“Even Now” 6:44
Written by Matt Scannell & Neil Peart
Appears on: Burning The Days (2009)
Neil being good friends with Matt Scannell, it’s not surprising that he appears on three tracks on Vertical Horizon’s Burning The Days), “Save Me From Myself,” “Welcome To The Bottom” and this one.
You’ll immediately notice this song is wordier than the other tracks on this album, which is likely Neil’s contribution. It’s fascinating to hear someone else sing his words besides Geddy (or even going back to the JR Flood days). The drum work is heavy and intense, suiting the song, and demonstrating how this track is truly a collaboration, rather than simply a guest appearance.

“Hey Bop A-Rebop” 5:45
Written by Curley Hamney & Lionel Hampton
Appears on: Side Two (2003)
The Stickmen are behind this funk rock cover of the old jazz standard by Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra. The track is a lot of fun and Alex Lifeson gets into the groove with some panache. Recommended!

“Everybody’s Broken” 3:30
Written by John Kastner
Appears on: Have You Seen Lucky (2006)
This is an upbeat little modern rock number by John Kastner, with dependable guitar work from Alex (not flashy or getting in the way of the song).
Alex also appears on the track “Testify All Over Me” from the same album.

“The Road” 6:20
Written by Ken Ramm & Geddy Lee
Appears on: Euphoria (2000)
The piece starts with rambling guitar work (strangely, only in the left channel at first), before the music rolls in with an organic, trance-y flavour which really does evoke an unhurried journey down a country road, before picking up the pace a little bit. The acoustic guitar and rhythmic harmonicas decorate the light keyboards (by Geddy) that underscore the entire piece. Geddy’s bass is also noticeable throughout. This is really a wonderful piece with lots of subtle shades and upfront, colourful performances.

“Good For Sule” 5:35
Written by I Mother Earth (Jagori Tanna & Christian Tanna)
Appears on: Blue Green Orange (2000)
It’s interesting that both this and the Euphoria Geddy Lee guest appearances were released on the same day, because despite being otherwise unrelated tracks, both share certain spirit in their gently arranged reflection (or maybe it’s just me). This track is definitely an alt-rock acoustic number, moody, but not weighed down too much by its own introspection. This is also a bit different I Mother Earth from the days Alex recorded with them and with Edwin on Victor. By now, Edwin has been replaced by Brian Byrne and this album, the successor to Scenery And Fish, has been described as more mellow than the earlier album was. This is a good song and Geddy’s bass stands out nicely.

“Marabi” 5:34
Written by Julian “Cannonball” Adderley
Appears on: Champion (1985)
Jeff Berlin & Vox Humana deliver an excellent fusion rendition of the Cannonball Adderley number from his 1968 album Accent On Africa. Neil’s drum parts come in on the “chorus” sections, beefing up the Steve Smith’s drum parts and adding a lot of power. Highly recommended! Smith would also later participate in Peart’s Burning For Buddy tribute.

“Champion (Of The World)” 4:37
Written by Jeff Berlin
Appears on: Champion (1985)
A great jazz-fusion track here that really let’s Neil shine in a genre that he would later explore in more detail via Burning For Buddy. There are plenty of signature drum fills, but he doesn’t overdue it and lets the song stay airy and light. Also highly recommended!

“24 Star (No Apologies)” 3:00
Written by Katie B, Philip Caivano & Dave Olgilvie
Appears on: Born 4 (2003)
Jakalope’s music is an interesting mix of pop and industrial, which you’d expect from the production work of Dave “Rave” Olgivie and Trent Reznor. This song is a good example of their work. Alex’s guitar work is heavy and grinding, but not overly distinctive (which isn’t bad, as it works for the song, but unless you knew it was him, you may not be able to tell from the song alone).

The album Born 4 was released on October 3, 2003, the same day as Edwin’s album Better Days, featuring Alex on the tracks “Light Reflects” and “Eyes Of A Child,” and the same day as the Trailer Park Boys: The Movie soundtrack album. a good day for Rush-related song

“I Fought The Law” 3:51
Written by Sonny Curtis
Appears on: Trailer Park Boys: The Movie Soundtrack
This is Alex and Geddy as members of the Big Dirty Band and their cover of “I Fought The Law” This version starts with a quiet refrain of the title chorus before exploding into a modern hard rock cover of the classic song. The outro guitar is vintage Alex. Definitely seek this one out! The video was directed by long-time Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan and features the Trailer Park Boys, Geddy, Alex and the rest of The Big Dirty Band.
Alex also appears on Bubble’s track “Liquor & Whores.”

“Anesthesize” 17:43
Written by Steven Wilson
Appears on: Fear Of A Blank Planet (2007)
Porcupine Tree’s album Fear Of A Blank Planet is composed in the vein of ‘70s prog-rock concept albums and takes its inspiration from the Bret Easton Ellis book Lunar Park and deals with themes of alienation, social disconnection and the modern world. At nearly 18 minutes, this track changes styles fluidly, drifting between Pink Floyd-like ethereal soundscapes, nigh-Industrial distorted guitars and various other moods. Its easy to see why Alex was drawn to the band’s works and while his contribution to this track is short (his solo comes in around the 4 minute mark), it adds to the over texture of the piece.

“Instamatic” 4:46
Written by Matt Scannell (2013)
Appears on: Echoes From The Underground
Neil’s drums are hard hitting and punctuate this mid-tempo alt-rocker, his forth with Vertical Horizon. He also appears on the song “Instamatic” on this album.

“Sacred & Mundane” 5:26
Written by Tiles
Appears on: Fly Paper (2008)
A solid rocker by the band Tile, with some different textures and movements, this song has some great guitar work by Alex.

“Shift” 4:20
Written by The Wilderness Of Manitoba
Appears on: Between Colours (2011)
Canadian indie folk rock at it’s finest (emphasis on rock on this one), this is Wilderness’s fourth album. The track pounds along and doesn’t let up for a moment and Alex’s guitar solo soars through it. Get this one!

“When I Close My Eyes” 4:49
Written by The Black Sea Station
Appears on: Transylvania Avenue (2011)
Klezmer is basically Eastern European Jewish folk music, with all the rich cultural flavour you’d expect. Geddy previously dabbled in klezmer by way of his Finjan collaboration (From Ship To Shore, also done through Ben Mink). This Black Sea Station instrumental is haunting, beautiful and evocative of a small country village and its inhabitants. Geddy’s bass work keeps the lower end nice and solid.

“Guns” 1:50
Written by Dave Clark, arr. by Neil Peart
Appears on: Whale Music (1992)
Rheostatics were among the wave of quirky alternative bands coming out in the ‘90s, along side such artists as Barenaked Ladies (who also appear on the album). We close out the discussion with this spoken word piece, done over Neil’s drumming, which rips into a great solo at the end. Short, but sweet!

The Rush Chronology book details the recording and release history of the band, as well as their live career, solo project and guest appearances. You can pick up your copy here:

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst

I write a piece on Queen’s recent release of their collection Queen Forever, a set which featured three newly released tracks from the band along with a mix of classic hits and deep cut album tracks.

Pick up your issue today to read the whole thing!


I may be forced to go to some dark places in my art due to things I’ve experienced very recently. I’m not sure what to expect, because I don’t normally draw on these feelings for my art. I have nothing against doing so and have in the past when the mood or inspiration takes me.

However, this time it’s different in a way difficult to explain, except maybe through my art.

The Patchwork Girl (300 dpi - Patrick Lemieux)

Becoming The Patchwork Girl. Copyright 2014, Patrick Lemieux

Think of this piece as a demo of what may be to come, though it started out as something altogether different.

We’ll see there this leads.

Spoiler Alert: He's Leia's father, too. Copyright 1980, Lucasfilm

Spoiler Alert: He’s Leia’s father, too.
Copyright 1980, Lucasfilm

I was going to title this piece “Spoiler Alert: Am I The Only Sane Man?”

It’s probably a battle I’m going to lose to the excited, the enthusiastic, the ignorant and the selfish, but I’m going keep fighting as long as I can.

I’m probably going to be accused of being a cantankerous fogie who needs to just get with the times and embrace what social media is or just stop using it (as if those at the only choices. Also, I’m only 38).

It’s already been suggested that I lighten up, they’re only TV shows, so who cares?

I do. I also have greater priorities in my life, but the desire to simply not have TV series I like spoiled from week to week should not be too much to ask.

I feel like one of the people in the line up to see “The Empire Strikes Back” as Homer Simpson walks out ahead of them saying, “I had no idea Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.” Of course, every time I suggest to my Facebook Friends that they refrain from spoiling an episode of a show before I see it in the days after it airs, several invariably joke that Vader was Luke’s father. Yeah.

A good friend says by internet consensus 24 hours is the grace period. After that, apparently spoilers are allowed to roam to free. I couldn’t be bothered looking this “rule” up, because even if I find 20 other sites disagreeing, that single citation of an arbitrary, made-up rule is enough for some people.

I don’t get it. I honestly, truly don’t. We gave up one of the basic, most fundamental pop culture courtesies, that of not spoiling the latest show, for what? So we can prove we’re on top latest thing? Because we’re just so damned excited we can’t keep to mentioning that awesome line that character said? I guess there’s the argument that social media is, well, social, and that people do discuss these things in real life. Yeah, they do, but in real life I’m not standing in a room full of people presenting me with a stream of information on their interests. In real life, we ask, “Did you see the new Walking Dead?” If I answer no, my friends refrain from spoiling it. Yet, the same people, the very same people on Facebook or Twitter joyfully post teaser images, quotes and spoiler-filled posts without checking if everyone about to receive that information is as up-to-date as they are. In person, I can put my hand up and say, “I haven’t seen it! Stop right there!” I can’t do that to an image you decided to show all your Friends.

So, why don’t I just unFriend them or stop following them or get off Facebook or Twitter? As I noted above, why are those the only choices? Why can’t people control themselves and show a bit of discretion? For Facebook, I want to know of other aspects of your life and interests, that’s why we’re here, just show some mercy with these kinds of posts is all I ask. Better yet, don’t discuss anything plot or character related on Facebook. I don’t. It’s easier than you think. As for Twitter, I’ve un-followed people for spoilers. I stopped following one of the producers of The Walking Dead because she revealed several seasons ago that an actor was returning to their role in the upcoming episodes. That was all it took.

Am I Grandpa Simpson yelling at a cloud? I don’t think so, but I’ve had that joke made, too.

I do feel like I’m the only sane man here, yet to be consumed by the here-and-now mentality of popular culture that drives so many posts.

Everyone’s doing it, so it must be okay, right?


Here’s a link to a story that’s making the rounds online, that of filmmaker Greg Karber taking issue with Abercrombie & Fitch’s branding of their clothes. Give it a look:

Okay, I can hear a lot of you cheering out there along the lines of “Way to go, Karber! Way to show this jerkass company what’s what by taking matters into your own hands and helping the homeless at the same time! You’re a hero!” I know similar things are being said because I read a lot of such sentiments on my Facebook news feed.

And here’s where I step up and say “I disagree. A lot.”

This whole “rebranding” thing bothers me.

First, let me say that I think Abercrombie & Fitch are being douchebags in how they market their clothes and what they do with their overstock. Here’s the thing, though…It’s their choice. I don’t agree with the choice they made, but I respect that it was their choice to make. It’s free country and they are a business. If you don’t like their brand or marketing, the solution is to not buy their product. That’s your choice and it needs to be respected just as much as the A&F’s right to make their choice.

What Greg Karber has done has taken it solely upon himself to try to make A&F’s choice for them. And that is wrong. It is fundamentally arrogant.

“But he’s doing it for a good cause,” I hear you say, “He’s helping the homeless and trying to make the world a better place, which A&F should be doing.”

On that last part, I’ll say, “What gives him the right to tell anyone else, individual or large company, what to do and how to do it? His moral superiority?” If you agree that he’s in the right by acting as he does, I’m guessing it’s because you agree with his position. The problem is: what happens when he or someone just as motivated starts applying their moral barometer to your life in a way you don’t share ideologically? We’re back to choice and each person’s right to make their choice as they see fit. No one should take that away from you or anyone else.

As for the “doing it for a good cause” motive…? No, that’s not why he’s doing it. He’s doing it out of spite, or as the article above puts it, he’s doing it for revenge. Does it matter why, so long as he’s helping people? His cause is to re-brand A&F to align with his own sensibilities and to say A&F are jerks for how they behave. The “help” the homeless get with receiving free clothes is incidental to his cause. And what happens after he feels he’s made his point? Will his “help” continue?

Now, to address an even deeper problem I have with this re-branding notion. Karber is a filmmaker, so to partially answer my own earlier question of “”What gives him the right to tell anyone else, individual or large company, what to do and how to do it?”, he is an artist. As an artist myself, I respect using one’s medium to convey messages and ideas, to try to bring about change (hopefully positive) in our world. What I don’t respect in Karber’s case is, in addition to the aforementioned issues I take with this campaign, is his exploitation of the homeless to make his point. He points the camera at the homeless and hands them free clothes. Again, his motive is to show up A&F, so he needs the less-fortunate in order to make to his point. The people he gives clothes to aren’t in a position to turn it down and say, “No, we will not be exploited!” Of course they’re going to take what’s given and be thankful. That doesn’t make them any less taken advantage of, put in a position of gain solely because an artist needs to use them to make his point.

So, yeah, this whole thing bothers me. A lot.

Because neither side deserves any more free advertising, I’m not putting an image up that relates to either A&F or Karber. Instead, here’s a picture of a puppy. You’re welcome!

Who's a good little puppy?!  (copyright unknown)

Who’s a good little puppy?!
(copyright unknown)


I hope you’ll forgive this bit of self-indulgent, shameless promotion, but the book I co-authored launches today on Amazon!

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to this last little while, this was a big part of it, getting this book done and ready to be loosed on the world!

Here is the official press release:


Across The Board Books™ proudly announces the release of the NEW ebook…




Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

Available now on Amazon worldwide:

Toronto, Canada – April 30th, 2013 – The Queen Chronology is a comprehensive account of the studio recording and release history of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor, who joined forces in 1971 as the classic line-up of the rock band Queen.

For nearly 40 years, Queen has both topped the charts and embedded itself in the musical landscape worldwide, with such hits as “We Will Rock You,” We Are The Champions,” “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Their rock musical, We Will Rock You, and their Queen Extravaganza official tribute production both continue to carry on the band’s legacy to audiences long after the tragic passing of singer Freddie Mercury.

Years of extensive research have gone into the creation of the Chronology, which covers the very beginnings of band members’ careers, their earliest songwriting efforts and recording sessions, through the recording and releasing of Queen’s 15 original studio albums with their classic line-up, to the present-day solo careers of Brian May and Roger Taylor. All of this information is presented date by date in chronological order, with detailed  descriptions of each song version, including those both released and known to be unreleased. Every Queen and solo album, single, non-album track, edit, remix and extended version is examined, as are known demos or outtakes, pre-Queen recordings and guest appearances. It’s  all here in one place: The Queen Chronology!

The first edition of The Queen Chronology is exclusively digital, available on Amazon for the Kindle e-book reader. Check the Amazon site in your territory!

The Authors:

Patrick Lemieux is a Canadian artist and writer. His articles for Queen’s Official Website ( include The Lost History Of A Queen Track, A Chronicle Of Magic, The Journey Back To The Light, A Mystery In The Wreckage and co-authored with Adam Unger The Elektra Edits. He also painted the cover art for The Queen Chronology.

Adam Unger is the owner and webmaster of and has contributed articles to Queen’s Official Website, including B-Sides and The Elektra Edits (co-authored with Patrick Lemieux).


I sent that out to various outlets.

As noted, I painted the cover. I wanted to create an image that was both expressive and somewhat expressionistic, rather than be literal portraits. There was a lot I wanted to convey in the painting, like the energy and excitement of the band, their stage presence and also the dream-like quality of of the past. It’s been nearly 22 years since Freddie Mercury died and though the legacy lives on, their past becomes somewhat how fans feel about it, the nostalgia and longing for “the good old days.” It was that vivid, slightly unfocused imagery I have when I listen to a Queen song. A mixture of my own emotions and what I know of the band.

Here’s the print version of the piece, presented for your consideration:

Light & Electricity [PRINT - Sample] Print size: 11" x 17" Print price: $19.99 + tax & shipping

Light & Electricity [PRINT – Sample]
Print size: 11″ x 17″
Print price: $19.99 + tax & shipping

The Lost Christmas Songs

The winter wonderland in my head every December, even if reality disagrees.

I’m Canadian.

You may not have known that about me.

I mention this because in Canada, by the end of October, we’ve scratched both Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en off our lists and the next major holiday for many is Christmas. Of course, many others don’t celebrate Christmas as such, not being of a Christian faith. It can get into sticky political correctness territory here, so all I’ll say is this: come December, do what makes you happy! I’m doing the Christmas thing!

I love the lights, the tacky, bright decorations, Santa Claus at the mall and I love a lot of the music I hear in stores. Some songs I really don’t like, but they get played anyway. Over the years, though, I’ve built up a mental list of Christmas and related songs I almost never hear during the holidays unless I play them myself. These are what I call The Lost Christmas Songs.

In no particular order…

01) Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

A non-album track from 1984. The guys who gave us Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions made one shot at an exclusively Christmas single and it was actually a hit (#21 in the UK) that year. It has all the Queen trademarks of lush harmonies and production and has aged reasonably well considering it comes from the ’80s.

02) Cashing In On Christmas – Bad News

Funny Christmas songs are as much a part of the holidays as the straightforward classics, but many are just parodies of existing songs, changing the words. Not this 1987 track, from comedic rockers Bad News. It’s its own song and a very good one too (though it borrows its intro from the Troika written for “Lieutenant Kije”). It pokes fun at the many (many!) artists who record Christmas albums just to cash in on the season, rather than those artists having a legitimate artistic expression about this time of year. And it’s a catchy tune!

03) Silent Night – Mike Oldfield

“Silent Night” is hardly a lost Christmas song, for sure, but this performance, the B-side of his 1992 “Tattoo” CD single, is a beautiful instrumental version. Sit by the window and watch it snow while listening to it and you’re imagination will be transported somewhere magical.

04) Nut Rocker – B. Bumble And The Stingers

A rock and roll suite of selections from Tchaikovsky’s  The Nutcracker and it’s just as much fun as you’d imagine. This 1962 single was later covered live by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who released it as a single, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra did a version on their album Night Castle.

05) Little Drummer Boy – Alex Lifeson

From the collection Merry Axe-mas, this track sees the guitarist from the prog-rock band Rush performing a gentle acoustic rendition that will warm your heart.

06) Christmas At Ground Zero – “Weird Al” Yankovic

This is a tough one and I almost didn’t include it out of deference to my US readers. The horror of 9/11 has made the term “ground zero” almost exclusively linked to New York City and the World Trade Center twin towers. What “ground zero” actually always refers to is the point of impact of an explosion on the ground. In 1986, when the song was written and released, it referred to a nuclear explosion. The song humorously describes the holiday aftermath. Not a parody, as Al is famous for, but an original song that sounds like an early-’60s Wall-Of-Sound number. The world lost much on 9/11, but it’s time to take this song back!

07) I Dream Of Christmas – Anita Dobson (with Brian May & John Deacon)

Written by Queen’s guitarist at the same time as “Thank God It’s Christmas.” Queen chose the one track to record, so Brian brought the other to Anita as he was producing her first solo album. A sweet little track, maybe a bit sacchrine for some, but it comes by it honestly.

08) Troika (Lieutenant Kije) – Prokofiev

I mentioned this piece earlier and I can guarantee you’ve heard part of it. It’s been co-opted for the backing of numerous Christmas songs, like “I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake and Helen Love’s “Happiest Time Of The Year.” Well, here’s your chance to get to know the original and if you’re like me, once Prokofiev’s original sleigh ride music grabs you, you won’t care for the pieces that stand on its shoulders.

09) Christmas In Heaven – Monty Python

The closing number from their film The Meaning Of Life. Python humour is an acquired taste, but this calypso-themed celebration of everything great in Heaven (where it’s Christmas all the time!) is no less silly than what you hear on the radio all December long.

10) A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Not specifically a Christmas track, but it certainly fits the season. A single in 1995 from their album Made In Heaven, it was a #6 hit in the UK and is a gentle reflection on winter.

11) What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Has A Comb)? – Star Wars: Christmas In The Stars

This single, from the album Christmas In The Stars, reach #69 on the Billboard charts in 1980. I freely admit, it’s utter cheese, but so what?! I’ll take it over lame-as-all-fuck “Christmas Shoes” any day. With Disney buying Lucasfilm, don’t be surprised if this album gets re-issued. And no, this album has no connection to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978.

12) Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night) – Enya

A Gaelic rendition of “Silent Night” that loses none of its power in the translation and arguably gains a good deal more elegance sung by Enya. Those put off by the religious tone of the English-language version can enjoy this recording for the music, melody and vocals without the words getting in their way. This version appears on her 1994 single and her 2006 Sounds Of The Season EP.

13) In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

This is a very old Christmas piece with a long and varied history dating back to the  Middle Ages. Oldfield’s instrumental hit (#4 in the UK) version is based on Pearsall’s adaptation. It’s a jaunty, lighthearted folk arrangement that will put a spring in your step. More recently, Mike played part of this at the Opening Ceremony to the 2012 Olympics, so we may hear it get a resurgence in popularity in North America.

14) The Night Santa Went Crazy – “Weird Al” Yankovic

If you can’t bring yourself to play “Christmas At Ground Zero,” at least there’s this track to fall back on. Another original composition, a  rocker this time, comes from his album Bad Hair Day. Santa loses it and goes on a killing spree at the workshop. Play it loud!

15) Christmas Time (Oh Yeah) – Barenaked Ladies

The Ladies recorded a full Christmas album (Barenaked For The Holidays) and re-recorded this song for it. “Elf’s Lament,” the radio favourite from the album, overshadows this track, which is also an original composition and dates back years earlier. The first recording appears on the 1995 collection Cool Christmas, has more energy to it. (The video linked isn’t the 1995 recording, but a live version, because the 1995 is no where to be found. It retains the punchiness of the original, though.)

16) A Tale For A Winter’s Evening – Joseph Suk

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker gets most of the love when it comes to seasonal classical music when it’s not sharing it with Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy,” which is a shame because there are other great pieces dedicated to winter. If you find yourself growing weary of the modern pop Christmas standards and want something different, Joseph Suk’s Opus 9 “A Tale For A Winter’s Evening” (also known as “A Winter’s Tale” on some recordings, such as the excellent Naxos label release) is a great place to start.

17) The Four Seasons: Winter – Vivaldi

Not heard nearly as often in commercials, TV shows and movies, Vivaldi’s Winter should sound unsullied in the imagination. You’ll recognize Vivaldi’s string sound as it relates to the more well-known “Spring” and “Summer,” but it will take you somewhere bright and new if you’re not as familiar with this piece (and I’m betting you’re not, unless you’re into classical music).

18) Winter Legends – Arnold Bax

Bax himself described Winter Legends as “a northern nature piece full of sea and pine forests and dark legends.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Winter Legends is sort of a power ballad of classical music, intense and full of energy long before the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocked Christmas. It may be a bit dark for some, but it’ll balance out the sweet cheeriness of holiday music when it gets to be too much unbridled joy for one person.

19) Father Christmas – The Kinks
(Reader Suggestion) A tongue-in-cheek track about what kids really want for Christmas: money! Edgier than most humorous holiday songs, but that’s what The Kinks do best. This 1977 punk-rock single was later included on re-issues of their album Misfits. Thanks for the suggestion, Brian Pat!

I’ve heard people lament that every Christmas it’s the same old thing. The same songs are re-recorded over and over, they say, and they’re mostly right. It’s hard to write either a brand new Christmas song or even an original take on an existing song. My list above has some of both. There’s no reason I can fathom that in the sea of  versions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)*,” songs like “Thank God It’s Christmas” get overlooked by radio programmers looking for something else to liven things up. Maybe all the songs listed aren’t quite fit for the mainstream airwaves, but load these onto your MP3 player and fire them up at the next Christmas party. The other people in the room probably haven’t heard most of these.

If you have Lost Christmas favourites, let me know and I’ll add them to the list**.

Merry Christmas!

That’s what I’m talking about.

* Darlene Love’s original recording of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” kicks so much ass no one ever need bother trying to top it. That means you, Bono!

**Unless I know the song and hate it, then it’s not making the list. 😉

I love Halloween!


I grew up in a quiet neighbourhood in a small town and though the end of summer meant a return to school, it also meant Halloween was coming. Decorations and costumes would appear on store shelves and I’d start thinking about what I was going to be when I went trick or treating. The leaves would go red, yellow and orange, the nights became that perfect touch cooler and the more imaginative neighbours would dress up their property as graveyards, mad science labs and haunted houses. Perhaps there’s a bit of nostalgia filter going on as I look back, but who cares? It’s a season of atmosphere, mood and things that go bump in the night. It’s the season of the witch!

So, having a party this Halloween? Awesome! Sitting on your porch giving out candy? Also awesome!

We’ve got 60 days till Halloween, so here is a useful list of 60 songs you can use for your party or whatever involves music. I’m sure many of you will know of songs I don’t mention here and if they’re perfect for what you’re doing, go for it and add them!

My criteria were two-fold: a) be thematically appropriate to Halloween and its many aspects (horror, science fiction, fantasy, etc.); and b) keep the momentum going! This last one is less obvious, I find. Many dark, Halloween-sounding possible inclusions can either be too slow, too vague or too serious. You don’t want to depress the listeners, you want them to have a good time.

The List:
(And note that the position of a track doesn’t reflect its quality or popularity, it’s about having ebbs and flows in the music and spacing out the really well-known tracks.)

01) Thriller – Michael Jackson
Nothing sets the tone for evening as well as this song. It’s a classic for a reason. When you’re ready for the party to get rolling after all the guests have arrived, start here.

02) Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Picket & The Crypt-Kickers
It’s a bit cliché, but it’s also fun and everyone knows it. Good to get it in there early. Feel free to use a cover version (the Misfits do an excellent one) if the original is too cheesy for you.

03) Hot Patootie (aka Whatever Happened To Saturday Night) – Brian May
The original is from The Rocky Horror Show musical and it was made famous by Meat Loaf in The Rocky Horror PICTURE Show. Either version works, but I prefer this one for parties.

04) Halloween (Main Theme) – John Carpenter
Time to get a little dark and remind the guests that it’s not ALL fun and games.

05) Tubular X – Mike Oldfield
From the first The X-Files movie, Oldfield’s reworking of the famous X-Files theme. Mark Snow’s original is good, but for a party, it’s a touch slow and very short (about 1 minute long). At almost 4 minutes, Oldfield’s is the perfect length and has moody interludes.

06) People Are Strange – Echo And The Bunnymen
A cover of The Doors’ classic (and use The Doors’ original if you can’t find this version). It gets some additional seasonal cred by having been featured in the vampire movie The Lost Boys.

07) Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie
Should be self-explanatory! 🙂

08) Grim Grinning Ghosts – Barenaked Ladies
The Ladies covered this for Disney and it appears on The Haunted Mansion: Haunted Hits CD. This is probably the last time I say this in the list, but the original or another cover is a perfectly acceptable alternative!

09) Horrorbeach – HorrorPops
A perfect ’50s/’60s surfer instrumental homage, in the vain of The Ventures and The Shadows. Fun and spooky!

10) Man Of Mystery – The Shadows
Speaking of The Shadows…

11) In The Hall Of The Mountain King – The Who
Found on their album The Who Sell Out (Deluxe Edition), this is a cool rock cover of Grieg’s popular incidental music from Peer Gynt.

12) Theme From Swan Lake – Ray Coniff
From his Concert In Rhythm LP, this rendition of the classic Tchaikovsky piece has a good jazzy tempo. This theme (not this version, though) was used for the famous 1931 Bela Lugosi version of Dracula.

13) He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask) (Movie Mix) – Alice Cooper
Alice wrote this for Friday The 13th – Part VI: Jason Lives and it appears at the end of the film. The Movie Mix (my preferred mix) is on his boxed set, The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper. The original album version is on his 1986 album Constrictor. Either work.

14) Rock And Roll (Part 2) (Small Soldiers Remix) – Gary Glitter
At first, this may seem an odd choice, but trust me, this remix is just the right touch of eerie. The track has samples from the movie (about toy soldiers with minds of their own) of actor Tommy Lee Jones asking “are you scared”? You should be, in a fun way, those toys meant business!

15) Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Used in several ’90s movies, like Scream (and Dumb & Dumber, unfortunately, which dents its Halloween credibility a bit), it’s a devilish, catchy number.

16) Werewolves Of London – Warren Zevon
The best and most fun werewolf song ever written.

17) Moribund The Burgermeister – Peter Gabriel
A weird, but great, song about a town possessed (I think…?). Perfect atmosphere.

18) Moon Over Bourbon Steet – Sting
A jazzy bit directly inspired by the novel Interview With The Vampire, years before the Tom Cruise movie came out.

19) (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
You should know this one, everyone else does!

20) The Storm – Jim Steinman
Steinman will appear on this list a few times, and rightly so, as no one does Wagnerian Rock with delightfully over-the-top production like him. This classical instrumental from his Bad For Good album is just as the title describes, a thunderous, scene-setting symphonic masterpiece.

21) Bad Moon Rising – Creedance Clearwater Revival
CCR’s timeless track.

22) Ghouls – HorrorPops
A driving little ditty about dating monsters who only want to see horror movies and try to get lucky with the girl. Yup.

23) The Enemy Within (Part 1 Of “Fear”) – Rush
Rush did a trilogy (in four parts…don’t ask) on the subject of Fear. All are great (except maybe Part 4…don’t ask), but this is the most party-music-friendly track in the set.

24) Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.

25) Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
Featuring Michael Jackson singing the famous chorus, this ’80s classic came from a time when popular music embraced the spooky and weird with gleeful abandon.

26) His Eyes – Psuedo Echo
Like Somebody’s Watching Me, this Psuedo Echo track is all atmosphere and pop, this time wrapped up in New Wave synthy goodnesss. This song also appeared in Friday The 13th – Part V: A New Beginning.

27) Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
The Twilight Zone (both the TV series and this song) and Halloween go together like chocolate and peanut butter!

28) Enter Sandman – Metallica
Dreams and nightmares set to classic rock!

29) Hands Of Death (Burn Baby Burn) (Spookshow 2000 Mix) – Rob Zombie & Alice Cooper
From the collection Songs In The Key of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files, this meeting of the two reigning rock icons of the macabre is a must.

30) Release The Bats – The Birthday Party
Nick Cave’s previous band gave us this quirky song about vampire bats. It doesn’t get much more Halloween than vampire bats!

31) Bat Out Of Hell – Meat Loaf
Another Jim Steinman composition, who worked with Meat Loaf through much of their respective careers, this track was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, his film Psycho and ’50s teen tragedy songs, and was written for Steinman’s Neverland rock musical.

32) Tubular Bells 2003: Introduction (Single Remix) – Mike Oldfield
The original version is a beautifully delicate piece that is probably a bit too subtle for the purpose of a party, despite being known by most as the music used in The Exorcist, but this is a remix of Oldfield’s own 2003 re-record of the entire album (yes, he re-recorded all 50 minutes of it, but don’t fear, the original is still available, too). For me, it’s perfect for a Halloween party.

33) Science Fiction Double Feature – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The opening track of the movie (and the stage musical) pays tribute to the classic science fiction and horror films of writer (and singer of this version) Richard O’Brien’s childhood.

34) I’m Flash
35) Space Pirates – Flash Fearless Versus The Zorg Women, Pts 5 & 6
Alice Cooper sings these two tracks off the concept album Flash Fearless, which itself is a homage to old Saturday morning serial adventures like Flash Gordon and Commando Cody, the kind you’d see at a science fiction double feature! You can find these two tracks on Alice’s Life & Crimes boxed set, as well.

36) Carmina Burana: O Fortuna – Carl Orff
The thunderous vocal track of countless film ads. You and everyone in the room will hum along!

37) No Exit – Blondie
Opening with a piece of Bach’s famous Toccata in D Minor, this rock/rap fusion about gangsta vampires (…yes, indeed) also features clever uses of other classical themes (like In The Hall Of The Mountain King).

38) I’m Going Slightly Mad – Queen
A tongue-in-cheek song about being “one card short of a full deck.”

39) Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group
The rock instrumental ode to the most famous mad scientist of literature and film, Dr. Frankenstein.

40) Doctorin’ The Tardis (12″ Version) – The Time Lords
The Time Lords (aka The KLF) created the first real hit mash-up (before mash-ups were a thing, really) by backing the famous Doctor Who theme with samples from Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll Part 2 and Sweet’s Blockbuster!

41) Weird Science – Oingo Boingo
There are two versions of this, the soundtrack version to the movie of the same name (for which it was written) and the later album re-record. Either works! If you need Halloween credentials past being a mad scientist song, later-composer Danny Elfman was in the band (you know, the guy who wrote the music for many Tim Burton films!)

42) Feed My Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
The Monster this time, not the doctor (I know, I know, Frankenstein’s not The Monster’s name, tell that to Alice…).

43) The Invisible Man – Queen
A rarely considered song for Halloween, but it’s the only song I know of about the character of the Invisible Man, one of Universal Picture’s classic movie “monsters.” It’s got a pop-rock riff similar to Ghostbusters and practically begs to be on a Halloween playlist! Time to give it its due.

44) The Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
‘Nuff said.

45) Clones (We’re All) – Alice Cooper
Science out of control with a catchy synth riff.

46) Cyborg – Brian May
A video game character forever destined to battle evil in a computer.

47) Who Made Who – AC/DC
The machine revolution has begun with this song from the soundtrack album of Stephen King’s film Maximum Overdrive.

48) The Headless Horseman – Joe Satriani
Riding through the Halloween night, Washington Irving’s famous spectre of books and film may still be out there…somewhere…

49) Night On Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky
The epic orchestral account of witches casting spells atop the mountain!

50) Welcome To My Nightmare – Alice Cooper
You shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a lot of Alice Cooper on this list, he’s made a career out of all the things that make Halloween great.

51) This Is Halloween – Marilyn Manson
A cover of the famous track from the film A Nightmare Before Christmas.

52) This Corrosion – The Sisters Of Mercy
Jim Steinman teaming with Andrew Eldrich for a gothic rock opus.

53) Theme From Friday The 13th – Part 3 (3D) (12″ Version) – Hot Ice
An extended version of Harry Manfredini’s disco-styled Theme From Friday The 13th – Part 3 (3D).

54) I Put A Spell On You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Seriously, listen to this song. They just don’t make’em like this anymore!

55) Fire – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
…or like this!

56) Race With The Devil – The Gun
As cool and insane as a race with the Devil probably would be!

57) Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones
A classic.

58) Monster Friend – Tea For The Voyage
A fun ska number about the difficulty of a man faces dating a woman whose friend is an indescribable hell beast. Literally.

59) The Curse Of Millhaven – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
A jaunty number about about a killing spree, much more fun than it you’d think and good luck not singing along with the chorus.

60) Nature Trail To Hell – “Weird Al” Yankovic
Not a parody of any one song, but of the style of ’80s horror pop songs like “Thriller,” sending up that decade’s slasher movies and killer icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.

Honourable Mentions:
(Really, they’re on the list, but 60 tracks for 60 days left to Halloween made for a better looking list. Screw it, it’s my blog!)

61) Horrorteria – Twisted Sister
A two-part track, from their album Stay Hungry, this was dedicated to Stephen King himself!

62) A Nightmare On My Street – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff’s tribute to A Nightmare On Elm Street, wisely employing Elmer Bernstein’s theme from the original film. A bit ’90s cheese, but come on, these two liked the movies as much as we did!

63) Maniac House – Katrina & The Waves
The neighbours nobody wants.

64) La Villa Strangiato – Rush
Supposedly based on a dream of guitarist Alex Lifeson’s, this 9:33 long instrumental has him in Wonderland, chased by monsters, and other bizarre things!

65) A Kind Of Magic – Queen
A remix of one of the songs Queen wrote for the fantasy film Highlander, this ode to the mysteries of the movie’s immortals is fun and danceable.

66) Teenage Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
Also featured in Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, comes a rocker in the vein of B-movies like “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” and (literally) “I Was A Teenage Frankenstein.” I guess some some kids’ growing pains were worse than others.

67) Bad Things – Jace Everett
Fans of the HBO series True Blood will instantly recognize this, since it’s used as the theme. That context and the eerie undertone qualify it for inclusion on this list.

68) Song From The Bottom Of A Well – Kevin Ayers
Finally! Somebody uploaded this song to YouTube. I’ve had this list up for two years and at least can share this song with you! I guess this makes up for “Maniac House” being taken down.

By no means is this list definitive. Some sites list songs I didn’t mention here, either because I don’t know them or they don’t fit the parties I throw. Or I forgot about them. So let me know in the comments section what you like here or what I missed, or what you love to listen to at Halloween!

I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions!

Have a fun, safe Halloween, folks.

Trick or treat, smell my feet…

[The following article ran in two parts on Queen’s Official Website, on August 1st & August 7th, 2012. Thanks to site administrator Nick Weymouth. ]

Brian May (Copyright owner and year unknown)

The Journey Back To The Light

By Patrick Lemieux

The end of 1987 was a tumultuous period for Queen’s guitarist, Brian May.

Sadly, on June 2nd, 1987, Brian’s father, Harold May, had passed away. The loss did not help Brian’s struggle with depression.

The band was on a much needed break after the release of their 1986 album A Kind Of Magic and a successful, if taxing, European tour. The four men were exploring solo efforts outside of Queen, and from the summer through to winter, Brian had been working on the debut album of actress Anita Dobson. As circumstance would have it, the relationship between the two would complicate Brian’s life and marriage to his wife, Chrissy.

It’s at this point that the seeds of a solo album were beginning to germinate.

While living in Los Angeles, Brian became friends with singer/songwriter Elizabeth Lamers and songwriter Frank Musker. Together, they wrote the song “Too Much Love Will Kill You.” As Brian would explain, he was in a dark place, mentally and emotionally: “It happened when I was in America when I was trying to get away from life, and I wrote it with a couple of friends whom I just met, who sort of helped me get it out of my system. It was like a cathartic thing.” (1992 Back To The Light EPK). He would later tell the Orange County Register in 1993 that the song “was the first song written for the album, dating back six years.”

Brian put a lot of work into “Too Much Love,” as evidenced by a set of recordings known to fans as The Bell Boy Tape. This cassette was reportedly given to a hotel bell boy by Elizabeth Lamers herself, after which it changed hands and now legitimately belongs to a collector. This story of the bell boy has entered into Queen lore, but Elizabeth Lamers herself wrote to tell me, “[it is] a rumor that appeared on the internet years ago and now has become legend. Hmm. I never gave a cassette tape of any version of that tune to anyone in any hotel. I’m sure I had copies around and it is possible that I misplaced one but there was never any handing off of unreleased material by me or Frank or Brian. Perhaps the intrigue and the bell hop make it a better story.” Without knowing who started the rumour or why, it would now seem prudent to consider the bell boy story apocryphal in light of Ms. Lamers’ facts. That the cassette itself exists is not in dispute and it’s known to contain an instrumental backing track, a version with Brian singing solo and a duet with both he and Ms. Lamers. The tape’s owner also confirms that a pair of Brian’s demos, titled “Sleepy Blues” and “Moody Keyboards,” is also present among the recordings.

1988 would not bring much relief in May’s life, though he took refuge in recording and song-writing, saying in 1993, “If ever I had an idea that didn’t fit the [Queen] format, it would always get put away someplace on a piece of paper or a piece of tape. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I decided it would be a good thing to use some of these ideas in a solo album. I really started it as a form of therapy. I was very depressed at the time; at one point, I was really very suicidal. At such moments, it’s only the fact that I’ve got kids that stops me from driving off bridges” (Guitar World Magazine).

Around early 1988, so the story goes, Brian was asked by skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan to write him a song. Brian penned “Let Your Heart Rule Your Head,” apparently even recording a version of the song with him. Donegan’s reported album, for which the song was written, never came about, but Brian did now have another song to add to his unpublished catalogue.

In March of 1988, Brian booked time at both Sarm and Town House Studios, where he began work recording “Let Your Heart Rule Your Head” and a cover of the Small Faces’ song “Rollin’ Over,” respectively. It was around this time that May decided to assemble a home recording studio at Allerton Hill, which he explained to Gold Compact Disc magazine in 1992: “I’ve always resisted the idea of having a studio there because I’ve always felt that you should be able to get away from your work … but it never worked out like that anyway. The reason I did my own album at home was because of the feeling of pressure that you can get working in one of the major recording studios.

“It’s often a case of, ‘Well here I am, standing in this studio, just playing about, and it’s costing more than £1,000 a day’. It just seems so wasteful, so I thought, ‘Well, why not do the album at home?’ And anyway, I wanted to get back to basics.”

A song Brian also started in March of 1988 was “Back To The Light.” Talking to Rip magazine about the song, Brian said he “stood on that stage [in 1993] and could remember so clearly putting those first words of ‘Back to the Light’ down on tape in a makeshift studio. I did it because I knew I had to do something to keep myself going.” Far from being the song born out of success in overcoming personal adversity, “Back To The Light” was a cry of hope by a man who wished to someday get there. At the time, Brian had no idea whether he’d reach his goal.

Also reflecting the sombre mood of his life were the tracks “I’m Scared” and “Last Horizon,” both begun at the fledgling Allerton Hill studio that March. “Last Horizon” was experimented on by way of two different approaches, which Brian explained to fans on his website in 2004: “I tried the tune two different ways, one with a gentle syncopated beat, and one with the straight 4-4 slow rock beat.”

“I’m Scared,” Brian told Guitar World magazine in 1993, “goes back a long way. I kept doing different versions of that, as I kept finding out that I was scared of more and more things. And I figured that most of us are. We just keep it inside. I think it’s good to let all that stuff out sometimes. Do a bit of screaming.”

Hounded by the press for his involvement with Anita, Brian would write another song, “Scandal,” which he brought to the table as Queen set out to record a new album that summer. Trying to put his solo project aside to focus on his duties with Queen, Brian also penned the track “I Want It All.” His oft-told story behind the song was that it was a favourite phrase of Anita’s, “I want it all and I want it now!” He also presented the band with “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” rounding out his direct contribution to the song-writing credits for the new Queen album, which, by his own admission, seemed somewhat less than their previous releases. As he told Guitar World, “There were only a few days during that time when I managed to play guitar solos. It’s really a miracle that I did anything on that album at all.”

One such solo would become the instrumental track “Chinese Torture,” which would only be included on CD editions of the album as a bonus track.

The band worked on the album from the summer into the winter, recording at Olympic and The Town House Studios in London, and their own Mountain Studios in Montreux. Still, however, the draw of his potential solo album and the personal pressures drew Brian to continue working on it in conjunction with, if not in favour of, recording Queen’s thirteenth studio album, The Miracle. February of 1989 found Brian discussing this with Record Collector magazine: “Most of the time I’ve been working on my own. The solo project is mainly about getting all the stuff I’ve had in my head onto tape, but I’ve found that some of the ideas I had in mind for solo work have ended up on the Queen album. I think that the best ideas should really be concentrated towards the group, because it’s still the best vehicle I can find – as the group is so good!

“To describe the material is quite difficult. I put the songs on one tape in a very rough form and thought, ‘Where am I?’, because they are so varied, more so even than Queen material. I’ve got ballads which are very soft and personal, and I’ve got stuff which is very hard, pure heavy metal. There are weird acoustic songs, and God knows what else! There isn’t a direction to the album yet, and I think that’s one problem that I have to sort out.” It’s possible that at this stage “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” completed by the band for The Miracle album, was still a contender for inclusion.

Mastering for The Miracle tracks, and “I Want It All” in particular, would continue through March of 1989. Once completed, the band decided the track order and “Too Much Love Will Kill You” was left off the album entirely.

Freddie’s declining health due to AIDS precluded the band touring, an escape Brian would have welcomed, but shooting the videos for The Miracle’s singles did offer a few days relief. On the DVD commentary for the “Breakthru” video, Brian speaks of being able to get away from the turmoil of his personal life while taping it in the country in the spring of 1989. According to Brian, his marriage to Chrissy was over by this point, which only added more weight to the already crushing drepression he was going through. The two would ultimately divorce that year. Speaking to Guitar World magazine, he says, “I was going through a time when I realized I couldn’t live with my wife, which meant that I couldn’t be with my kids. And also – this may sound trivial in comparison – the group had decided not to tour at that point. So suddenly here was a great hole in my professional life, too. I couldn’t have any outlet on stage. And I think the balance of my life just got completely destroyed. I didn’t know who I was anymore.”

The Miracle was released in the UK on May 22nd, 1989, and with the lack of a tour to support it, Brian was faced with a life that was falling apart around him. The death of his father, the end of his marriage, and Freddie’s illness were all contributing to a downward spiral. Yet, there was the idea of a solo album. There were tracks already put down, in various states of completion, and Brian felt it could be a form of therapy to keep labouring on it.

On September 19th, 1989, Philip Sayer, actor and friend of Anita Dobson, died of cancer at the age of 42. In the magazine Guitar For The Practicing Muscian (1993), Brian explains this event as the inspiration for the song he wrote then, called “Just One Life,” “what crystallized that song for me was going to a memorial concert given for a friend of [Anita]. This was a guy I’d never met. At the end of what they did, they recited and they sang songs and told stories. At the end of it I felt I knew this guy through the influence he’d had on his friends. I began to think “This is what a person is.” A person is the effect that he leaves on the people around him or at least that’s part of it. I was trying to find out what is a life. I was looking at his life, at Freddie’s life, at my father’s life. I just lost my father. I was trying to tie all the threads together to try and get closer to what it was all about.”

The Swansea Grand Theatre itself, of which Sayer was a member, has this to say about the event: “There was a memorial tribute at The Aldwych Theatre just after he died, it was a very moving experience hosted by Sir Ian McKellan, with contributions from the Sion Probert, Denis Lawson and Maureen Lipman. Among the audience that night was Queen’s Brian May, who was with his partner, Anita Dobson. Anita was a great friend to Philip. Brian May was so moved by the evening that, even though he had not even met Philip Sayer, he wrote a song dedicated to him.”

As fall turned to winter in 1989, Queen turned their attention back to studio work to record another new album. By now, with Freddie Mercury’s health noticeably diminishing, the rest of the band knew he was ill, but did not know the details. The push to keep working brought the band back into Mountain Studios in Montreux in November of 1989. Roger Taylor and Brian May both described the approach used, that the band would work for three weeks, then take two weeks off, then return for three weeks and repeat the process.

It was at Mountain Studios that Brian recorded early material for “Just One Life,” as well two new songs he considered for his solo album. As he explained in 1991: “I was in the studio for a couple of days to get some things out of my system. I thought that maybe I’d be left with a solo album, maybe with a Queen album, I just didn’t know and I came up with ‘Headlong’ and ‘I Can’t Live With You’ – the guys liked them.

“‘Headlong’ came from me, at our studio in Montreux, a home recording studio for us that’s very state-of-the-art, lovely for creating. The ideas came in a couple of days. At first I thought about it as a song for my solo album, but, as always, the band is the best vehicle. As soon as I heard Freddie sing it, I said, ‘That’s it!’ Sometimes it’s painful to give the baby away, but what you gain is much more. It became a Queen song.”

Brian would also contribute three more songs to the album that eventually became known as Innuendo: “The Hitman,” “The Show Must Go On” and “Lost Opportunity.” The last track would be relegated to the B-side of the “I’m Going Slightly Mad” single, but Brian’s input on the album, compared to The Miracle, was a return to form. In fact, 1990 would see Brian throw himself into guest appearances on other artists’ releases as much as he was working with Queen. He recorded guitar work for both charity singles by Rock Against Repatriation and Rock Aid Armenia, and did music for a stage production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which opened in November.

On February 18th, 1990 Brian spoke on behalf of the band at The British Phonographic Institute ceremony, where Queen received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

Brian’s speech went as follows: “On behalf of the group, I’d like to say thank you very much to everyone in the industry and, perhaps more importantly, outside the industry who stuck behind us all these years. Because in doing so, you gave us a lot of freedom to pursue what we loosely call our art to any extent we felt like at the time. And to go out on a lot of strange limbs which seemed very precarious at the time, but we didn’t quite fall off. And finally, to get to the point where this happens to us, which is great. And I’d like to say a special thank you to the British petroleum industry for giving us this magnificent award in recognition of all the amounts of vinyl which we’ve recycled over the years. Thank you.”

As they left the stage, Roger added, “Thank you very much.”

And Freddie gave a gentle wave, “Thank you. Goodnight.”

By November of 1990, the Innuendo album was complete and the band focused on its promotion. Also, Hollywood Records in the US was now signed to handle Queen’s catalogue and future releases in North America. The company planned a massive campaign to remaster and re-issue the back catalogue, as well as various solo releases, such as Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe’s Barcelona album. The band recorded a video for “Headlong” and interviews for the press releases.

Over New Years, so Brian would tell Q Magazine in January of 1991, Freddie and Roger discussed continuing to record, despite having completed Innuendo. May would join them in Montreux that month and work would begin for what would become Freddie’s final recordings.

Taking a break from recording to promote Innuendo’s release, Brian and Roger appeared on Rockline Radio in the US in February. Brian was asked on the air by a fan of the state of his solo album and Brian had this to say: “I’m still working on it. It’s the ongoing saga of the Brian May solo album. It’s still in the cards, and maybe by this, I’m hoping, by this summer it will be finished and I will put it out. See I have a lot of stuff, but it just needs making into an album. It’s a difficult task, making a lot of decisions.”

In May, Brian returned to the US for a promotional tour of both Innuendo and the Hollywood Records re-issues of Queen’s albums, visiting radio stations and performing impromptu guitar solos.

While he was in Los Angeles that summer, Brian was approached by the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and asked to write a tune for their new Ford UK ads.

“These ad guys threw some slogans at me and I thought, ‘Well, I can do it if I relate it to my own experiences and my own feelings.’ And the phrase “Driven By You” immediately jumped out as a description of the way I saw the power struggle between two people in a relationship. It just poured out. I wrote a version for me, and I wrote a version for the ad people. And it worked out great. It was a good kick up the backside for me too, because these people work quickly and do high-quality work.” (Guitar World, Jan. 1993)

Brian recorded the different versions of track, the TV Ad Version, his solo version and a short, mostly instrumental version later titled “Driven By You Two,” at Mountain Studios between continued efforts by Queen, and Freddie in particular, to record new material. By now the rest of Queen was told by Freddie that he had AIDS and that he did not know how long he had left, but that he wanted to record as much as he could in the time remaining.

Ford UK ran the new “Driven By You” ads with Brian’s music in July and the response was both positive and encouraging for Brian to finish the song and to plan for its proper release in November. More significantly, the reception to “Driven By You” had a greater affect on Brian’s work on the solo album entirely, as he told Gold Compact Disc magazine in 1992: “I had a rough idea of what the album was going to be like, round about that time, but I didn’t get down to the serious work until about a year ago, when Driven By You happened.

“I worked on the song and the advert in parallel, and the interesting thing is that the song meant one thing to me, and another thing to the agency people. I was really stimulated by the way that advertising people work … I mean, they’re so quick. I delivered them a version of Driven By You, and it was on the television commercial the next day!”

Around this time, Brian was presented with the opportunity to assemble his choice of musicians to perform with, at the Guitar Legends festival in Seville, Spain. He jumped at the chance and among the performers were B.B. King, Paul Rodgers, Mike Moran, Neil Murray, Steve Vai, Joe Walsh and Cozy Powell. According to Neil Murray, this was the start of the working relationship between he and Brian, as Neil would go on to perform bass parts on Brian’s solo recordings.

Powell, a good friend of May’s, was going through difficulties of his own, having been in a horse accident in 1991 that led to a crushed pelvis. Talking to Rip Magazine (1993) he said that “The show gave me a goal to go for. There was a period after that when the phone stopped ringing, because a lot of people didn’t know I was available or thought I was injured. You think, ‘Shit, nobody wants to hear me anymore. My career must be over.’”

October 19th, 1991, Brian and his gathered musicians performed at the Guitar Legends festival. Among the pieces played was “Last Horizon,” one of the tracks Brian had been working on for his album.

After the festival, Cozy Powell would start work on a solo album of his own. One of the early tracks Powell recorded was the instrumental “Somewhere In Time.” Both Brian and John Deacon were invited to record on it. They put their tracks down in November of 1991.

On November 24th, 1991, Freddie Mercury passed away at his home at Garden Lodge, London.

According to Brian, “Cozy came in with a backing track and said play something on it. It was the night before Freddie went, but for the first time I had this complete conviction that it was imminent, and I felt that he was going at that point. I used that track and wrote the song about how I felt at that point.” (Rock CD magazine, 1992)

Brian would add lyrics to “Somewhere In Time” and create the song “Nothin’ But Blue.” The guitar Brian used on both of the recordings was a gift from fellow guitarist Joe Satriani.

On November 25th, 1991, Brian’s single for “Driven By You” was released. The B-side was the track dedicated to Philip Sayer, “Just One Life.” Brian had also recorded a “Guitar Version,” replacing most of the vocal with him playing the Red Special. Included on the 12” single was the TV Ad Version of “Driven By You.” A promo CD was also issued containing various radio edits.

The surviving members of Queen withdrew from the public eye after the death of their lead singer. It wasn’t until January 12th, 1992, that they would return to the media to announce the forthcoming Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert For AIDS Awareness.

Meanwhile, along with co-organizing the concert, Brian busied himself with recording and working on the solo album, including the track “Love Token,” which features Neil Murray, Cozy Powell and Mike Moran. Talking to Guitar World magazine, who commented on how heavy the song was, Brian explained, “Yeah, I enjoy that. I have an outlet for that now, whereas sometimes the band had to be a bit more broad, stylistically. Now I can get more into the heavy stuff. And I do enjoy it, I must admit. [It’s] one of my mamma/poppa songs. I’ve got a few of those. I’m gonna have a little anthology of mama vs. papa songs one day.”

Cozy Powell again presented Brian with a track to work on for Powell’s own album, this one titled “Ride To Win.” Brian took to the song and felt that, like with “Somewhere In Time,” this was a track in which he could express his feelings in lyric. Brian reworked the track, adding his lyrics, and created “Resurrection,” which he discussed with The Orange County Register in 1993: “After all these years of looking for this optimism, I finally found it. The end was in sight. I could visualize myself getting out and playing to real people again. I was beginning to get my life into shape, private life-wise. There’s a lot of joy in that for me. You can’t fake that. You can’t play that stuff unless you feel that way. It was a long way till I was able to give vent to that kind of stuff.”

And with Rip magazine (1993): “At the beginning, when I was trying to find my way about five years ago, it was all a mystery. All I knew was that I was in pain and couldn’t see my way out. By the end of it, when I was doing ‘Resurrection,’ I felt like I understood what all these things meant, and there was some glimpse of the light I was looking for. It’s all metaphors, really. [The song] ‘Back to the Light’ was supposed to be me looking for a way out, finding optimism again. In ‘Resurrection’ I thought I’d really found it.”

“‘Resurrection’ […] appropriately, was the last written.” (The Orange County Register, 1993)

On April 20, 1992, Queen and their guest artists performed the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Brian took the opportunity to premiere “Too Much Love Will Kill You” as part of what he hoped would be for Freddie “the greatest send-off in history.”

The days and months that followed would find him at Allerton Hill finishing his album, framing the songs he spent five years writing and recording with a bookending lullaby, part of the instrumental piece “The Dark.” To create the track, Brian culled material recorded way back in 1980, during Queen’s Flash Gordon sessions, at The Town House Studios.

“On ‘The Dark,’ I wanted this frightening wall of sound coming out to contrast this very small voice – the kid in the cot.” (Guitarist magazine, 1992)

Brian also took the opportunity to revisit “Driven By You,” writing on his website in 2004: “On my solo track ‘Driven By You’ the original single version was built around my own programmed drums, but for the album version I asked the wonderful, now sadly departed Cozy Powell to play drums.” Interestingly, the album would retain the version previously released as a single, without Cozy on it. UK audiences would hear the Cozy Powell version as a B-side to the CD single of “Too Much Love Will Kill You” and US audiences would receive it as a bonus track to album.

The “Too Much Love” single B-side would also present fans with an early version of “I’m Scared,” which was later re-recorded by Brian with Neil Murray and Cozy Powell, and remixed for the album by Justin Shirley-Smith in 1992.

In completing “Last Horizon,” Brian had his two versions of the track, one with the syncopated beat and the other in 4-4 time. “When it came to putting the whole album together, I liked BOTH versions, and then I discovered that one made a good introduction to the other. So we ‘spliced’ them together, with the snare beat which opens this second piece.” (, 2004)

By July 20th, 1992, the hard-fought battle with his first full-length album outside of Queen was complete. Writing the introductory liner note, Brian explains briefly the nature of the journey he undertook creating the album, saying, “The man who finished making it today is very different from the man who started it five years ago.”

The album, titled “Back To The Light,” was released in the UK on September 28th, 1992 and in the US on February 2nd, 1993.

Back To The Light (UK Album Sleeve) (Copyright Parlophone, 1992)

The track listing was as follows:
The Dark
Back To The Light
Love Token
Resurrection (with Cozy Powell)
Too Much Love Will Kill You
Driven By You
Nothin’ But Blue
I’m Scared (Justin’s Mix ’92)
Last Horizon
Let Your Heart Rule Your Head
Just One Life
Rollin’ Over
US CD Bonus Track: Driven By You (Radio Remix)

Back To The Light (US Album Sleeve) (Copyright Hollywood Records,1993)

Brian toured for the album worldwide, through ’92 and ’93, promoting it heavily and continuing to deal with what was, at the time, a life after Queen, forging a new identity as a solo artist.

Again, though, Brian would set the solo work aside to return to the band in 1994 to work on the recordings left by Freddie and to try to build a new Queen album. It’s fitting that in doing so, the band pulled their 1988 recording of “Too Much Love Will Kill You” out of the vault and included it. The song that began Brian’s work on his solo album now stood amongst tracks that, in a way, represent the different facets of Queen, including their solo efforts outside the band, and reflecting the theme of the struggle that is life; a struggle Brian knew all too well when he finished Back To The Light.

[Note: The original article noted the incorrect year for the death of Harold May (1988 instead of 1987). This was my mistake and I’ve corrected it here. As such, I had to move that reference to its appropriate chronological position in the article.]

Previously, I extolled the work of Ms. Lindsay Ellis, The Nostalgia Chick. You can find that blog post here.

Lindsay Ellis, The Nostalgia Chick (Copyright Lindsay Ellis, 2012)

Recently, she tackled a science fiction classic and, by extension, its author. Respectively, they are the novel “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. Published in 1985 and having spawned into several series of books by him and adaptations into such media as comics and a forthcoming film (set for release in 2013),  this book and its sequels have a devoted following, which also comes into play in her recent review. Which you can see here:

I was going to post the following in the comments, but my reply grew as I wrote and I decided to post it here. The comments section, in case you didn’t read any of it, has become a pitched battleground, with arguments ranging from defenders of Card and anti-gay sentiments to defenders of the books who condemn Card nonetheless and support gay rights and freedoms. I have this blog, so responding here means my thoughts won’t get lost in the mire there.

Here’s what  I had to say:

“Lindsay, this could be your best piece yet.

You handled a sensitive topic, one bound to incite passionate discussion, and cut through the waves of personal, political, religious and social indignation like a blade. You addressed the opposing viewpoints clearly and concisely, expressing your opinion without the heavy-handed self-righteousness of many bloggers and pundants. And as always, you educate on the issue, combating ignorance not by raising a weapon or your voice to simply drown out discussion, but by raising the quality of your argument and your viewer’s awareness.

Sadly, much of that will go over some people’s heads, as they wallow in (to quote Isaac Asimov) “the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

I read Ender’s Game, but none of the others. I read it without knowing Card’s beliefs and even if I had remained unaware of them, I had no plan to read the rest of his books. I like to think I’m a thinking man, but I placed no allegory or historical parallel to the book. Every piece of fiction I read I do so first and foremost with the belief that story comes first. Allegory, metaphor, symbolism and all the intellectual idea-trapping English Lit teachers love so much, in my opinion, should always take a back seat to the story. The story in Ender’s Game was interesting for the most part and I did recognize the seemingly prophetic elements like bloggers, but I also think he seriously over-estimates the influence or impact one or two bloggers, no matter how profound, can have. The internet of today, unlike his speculation, is a sea of competing opinions. And whether they’re intelligently expressed or the ramblings of the dimwitted or crazy, all these opinions are more or less delivered onto a level playing field. I don’t think it’s possible, now or ever, for a political or sociological messiah to rise up from the blog-osphere to change the world. Yes, ideas are transmitted faster and wider, but now everyone’s opinions travel at the same speed, allowing no single viewpoint to really exceed anyone else’s.

The reason I didn’t plan to read the rest was partly the ending, which I felt was rushed (I know he was setting up the next book, I just don’t think he did it well) and partly because I felt the book was only alright. I read it only a few years ago. It took a while to draw me in and when it it did, it was compelling, but the end sort of spat me out and I felt no desire to know what happened next. I still don’t. Maybe it’s my loss.

In light of what I now know of the author, thanks to your review and the writings of others, I’m not sure I could read the sequels and separate what I know of Card and simply try to enjoy the book the way I did with “Ender’s Game.”

I’m glad I read it under the circumstances of not seeing the man behind the curtain. It’s unfortunate that a good book was written by a man who, in real life, believes what he does. Perhaps, in years to come, after he is gone, the book can step out of that shadow permanently and stand on its own, seen as a significant work by a flawed man.”

This is the cover of the edition I own. Yes, I own it, despite Card’s painfully ignorant views. It’s not the book’s fault its author is…him. (Copyright Tor Books, 1985)