Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

He Will Rock You

People think of hits and harmonies when they think about Queen, like it was Freddie and three other guys; it wasn’t: Queen was a heavy band when they felt like it. All their rockers are just the tiniest bit too fast and feel like they might derail halfway through the bridge, but always make it to the depot. This is from the upcoming six-disc Queen On Air box: three discs of interviews, portions of shows from ’73, ’81, and ’86, and–best of all–the band’s Peel Sessions.

Up until around ten years ago, all of England only had one radio station: the BBC. It cut down on options, but it saved the British car industry a lot of money on radio knobs; all anyone needed was a power button. If the radio was on, then it was on the BBC: they were the 800-pound gorilla (excuse me: 57.14 stone gorilla) of the market, but because it was Great Britain there were all sorts of inexplicable rules and regulations.

There was something called the Needle Time Rule, which meant you could only play records a certain number of hours a day, plus the powerful musician’s union forced the BBC to hire musicians to record cover versions of popular songs. (I told you it was inexplicable.) So what John Peel did was have bands (lesser-known ones, mostly) go in the Beeb’s studio for 24 hours and re-cut some of their tracks; the shortened window gave the tapes a rougher and more vibrant feel, and then Peel would interview the band and play what they’d done. None of the BBC’s preciously counted needle time wasted, and the unions are happy. Clever guy, John Peel.

14 Comments

  1. I saw Queen on their first trip through San Francisco (March 30 ‘7 I believe) at Winterland. It was a Sunday night, and then were barely known, so tickets were only 3 dollars. Opening acts were Mahogany Rush plus Yesterday And Today, then just a local East Bay band.

    I am as much an old hippie as anybody who reads this, so trust me when I say that Queen rocked the house hard with a minimum of nonsense. Sure, there was some dry ice or something, but that was standard fare. They stood there in their flowing white robes and burned it up. Freddie Mercury was a surprisingly good piano player, by the way.

    Even a year later it was much more of a pop thing, A Night At The Opera, costume changes and all that. You could see where it was going, and it wasn’t my thing particularly. But that first time, they were like any other heavy English band coming through the city, and they were a lot better than Robin Trower.

    • Sorry, can’t correct typos, the date was March 30 1975.

      • Corry, I found a guys YouTube channel that’s loaded with KSAN (?) Radio broadcasts of various S.F area concerts from the mid 70’s to early 80’s. From Talking Heads to Bobby Bland, Keystone to Great American Music Hall. That was quite the station eh?

        • If you have the capacity for my inability to do short, my KSAN story is here:
          http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/03/grateful-dead-live-fm-broadcasts-ksan.html

        • KSAN was also huge in getting the original CBGB/New Wave stuff out into the world; Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Talking Heads and so on. Now we just think of them as “rock bands,” and rightly so, but in 1977 they were considered dangerously subversive. KSAN djs considered them new and happening, and broke them wide open. All of the above bands, for example, were broadcast live on KSAN long before any other radio station would do it, and they were right.

          KSAN’s demise was cemented in 1980 when the djs wanted to continue playing what was new and hip, and the new corporate owners wanted them to play the same old classic rock stuff (Journey, Grateful Dead, etc).

    • Thoughts On The Dead

      October 17, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Have you ever written up your non-Dead Winterland stories?

      • Someone with the patience to read through the million or so words of my numerous blogs would find a surprising number of those stories, but of course no one has the patience for that.

        • Off the top of my head, I think I went to Winterland 25 times and saw the Grateful Dead 14, and Jerry Garcia Band once. That leaves 10 others. unless I’m forgetting something (too lazy to check).

          • My non-GD Winterland shows (from memory, not checking)

            Aug 11 73 Poco/Mark Almond/Robin Trower/David Blue
            Jan 31 75 Kiss/Eli/Third Rail
            Mar 21 75 Peter Frampton/Man/Babe Ruth
            Mar 30 75 Queen/Mohagany Rush/Yesterday and Today
            Nov 28 75 Fleetwod Mac/Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express/Jiva
            Dec 26 75 Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart
            Dec 31 75 The Tubes/Flo and Eddie/Eddie Money
            Jan 30 77 Dave Mason/Sammy Hagar/Alpha Band
            Sep 3 77 Be Bop Deluxe/Tom Petty/Yesterday and Today
            Oct ? 78 Thin Lizzy/Graham Parker and The Rumour/Little Roger and The Goosebumps
            Oct ? 78 Be Bop Deluxe/The Jam/Horslips
            Dec 2 78 Van Morrison/Tower Of Power/Moon Martin
            Dec 15 78 Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
            plus 14 Dead shows and one JGB (Dec 19 ’75)

          • Thoughts On The Dead

            October 17, 2016 at 9:40 pm

            I was going to make fun of you for spending the night of Englishtown in the company of Be Bop Deluxe (whoever that is) but then I saw Tom Petty was on the bill. Love me some Petty.

        • Thoughts On The Dead

          October 17, 2016 at 9:29 pm

          CURATE

        • At the time, BeBop Deluxe were impossibly good and stardom seemed inevitable (try “Modern Music On My Radio” and “Life In The Air Age”). A strange twist of fate that both of the opening acts sold far more albums in the end. At the time, Petty’s first album had been out for a while, but the song “Breakdown” had become a hit. Petty was considered “New Wave” at the time, remarkable as that may seem today.

          • NoThoughtsOnDead

            October 18, 2016 at 8:14 pm

            I was particularly envious of the two BeBop Deluxe shows on your list; I only got to see them once, opening at Richfield Colosseum (near Cleveland) for Foghat and Climax Blues Band. Bill Nelson has managed to make a career in music, and that’s a blessing to all of us.

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