Thoughts On The Dead

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

Linking On A Sunday Afternoon

Enthusiasts, I will not exaggerate for comic effect: there are 18 billion tabs open in my browser right now; I can hear my computer wheezing as I type this, so it’s sharin’ time. (Obviously, most of this bullshit is Queen-related.)

But this isn’t! The Unofficial 31 Days of the Dead: obscure goodies and well-known classics both. An advent for the addled.

This is! A spectacularly-written excerpt from Queen Unseen, written by Peter Hince, who was Freddie’s Parish. (Rock Stars all have Parishes, and Rock Nerds can name them all.) A minute-by-minute account of a typical Queen show, and it’s worth reading even if you despise the band, just for the perfect little details. (Freddie’s champagne was water, and Rock Stars neither light nor extinguish their cigarettes: someone hands them a butt, they smoke some of it, then hand it back.) If you like it, go buy the book.

This isn’t about Queen, just something I’ve written about before (and better); the author works for Pitchfork and therefore legally has no clue that anything existed before the year 2000. (The great Jesse Jarnow is the only one over there who doesn’t need his ancestors murdered via Time Sheath to prevent their existence.)

Read this bullshit:

When, exactly, pop albums grew to be quite so long remains a mystery, considering the average length of an LP was 15.8 songs circa 2003, and for the last five years, it’s held at around 14 tracks across all genres. There is a certain joy in the short pop album, and an undeniable confidence in the work. Madonna’s eight-track self-titled debut hovers near perfection; had she added another four or seven or 12 songs to the 40-minute runtime, it’s hard to imagine they’d all be quite as good. Thriller, Purple Rain, and Janet Jackson’s Control all work their magic in nine songs. Maybe blockbusters like Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black make it look easy to pull off even 11 classic songs in a row, but it’s just not. None of Michael Jackson’s most iconic albums (Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad) are longer than ten tracks. So while Drake may boast that he’s “MJ in every way” on VIEWS, the platitude rings even more false than previously believed.

I hope this writer is in her twenties: it’s the only excuse. Pop albums became so long because they were no longer anchored to a tangible product that was limited in scope. No “LP” was ever 15 fucking songs long, because “LP” stands for “Long Playing” and it refers to a vinyl record. An album might be 15 songs long, but a 15-song LP would either be three feet in diameter, or from one of those Hardcore bands with tunes lasting under a minute.

Purple Rain was nine songs long because of audio science and technology. Madonna literally could not have added the “four or seven or 12” songs to her debut album, as that would have meant pressing another record. When you were a giant and best-selling artist, you could make a double album that had a bunch of filler on it. (The Clash once made a triple-album that was entirely filler.)

Read a fucking history book. Or this site, which is just as good and contains far more dick jokes.

Someone who has read a history book–and written one, too–is the great Jesse Jarnow, who listened to all 1,200 discs of the entire Bob Dylan: The Live ’66 Recordings and wrote it up for Pitchfork. They rejected the piece initially, as Kendrick Lamar was not mentioned, but ended up printing it; we are all better off for it.

Fun fact! Dylan’s backing band on that first electric tour was none other than The Band, but Levon Helm had quit or something some months earlier, and a fellow named Mickey Jones played drums. Mickey went on to have a long career in Hollywood as That Redneck Guy:

Right? That guy!

We close, as is customary, with John Deacon.

No, you shush.

Anyway, John Deacon was not only a superb bass player, and sporadic writer of #1 hit songs, but also (partially) responsible for Brian May’s instantly-recognizable guitar sound. This is the Deacy Amp:

Before John Deacon joined Queen, he studied electrical engineering. Walking home from the pub one day (I assume all British people are walking home from the pub at all times), he saw some audio components in a dumpster and built himself a practice amp. There were no controls on it at all, not even a power switch, hence the battery. It was at full volume, or it was off: the world’s only binary amplifier.

John Deacon brought it to the studio one day, very early on, and Brian plugged the Red Special into it; that was it. From that moment on, every guitar sound on every Queen album was produced by this little dinged-up fucker that still smelled like the coffee grounds and Chinese food leftovers it had been sitting in before being rescued.

(Brian’s tone was also aided by something called a treble booster, which is the whitest thing I’ve ever heard. The booster–like the guitar and the amp–was handmade.)

Onstage, Brian had his trademark wall of Vox AC30’s–kind of a thinking man’s Marshall Stack–but in the studio, it was all the Deacy. This is what it sounds like:

Feel free to insert your “Tony Stark built this in a cave with scraps” joke here.


  1. Although Mickey Jones was a fine drummer, he is actually better known as a character actor: Dukes Of Hazzard, V, Sons Of Anarchy, all sorts of things. Apparently he has been killed on screen 92 times

    Difficult to make these things up. I think Mickey Jones was replaced on the Australian tour by Sandy Konikoff, but I’m too lazy to check

  2. Was looking for a Mickey Jones video of him jamming on Secret Agent Man(Jones & & studio legend Joe Osborne were killer on that track. To my thinking Mickey Jones was actually better on the 66 Dylan tour than Levon Helm who really wasn’t a rocker and probably resented all of the attention Dylan & Robbie Robertson got). Because of this quest for the killer Secret Agent Man that wasn’t lip synced, I happened upon First Edition. I never knew what a bad ass Kenny Rogers once was before all of Dolly Parton duets & plastic surgery went to his head(I also never knew he was the bass player in the First Edition. My dad likes that stuff so I avoided it until now-I could do late ’60s Waylon with no problem, but avoided most of his cracker based music). I only knew that Mickey Jones played with Dylan & Johnny Rivers. He looks like Ronnie Tutt here:

    I couldn’t find a killer live video of the First Edition playing Ruby, but I did happen upon this:

    Thanks for the Deacy Amp story. I always thought some of the guitar parts were cut with a DI, but this type of low powered, germanium based solid state amp makes more sense for stacking. Obviously Brian May is the most important part of the signal chain, but that amp imparts a very unique texture.

    By the way the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster is the sound of mid ’60s British guitar. It’s a essentially a upper midrange frequency booster that pushes an amp into overdrive(it’s kind of rudimentary fuzztone). Tony Iommi used a Dallas Rangemaster for all of the early Sabbath material as did Eric Clapton on the Bluesbreakers “Beano” lp. As far as I know, Brian May had an original one that was later modified by Pete Cornish into the TB 83 which was used on all of the Queen records(at least that’s how Pete tells the story-here it is on his website-your article about the Deacy amp talks about Brian losing his Dallas pedal & Cornish making a new one. With future Sex Pistols Steve Jones & Paul Cook out stealing The Faces & Bowie’s equipment Queen’s practice space might have been hit as well).

    I love the image of Brian May’s killer circa 1981 “pedal board”- today’s John Mayer types would have difficulty with the paucity of effects-Brian May’s Echoplex with extended delay time was a bizarre to say the least:

    Here is Brian talking about the Red Special:

    When I think of Treble Booster tone, I think of this particular T-Rex track(Marc Bolan used one all of the time). Brian May’s guitar tone is very much colored by the Rangemaster type treble booster along with that Deacy Amp & Red Special guitar:

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