Saturday, May 31, 2014

Land of the Long White Sound: day seven

Heyyy, it's the last day of May and the last day of NZ Music Month. If i was younger, hipper and had my wits about me then last night I could have gone downtown to catch The Phoenix Foundation sharing a bill with Disasteradio - that would have been very cool. However, I am not anything of the above (young, hip, or cool.)

Anyway, here's the last video of the series: another female artist, and one from the Twenty-tens just to show that I'm not as old and crusty as my previous nominations have indicated.  Perhaps I'm not pushing the boat out too far here as it's the theme music from a much-loved and missed local series, but here goes:

Thankyou, Ms Wigmore, that will be all.

...or will it?

The answer is no. For the next few months I'm going to be very busy on another illustration assignment (NOT Judges), meaning that regular updates on the blog will be a rarer thing. It also torpedoes my Mirky Dozen miniature project which was just getting a rather fine head of steam on it, but rest assured, come October-ish things will (hopefully) be back on track. In the mean-time, every Friday I'm going to post a local video as I've done this past week, for as long as I'm interested, really. All other business will be blogged as and when, but stay tuned anyway (even if it is for the Judges)

And wish me luck!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Land of the Long White Sound: day six

It's Friday! Friday night's alright for... blogging, I suppose. Shihad have better ideas, however, a night out in downtown Wellington with a hired car and their folks for a good old shindig. Deb's Night Out lyrically tells the story of a junkie friend of Jon Toogood's then-partner, who was unceremoniusly evicted from their house one wet night after showing her true colours. The video tells a different story, and it's one I love for it - so homely, so family. So Wellington - anyone who lives here now must struggle to recognise the much-changed or even vanished landmarks of lower Cuba Street and James Smith Corner, Courtenay Place, the golden mile.

Good lord it's hard to believe this song is nearly twenty years old. Crazy! Deb's Nght Out is off Killjoy, a stompy, highly regarded album in and of itself, and the of a crucial trio of albums that would develop Shiahd's sound from industrial metal through to the beginnings of a lucrative popular music period, culminating in their fourth album, my favourite of theirs, The General Electric.  

Killjoy has yet to grow on me, but I have always loved Deb's, the chugging rhythm, slightly-off looped drums and its growling background orchestral synth wash, very much indicating the broader influences that the band were going through at the time, including Bailter Space and The Skeptics. In fact, the video mix of Deb's Night Out doesn't fade out like the album track, but ends on the synths, recalling the coda to Skeptics' monumental Agitator. I don't think it's an accident.

Actually, this video, sourced from Juice TV (another much-changed Nineties phenomenon) cuts the end of the song off, and I can't believe this is the "official" version. Sort that out, Warners!!

Next time: let's end this on a high note. Oh My!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Land of the Long White Sound: day five

Time to get with this century now, but only just. Rhian Sheehan's space-themed debut Paradigm Shift from 2001 has dated a bit now, but it's still lovely mellow stuff, and is borne of a (then) real high in the local music industry. It's not Flying Nun, nor is it a major label effort, but comes from Wellington's small but significant Loop imprint. Really, tracks like this could be on a Chillout compilation and would just class the place up amongst the panflutes and whale songs. Waiting is my favourite off the album, with guest spots from fellow Loop-ers Lotus, Tehi and Darren Mathiassen. The video is very cool, too - love the flax weaving on a different planet. Waiting
Oh so nice to work to. But tomorrow night's a Friday, so I fancy another Night Out in Wellington before we wrap up this little tiki tour...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Land of the Long White Sound: day four

As I said in my last post - too many white boys with guitars n this series so far. Time to move over, guys...

Acoustic guitar, a choral synth backing, accompanied by a minimum of bass, striking percussion (rakau sticks?) and rounded out by an eerie koauau, Emma Paki's System Virtue is utterly unique, real shiver down the spine stuff, belying the actual optimism of the song. Paki explained it once simply as an inversion of the common complaint that "the system sucks", giving it a virtue that can only be seen through a positive attitude. Recorded by Jaz Coleman for free, it's matched by a video that could be Ans Westera portraits given movement; stark, monochrome images of rural tangata whenua. Real faces, families, homes, animals, bikes, moko, and the tino rangatiratanga flag. If there was one song which deftly caught and challenged with a  moment of local identity poised between the 'Ruthenasia' reforms of the National government's 1991 Budget and the cultural phenomenon of Lee Tamihori's Once Were Warriors, then this was it.There's even a shout out to the national anthem.

I was lucky enough to catch an impromptu performance by Paki in Marion Sqaure during the Wellington Fringe Festival, ooh - circa 2002? Brilliant stuff - unaccompanied with only a mic'd up acoustic and an open sky, she was the real deal.

So, whatever next? Ditch the guitars, maybe?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Land of the Long White Sound: day three

Back to the Mainland, as promised, and back to Flying Nun bands, for the moment.

The Terminals are a less-celebrated Nun band, perhaps unfairly, but their sound is maybe less accessible that the then-poppier likes of The Chills, Able Tasmans, Straitjacket Fiots, bats or JPS Experience, each a stablemate of the time. Based in Christchurch the sound of the Terminals evokes the emptiness of the Canterbury plains and Uncoffined, their full-length debut is filled with great, echoing, jangling high-tension balladry. Like the [Wellington] Avengers they had a stab at Episode Six's Love Hate Revenge, while album closer Lolita and Mothlight are other favourites.

The album's title track has a stark, reverberating Western edge, a sound not really that common for Flying Nun's artists, though the nearest equivalent is an easy pick, guitarist Brian Crook's later outfit The Renderers (with wife Mary Rose). I caught them at a gig in Dunedin's Empire and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Roll video - deliberately lo-fi, and with a coin-spitting cautionary lesson for young players. Some day one hell of a Western is going to be made around this song, I swear.

Hmm. Still, too many white guys with guitars so far. Next time: a change of gear...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Land of the Long White Sound: day two

If you're looking for aprimer on New Zealand punk, there's pretty much one album that's king above all. Mine was not initially that album, but the later double-disc compilation of music from around the same era by many of the same bands, the Propellor Records late-Eighties release It's Bigger Than Both Of Us. Fantastic stuff, but it only tells part of the story, and is self-consciously a retrospective made at a time when Kiwi music was beginning to find a place in the national consciousness in quite a new way. No, the seminal album is a single disc from an earlier, murkier time, neary ten years older than Bigger, it is of course AK-79. I recently reacquainted myself with it on CD, and I never owned it on vinyl. Feel my burning shame.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Scavengers:

The Scavengers were very definitely on the melodic end of the scale with Mysterex, and as much again with the equally-great True Love, which was a rare thing being a Kiwi single covered for an Australian audience (The Marching Girls doing the honours.) Certainly ther's an element of influences being well worn here - I can hear some Buzzcocks for one, but I don't care. It's ours and it works, and while NZ Punk was a late-arriving, short-lived thing it was a genuine organic reaction which made an impact, and that's really all it's about, really.

Next time: Back to the Mainland!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Land of the Long White Sound: day one

May is New Zealand Music Month, and I'm nearly a little bit late to the party for once. For maybe a good ten years I'd mark the month by committing to buying an album from at least one local act (I think the last time I did this was two years ago, with an iTunes purchase of the 3Ds compilation), but I have of late been remiss.

  My disgrace then becomes your viewing chore for the next seven days: a daily clip picked by me from the archives (NZ On Screen, or if my memory's a little better and social media comes to the party, You Tube) redolent of local music from the past fifty years.

I wanted to kick thing off with something from the 60s, but wouldn't you know it - most of the big numbers or personal favourites are typical of many of the standards of that era in that they were reworkings of international ditties (stand up She's a Mod, Western Union, Love Hate Revenge, How Is The Air Up There?), so straight to the Eighties we go and so a somewhat predictable choice but a personal fave: Pink Frost by The Chills.

It's cold in the Monkeyhouse tonight, and it's snowing in Dunedin as I type this, which seems almost perfect. Roll the clip!

As locals may know, Pink Frost is largely shot in and around Lover's Leap on the Otago Peninsula, a wonderfully isolated place with, apparently, a deserved name and though it's obviously degraded video here, the picture quality fits the setting and the song perfectly, picking out the skeletal pines and brittle waves of the South Pacific below, while later on Martin Phillipps' sinister scarecrow is all flickering eyelids and paleface makeup somewhere nearby - Waitati? Aramoana? I could seriously do all Flying Nun songs this week - hell, I could easily do all Dunedin bands this week, but I promise I won't. Next time: Auckland!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Star Child, War Child

May the 24th Be With You.

May 4th was Star Wars Day, of course, and what better occasion to take a day out and solemnly reflect upon the enormous impact this movie series has had on our lives,the lives of Disney's marketing arm, the lives of our loved ones, and those of our children – perhaps even our children’s children.
As I’ve outlined a few times before, my history with Star Wars is extremely uncomplicated. I was seven when I saw it, and saw every movie on the big screen first. It occupied a HUGE amount of my fevered imagination as a child, was re-fed when I hit double digits, but I knew I was over it at the age of thirteen – everything since then has been an exercise in nostalgia with diminishing returns and that, really, should be that. There’s more Star Wars to come next year, though, and I have to confess that small, long-dormant neural endings in my brain have begun to spark a little recently – especially since the release of THAT picture. Next year Jet Jr will be the same age I was when the battlefront of Star Wars reached te late-lamented Majestic Theatre in Oamaru, so you could say I have at least a small investment in the nostalgia and, if some may insist, ceremony.

Jet Jr will be exposed to this new iteration of the series in a different way. He attended a birthday party last year to a kid thesame age as him which was a Star Wars Angry Birds theme bash – bash being the operative word, as foam lightsabers, running combat throughout the house and wild unfocussed Xbox games were the order of the day’s activities. JJ, oblivious to the whole Angry Birds thing, not to mention Star Wars itself, just saw it as a lot of running around with the occasional pause to watch the crashing graphics. He wasn't outwardly confused, ut it's not really part pof his world yet, and maybe if I have anything to do with it, it won't be for a while.

He and I watched Star Wars a few months ago – in fits and starts, with Dad’s finger judiciously paused over the skip button on the remote. I’m no shrinking violet – I had friends who fractured arms and collarbones jumping off their dad’s garage while playing Superman, but I held off my skeletal injuries until they were properly scary – in my thirties. If I view the whole space saga with adult and parental eyes then I can ill-afford myself to not exercise a little censorship / leave some juicy discoveries for when he’s a year or two older. Frankly, war games and body horror aren’t part of his play vocabulary yet, so all in good time, I think.In the man-time, his favourite characters from the movie were the Droids and his favourite moment the Death Star chasm ropeswing. All good - I think I would have been the same at his age.

There is, of course, a third way – to watch the movies with him, as we have already done. There’s a fine and genuinely moving example of this courtesy of film-maker dad and one-time AintItCool reviewer Drew McWeeny over on his blog on HitFix, and it really is worth a read. McWeeny’s blog has, however, been a timely reminder of just how much the prequels up the violence count – I was a squeamish young Simian with Star Wars’ lopped-off hands at seven, let alone Obi Wan’s bloodless self-sacrifice. What would I have made of Darth Maul’s bifurcation, Jango Fett’s decapitation, Anikin’s immolation? Probably something like my disturbed reaction to the extreme deaths dished out in The Black Hole (Disney’s volley in the family-oriented Sci Fi boom of the late Seventies.) Beyond the body horror and gunplay McWeeny also reminds me that the stories are emotionally a gut punch – particularly the prequels, wherein a hero to his kids through the Clone Wars cartoons undergoes a traumatic and (hitherto unknown to them) horrendous physical transformation into one of cinema’s enduring baddies. The gradual reveal of the dark end to Anikin’s early life is drawn out in McWeeny’s blog, making it an arresting and confronting read.

McWeeny writes very well (AICN has been the poorer for his departure), and I find him quite relatable, even if my brows were furrowed a fair bit at the age he introduced his offspring to George Lucas’ opus - they age three and six at the time of their exposure, and one of those ages, parental presence or not, seems quite young to me. But kids can be surprisingly media savvy these days, and more media literate than I was. You, dear reader, may differ in your mileage. I'll be lining up to see Star Wars' seventh chapter sometime next year, but for myself, I don’t think Jet Jr is ‘there’ yet, and his time will come a little later on.

And in the mean-time, those McWeeny links:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pan Andes Judge

STOP!! Llama Time!

Sorry. No, really, I'm truly sorry. I don't even pronounce the word that way. It was cheap and stupid. I'm a weasel.

Heyyy, speaking of cheap and stupid, here's the Pan Andes Judge from 2000AD's interesting early 90s era. Now, the Pan Endes Conurb, a vague approximation of a conurbation encompassing Bolivia (hence this month's spot for the judge) and Peru, goes back in the Judge Dredd strip to the mid-Eighties. Back then in the story The Wally Squad, the P-A.C is simply a maginal foreign locale with criminal crime lords mentioned in hushed tones and a thriving market in organ-legging. For some reason, maybe because when Dredd visits Ciudad Barranquilla in the story Banana City and finds the place corrupt, brutal and just devoid of hope, Old Stony' Face's eventual arrival in the Andes region was given a different spin on the old South American cliche meter.

What sort of spin, you ask? Well, okay then. Pan Andes Judges are not only corrupt, they're also lazy and gluttinous. And unhygienic - flies follow them around in the strip (okay, they follow Dredd too, but sheez) And they have names like Fernando and Guacamole and speek like theees - it's hilarious, possibly. Of course, that's the script talking, by Sonny Steelgrave, aka Alan Mckenzie and John Tomlinson. You can wave a lot of this away as gonzo mid-Eighties Dredd fare oddly transported into the early Nineties courtesy of six painful installments. On the other hand, 'Steelgrave' brought with them one of Dredd's great artists, the indefatiguable Ron Smith. Now, Ron Smith is a brilliant, significant but sometimes overlooked Dredd artist. He did other strips for better or worse (including a misjudged stiny on the misjudged reboot of Rogue Trooper), but Dredd's his triumph, and so many of Dredd's big stories have Smith in them - Judge Child, Black Atlantic, er, City of the Damned...

I'll get to the point: Ron Smith is a fast and effective artist, and his Dredd's a distinctive and recognisable style. I think he's pretty good at different ethnicities in a way that some of his contemporaries and followers just didn't go out of the way to being. And he for his sins does brilliant grotesques, too - the whole Otto Sump and Uglies stories owe their look to Ron Smith. Do you see where I'm going with this? In the Pan Andes strip The Sugar Beat Ron does a tour de force on Steelgrave's script. Memorable characters - like these guys:

And this guy:

And this guy:

And their boss:

It LITERALLY ain't pretty. If you're wondering, the lazy stereotypes don't begin and end with the judges but also the scrap-happy, ugly greengo-hateeng civilian population. The strip ends with Dredd having put all of the judges into custody (corruption etc) and staying to do the job of keeping the law himself because, heh, those silly foreigners can't be trusted to do the job themselves. Ho ho! Freeze-frame, roll credits. In short, you could arguably pull this sort of crap in 1982, but by 1995 you'd think thing would have moved on a little bit. And despite being a major figure in the illegal sugar trade in Dredds world, we never ever see the Pan Andes Conurb ever again.

I don't know if I've improved things by having my guy ride a llama; but I can't have made things worse, could I?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

'It's the car, right?'

Last week the Simianmobile had a prang. Well, it got sideswiped by a friendly vehicle, and everything else is in the hands of the insurance company, but it was a week for the cars, seemingly.

Because... we have a new Batmobile. Yay! And wouldn't you know it? A new Batman sulking next to it - very good! Here's the photo that silenced a few thousand Battfleck quips:

Yes, very traditional costume-wise - take your pick as to whether it references Frank Millar's The Dark Knight Returns (most likely) or the Adam West TV series (less likely, but fun to pretend!) While I'm ambivalent to a little perturbed to see theories of TDKR being realised on the big screen edging toward confirmation, this is as nothing to the great relief I've felt over an actual change. No more black rubber - praise the Lord! It's a sign, I hope, of a movie franchise comfortable with pushing the traditional big screen depiction of Batman, and so it should. Nice one, Warners.

And that Batmobile in the background. Verry nice. The first image tweeted by Zach Snyder showed the rear of the vehicle and seemed to indicate a tailfin and big rocket booster, which references a lot of iterations of the car, from the TV series again (I do like that model as well), through to my current favourite, the 1989 Tim Burton model. Since that pic and the above more design shots have emerged which seem to show the new Batmobile as something of a hybrid of the Burton model with the Nolan era 'Tumbler' - big tyres, high wheel base, sorta clunky and not that streamlined (I like the streamlining, me). I'm not a fan of the Tumbler, but could see what it was likely intended to reference; every Batman seemingly has his ideal Batmobile, and the armoured, militaristic Tumbler, an urban assault vehicle for a violent Gotham, works. But let's move on. And this picture seems to be an indication of that, in part.

Speaking of the Burton Batmobile and others, we've recently has Eaglemoss' Batmobilia parts magazine debut down in NZ, and the standard cut-price first couple of issues feature lovely die-cast scale reproductions of the two vehicles I'd be happy to start and finish my collection with - the aforementioned 1989 and 1966 Batmobiles. Done and done, to Jet Jr's interest. Here's hoping they stay out of the way of fellow vehicles for a good while yet!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dredd Reckoning

Hey, this blog pot has been synched with Jamas' review over at The Truth Behind!

Hard to credit though it is, it's nearly twenty years since Judge Dredd was last committed to celluloid, in Danny Cannon's ill-fated movie of the same name, starring then-hot-property Sylvester Stallone as Old Stony Face himself.

Judge Dredd gets a lot of stick from Dredd fans, and more recently from Dredd 3D fans. It will probably be ever thus, enjoyed by few as nothing more than a guilty pleasure, an aborted taster before Pete Travis and Alex Garland's grimmer, earthier 2012 reboot. I've mentioned how this movie's emergence was a contributing factor to giving up on 2000AD for nearly ten years, but I don't actually recall having seen the whole thing - only bits and pieces. And so, with this confessed to Jamas recently, we both agreed to give the movie a second spin and see how things turned out.

You're still here? Okay. Well, I watched it over two nights with a small screen but at the normal speed. It's difficult for a long-time 2000AD fan as I am to separate the movie from its comic origins, but I think that as with any adaptation it's somehting that just needs to be done - even with the 2012 version, which is hardly the strip brought to life omn the screen either. In toto Cannon's Judge Dredd is a Nineties film. It has Nineties all over it - the Eighties tech hangover (very clunky looking hovercars, new wave punk citizens, neon signage, cod-Blade Runner streets), and an Eighties action vibe with a scheen of mid-Nineties popcorn harvesting movie stylings: in short, it looks like it was once neighbours with the Schumaker Batman movies, Schwarzennegger's Last Action Hero and Verhoeven's Total Recall, and guess what? It Was.

To that end I cut it some slack - it's not aged well and nor have its neighbours. Judge Dredd is also a Hollywood movie in intent, as much as Dredd 3D is an independent film courting Hollywood success (both failed for similar but not identical reasons; arguably Stallone's movie damned Urban's reinvention)

The mess that is Judge Dredd's script (and that's a good place to start) is maybe an example of the ill fit that the black, satiric strip's world makes into a traditional clean-vut Summer Blockbuster model. There's no questioning of the figure of Dredd in the movie, although the script tries gamely to do this through the character of Hershey without really pausing to ask why. The story of Joe Dredd is presented as a hero's journey of self-discovery, but Dredd's perceived conflict with his clone origins isn't fully played out, and as far as I could see there was little made of the significance of him being a clone, particularly when Fargo's revelation underlines the moral difference between the two brothers (as if we hadn't already seen this onscreen already.) There's no seduction of the dark side of Dredd's origins, and the search for his 'humanity' isn't played out in his actions beyond a rejection of his genetic heritage - again, we don't know what the consequence of being Rico's good clone mean, so Dredd's rejection of this comes across as less of a Damascus moment and more of a shrug of gilded shoulderpads. It's a shame, but it demonstrates to me the vague execution of the storyline overall - it doesn't succeed as a Hollywood blockbuster and is guilty of doffing too many hats to its comic origins (elements of The Return of Rico, The Day the Law Died, the Angel Gang and the clone/android replacement panics of the Oz and Mechanismo storylines) without seeing any f these plotlines through. As a hero's journey it's perfunctory, and Dredd's sidekicks in Hershey (Diane Lane pushing a little hard in places with a two-dimensional character) and gag-factory Fergie (and early Rob Schneider not yet in full mugging mode) are just a little too functional. Seventeen years later the reboot would deliver somehting much more impressive and generous to its talent.

That said, I found Judge Dredd to be mostly harmless. It doesn't look bad at all - the Mega City skyline and city wall look like they came out of the comics, and the oft-lauded ABC robot and Mean Machine make up are really good, even for simple eye candy. There's some sad tail-end bluescreen, however, and while flying bikes and a first reel hovertaxi tour initially sell the dizzy heights ans scale of Dredd's metropolis, it's not essential to the plot. As for the Versace judge uniforms - I think the fans protest a little too much. Yeah, the codpieces are a mistake, but boy, consider the earlier concepts, and en masse the uniforms don't look bad at all. And Max Von Sydow is a class act.

In all I found myself a little better disposed to Judge Dredd than I thought I'd be. perhaps partly due to some hefty criticism from Hypnobobs, Witless For the Defence and the Black Dog Podcast, I wanted to like it more, and came away not hating it as much. What I'd have liked to have seen more of or less of have been informed by my knowledge of the character's vast history, and for better or worse that's a prejudice already. Judge Dredd's not a great movie, but it has moments of humour closer to the strip than Garland and Travis' reboot strives for ("Eat Recycled Food!"), and like its equally doomed successor, had it been mrketed better to its most significant audience then it might have had less of a drubbing.  I might yet watch it again some time - in a while, of course...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Euro Judge

It's just gone the Eurovision finals (well done Austria), so here’s a European Judge.

Yes, dey do do dem dere. Euro City is a long-time peripheral interest, having been mentioned in asides and in various guises throughout Judge Dredd’s history, but it’s in Gordon Rennie’s aforementioned Megazine strip Regime Change that we finally see one or two, taking the very obvious role of, well, European allies in a story that leans rather heavily on real-life parallels. Rennie’s story was published not too long after the invasion of Iraq – put Dredd in the very dodgy police state of Ciudad Baranquilla ostensibly chasing the flimsiest of criminal evidence (it’s being collated while the tanks are already lined up on the border) backed up by Brit-Cit and Euro judges, throw in former Euro Judge La Salle as an independent [cough*don’tsayUN*cough!] observer and the story pretty much writes itself.

We’ve yet to cover the Banana City judges, but that’s not too far away. In the mean-time, thanks to Inako Miranda, the Euros now have a recognisable uniform: not too far removed from a cross between the Sov Judge and the Brit Cit visor, it’s a tad obvious, but not entirely impractical. Miranda’s artwork in the strip is inconsistent, however, with gloves changing colour in the backgrounds, and elbow pads disappearing here and there (perhaps it’s a resourcing issue plaguing away missions, who knows?), and being strictly in a non-police role, La Salle’s outfit is probably not entirely in-canon – there’s not even a name badge to go on; so what results is a bit composite, a bit guesswork. Not even a gun – but there is a nifty looking bike at least.

And yet and yet and yet... everyone treats La Salle as though she's still a Euro Judge strictly by sight (the BC Judges, who may know her by repute, however...) and Dredd, who identifies her as a Euro Judge before she even opens her mouth. Clearly there has to be some semblance of a Euro Judge to her uniform? And so, I've incorporated her rather broad shoulder pads into my version. Hey, given that a European designer managed to glam Dredd's uniform all the ay to Narnia in the Stallone movie, consider this a return compliment.

Euro City is generally understood to be an amalgam of former German and French territories, but may well be bigger and more diverse – it’s not been comprehensively mapped, and maybe for that and its rather sketchy definition we could infer that future Europe is the dream of a unified, multicultural state actually realised. Wow – a non-dystopian megacity in Dredd’s world? Crazier things have been committed to strip, believe me.

In the mean-time, and coming up next: more funny racism!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

They Did Rock Me.

Queen: Greatest Hits (1982)

Here it is, the first album I ever bought.

Well, the first musical album I ever bought. That wasn't based on a TV series about two "good old boys". Sod it, this is the first album I ever bought, and it's the first one that mattered.

I am eleven, and thanks to an imaginative intermediate school teacher’s class session I have bought with my own pocket money my first step into a music collection - this album, on vinyl. The song of the lesson is Bohemian Rhapsody. Of course it is. It would be everybody's favourite song on the album if Queen’s Greatest Hits wasn't already an album's worth of nearly as great to equally as great Queen anthems. Another One Bites the Dust, Fat Bottomed Girls, Somebody to Love, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Flash, Bicycle Race, Killer Queen... and Under Pressure, the newly-minted single that would kickstart Queen and collaborator David Bowie into the Eighties, each on their own trajectory.

It was an album I owned, and others quickly followed – Thriller, Off the Wall (my first cassette) and… others. They were all vital and absolutely not embarrassing, no sir. Yes, of course they are, and very few remain from those early, formative days, not even the inevitable Various Artists compilations, which will surely fill a future post. QGH was the important one because it represented two sides of a commitment to one group; greatest hits or not, I was planting my flag in the sand and saying “I like Queen, and six weeks of lawnmowing will attest to my desire to have their new record above lollies, comics, action figures or other childish pursuits.” It was not, I hasten to add, a lifelong love, and in fact probably lasted a couple of years before other artists and groups muscled their way in, but I never got rid of it – at least, not intentionally. 

This is a sound introductory album, eschewing chronological order to instead present a solid transition between new songs, to old standards, to new songs again - only Queen II misses out in having a representative on my initial vinyl release, and Hot Space's saving grace, the aforementioned Under Pressure rounds out the setlist. The album was an especial discovery to me: I'd never paid much attention to bass guitars before John Deacon's depth-plumbing intro to Another One Bites the Dust, and this is the earliest instance where I can clearly recall devouring an album's liner notes, poring over the reduced album cover reproductions (News of the World was especially gripping, for obvious reasons), and picking up 'knowledge' along the way.  As it goes with first purchases, the album was played and played and played until I had an approximation of every lyric (a sibling’s sneering at my interpretation “gunpowder gelatine” in Killer Queen has since been debunked – thanks, internet!), and for years afterwards my brain would be able to reproduce the entire album in order for its own amusement, meaning I never needed to dip any further into the group’s discography – and, in point of fact, still haven’t to this day. 

Truly an album that will last through time, and though the band’s future would necessarily dictate a follow-up (I’ve been curious but never dipped in, despite liking Works’, Magic’s and Innuendo’s singles) , to me later, longer editions, revisitations and remixes dilute the earlier version's impact - to say less of the ill-advised Volume III

Jet Junior has now discovered this album through an old cassette of his mum's, my original vinyl having long since been nicked to furnish my brother's record collection (booo!), and he loves it. Where once he stomped around the lounge miming along to Freddie's legendary Live Aid performance, now he acquaints himself with this decrepit technology, queuing up replays of Flash, Crazy Little Thing and, of course, Under Pressure. Touchingly, if not a little worryingly, he plays the tape with its plastic case meticulously placed front-on atop our old cassette player, mirrored at the other end by ‘his’ other prized cassette, a selection of James Bond themes in which his only interest is really Live and Let Die. Truly a chip off the old block.