Here's a Christmas gift for Queen fans that you can't stuff into a stocking.
Though there's a never a shortage of Queen books out there, Phil Sutcliffe's hefty, just-released Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of The Crown Kings of Rock (Voyageur Press) features more than 500 eye-popping photos, in addition to an overwhelming array of memorabilia, from posters to ticket stubs to comic strips by fans, and even the schedule of the band's 1982 appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Sutcliffe, a UK music writer, explores the foursome's history dating back to the days when they were originally known as Smile, while other rock journos provide a discography breakdown.
John Buccigross–oddly enough, an ESPN anchor and sports columnist–has perhaps written the most apt description of singer Freddie Mercury ever: “I picture Freddie Mercury exiting the birth canal of his mother, Jer Bulsara, already with crooked teeth, receding hairline, and that porno 'stache, singing with the confidence of Liza Minnelli after three highballs.”
If you want to stick to the visuals, Sutcliffe has gathered both iconic and never-before-seen images, including work by Mick Rock, “The Man Who Shot the '70s” — think the holy trinity of Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed — and the man who photographed the book's cover, as well as the covers for the Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack albums.
Sutcliffe also sheds light on loads of historical tidbits that may surprise even die-hard Queenies: “Bohemian Rhapsody” was recorded in five studios and uses 180 vocal overdubs; the album A Day At the Races was to include a duet with Rod Stewart; and The Jacksons' single “A State of Shock” off the 1984 Victory album was originally recorded with Mercury and not Mick Jagger.
And to add to your civic pride, read up on the chapters that include Queen's visit with Groucho Marx in his L.A. home, and the band's oft-reported meeting with Michael Jackson backstage at the Forum, which, incidentally was also the site of Queen's last North American concert in 1982.
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