queenOr is it just fantasy?

Rain, rain, rain. Summer and fall weather systems have been duking it out for seasonal supremacy, resulting in some pretty crappy days. (Give it up, summer weather! You’re doomed! At least until next year.) This is not weather for walking.

Last night as the rain pounded on the roof overhead, I heard familiar music emanating from my son Sam’s man cave down in the basement. Sam and a buddy were downstairs playing Xbox and singing along to a song I recognized instantly: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

Queen was my first concert, in November 1977 at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine. I was a senior in high school. The show took place a week or so before the band released their latest album, News of the World, which meant that the audience had never heard much of the material they played. That included the opening number, the not-yet-iconic “We Will Rock You.”  And, yes, Queen did rock us (although I must admit to almost dozing off during the middle portion of the show, when they did a bunch of the new stuff.) I remember that lead singer Freddie Mercury was wearing some kind of black-and-white striped spandex body suit, which I found vaguely embarrassing. But that was all part of Queen, a band that, more than most, veered back and forth between the sublime and news of the worldthe ridiculous. They did perform “Bohemian Rhapsody” that night in Maine, but for the middle operatic part the band switched to a tape, which I thought was cheating. They ended the show with “God Save the Queen” (also on tape) as a large crown descended to the stage.

Now here we are in 2009, 32 years later, and my 14-year-old son was not only listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” he knew all the words. I was about his age when the song came out in 1975. Let’s do a little math here. If I had been listening to a 34-year-old song back in 1975 it would have been something from 1941. True, as a young trumpet player I did listen to some big-band music from the swing era, but it’s not like the music of the 1940s dominated the airwaves when I was growing up. Horrible 1950s stuff got played on one local radio station every Sunday morning, but in general the music you heard on the radio was current material. I certainly can’t imagine my 15-year-old self sitting around with a buddy and singing “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.”

Now the songs I heard when I was growing up are still all over the place. Half the stations out there seem to be playing the Eagles, Boston, Foreigner, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and their ilk. I like that music just fine, but sheesh. As a format, classic rock does not appeal to me, at least not the tightly playlisted classic rock that you can find in every major radio market. Does anyone need to hear “Won’t Get Fooled Again” again? How about “Sympathy for the Devil” or pretty much anything by the Doors? The bands and songs from decades past have become musical vampires, the Undead of FM radio. But they’re vampires who kill their victims by boring them to death with repitition of the same old stories.

Still, mea culpa. I do have some older stuff on my iPod. I have Steely Dan. I have Barry White and Earth, Wind, and Fire. I have a few Paul McCartney songs. Now I think I might even add “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the list. Then I might go out on the porch and yell at the kids to get off my lawn. If it ever stops raining.

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