My phone says it's 7 degrees outside right now. The perfect weather to get warm inside a youtube rabbit hole. Following last night's League Bowlers show and many Four String Brews, the staff of Pencilstorm decided we should start a winter series featuring some of our favorite video finds to help get your personal hole started. I'll go first.
TV Party Tonight! Part One: A George Michael Rehearsal with Queen - Colin Gawel
It's funny how one performance can change your entire perception of an artist, but that's exactly what happened to me when George Michael fronted Queen for a single song at the Freddie Mercury tribute in 1992. Sadly, the untimely death of Michael led me to stumble onto footage of George rehearsing with Queen before the mega-show at Wembley. I grabbed my 13 year old son Owen and showed him the clip. I could tell he dug it, but all he said was, "Yeah, so that rocked. Queen rocks. What's the big deal?" I tried to explain the context. "Dude, George Michael crushing with Queen would be like Justin Bieber coming out and crushing with Green Day at the Billie Joe Tribute show." I had his attention now. "Dad, what do you mean?" "Check this shit out little man.." (I didn't really say it that way. Owen and I pretend we don't swear in each other's company)
I was about the same age as Owen when I first saw this Wham! video on the MTV. His reaction upon this initial screening was about how I remembered mine. His mouth hung open wide and a look of abject horror creeped over his face. "That's the same guy? Wow."
When I first saw Wham! my brain just couldn't compute...confused.... there is no other word ...it was just too.... gay. I'm not trying to use the word "Gay" in a derogatory manner. I was a kid who didn't even know what that word meant. It's just that being a fourteen year old boy growing up in the white bread suburb of Worthington, Ohio, my frame of reference was very limited. My idea of diversity was Earle Bruce embracing the forward pass more than Woody Hayes. Being progressive meant liking RUSH more than Molly Hatchet. Judas Priest were Hell Bent for Leather. That shit rocked. I liked loud electric guitars. Sure, I knew something was off with Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonight" video, but Billy got a pass from me (if not the world) because "In the Dark" ROCKED. Wham! were many things, but they were decidedly NOT rock n roll. In fact, they were a frontal attack on rock. I couldn't make sense of it.
To a kid who hadn't hit puberty, I suppose"Gay" meant something my little sister liked. And she liked Wham! A lot. UGH.
George had dug himself a deep hole in my personal musical rankings. Somewhere between Tiffany and King Kobra. That's a tough spot. Fast forward to the Freddie Mercury Tribute show in Wembley Stadium. I can't remember the details, but I was watching the show with the Watershed guys in a hotel room somewhere when George was announced to come out. We all kind of moaned..."Ugh.. George Michael....lame... Let's watch just a little to see how bad it is.." Then this happened..
Mouths dropping in wonder, at the end of the song, we spontaneously piled on the bed hugging, high-fiving and screaming, "George Michael needs to join Queen and tour. RIGHT NOW!!"
I think almost everybody in the stadium and on Earth instantly had the same opinion. This is no easy feat when considering we were all talking about replacing the irreplaceable Freddie Mercury. At his own memorial show no less. I think everybody also wondered why it never happened. I mean just look at them? It's amazing. It had to be depressing for Queen to downshift to Paul Rodgers and that Adam guy from The Voice or whatever.
Anyway, just last week, I bumped into this clip of George rehearsing "Somebody to Love" with Queen and it's almost more fun than the stadium show. Just the guys rocking. No audience. Oh, other than David Bowie watching from the wings. Under Pressure much? Not George. He KILLS. My mouth was saying, "That roadie looks just like David Bowie" at the exact same time my brain was registering, "Holy shit.. that IS David Bowie."
RIP George Michael. What a bad ass. "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger" - Ron Wood
Bonus clip. As good as the previous clips were, Freddie is still.... Freddie. Also, I've always loved the cups of cheap-looking draft beer that are invariably on his piano. To me, that visual perfectly sums up what makes Queen so unique among its peers. A broadway bar band.
Colin Gawel plays in the band Watershed and The League Bowlers. Read about him in the book Hitless Wonder or visit him at Colin's Coffee. Visit the Pencilstorm music page for more cool stuff.