Segarini – The Dirt on the Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody of Motley Crue

Musicians acting up is old news if you know your history. The entire concept of excess and above-the-law behavior started long before some high school dropout teased his hair or refused to get some much-needed dental work.

If you want to go to the Grandaddy of excessive, over-the top, entitlement, look no further than Johann Strauss Jr. ….

In 1869 the popular bandmaster Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore organized a National Peace Festival in Boston, Massachusetts to commemorate the end of the US Civil War. Gilmore organized an even more ambitious World Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival 3 years later, after the end of the Franco-Prussian War. His aim was to celebrate world peace in a colossal manner. Gilmore persuaded wealthy Bostonians to finance the Festival, and President Ulysses S. Grant to lend his prestige. Gilmore also wanted renowned musicians to perform at his festival, and his star attraction was none other than Johann Strauss, Jr.

Unfortunately Strauss did not like to travel, and he detested trains, so the prospect of a lengthy transatlantic crossing repelled him. However, Gilmore increased his offer to the then-enormous sum of $20,000, plus expenses for Strauss, his wife, and two servants. This offer was too good to refuse. To his pleasant surprise, Strauss enjoyed the ocean voyage, which lasted 13 days. He was also among the few passengers who were not seasick, even during stormy weather. However Strauss was not entirely prepared for his reception in the United States. A modest man, Strauss accepted his celebrity status in Europe with good grace, but in Boston and New York he was overwhelmed to be regarded as a musical superstar.

Strauss arrived in Boston to find that the concert promoters had built a gigantic wooden concert hall for an audience of 100,000. The stage was designed for a “Grand Orchestra” of 1,000 musicians and a “Grand Chorus” of 20,000 singers. The opening concert on June 17, 1872, filled the hall. Strauss conducted his own music, including On the Beautiful Blue Danube, with his violin, and directed the orchestra with his bow, violin, feet, head and body. This unconventional method produced superb results. The audiences demanded encores, so Strauss complied with one of his less-familiar short compositions.

Strauss later reported about his first concert: “I gave my signal, my 100 assistant conductors followed me as quickly and as well as they could and then there broke out an unholy row such as I shall never forget. As we had begun more or less simultaneously, I concentrated my whole attention on seeing that we should finish together too! — Thank heaven, I managed even that. It was all that was humanly possible. The 100,000 mouths in the audience roared and I breathed a sigh of relief when I found myself in fresh air again and felt the firm ground beneath my feet.”

The next day, Strauss said he had “to take flight before an army of impresarios, who promised me the whole of California if I would undertake an American tour.” He limited himself to his original contract for 14 concerts in Boston and 3 more in New York. After nearly a month in the United States, he returned to Vienna.”  Vienna Meets Boston: Johann Strauss Jr. and the Gilmore International Musical Festival of 1872, by David Stybr
Reprinted from 
Maestro, Vol. 17, No. 4, July/August 2008
Classical Music SIG [Special Interest Group] of Mensa International
David Stybr, Coordinator  

The article leaves out the fact that ships were built to accommodate Strauss, his family and entourage, as well as his core musicians.

You can bet there were some fucked up parties on that tour …snorting snuff off of bustles, jobs of blowing, imbibing of spirits, merriment, and splinter removal for the ladies, as poles were just wood back then.

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When it comes to rock and roll, Bohemian Rhapsody plays more like a white-wash cover-up than it does a Biopic. I have heard first-hand tales of some massive misbehaviour and partying on behalf of Mr. Mercury and his band of bit players, but none of it was portrayed in this PG rated fairy tale of boring band meetings.

Let’s get something straight …I am a fan of neither Queen nor Crue, but I am a fan of movies. I expect to be entertained. In that regard, The Dirt delivered in spades, but, for my taste, Bohemian Rhapsody was like a dreary re-run of every dull moment in the thrill a moment world of rocknroll, but modified to include conversations no band I know would have stood for in real life.

In 40 years and multiple bands, not one member of any band, label, or management company ever asked me what my lyrics meant.

Not once.

Not ever.

That might be because most of my songs are straight forward and tell a story, but had someone asked, I would have told them to mind their own business or asked them what the fuck difference it makes to their bass part or management skills.

You do your job, I’ll do mine.

All the way though Bohemian Rhapsody …and it took multiple sittings as I was only able to stand about 10 minutes at a time …I concluded that most of the dialogue espoused during the never ending exposition from the well cast actors, was meant to somehow impress me with their apparent smarts and devotion to their audience, and their passion to ‘get’ their music “right” and their songs the attention such works of genius deserve.

If you have to TELL me how wonderful they are, does that mean I don’t have a choice to judge your rousing art by MY standards?

It’s fucking MUSIC, Bub …and NO ONE tells a music lover what music is great or not.

Jesus H. Doorbell, you sold elevntybillion records …don’t you think that financial success and popularity are enough …or do you have tell us WHY we should think it’s great?

That said, it is always nice when the guys in a band like what they do.

You would be surprised at how many bands loathe what made them successful.

…or think their audience is stupid for liking what they do.

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Seeing Queen and the Rock and Roll process through Brian May’s eyes, was like having Pat Boone explain Heavy Metal to me.

…and I have been in a room with Freddy (Freddie?) Mercury on a few occasions, and his teeth were mostly in his head, not stuck out like a cow-catcher in front of a steam engine as portrayed in the movie.

The actor looked like he was about to swallow a pair of cufflinks and took me out of the story every time he was on screen.

And …shock! …they partied.

Hard.

              Brian May Goes Beyond Pluto All the Way to Uranus

Again, first hand reports speak volumes of lascivious and decadent behaviour on the part of Mr. Mercury, but to see May tell it, Mr. Rocket Scientist may have excused himself and took the latest issue of Scientific American into a handy closet and caught up on, you know, science-y stuff, while Freddie snorted cocaine off of swollen appendages of  the wait staff, and drank champagne out of construction boots.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

=0=

Legend has it that the members of Benny Goodman’s Big Band (or one of the Dorsey Brother’s outfits), were playing in Chicago during one of that city’s notorious heat waves, and, not having a lot of disposable income on the road, decided on a unique yet brilliant way to cool off and prevent heat stroke from harshing their mellow.

They blocked the doors and window sills with towels and whatever else was handy, plugged the drains in  all the sinks, and filled the suite with water up to the windows and swam around or tread water for relief from the scorching heat.

That is some funny shit.

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There truly is nothing new under the sun.

Now please understand that I am not stumping for ‘tell-all’ stories or debauchery and smarm as a key to an entertaining tale, but when you’re dealing with a rock and roll band whose lifestyle was drawn on fanboy’s wet dream fantasies of rock stardom, if you ignore the out and out craziness, you are not only lying, you are removing the impetus for boys everywhere to pick up a guitar and blow their popstand of a hometown or lifestyle, and live the life foretold by Keith Moon, The Glimmer Twins, and Jimmy “Get me a glass topped coffee table and a fishing rod” Page, and that would be wrong.

Also face up to the fact that in this day and age, acting out, doing damage, and having sex with the promoter’s wife, daughter, and grandmother, will get you excised from your dream job of playing for two hours a night and being paid enough money to buy an island, and instead, land you back in Puddleville slinging soft serve ice cream and banging the fry girl against the dumpster out back before you go home to your trailer.

Look for Kevin Spacey at your local Holiday Inn Dinner Theatre doing “Mouse Trap” with the guy from Headley.

Those days are gone, Amigo, that ship has sailed.

You want that kind of lifestyle now, you need to be a Senator, President, or Kardashian ….

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Motley Crue’s Netflix outing, The Dirt, entertained the fuck out of me.

This is Not a Date Movie

It had (as all rock based biopics will eventually teach you) the exact same beats and tropes and arcs as Bohemian Rhapsody; humble beginnings, dreams of world domination, hard work, both bad and lucky breaks, life on the road, in the studio and at home, and of course, the bounty and booty of a successful rock band back when being in a rock band got you respect.

These days, you can get more respect if you know how to make a decent latte.

Before Rock Nikki

After Rock Nikki

However …if I were 19 years old and living in a dump, and music was a way out and up, I would chose to be in a band like Motley Crue, not Queen. Truth be told, Queen didn’t look like much fun …any fun, really. Everything had to be just so, everything was important, everything had gravitas …weight …because for bands Like Queen and Pink and His Floyds …rock and roll is a serious game.

…and to an extent, it is.

But seriously …I could no more create music with a slide rule and compass than I could with a band of whining ‘artistes’ looking for meaning in everything.

The Crue, on the other hand, were overstuffed with personality.

The older, wiser, guitar slinging curmudgeon, the bitter, abandoned, rage-filled bass waif, the balls-to-the-wall anything goes lead singer, and the child like drummer with a dick big enough ring a doorbell with your hands full.

The dialogue between these guys was so spot on, it brought back memories of similar discussions in bands I had been in, And the stories of craziness and debauchery told in the movie were disbelieved by many in social media reviews and threads I read after people started to watch it.

With a minimum of embellishment, they were true.

There were even wilder stories that went untold.

=0=

A good comparison would be to drink a bottle of nice nosed French red with a smoke finish and watch Bohemian Rhapsody with Amadeus, then drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and watch The Dirt and a dozen episodes of The Monkees or Pulp Fiction.

The beauty of music and entertainment in general. There is something for everyone. There is no need to like what someone else likes, dislike what someone else dislikes, or anything.

To each his own.

And that is the joy, right there.

Whether or not you like the music is unimportant. It is the PEOPLE who should be front and centre in these flicks.

=0=

There’s a lot more to be said, some personal stories, working with Ian Hunter and watching how Queen got that amazing vocal sound in the studio, interviewing Nikki Sixx at Q107 and running into him again, years later. What a sweet guy Roger Taylor was, showing up at Hotel California one night, and having Amy’s nanny run up an insane long distance bill during Queen’s tour, and how much I love ‘Radio Ga Ga’, an indictment of radio even more relevant now than when it was written, and Crue’s incredible drug fueled stage shows that raised the bar right to the ceiling.

I’ve either told those stories before or will save them for a rainy day.

…but as far as these two movies go, The Dirt will get repeated plays over the years in my Casa, while Bohemian Rhapsody will not.

Let’s hope the Elton John Biopic, ‘Rocketman’ leans toward The Dirt and not the Rhapsody.

Elton’s parties were legendary, and I want to see them.

I even like some of his music.

=0=

Ow.

Segarini’s regular columns don’t do the fandango

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

4 Responses to “Segarini – The Dirt on the Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody of Motley Crue”

  1. Strummer13 Says:

    Thanks Bob, for the reviews and the story about Strauss. I never knew that. Interesting stuff. And when is the book coming out?

    • If I ever find the time and the money, the Book(s) will get got. There are also over a dozen new and old songs that I desperately need to record.
      There is also need for a knowlegable script writer to co-create some television series scripts and screenplay(s) for a movie project or two.
      Anybody have a phone number for Netflix’s Toronto office?
      Glad you liked it, Strummer. Thanks.

  2. Peter Montreuil Says:

    What a great column! Made me larf, it did.

  3. […] you read this week’s mumble, you would do yourself a favour by clicking on this Little Red Link and read what led me to write […]

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