Tag: Paul Rodgers
Marshall of Rock Interview: Bassist/Producer/Engineer Billy Sherwood of Nektar talks new album, Yes connection and more
I had the pleasure to talk to the multi-talent Billy Sherwood today and it was some great conversation. Billy is a man of incredible talent, with a true and passionate love of music. A master musician, award winning producer, mixer and engineer, Billy has worked with an A to Z list of legendary rock artists in every facet of the music business. I caught up with Billy while on his way to rehearsal with legendary art rock band Nektar, as the other guys were in his rear-view mirror as we spoke. We touched on Billy's involvement with Nektar and their only 2012 gig tomorrow night (Sept. 6) at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California. We also talked about one of his other projects, The Prog Collective, his over 20 year involvement with the band Yes, his rock production work on many rock tribute albums, including a new one for Supertramp called 'Songs of the Century: An All-Star Tribute To Supertramp'. Billy also talked about his production/engineering work with a wide range of artists, inlcuding Paul Rodgers, Dangerous Toys, and Motorhead, sharing an interesting story about recording with Lemmy at the on-set of the Los Angeles riots that you've got to hear. Add to that his take on the current state of the music industry, what created his passion for music in general and what iconic entertainment figure was his Godfather, and it makes for some interesting music conversation. Check it out below:
Special thanks to Deborah Brousseau of Spinner PR
Here's the official press release for Nektar with all the info and links on tomorrow night's show. Get tickets and check it out if you're in the area!:
Los Angeles, CA…On September 6th, legendary art rock outfit Nektar will be performing its only 2012 U.S. concert at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA. Nektar’s renowned big sound and epic live performance in an intimate setting makes this a can’t-miss show.
Though comprised of four Englishmen, Nektar formed in Germany in 1969, and earned a cult following for its psychedelic, spacey approach. In the mid-1970s, Nektar attracted attention and a growing fanbase in America with several concept albums and a uniquely visual live show. The band continues to perform today to a fervent and developing audience, and remains an influence for “space rock” artists around the world.
Nektar is featured in the August 14 Cleopatra DVD release, SPACE ROCK INVASION, a live show taped in Los Angeles, and is releasing SPOONFUL OF TIME (September 11 via Cleopatra), an incredible collection of classic rock covers re-imagined with the help of members of Yes, King Crimson, Symphony X, Opeth, Marillion, Asia, The Moody Blues, Dream Theater, Tangerine Dream and more.
An added treat, multi-talented musician Billy Sherwood will be debuting as bass player with Nektar. Sherwood has played in Yes (and several of its reconfigurations), Yoso, Toto, Circa, World Trade and others. As a producer, mixer and engineer, he’s spearheaded THE PROG COLLECTIVE, and contributed to recordings by Yes, Motorhead, Paul Rodgers, Dangerous Toys and all-star tribute albums to artists such as Queen, AC/DC, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He will also be producing and playing bass on the new Nektar album of original songs, recording this fall.
The Coach House is located at 33157 Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano, CA. Tickets for Nektar are $15 and can be purchased in advance by calling 949.496.8930 or at http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/147983. Doors are at 6pm, show starts at 8pm with Sixstep. This is an all-ages event.
'The Prog Collective' was mastered by Maor Appelbaum (Yngwie Malmsteen, Halford, Lita Ford, Adrenaline Mob, Armored Saint, Sepultura)
'The Prog Collective' Track list and players:
1. The Laws Of Nature: John Wetton Lead Vocals / Tony Levin Stick & Bass / Jerry Goodman Violins / Billy Sherwood Backing Vocals, Drums, Keyboards, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
2. Over Again: Richard Page Lead Vocals / Geoff Downes Keyboard Solos / Billy Sherwood Backing Vocals, Bass, Drums, Keyboards, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
3. The Technical Divide: Alan Parsons Lead Vocals / Chris Squire Bass / David Sancious KeyboardSolos / Gary Green Lead Guitar / Billy Sherwood Backing Vocals, Drums, Keyboards, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
4. Social Circles: Annie Haslam Lead Vocals / Peter Banks Lead Guitar / Billy Sherwood Backing Vocals, Bass, Drums, Keyboards, Electric and Acoustic Guitars
5. Buried Beneath: Billy Sherwood Lead & Backing Vocals, Bass, Drums & Acoustic Guitars / Larry Fast Keyboards / Steve Hillage Electric Guitars
6. Following The Signs: John Wesley Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar / Tony Kaye Hammond Organ & Keyboards / Billy Sherwood Backing Vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
7. Check Point Karma: Colin Moulding Lead Vocals / Rick Wakeman Keyboard Solos / Billy Sherwood Backing Vocals, Bass, Drums, Keyboards, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
'Songs of the Century: An All Star Tribute to Supertramp' Track List:
1. Breakfast In America - John Wetton (Asia) & Larry Fast (Peter Gabriel)
2. Take The Long Way Home - John Wesley (Porcupine Tree)
3. The Logical Song - Mickey Thomas (Starship), Steve Morse (Deep Purple) & Tony Kaye (Yes)
4. Give A Little Bit - Richard Page (Mr. Mister) & Peter Banks (Yes)
5. It's Raining Again - Colin Moulding (XTC) & Geoff Downes (Yes/Asia)
6. Crime Of The Century - Billy Sherwood (Yes), Rick Wakeman (Yes) & Tony Levin (King Crimson)
7. Dreamer - Annie Haslam (Renaissance) & David Sancious (Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band)
8. Goodbye Stranger - Billy Sherwood (Yes), Gary Green (Gentle Giant) & Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater)
9. Rudy - Roye Albrighton (Nektar) & Steve Porcaro (Toto)
10. Bloody Well Right - Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow) & Dave Kerzner
11. School - Rod Argent (The Zombies) & Robby Krieger (The Doors)
BONUS ORIGINAL TRACK
12. Let The World Revolve - Chris Squire (Yes) & Tony Kaye (Yes)
Here's the rendition of Give A Little Bit' from the album: http://soundcloud.com/brosseaupr/give-a-little-bit-songs-of-the/s-zmIbk
Here's a video documenting and celebrating Cleopatra Records 20th Anniversary, with plenty of commentary from Billy in his studio. For more info or to purchase any of their releases, check out Cleopatra Records at www.cleorecs.com
Now that Queen has used a Freddie Mercury hologram at the recent 10th anniversary of the 'We Will Rock You' production in London, there has been other talk of resurrecting another dead rocker. Free bassist Andy Fraser’s admitted that the band considered doing the same thing for the 2012 Olympics.
Fraser told Classic Rock Magazine that the surviving members of Free, vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke, who later formed Bad Company, were approached to play at the opening ceremonies, and one option they considered was using a hologram to replicate guitarist Paul Kossoff, who died in 1976.
“I always figured we would re-marry our ex-wives before getting back together. But the event was such that I felt I should put aside my personal demons,” said Fraser. “We considered many guitarists. I suggested Mark Knopfler, Ron Wood, Dave Gilmour. I was looking into a Kossoff hologram by the Tupac people, so we would actually be playing with his track.”
Thankfully the talks didn’t pan out. Frasier explained, “The million-dollar price tag didn’t go down too well with others — or suggestions about guitarists,” he admitted. “I don’t see it coming together now.” Good, although I'm sure the holograms are coming! Look out!
Chevelle kick off these Rock Picks of the Week with another dose of their controlled chaos. The title track from 'Hats Off To The Bull' and the follow up to the #1 'Face To The Floor', sounds like it could go to the top as well. Brothers Pete (vocals/guitar) and Sam Loeffler (drums) along with Dean Bernardini (bass) say some of their major influences are Helmet, Tool, and The Cure. Now they are influening another generation. It's already Top 15 on the Active Rock charts, and Top 25 on the Rock and Alternative charts. Another quality song from Chevelle.
Chevelle are going to be busy guys this spring and summer. They'll be doing headlining gigs and a bunch of radio shows and festivals. Here's all the dates:
Apr. 12 - Biloxi, MS - Hard Rock
Apr. 13 - Tallahassee, FL - Coliseum
Apr. 14 - Orlando, FL - Tinker Field - Earth Day Birthday (w/Evans Blue, SOil, Pop Evil, The Used, Hurt, Theory of a Deadman, Trivium, Godsmack, Halestorm, Taproot, Pop Evil, Soil, and Staind)
Apr. 16 - Memphis, TN - Minglewood Hall (w/Dead Sara & New Medicine)
Apr. 17 - Beaumont, TX - Ford Park Event Center (w/Dead Sara)
Apr. 18 - College Station, TX - Hurricane Harry's
Apr. 20 - Lubbock, TX - Lonestar Ampitheatre (w/Korn)
Apr. 22 - Wichita Falls, TX - Kay Yeager Coliseum (w/Redlight King)
Apr. 23 - El Paso, TX - Tricky Falls
Apr. 25 - Los Angeles, CA - Club Nokia (w/Dead Sara)
Apr. 28 - Mesa, AZ - Quail Run Park (w/Godsmack, Staind, Janus, Aranda, and Cavo)
May 2 - Huntsville, AL - Von Braun Center Arena (w/Shinedown)
May 3 - Evans, GA - Pavilion at Evans Town Center Park
May 5 - Rockingham, NC - Carolina Rebellion 2012 - Rockingham Speedway - (w/Evanescence, Korn, Shinedown, Staind, P.O.D., Slash, and Five Finger Death Punch)
May 6 - Alpharetta, GA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park - 1 Cinco Party Project 961 Cinco Party (w/Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Hellyeah, Volbeat, Adelitas Way, Art of Dying, and The Beatoffs)
May 8 - Baton Rouge, LA - Varsity Theatre
May 9 - Corpus Christi, TX - Concrete Street Amphitheater
May 10 - San Antonio, TX - Backstage Live
May 12 - Kansas City, MO - Liberty Memorial - Rockfest 2012 (w/Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Slash)
May 13 - Boone, IA - Central Iowa Expo - Lazerfest 2012 (w/Shinedown, Slash, Theory of a Deadman, Buckcherry, Volbeat, Adelitas Way)
May 15 - Green Bay, WI - Shopko Hall (w/Dead Sara & New Medicine)
May 18 - Traverse City, MI - Ground Zero
May 19 - Columbus, OH - Columbus Crew Stadium - Rock On The Range
May 20 - Maryland Heights, MO - Verizon Wireless Amphitheater - Pointfest 2012 (w/Incubus, Neon Trees, Cavo, Middle Class Rut, and Foxy Shazam)
May 22 - Columbia, MO - The Blue Note (w/Dead Sara)
May 23 - Bloomington, IL - Castle Theatre
May 25 - Pryor, OK - Rocklahoma (w/Rob Zombie, Rocklahoma, Chickenfoot, Creed, Megadeth, Slash, Queensrÿche, Theory of a Deadman, Jackyl, Puddle of Mudd, Hellyeah, P.O.D., Volbeat, Cavo, Adelitas Way, Black Stone Cherry, Pop Evil, The Darkness, Art of Dying, Trivium, Aranda, Redlight King, James Durbin, Janus, Rival Sons, Anti, Mortem, and Megadeth)
May 26 - Little Rock, AR - Riverfest
Jun. 12-17 - Burlington, IA - Burlington Steamboat Days 2012 (w/Luke Bryan, )
Jun. 27 -Jul. 1 - Milwaukee, WI - Marcus Amphitheater (w/Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Gary Clark Jr.)
Jul. 14 - West Fargo, ND - Red River Valley Fair
Shinedown have already released a new video for the second single off their new 'Amaryllis' album, which is due on March 27th. 'Unity,' is the follow up to their #1 rock track 'Bully,' and continues with a bit of social commentary, at least in the video for the song. A beautiful young girl, accepting of all peoples, takes photos of the individuals she comes in contact with and covers the wall of a decaying, abandoned building with those photos. The message I get from the video and song is that we all need one another to prosper and and 'Unity' has a message we all need to heed. Another pick that could be another #1 track.
Shinedown are kicking ass on the Avalanche tour with Adelitas Way in support, hitting smaller venues around the country. New Medicine are opening the shows up to Apr. 10, and Art Of Dying will open from Apr. 12th to the 25th.
Remaining dates on The 2012 Avalanche Tour
Apr. 5 - Houston, TX - House of Blues
Apr. 6 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
Apr. 7 - Corpus Christi, TX - Concrete Street Amphitheatre
Apr. 9 - Springfield, MO - Shrine Mosque
Apr. 10 - Indianapolis, IN - Egyptian Room
Apr. 12 - Detroit, MI - The Fillmore
Apr. 13 - Milwaukee, WI - The Rave
Apr. 14 - Grand Rapids, MI - Orbit Room
Apr. 16 - Niagara Falls, NY - Rapids Theater
Apr. 17 - Pittsburgh, PA - Stage AE
Apr. 18 - Providence, RI - Lupo's
Apr. 20 - New York, NY -- Best Buy Theater
Apr. 21 - Atlantic City, NJ - House of Blues
Apr. 22 - Scranton, PA - Cultural Center
Apr. 24 - Richmond, VA - The National
Apr. 25 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head
Paul Rodgers (Bad Company, Free, The Firm, Queen + Paul Rodgers) has released a fantastic new single 'With Our Love.'
It's a fantastic soulful track with a full string section and later, middle-eastern sounds. One of the greatest rock vocalists in history more than lives up to that billing, and it's just great to hear his voice on some new music.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the single, ‘With Our Love,’ will go toward The Racehorse Sanctuary and the Seraphim 12 Foundation, both of which are dedicated to protecting and benefiting horses, as well as the Rocking Horse Children’s Charity, which aids children in Sussex and Surrey who need medical care.
"Horses are such a powerful part of human development and have been since the early ages," said Rodgers in a statement. "We humans owe them so much. My wife Cynthia and I have visited both sanctuaries and can’t imagine any of these healthy vibrant beings being sent off to die. Especially Seraphim 12′s 'Daisy,' who was to be slaughtered for human consumption at four months of age! Or ex-racehorse 'Mr. Streaky,' who due to human error developed anxiety and fear issues which now after eight years he is finally starting to overcome, and in doing so is helping the autistic and inner city kids who visit the sanctuary."
Looking back to one of his main artistic inspirations, Rodgers concluded, "Blues great Willie Dixon believed that 'Once we know better we can do better'...so now that we know better, let’s do better."
Starting on June 9th in Sweden, singer Paul Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs and drummer Simon Kirke will launch a brief Bad Company tour of continental Europe, their first one there since 1975 (way back when the band’s second album, ‘Straight Shooter,' was released).
Following their June 9th show on the closing day of the Sweden Rock Festival, Bad Company is scheduled to perform five times during Germany’s Rock the Nation Festival between June 11th and 16.
"It is amazing to me that there is still so much interest in Bad Company’s music after all these years," Rodgers told UltimateClassicRock.com. "We have toured in the U.S. and U.K. in the last couple of years, and it only seems fair to play
for the faithful rock fans in Germany and Sweden. I can’t wait to hit the stage and reconnect with our fans."
Last month during an hour-long chat with interviewer Jeff Woods during Canadian Music Week, he regaled the hundreds of fans in attendance with tales about his own career and a few anecdotes about the careers of others.
For example, here’s something you probably didn’t know: he advised a pre-Led Zeppelin Robert Plant to always "take a percentage" of a band’s earnings instead of a weekly paycheck. (Wonder how much money that put in Plant’s bank account?)
And when Joe Walsh was considering joining the Eagles but hesitating because of his desire for solitude, Rodgers says he told his friend, “Why don’t you go into a rehearsal with them and then go disappear in the woods? ...And the next thing I knew, it was 'Hotel California.' They obviously made a connection."
As for himself, he says he passed up opportunities with Deep Purple and Journey, and that even the Doors wanted him (after Jim Morrison's death, of course) — but couldn’t find him.
Rodgers went on to say that success ultimately killed Free: "All of the sudden we had this monster hit, 'All Right Now,' and I don’t think we were ready for it all", but that drugs were responsible for the demise of Bad Company:
"It was all around me, so it was almost normal, you just did whatever was there, there was a lot of cocaine, there was a lot of drug around and I, yeah, sure like everybody else, but I did draw the line at one point and in a way that’s probably what split Bad Company and myself. I stopped all that. And all of the sudden I felt like the outsider.
And it was a strange feeling. And I was going, 'You don’t have to hide it all the time. Just do your thing. I’m not criticizing. I’m not judging.’ But I think it’s one of the things about that stuff is that it can make people a little paranoid too about people that aren’t doing it. You’re like the policeman."
Great stories from a legend in rock and yet another great track. 'With Our Love' is now available for download via CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon’s MP3 store.
Something Unto Nothing (S.U.N.), a name all together fresh and rooted in rock n' roll, is setting onto the music scene breaking the social traditions that have become the rock norm. Headed up by the whiskey soaked voice of Sass Jordan, a Canadian icon and Juno Award winner with music partner renown drummer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Brian Tichy known for his stints with Billy Idol, Foreigner, Ozzy and currently in Whitesnake, their self titled debut album hopes to smash through the anonymity and secure a place in the current rock landscape.
Sass Jordan has an innate talent capable of conveying powerful emotion through heart-stomping, primal, rock-and-roll singing. S.U.N’s debut album is explosive, crushing, real and soulful with its natural fusion of blues and rock. Jordan’s vocal intensity proves a perfect match for the high-energy guitar playing of Tichy and her band-mates that provide the unique music palette that is S.U.N.
Previously working together is what brought Jordan and Tichy together in collaboration of the new music. “I had played drums on Sass’s ‘RATS’ record” explains Tichy. “I knew she was one of the best rock singers going. So after many years, we reconnected and tried a bit of writing together”. Both felt that in order to write the best, trend-free music they could, they needed to get away. They chose the mountains of Canyon Country and in an old, deserted shack S.U.N. was born. “We didn’t realize where we going when we started out”, says Jordan. “As we continued the songwriting path from Burned to Mobile Again to Nomad and on … The whole thing started to take shape in the form of a 70′s odyssey, a time travel trajectory.”
Completing the band that drives this music home is Marty O’Brien (We Are The Fallen/Tommy Lee/ Static X/ Disturbed) on bass and Tommy Stewart on drums (Godsmack, Lo Pro, Everclear, Fuel). S.U.N. is now finishing up mixes to their “Something Unto Nothing” record and looking for the best platform to release the music to their fans. The band recently played the Viper Room in Hollywood, Martini Ranch in Scottsdale, AZ, and Vamp'd in Las Vegas, and also have plans for an extensive summer tour as well as international dates.
It's good to have one of the finest female rock vocalist back in a big way, along with great complementary musicians.
Formed in 2000 in Virginia and now hailing from Los Angeles, Hurt are up next with the first single 'How We End Up Alone' from their sixth album,'The Crux', coming out on May 1st. The album was produced by guitarist Michael Roberts and the band and mixed by John Kurzweg (Puddle of Mudd, Godsmack). 'How We End Up Alone' is a dynamic, compelling song that draws you in and keeps you. Not only do I really like this track, the video is just as good. It adds to the song and is it's own mini-film. It is intriguing, intersting, and its own piece of art. The storyline of an older man looking back on his life and telling his story shows 'How We End Up Alone'. Lead singer J. Loren, guitarist Michael Roberts, bassist Rek Mohr, and drummer Victor Ribas will be touring starting April 14th in Orlando, Florida at WJJR's Earthday Birthday.
Here's an acoustic performance from February at 105.7 The Point
Hurt tour dates:
Apr. 14 - Orlando, FL - WJJR Earthday Birthday
Apr. 16 - Atlanta, GA - Smith’s Olde Bar
Apr. 17 - Memphis, TN - 1884 Lounge at Minglewood Plaza
Apr. 18 - Birmingham, AL - Workplay
Apr. 19 - Little Rock, AR - Revolution Music Room
Apr. 21 - Houston, TX - KTBZ Buzzfest (The Woodlands Pavilion)
Apr. 22 - Austin, TX - Stubbs BBQ
Apr. 24 - Dallas, TX - Prophet Bar
Apr. 28 - Mesa, AZ - Quail Run Park
Apr. 30 - Los Angeles, CA - The Key Club
Paul Rodgers, Foreigner, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Blue Oyster Cult, Pat Travers, Kentucky Headhunters, Bachman & Turner, .38 Special, Molly Hatchet, Foghat, Marshall Tucker Band, Black Oak Arkansas and more will all be performing together on the high seas as 'Rock Legends Cruise II' will kick off 2013 in style. Besides a fantastic cruise and concerts, monies raised will go to an important organization: the Native American Heritage Association.
Following the success of last year's inaugural Rock Legends Cruise, the January 2013 Rock Legends Cruise II will feature more than 15 bands performing multiple sets, collaborating musically, meeting and greeting and relaxing alongside fans throughout the four-day excursion. The Rock Legends Cruise II departs Fort Lauderdale, Florida Thursday, January 10 and docks Saturday, January 12 in Labadee, Haiti before returning to Fort Lauderdale Monday, January 14.
The weekend-long musical journey will feature three easily accessible performance venues on the ship: The Deck, The Platinum Theater and Studio B/Ice Rink. The line-up as of March 27 includes:
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVISITED
BACHMAN & TURNER
THE MARSHALL TUCKER BAND
BLUE ÖYSTER CULT
THE ARTIMUS PYLE BAND
BLACK OAK ARKANSAS
ROYAL SOUTHERN BROTHERHOOD
DEVON ALLMAN'S HONEYTRIBE
Beyond the musical performances and onboard auction, sailors can also enjoy traditional ship board activities including on-board surfing (thanks to its FlowRider wave generator), a boxing ring, a full-sized volleyball/basketball court, cantilevered whirlpools and variety of gourmet restaurants. In addition, while docked at the private secured Labadee resort — situated on the north coast of Hispaniola which averages a high of 84.9 degrees in January — passengers can enjoy kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing and wave runners at the resort's stunning beaches, surrounded by beautiful mountain slopes and exotic foliage. The Liberty of the Seas from Royal Caribbean is one of the biggest, fastest and most luxurious passenger vessels in service today; it is served by a crew of 1300 on 18 decks.
The Native American Heritage Association has been working on reservations in South Dakota for more than 18 years and is a 4-star charity with CharityNavigator.org for seven consecutive years. Native American Heritage Association tractor trailers are on the road daily with supplies to the various far flung communities and 94% of the organizations total revenue goes towards program services which provide basic life necessities, including fuel assistance and medical transportation to 90,000 people. Many of these residents face an 80% rate of unemployment; 70% don't have transportation and many of those who do, don't have the means to purchase gas. These Lakota Sioux live in abandoned school buses, shacks or government housing with no insulation, some live without indoor plumbing, in homes with dirt floors, no beds or furniture.
To book passage on Rock Legends Cruise II, go to www.rocklegendscruise.com or call 888-666-1499 with any questions.
Here's the latest fan feature on the official Queen website. Queen have an awesome section of fan restrospectives, with the following from a fan behind the Iron Curatin in Bulgaria.
Check it out below and all the rest of these really interesting Queen memories at www.queenonline.com
19th March 2012
Queen and Bulgaria - A Perspective from Behind the Iron Curtain: Fan Feature by Vladislav Taushanov
Queen and Bulgaria: A Perspective from Behind the Iron Curtain
By Vladislav Taushanov
The 1950s and 1960s were a bleak time for music fans in Bulgaria. Western imperialist rock music was banned by the pro-Soviet communist government. Listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or Jimi Hendrix could (and often did!) get you into jail. Police raids on underground music parties were frequent. Young people were forbidden to wear their hair long – doing so meant risking public humiliation or worse. The lucky few – mostly diplomats or sailors – whose job took them to the West, had their luggage thoroughly searched at customs for vinyl records. If a record was found the person faced penalties, such as losing their passport and the privilege of travelling outside the Eastern Bloc, losing their job or even prison. Homegrown music formations (they could not call themselves “a rock group”) were very few. Among the early pioneers – a band called Shturtsite (The Crickets) – was almost banned from using their chosen name because it sounded too similar to The Beatles. It seems the communist government was unaware of the American band of the same name.
In some rare instances, however, records could be smuggled and were being sold by profiteers at ridiculous prices. With the advent of reel to reel decks and tape recorders, an underground movement of sellers and traders of recordings grew at an astonishing rate, but without the benefit of today’s communications distribution was difficult. This meant that music fans would hear recordings 5-10 generations from the original vinyl.
By the early 1970s the situation had relaxed. Western music could occasionally be heard on the radio or seen on television. The Bulgarian state-owned record company Balkanton produced vinyls of western acts. Occasionally artists from the west would be invited to play in Bulgaria – Julio Iglesias, Smokie, Boney M, Eruption etc. Others, like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, would remain on the censorship lists for many years. Thus, it is not surprising that very few in Bulgaria could have imagined that somewhere in Western Europe, a new and exciting rock group called Queen was born.
Queen’s early successes like conquering Japan and “A Night at the Opera” went almost unnoticed in Bulgaria. Among the few people in the media who walked the thin line when it came to popular music was legendary radio DJ Toma Sprostranov. He began his radio career in the early 1960s playing mostly jazz records. By the early to mid 70s he had started playing western blues and rock ‘n roll, which earned him the nickname of “the first musical dissident of Bulgaria”. Information or recordings of broadcasts from those early days are hard to find, but it’s easy to imagine that Queen’s music made its first appearance on Bulgarian airwaves during this time. To this day Toma Sprostranov is still a huge Queen fan and his radio shows are still on the air.
While Bulgaria was getting its first rare glimpses of the glamour that was Queen, the band embarked on tour in support of the Jazz album. Ironically, and certainly purely coincidental, the lighting rig on the 1978-79 tours featured a colour pattern which was an exact replica of the Bulgarian flag – in order: white, green, red. It’s also on this tour that Queen came the closest they have ever come to Bulgaria – the band played two shows in neighbouring former Yugoslavia.
In 1981 Queen released their first hits compilation, which became a top-seller throughout the world. The compilation was destined to become the band’s only record to be officially released in communist Bulgaria and it was released in four different and unique versions. But it took “Greatest Hits” three years to come to these shores. The four editions, produced by the state-owned record company Balkanton, were:
- Double LP – the regular version, a double LP in a gatefold sleeve. The inside of the gatefold features a diagram of Queen albums through the years and has a number of unfortunate printing errors (the cover of Queen’s first album is a strange shade of blue while “News of the World” is tinted orange-brown). This version is also notable and unique for the inclusion of more obscure (non-single) tracks, namely “Death on Two Legs” and “Sweet Lady”.
- Picture Disc – this edition has the distinction of being one of the rarest and most valuable Queen collectibles in the world. Featuring all 19 tracks from the double LP on a single record and a unique cover and disc image – a photograph, taken from Queen’s first appearance at the Golden Rose Festival in Montreux. According to a source who worked at Balkanton in that era, a number of picture disc vinyls were manufactured in West Germany intended for the Bulgarian market, however (almost) all were re-exported to foreign (western) markets, to satisfy the communist government’s need for hard currency. “Why would the Bulgarian market need a picture disc” he says, “when they couldn’t even satisfy the demand for regular black vinyl? Such treats were not intended for the Bulgarian consumer.” (This would explain why the author of this article has been unable to acquire a copy of this particular record.)
- Cassette – the cassette version features another unique cover – a different photograph from the Golden Rose performance (the image is on the B-side of the picture disc). It also has a unique 10-song tracklist, omitting songs like “We Will Rock You” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but preserving the aforementioned two obscure tracks. Oddly enough the cover calls it “Volume 2”, however no evidence of a “Volume 1” can been found. The cassette was also manufactured in West Germany for the Bulgarian market.
- USSR Edition – Bulgarian state-owned companies had an inexhaustible market in the Soviet Union. At that time the Russians were buying anything and everything, and lots of it. The record business was no different and Balkanton mass-produced records for the Soviet Union. One such record was “Greatest Hits” – this version is a single LP and was released in 1985. Featuring yet another unique tracklist of 12 songs, preserving “Sweet Lady” but not “Death on Two Legs” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is nowhere to be found. The cover is also unique – it is the familiar “Greatest Hits” cover, but the original black background has been replaced with white.
A year after the Bulgarian release of “Greatest Hits” Queen appeared at Live Aid. Their 20 minutes went completely unnoticed here as the concert was not broadcast anywhere behind the Iron Curtain. According to some reports, the Bulgarian state television intended to broadcast the show, but made a last minute decision to pull out. The hypocrisy of the communist regime was boundless, especially considering the charitable nature of the event. However, Bulgaria did make a small, accidental and – with 20/20 hindsight – hilarious contribution to the global broadcast. While the concert was not shown on Soviet television the Soviet Union did participate in the international portion of the show. The Russian pop-rock band Avtograf (Autograph) performed in a Moscow studio, but due to technical problems the first minute of the broadcast had the song playing over a documentary on harvesting the cherry crops in Bulgaria – beamed via satellite to 2 billion people!
While some pop and rock stars from the West had performed in communist countries, Queen’s concert in Budapest had the distinction of being the first major rock event behind the Iron Curtain. The concert film finally broke the glass ceiling in terms of rock music in the communist bloc. The film was shown at cinemas and later on television in many socialist countries, including Bulgaria. Bulgarian Queen fans still have fond memories of the “Kultura” movie theatre on “Slaveikov” square in Sofia, where “Live In Budapest” was screened for weeks.
Queen opened the door to the communist music market for western pop-rock acts, but it was to be short-lived – three years the Berlin Wall would come down and all European communist countries would make transitions to Democracy. But those three years saw other major rock bands visiting the Eastern Bloc, including Pink Floyd performing in the Soviet Union in 1989. Quite a feat, considering the fact that several years earlier the same band had sung the lyrics “Brezhnev took Afghanistan...”
The early years of Democracy in Bulgaria were dismal for the music business. Piracy was uncontrollable and official music releases were non-existent. The less said about this period, the better. Eventually, in the late 90s, most major labels established subsidiaries or found distributors on the Bulgarian market. Today, Queen are represented in Bulgaria through Virginia Records – under license to Universal Music.
In 2005 and 2008 Queen and Paul Rodgers toured Europe and the world extensively, but both tours skipped Bulgaria, as well as neighbouring Romania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. The band’s only performance on the Balkans was the show in Belgrade, Serbia. In their forty years of touring Queen never played in Bulgaria, either as a band or as solo artists (although Spike Edney’s SAS Band did play two shows in the small town of Bansko located in Bulgaria’s picturesque mountains). So it is understandable that many Bulgarian Queen fans travelled to Belgrade to see Queen and Paul Rodgers perform (while others chose different locations, such as Prague, Budapest or Vienna). One can’t help but wonder if the members of Queen realized that in addition to the predominantly Serbian audience they were also playing for fans from all over the Balkans.
To most of us this was the first and perhaps last chance to attend a Queen show.
About our contributor:
How I discovered Queen: A friend gave me the lyrics to The Show Must Go On in English with an excellent translation in Bulgarian. It snowballed from there...
Favourite Album: Made In Heaven
Favourite Track: Too Much Love Will Kill You
Favourite Single: Heaven For Everyone/It’s a Beautiful Day