Sacha Baron Cohen out, Ben Winshaw in as Freddie Mercury

Ben WinshawDid you see the last James Bond flick, Skyfall? Remember the guy who played Q? Now picture him as Freddie Mercury. The Queen frontman, whose biopic is supposed to shoot next year, originally had Sacha Baron Cohen cast in the role of the late singer.  But not anymore.  “What led us to that conclusion was the last three movies that he’s made – The DictatorLes Misérables and Hugo – in which he makes outstanding performances, but they’re very much Sacha Baron Cohen performances,” guitarist Brian May said. “And we thought there has to be no distraction in the Freddie movie. You have to really suspend that disbelief – the man who plays Freddie, you have to really believe is Freddie. And we didn’t think that could really happen with Sacha.”

In addition to appearing in Skyfall, Ben Winshaw was also seen in Cloud Atlas as well as I’m Not There. The biopic is to be directed by actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill).

What do you think? Is Winshaw a better choice? I think he is; I’m not a fan of Cohen and agree with May that he would have been a distraction. Remains to be seen who will be cast as the other members of Queen.

I was fortunate enough to see Queen in 1982 in Montreal on their “Hot Space” tour (and even got to meet drummer Roger Taylor). It was a great show.

This is one of my favourite Queen tracks, taken from the Queen Rock Montreal DVD:


Some fun for your Friday: isolated vocal tracks

microphone-in-studioYou know these songs, but I bet you’ve never listened to them like this before. The Huffington Post has compiled some isolated vocal tracks of such artists as Adele, Queen and Michael Jackson where the instrumentation is stripped away and all that’s left are the vocals, pure and simple. It’s great fun, and while not all on the list are gems (One Direction? really?) some of these will knock your socks off.

You can find the whole list here, but I’ve posted a few of my faves below:

Michael Bublé: Crooner or Comedian?


Last night Mrs. Side Two and I had the opportunity to attend a taping of an episode of “At the Concert Hall” which airs on Bravo! If you’ve never seen it, the series features an intimate performance and interview with a (usually) Canadian performer in front of an audience at the legendary Masonic Temple in downtown Toronto.

The performer this time around was Michael Bublé. I had seen him perform live once before, at the 2006 Junos in Halifax. While admittedly never a huge fan (I fell into the “I can take it or leave it” crowd), I did always have an appreciation for his desire to bring to a new audience the music of performers such as Frank Sinatra (of whom I am a fan).

He’s in town this week to promote his new cd “Crazy Love” and stated that last night was the first time he’s performed the new tracks in front of an audience. Backed by a crack 13-piece band including an 8-man horn section, Bublé held court in front of an appreciate crowd as both host and performer, and at times, stand-up comedian. He performed selections from his new disc as well as past hits such as “Home”, “Everything” and the evening’s closer, his cover of The Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance For Me” which had the entire audience on its’ feet.

While Bublé has made a career out of being an interpreter of the standards made famous by Sinatra et al., he has also tackled more pop-oriented covers by artists such as Queen, Van Morrison (who he also covers on the new disc with the title track) and The Beatles, all of which have helped him expand his fan base. However, some of his biggest successes have come from the originals he has co-written, including the aforementioned “Home” and “Everything”. His latest single, “Haven’t Met You Yet” is another Bublé original which sounds tailor made for your average romantic-comedy. Not that that’s a bad thing. As evidenced last night, Bublé is a very engaging performer who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and his (mostly female) fans seem to love it.

Some of the best bits from last night were those that took place when the cameras were off. Bublé the crooner turned into Bublé the comedian. He joked with the audience every chance he had, took the time to take his picture with a very sweet little girl who yelled “I love you Michael Bublé!” and even sang duets with audience members and in one hilarious bit, coerced his make-up artist to sing “Summertime” as she fixed his makeup and the host did his best Louis Armstrong scat.

So has my opinion of the man and his music changed? I’d have to say yes. Sure, he’s become hugely successful, can play Madison Square Garden and go on Oprah (this coming Friday). But as he demonstrated last night, he seems truly appreciative of what he has achieved, and more importantly, truly appreciative of the fans that have helped him get there, and that’s ok in my book.

The Bravo! special is expected to air in January. The new disc hits stores Friday. A full-scale tour to promote the disc is sure to be announced soon.

Here’s the video for his new singe “Haven’t Met You Yet”:

The Best of Both Worlds

Homer Rocks

So it’s Sunday night, and the weekend’s winding down. I was relaxing, doing a little channel surfing on the ol’ Aquos when I landed on an episode of the Simpsons from 2002 called “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation”. It’s one of my favourites. It’s the episode when Homer goes to a rock and roll fantasy camp. For me, it was the best of both worlds: rock and roll, and tv. (And speaking of the best of both worlds, I have two songs by that title, one by the late, great Robert Palmer from his 1978 album “Double Fun” and the other by Van Halen, or “Van Hagar” if you prefer.  Each great songs in their own right. But I’m getting off topic…)

The Simpsons episode features cameos by Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz and Brian Setzer. One of my favourite lines is when Mick, sitting at an adding machine, turns to Keith and says they need to find a cheaper brand of oatmeal for the camp. Priceless.

So this episode got me thinking about music on tv, going back to the days when Muchmusic was just an idea on paper. These were the days of classics like American Bandstand, Soul Train, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and The Midnight Special. Later there was NBC’s Friday Night Videos, Solid Gold and in Toronto there was Toronto Rocks, Citylimits, and the CBC had Good Rockin’ Tonight. I’m sure I’m leaving out some.


One memory that stands out was in 1975 when on an episode of American Bandstand, Dick Clark aired the video for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I can still remember thinking how incredibly cool it was. Music videos had of course existed for years before that, but in my opinion I think it was this video in particular that launched the music video generation.

(BTW: I saw Queen live in 1982 and even got to meet drummer Roger Taylor when I was working at a radio station in Montreal. My brush with greatness!)

What are your memories of music on tv? Anything really special stand out?

Bonus Post!  “The Shuffle Report”

To continue on a theme from the last post, here just for fun are the last 10 songs I’ve listened to in shuffle mode on my iPod at the time I wrote today’s post (no editing):

1. I Had A Dream–Ray Charles (The Birth of Soul, Disc 3)

2. Reason To Believe–Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska)

3. Is She Really Going Out With Him?–Joe Jackson (Two Rainy Nights–Live)

4. Take Me To The Pilot–Elton John (Here and There–Live)

5. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)–The Beatles (Abbey Road)

6. No No Song–Ringo Starr (Photograph–The Very Best Of)

7. Strange Days–Matthew Good (In A Coma)

8. Mr. Soul–Buffalo Springfield (Retrospective)

9. Dark Angel–Blue Rodeo (Five Days In July)

10. Here To Stay–Pat Metheny Group (We Live Here)