HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

King & I

This is a brave book. King & I (ISBN 0-646-46454-X, Australian DNA Publishers 2006, but printed in China!), is a very close look at one of the icons of Australian television, Graham Kennedy, and written by Rob Astbury, who was one of the top Australian television sports presenters. Brave, because the book looks at the private life of Kennedy, a man who was forced to hide his sexuality in Australia, which at that time was still the last bastion of “poofter bashing”. (And in some quarters, still is, despite the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney having been celebrated for the past 28 years.)
The book is neither an expose of Astbury’s life and its relationship to Graham Kennedy, nor is it an ‘excuse’ for their sexuality. It is, however, a very well written documentary of the life of an entertainer, who in Australia was the equivalent of the UK’s Benny Hill. The tragic comedian, with all the insecurities behind the instantly recognizable public face is shown. Author Astbury writing, “Even when he was relaxing on his outdoor patio, with its great views, he was constantly working, thinking, plotting, scheming, never really relaxed.”
The man who was called the “king” of Australian TV needed to assume all the trappings of kingship to be able to keep going in the extremely narcissistic medium of television. And that included keeping servants and showing his domination of those around him. Those accepted into the inner court were feted, while those who displeased him were also fated - to derision or vitriol. “Like many bullies, he tried to keep his opponents on the back foot, constantly reinforcing his power over them, showing he was superior. And the truth was he could do anything, and get away with it. He was The King.”
Kennedy was, however, quite insightful, as well as spiteful. “When taxed about his conduct towards many of his colleagues, he readily agreed he’d been horrible to countless people,” writes Astbury, and then quotes Graham Kennedy himself, “I usually regret it immediately. It’s the sheer terror, the insecurity that causes it, I believe.”
Towards the ending of the book, author Astbury reveals more of himself and his own fall from grace in Australian TV. He deals frankly with his own problems with drug addiction and his inherent sexual direction. “One of the saddest aspects of my life has been the bigotry against gays who work in the media under public scrutiny. I can understand the reluctance of a gay to reveal his or her sexual preferences especially if such a move jeopardized their professional life.” Astbury goes on to write, “It was because of this prejudice that Graham and I kept our relationship so secret. Both of us thought we had too much to lose. But I now feel we did lose – in terms of our dignity.”
King & I relates the problems of a minority group in a less than perfect society. The fact that the main players in the book were also less than perfect just shows that we are all, after everything, just human.
The book is available through

Mott's CD Reviews:  Camped out by Mott The Dog Straightened by Ella Crew



5 Stars *****
Queen was formed out of the wreckage of a smile in 1971. Brian May (lead guitar, with a penchant for playing with a sixpenny piece instead of a plectrum) and Roger Taylor (a young jazz drummer with an inkling for Funk and Rock) had just found themselves out of any form of entertainment due to the demise of their band ‘Smile’ and upon meeting a certain flamboyant buck toothed kindred spirit in Faroukh Bulsara (from here on known by his stage name of Freddie Mercury, in part named after the puppet hero in the Gerry Anderson’s television show ‘Fireball XL5’) who had just split up his own band ‘Wreckage’. After a bit of a Spinal Tap situation with bass players they finally managed to acquire John Deacon to fill in the lower notes. Four more unlikely people to form a band you could not imagine, but success was only a kiss away.
After 18 months of constant rehearsal, and very few actual paid gigs, the group now known as Queen was signed on a small budget by EMI Records in early 1973. Such was EMI’s disregard for their newly acquired band that they did not even book them any studio time. This Queen’s debut album was actually recorded in down time at London’s Trident Studios in between other considered more important acts doing their own recording. According to legend Queen found themselves spending 90% of their time sitting outside recording studios waiting for the old pros to get fed up with their 30th overdub and go home, before the fledgling Queen could rush into the studio and lay down their debut masterpiece.
It was not quite glitter all the way though. The only release of Queen’s that did not instantly hit pay dirt was their first single ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. Amazingly this did not even dent the British Top Fifty, but it still remains this dog’s favorite single from the band. Yes, I know about Bohemian Rhapsody, etc, but I implore you listen to the vibrancy of their first single, indeed the whole of their debut album. ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ and ‘Liar’ were to remain stage favorites with the fans right till the end.
Queen’s debut album kicks off with their aforementioned single and carries on in ground breaking fashion. Fortunately right from the first album the fifth member of Queen was behind the mixing desk. John Roy Baker was to become as essential to Queen as George Michael had been to the Beatles, funneling their natural talents into the perfect sound, also working as Judge and Jury in inner band conflicts. Rock ‘n’ Roll was built on anger and you cannot have such a multi talented band with out the odd clash of ego.
In many ways life in Queen was much simpler in the early days as they were scrambling their way to the top, with only Freddie Mercury writing the more flamboyant storyteller songs whilst Brian May got on with the serious heavy metal side of things. John Deacon and Roger Taylor were later to write many of Queen’s classic songs, but on this, their debut album, John Deacon is confined to playing the strong silent bass player, whilst Roger Taylor plays drums, sex symbol, and is only given writing credits for the throw away under two minute twelve bar rocker ‘Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll’.
Queen’s debut album peaked at Number 18 in the U.K. Charts, although it was to re-enter the charts again in 1976, on the back of Bohemian Rhapsody’s nine week, year spanning run at Number One, when all four of Queen’s albums were in the British Top Thirty, with Queen 2 originally released in March 1974 reaching Number 5, Sheer Heart Attack 1975 reaching Number 3, and of course the icing on the cake, the first of many Number 1 albums A Night At The Opera, Christmas 1975.
After the release of their debut album Queen went out on the road with Mott the Hoople for two tours of Europe and one of the United States of America, the only band they ever played support to. By 1976 they were playing to 200,000 people in Hyde Park, London, and were the biggest band in the world, where they remained until Freddie’s untimely death in 1991. But it all started here with a debut album that even contained a demo track, The Night Comes Down, such were the original time constraints on the band. Just kop a load of the cover for signals of what was to come.
Queen has been re-released with over fifteen minutes of bonus tracks and for once the added extras are actually a plus to the collection. Sit back and listen to a dream coming true.
Freddie Mercury: Vocals and Piano
Brian May: Guitar and Vocals
John Deacon: Bass Guitar
Roger Taylor: Drums and Vocals (the high bits that Freddie couldn’t reach)
Keep Yourself Alive
Doing Alright
Great King Rat
My Fairy King
The Night Comes Down
Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll
Son and Daughter
Seven Seas Of Rhye (Short version, the complete hit single was taken off Queen 2)
Bonus Tracks
Mad The Swine
Keep Yourself Alive (Long Lost Longer Re-Take)
Liar (1991 Remix)

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]