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Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen (2010)

by Mark Blake

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684294,720 (3.14)2
Draws on interviews with producers, managers and ex-girlfriends and boyfriends to provide a history of the band, including how lead singer Freddie Mercury's sexuality alienated some of their fans and forced the band to reinvent themselves.
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A very thorough book and basically for the superfan (not me, I'm a casual fan from afar).It's too long and has a few spelling errors which is unusual for an English publishing house. Written in 2010 the book begins with QUEEN about to take the stage for their LIVE AID concert set at Wembley stadium. The book ends with the final days of Mercury and the planned movie starring Sacha Cohen as Mercury. We now know that Cohen got dropped by lead guitarist Brian May in favor of another actor who has ridden the film to box office success. Cohen is not a serious actor and has only one legit credit in a Tim Burton film. I didn't like the replacement actor to Bohemian Rhapsody because he didn't actually look like Mercury. Nobody looks like Mercury or will, so it isn't that big of a criticism, but I had to avoid looking at Malek's face for the whole movie.
Like the book, the film Bohemian Rhapsody begins with QUEEN's taking the stage at LIVE AID and then jumping to their humble beginnings, from May's point of view. The book glides over the other bands who played. New Wave/Alternative groups who were up and coming were sought after. Geldof had only wanted the newest faces which made QUEEN an odd choice and a perfect choice to represent the old guard of arena supergroups. Elton John and The Who were the only other names who wanted to perform for Geldof without much horsetrading (i.e., for free).
Bassist John Deacon was married in the Catholic Church and Mercury was busy serving as godfather to many children of friends and family over the years. QUEEN was to play for the John Paul II but John Paul had a heart attack causing an event cancellation. Mercury's family was Zoroastrian. Zorastrianism is a pre-Christian dualist religion that was not able to compete on equal terms with nondualist Christianity. The author shows familiarity with AIDS and ARC but at times is imprecise in his accounts. To this day not many people know how to talk about people whom have contracted the illness and the illness itself.
Interestingly, during a Mercury tribute concert David Bowie got down on one knee and recited the Lord's Prayer which was out of character for Bowie somewhat since Bowie was Buddhist. The Queen members were shocked and would have preferred he had not done so. Mercury was cremated and this tribute concert may have been the closest to a funeral prayer that was comprehensible to the audience in Bowie's mind. Apparently, when Bowie died, he was also cremated. When I saw QUEEN's May and Taylor in concert at the Hollywood Bowl (featuring Adam Lambert), the event did have a reminscence tribute feel to it as well. Lots of video of Mercury perfoming on stage. QUEEN while still intact had made a special visit to LA to honor Groucho Marx for suggesting two of their album titles (A Day at the Races & A Night at the Opera). Mercury especially enjoyed those films.
I did some skimming over this book since there were many sections I thought could have been shortened but I totally understand when you do research it is hard to excise any work from the final version. This book could have been 100 pages shorter. Also with adding so many minor characters and their opinions, the author risks making these voices equal to the main characters of the narrative which damages the total impact for the reader. This aspect is an artform. I found that Blake added so many characters in the first part of the story I felt I was wasting my time till QUEEN finally got around to being formed. Historical background is important but I felt filler was being added without a sufficient payoff.
Minimalist index, good bibliography, good B&W photos. Overall, the author tries to be positive about the success and achievements of QUEEN while asserting that some voices were at times correct in criticism of the band's choices. The Title of the book, Is This The Real Life?, is the first line that Mercury whispers on Bohemian Rhapsody. ( )
  sacredheart25 | Nov 24, 2018 |
I don't usually give one star reviews, but this book should come with a warning: Mark Blake is a miserable git with a severe grudge against the memory of a man who died twenty five years ago. Seriously. Jacky Gunn's 1992 authorised biography tells exactly the same story but without the venom - the only 'untold' aspects I could find in Blake's trashy account were titbits from nobodies with vague connections to the band, whom I am quite sure the author pumped for dirt on Freddie Mercury. Blake admires Brian May, tolerates Roger Taylor, ignores John Deacon, but seems to absolutely loathe the lead singer. And I have no idea why. He manages to stay mostly neutral when reporting hearsay - which makes up most of the additional material that supposedly justifies another biography - but delights in pushing the very worst slant on Freddie, regurgitating the dubious anecdotes of old school friends and studio teaboys. I can take the bad with the good in biographies - I've had enough practice, reading about John F Kennedy - but this is just an acid attack on the character of a talented and brave self-made man whose memory is still treasured by fans. Remove from device. ( )
1 vote AdonisGuilfoyle | May 5, 2016 |
A great background on a great group. There were far too many typos however. ( )
1 vote twehking | Nov 7, 2011 |
Blake cuts his way through a thicket of fan magazines and press clippings, and appears to have interviewed practically everyone associated with Queen’s early days that was willing to talk, to deliver the story of the British hard rockers who made spectacularly good. And yet, although all the points are hit, the highs and lows are covered, one comes away from the book perhaps slightly less than satisfied. Although Is This The Real Life? covers a great deal of ground about the band and will be read with interest by fans, more casual readers may not be as willing to follow Blake’s’ detailed account of every tour and recording session. The facts are there, but somehow the soul and energy we associate with Queen and its flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury feel absent. Freddie eludes him as his fame grows and Queen becomes more successful, and the question of when the creation eventually overcame the real person is one Blake’s somewhat workmanlike account does not answer. One wonders if the forthcoming bio-pic starring Sasha Baron Cohen as Freddie will come closer to uncovering who he was – perhaps no one can.
  rmharris | Oct 24, 2011 |
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Draws on interviews with producers, managers and ex-girlfriends and boyfriends to provide a history of the band, including how lead singer Freddie Mercury's sexuality alienated some of their fans and forced the band to reinvent themselves.

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