Going Back

I’m taking a “staycation” this week, and apart from making hay while the sun shines (i.e., assembling files for upcoming Jell-O posts), the high point of my week has been going to see Queen + Adam Lambert in Boston on Tuesday. I’ve been a fan since I was 13 years old, and for many years I’ve been shameless about repeating the story of how I missed my chance to see Queen when they last toured the U.S. in 1982, when I was 15. They were scheduled to play the New Haven Coliseum (such is the mentality of western Massachusetts that we would consider going to a concert in New Haven rather than in Boston, where they were also playing), and my best friend’s boyfriend, a few years older than us, was poised to get tickets, but then my father forbade me to go. I was too young, the reasoning went, and New Haven was too dangerous. Never mind that the boyfriend was and still is a big, intimidating-looking guy (when we were young he bore an uncanny resemblance to Andre the Giant) and odds are we would have been fine. But I was a mostly obedient child, and I didn’t go, and then Freddie Mercury passed away nine years later, and not defying my father in that instance is one of the big regrets of my life.

Dr. Biran May noodles on his Red Special at the Garden, July 22, 2014

Dr. Biran May noodles on his Red Special at the Garden, July 22, 2014

So the next best thing to acquiring a time machine was to see them on their current tour. I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be even close to what seeing the original band 32 years ago would have been like, and while I enjoyed the show, it was an odd experience. I tried to enjoy it for what it was in the here and now, but it was hard not to compare to their 1979 live album or to the concert videos I’ve seen. On the other hand, Brian May and Roger Taylor have grown into darling old men who can still rock hard, something driven home by a video of archival footage that played above the stage while Taylor sang “These Are the Days of Our Lives”. It reminded me of going through the photo albums at D–‘s house last weekend. At the same time, there was a sense of passing the torch as they were fronted by Adam Lambert, who was born the year I missed my big chance, and supported on drums by Taylor’s son Rufus Tiger Taylor. (Father and son had a drum duel that was a highlight of the show.) Regardless of all this, I got to sing “Love of My Life” along with Brian May, and that was awesome.

Strange as it may seem, I think there is a connection between seeing the concert and taking up the Jell-O blog again. When I first started blogging about Jell-O, I was open about the fact that there was a certain amount of nostalgia involved in the Project, and while that’s also the case with this reboot, I think there’s more to it than that. It isn’t just a “sentimental longing or wistful affection” (as Google puts it) that I have for that weird time when I was a kid. The 1970s were nobody’s halcyon days. There was disillusionment and malaise, and some incredibly ugly fashion – and yet, there was still an optimism, a sense of fun that helped to leaven the misery. I see Queen as part of that, as were bizarre Jell-O recipes that could only have been created by General Foods food scientists who had done too much LSD in the hippie days.

The way I see it, overall things have only gotten worse (I blame Reagan), and yet we don’t have much in the culture these days to cheer us up. (I mean, Lady Gaga is only one woman, right?) We need to take joy where we can find it, whether it be in the Julia Child roses blooming right now in my yard, or in jaunts back to the 1970s when someone thought that combining lime Jell-O, avocado and mayonnaise was a good idea, and Queen recorded the song “Stone Cold Crazy”.

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