Forums > Queen - General Discussion > A look back at Happiness?

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rhyeking user not visiting Queenzone.com
rhyeking
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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 01:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I previously opened up for discussion on Brian May's 1992(UK)/1993(US) album Back To The Light and got some great feedback and a wide spectrum of thoughts on his first 'post-Queen' solo effort. I say 'post-Queen,' because at the time, we all believed that was pretty much that after Freddie died. Still, Brian and Roger were productive on the solo front, so I invite some discourse on Roger Taylor's 1994 album Happiness?

(That ? at the end always makes for odd-sounding sentences when I include the album's full title.)

This album has an odd history for me, one I feel lucky at having had experienced. In high school, in the days before the internet, I walked into a local record store and stumbled on three CDs marked "import" and knew these had not been on the shelf during my last visit. These were new.

Roger Taylor: Nazis 1994
Roger Taylor & Yoshiki: Foreign Sand
Roger Taylor: Happiness

They were singles, but for what album? Was it QUEEN'S Roger Tayor? Sure looked like him on the CD for the Happiness single, which also sported a "I Want To Break Free" live cover. I took a chance and bought all three (thankfully, I was right. It was THE Roger Taylor).

I eventually deduced he had released a new album, but it was a while before an import showed up anywhere near me. I didn't even know the tracklisting! How we survived in the pre-internet days, huh?

All I had were these songs:

Happiness
Loneliness...
Dear Mr. Murdoch
I Want To Break Free (Live)
Foreign Sand + the single version
'You Had To Be There'
Final Destination
Nazis 1994 (6 versions...man!)

I put them all on a cassette tape and listen the hell out of it! It was particularly fitting that in 1995, my last year of high school, my art class took a trip south of the border to New York City. It was a long bus ride and when I popped my homemade Happiness tape on on my walkman, "Foreign Sand" came up while at a scenic rest stop in upstate New York. What a great song, perfect for that moment.

I got to love all the songs on those singles, from the angry track, "Nazis 1994" (I still couldn't get my head around owning 6 different versions...madness!), the melancholy irony of "Happiness" and "Loneliness," the bitter "Dear Mr. Murdoch" (I eventually figured out it was media mogul Rupert Murdoch, not just some character). "Final Destination," I was convinced, would finish out the album, so I had it placed last on my tape.

Then the album arrived in the store and my friend surprised me by getting it for me for my birthday. There was some so much MORE to this album than I imagined. No "Final Destination"? Wow. "Happiness" seguing into "Revelation". Despite owning the three singles, 7 studio tracks in all, I'd only heard half the album. Crazy!

The biggest thing for me was discovering that "Nazis" opened the album. It was a cool song, but I could never figure out how it fit based soley on the singles. I assumed there would another track or two just a heavy and angry that would ease its inclusion, but no. As much as I like the song, it's a strange fit to this album, in my opinion. I guess it works best at the beginning because the rest of the album flows. I'm used to it being there now, but at first it took some getting used too. You could start the album on "Happiness" and never lose the flow (add "Final Destination" to the end and it still works). Strange, but that was a Roger quirk, and I appreciate it.

For me, despite their differences, H? and BTTL have a lot in common, and not just having come in the wake of Freddie's death. They were like pieces of a larger whole. I would listen to them back to back a lot, along with another album which I'll talk about in a future post. Where BTTL has a certain amount of confusion and pain peppered throughout it, H? has a bitter/sweet serenity.

I still pop those singles on, because they were my first loves from this album. The album proper I love as well, but it took a few listens to get used to hearing the songs in a different order, plus the ones that were new to me.

Thoughts?

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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 09:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Not a big fan of roger's solo stuff,  but remember buying the single with yoshiki (FOREIGN SAND) and thought it was great,  so I bought the album.  I didn't like the album as a whole........  I Still like FOREIGN SAND and You HAD to BE THERE.  A nice tribute to freddie 'OLD FRIENDS'   The rest i find boring.

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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 10:11 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I had a promo tape copy of the album from a good friend some time before the album was released so was fortunate to be able to get in to it before its street date.

I have to say that Nazis1994 virtually turned me completely off of the album from the get go.  As important as it is for an artist to be able to make a statement around his beliefs and feelings, I really did feel that this was just too much to bear.  We are all aware of certain elements and their denial of the holocaust, but ramming it down the throats of listeners was needless self-promotion at the expense of the "cause".  What was he really achieving?  What did he achieve; increased awareness of the fact that there WAS a holocaust?  Almost certainly not.

There was some good strong stuff on the album though and, once the CD was in my hands, programming the player to miss out Nazis1994 was quickly changed to include Foreign Sand which as ballads go, just never seemed to go anywhere.

Old Friends was the highlight for me along with Happiness? annd Keys To The Kingdom.

Again, when it came to the live shows, FAR too much emphasis was placed on Queen songs for my liking; trotting out We Will Rock You, A Kind Of Magic, Radio Ga Ga and I Want To Break Free denied those of us who had followed Roger's SOLO career of contemporary live versions of material from Fun In Space and Strange Frontier, all of which would have been far more interesting.  A s alive experience, you were left wanting a solo show as opposed to a parody of a semi-Queen show.

Better was to come with Electric Fire.


Benn
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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 11:11 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Great, relaxed album. I agree with the poster above that Nazis 1994 doesn't fit in at all and should've been left off with Final Destination tacked on to the disc (the Japanese version did have Final Destination if I'm not mistaken). I still hope that Roger one day will treat us to a pure solo tour, with maybe Tenement Funster or I'm In Love With My Car thrown in, but otherwise just focusing on his solo-material.

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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 12:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Great album for summer evening's, IMHO. This is my favorite of Roger's work.


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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 12:57 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

My goodness........just so I wouldn't have to dig through my collection for the track listing, I googled....

and on Amazon, the first reviewer was our own many time poster, long missing Penetration Guru.............who suggested that one should grab the other three solo releases, as this one basically su**ed.

Well.............we disagree.  Yes, we are like the other posters.  "Nazis' was too....too....too STRONG.  Yet, was he thinking of the future Timothy McVies?  If so, how fitting.

Open with 'Happiness', get rid of the FAUX noise 'Dear Mr. Murdoch' (regardless of how fitting it still is 16 years later)....

and it's one hell of an album.  The flow is superb (other than the aforementioned), the feeling superb, the cover art superb.

Sorry, Benn, but one to five Queen tracks during his tour fit.  Love the bootlegs.  It all made sense.

Yes, the LP could have been better.  There was angst involved.  Think about it.  Would we all not have been angry with a solo release a year or three after the most prominent front man in the world passed away?

"Touch The Sky'" .........gawd, that is one cool, GROOVY song (to steal an 'Electric Fire' lyric).


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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 14:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

*goodco* wrote:

Yes, the LP could have been better.  There was angst involved.  Think about it.  Would we all not have been angry with a solo release a year or three after the most prominent front man in the world passed away?
=====================

It's always been notable to me how much the guys did seem to register Freddie's death as something that happened to *them* in addition to the expected feelings of grief and loss for a long time friend.  Though anger is a typical stage of grief under any circumstance,  the remaining band members must have experienced a very complex set of feelings that probably even included brief plumes of resentment as Freddie's illness and death did impact their own lives directly on multiple fronts. Even though most bands are long broken up by the end of their second decade, this was something that was taken from them.  Very tough.

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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 15:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

well to me Happiness as a whole is one of my fav albums to listen to when your in a relxed mood or feeling somewhat heart broken or even lost.
A lot of it I feel describes how Roger Taylor felt at the time. I mean it wasn't long since Freddie died so I spose Roger must be still suffering the loss of Freddie.

For me I bought the album a year ago, I new Roger had a couple The key, Dr Murdoch and lonilness. For me personalliy it shows how good Roger Taylor as a singer he has real soft voice and as a drummer I feel he does show of his skills espically when you listen to songs like Dr Murdoch and Freedom Train.
Over all ill give the album a 9/10

Well done Roger :)


Paul Prescott
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Posted: 24 Aug 10, 21:31 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Stepfords!....9/10?....If happiness?....is a 9/10 than what is ANATO?.....lol.  love reading this stuff from you youngster's.

rhyeking user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 00:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Apples and oranges, Mike.

Part of why numeric ratings systems don't work is because they don't account for fundamental differences between works. This also demonstrates why comparing such works to each other is also a flawed practice.

Citizen Kane is a masterpiece. So is The Seven Samurai. Yet, they are so fundamentally different that merely looking at a  ?/10 rating is grossly misleading.

The reviews explain that people love the album for it's meditative qualities, that it's perfect for certain moods. Sometimes folks aren't in the mood for ANATO, so they relax with H?. For them, for that purpose, it is perfect. There's nothing "Stepford" about it, if I understand your meaning of the word. Expecting people to appreciate nothing other than a bona fide masterpiece is like saying we should never read comics when there are art galleries to visit. It fails to acknowledge that both have different intentions, were crafted differently and represent unique points of view. Ultimately, the audience comes away with a different experience.

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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 03:15 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I remember buying the album, cd-singles, 12" picture discs and the 7" singles (if I remember well they they were transparant, green and orange).  The album left me with mixed emotions as I am not a big Roger fan, but the overall production of the album was in my opinion not that good. I hated the electric piano he used on the majority of songs, and Foreign Sand was to "flat" for me. I did like "Old Friends" which was a little masterpiece.

Overall, the album was "OK" , but I never bought any Roger solo material afterwards as his style of songwriting is by using a lot of "minor" chords and strange melodic changes to his songs (not all of them), while Brian is much more a melodic composer....

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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 11:46 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

mike hunt wrote: Stepfords!....9/10?....If happiness?....is a 9/10 than what is ANATO?.....lol.  love reading this stuff from you youngster's.

===

ANATO is not among Queen's best, IMHO. In fact, I don't know which is better, ANATO or Happiness? I wouldn't give either 9/10, that's for sure. I'd give ANATO 7/10, maybe 8/10 if I were feeling charitable.


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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 12:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

TRS-Romania wrote: I remember buying the album, cd-singles, 12" picture discs and the 7" singles (if I remember well they they were transparant, green and orange).  The album left me with mixed emotions as I am not a big Roger fan, but the overall production of the album was in my opinion not that good. I hated the electric piano he used on the majority of songs, and Foreign Sand was to "flat" for me. I did like "Old Friends" which was a little masterpiece.

Overall, the album was "OK" , but I never bought any Roger solo material afterwards as his style of songwriting is by using a lot of "minor" chords and strange melodic changes to his songs (not all of them), while Brian is much more a melodic composer....

All of roger's solo stuff is flat.........better than ANATO?......lol.  at least i got a good laugh out this thread......

rhyeking user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 13:21 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Personally, I like that Roger doesn't go in the same direction as Brian (or Freddie) in his solo ventures. He seems to prefer more experimental sounds, with synths and percussion and nowadays computers. He doesn't ever go into meat and potatos rock, which is refreshing.

I guess it's not for everyone. More for the rest of us!

I appreciate your view, though, Mike. I feel the same way about bands like Coldplay and The White Stripes, who are loved by many, yet sound so *vanilla* to me. I don't see the appeal.

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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 15:25 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Personally, I think that Hapiness? is a great album. Roger's solo material is grossly underrated despite the fact that he brought us some of Queen's finest tracks - I just don't get that!  I don't want to make the thread sound repetitive, but the flow really  of Happiness? is really nice (agreed that Nazis should have been left off) and there are some really beautiful tracks on there, Foreign Sand and Happiness being my favourites.  You Had To Be There and Revelations aren't half bad, either. This topic has just put me in the mood for listening to Hapiness? again - in fact, I'm really quite excited about doing so!  So I'm away.....

Before I do go, though - Roger's solo stuff is great in general!  So there.


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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 19:46 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I didn't mean all of roger's stuff is flat....like I said in another thread. 'you had to be there'  is an awsome track and i guess everyone has their limits.  for some anything past the first 7 or 8 Queen albums is crap.   I like albums post The Game, but only in spots,  Aside From Innuendo, which is an overall great album......  the same for their solo albums.  only in spots.  Except for Barcelona.   I guess the Happiness vs ANATO comment from thomas is what had me laughing.

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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 19:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

rhyeking wrote: Apples and oranges, Mike.

Part of why numeric ratings systems don't work is because they don't account for fundamental differences between works. This also demonstrates why comparing such works to each other is also a flawed practice.

Citizen Kane is a masterpiece. So is The Seven Samurai. Yet, they are so fundamentally different that merely looking at a  ?/10 rating is grossly misleading.

The reviews explain that people love the album for it's meditative qualities, that it's perfect for certain moods. Sometimes folks aren't in the mood for ANATO, so they relax with H?. For them, for that purpose, it is perfect. There's nothing "Stepford" about it, if I understand your meaning of the word. Expecting people to appreciate nothing other than a bona fide masterpiece is like saying we should never read comics when there are art galleries to visit. It fails to acknowledge that both have different intentions, were crafted differently and represent unique points of view. Ultimately, the audience comes away with a different experience.
Of course apples and oranges,  sometimes i rather listen to hot space instead of A night At The opera,  but i still have the common sense too know which album is better.

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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 21:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I know what you're saying, Mike, but if Roger wasn't trying to make another ANATO it stands to reason that H? was not going to equal it. That's why I don't like comparing albums, because there's no single yardstick against which to measure them. For some, Happiness? is great for what it is, even if it's not as commercial.

Anyway...

How did we even get on this? Hilarious, isn't it?

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Posted: 25 Aug 10, 23:35 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Comics are to art galleries as, say, rock and roll is to symphony.  ANATO isn't symphony, and Happiness certainly isn't either. So they are both rock and roll records with generally similar purposes and generally similar sonic space to work within.  It is perfectly predictable that the culture might make critical judgments that elevate and sustain the artistic value of one over time, and relegate the other one to bargain bins and super fans and fan forums.  In the aggregate it's the equivalent of 9 or 10/10 (exceptional) vs 6 or 7/10 (somewhere in the vast middle).   The number of people who would choose to be stranded with Happiness? on a desert island are going to be overwhelmingly outnumbered by those who would bring ANATO, given one choice.  So while you might not find value in comparing records (or value in admitting it on a forum in the interest of common sense),  a large majority of the rest of the world likely does.

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Posted: 26 Aug 10, 00:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GF, you completely missed my point about art galleries and comics, but I'll let that go.

I'm really more curious about the stance you've taken that popularity and commercial viability determine artistic value. Are you saying you believe that the only creative works worth appreciating are those which a society has deemed sufficiently reflective of the culture's most broadly defined nature?

If so...wow.