Thursday, November 24, 2011

Freddie Mercury

Queen have been my favourite band since I first started listening to rock and pop music and Freddie Mercury is simply the best rock front man of all time.

Queen's Greatest Hits was one of the first five albums I bought (in 1983, as you ask), and I played it daily for months, staggered by the brilliance of the songs.

The reaction to Queen's performance at Live Aid, in front of an audience who had bought tickets for the event, not for them, demonstrated Freddie's outstanding ability to work a live crowd.

And their performance at Newcastle St. James Park, Newcastle, on the Magic Tour, remains the best gig I have ever been lucky enough to witness.

20 years ago today I remember reading in The Observer that Freddie had said publicly that he had AIDS.  In those pre-internet days, days, rumours traveled more slowly.  and it wasn't until listening to the radio the following morning that I heard that he had died.  I remember being incredibly upset by the news.  Freddie wasn't just liked by his fans, he was adored.

For much of their career Queen were not liked by the critics.  Perhaps this was because they weren't easily categorised, or because the members of the band all liked their privacy.  20 years later they are more popular than ever, with several of their songs having become worldwide anthems.

Just as a reminder of how good they were, here are three favourites of mine:

First that classic Live Aid performance:

Secondly a great video and the song you're most likely to hear me sing at a Karaoke.  It includes the only guitar solo I ever learned properly:

And finally the last video Freddie filmed, looking visibly ill, and which still brings a tear to my eye:

By this point Freddie was very frail, and the video was produced in black and white to help hide how unwell he was.  Despite his illness Freddie was determined to get down as many vocals as he could manage while he still could.  He recorded most of the vocals for what would end up being the Made In Heaven album before he died, often having to rest between takes and in great pain in the studio.

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert,  held six months after Freddie's death, highlighted for me just what a fantastic vocalist he was.  The line up of vocalists was pretty impressive that day, including George Michael, Annie Lennox, Elton John, Roger Daltrey and Axl Rose.  But between them they couldn't manage the range and power of Freddie Mercury.

My thoughts are with his family and friends today.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Government's extremely generous public sector pensions offer in full

The Government has today set out its very generous revised public sector pensions offer.
The long term savings from this scheme will come from the switch from a final salary to an average salary approach - hitting the highest earners - and from workers working for as many years as those in the private sector and most (but not the low paid) paying slightly higher contributions.

The Government is also protecting those who are near to retirement.

This proposed scheme is far, far more genrous than the vast majority of private sector workers have access to.

A quick comparison:

I contribute 10% of my gross income and on current projections (which are less ecure than a government pension scheme) expect this to provide a pension at the equivalent of about 23% of my career average salary.

In comparison a teacher on a similar career average income will contribute 9.6% of their income and end up receiving a pension of about 63% of that salary.

If any public sector employee thinks they are getting a raw deal from the Government I am more than happy to swap pension arrangements with them.