My love affair with Queen started pretty late, only a few years ago. I wasn’t oblivious to their existence because like every other teenager who was into good music, one of my first initiations to western music was..
Is this the real life? Is this just a fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.
Bohemian Rhapsody, from the 1975 album A Night At The Opera was ..quirky. It was so different than the rock ballads and R&B of my time (the 90s), that it was brilliant. Iconic even, because when it was played for the very first time in 1975 the radio announcer said (this is a crazy long song, about 6 minutes) “Forget it, it could be half an hour long, it’s going to be number one for centuries!” … and well, he was right. This song had so much history to it, it was practically a teenage rite of passage to greater music.
Then came the WWE favorite, We Will Rock You.. of course, which kid grew up without these chants? Admittedly, we did grow up with slightly R-rated version of those lyrics.. Oops.
Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playing in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got mud on your face
You big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place
WE WILL WE WILL… ROCK YOU!
Such fond school time and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson memories. However, outside of Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You, for reasons I do not know, I never really got into Queen… mainly because I didn’t listen to anything else. Such blasphemy!
This changed a few years ago, in the strangest of ways.
A few years ago, I stopped writing as frequently on my earlier blog. It looked like I was simply too busy to write anything anymore but really I had simply found another medium to express myself through creative writing – fanfiction. Since I still write (anonymously), without giving out too much info, I started this brand new foray with the one thing I was the biggest fan of – Harry Potter. Rather than the Golden Trio (the main characters), I was always very intrigued by the Marauders. One of the things I tend to do while writing about characters that are based in a different time and era than my own millennial generation, I end up extensively researching the most mundane things from the past – what was cool and fashionable? what would they wear? what are they listening to? what are they influenced by? which historically major events would they most likely be affected by?
Almost unanimously, writers of the Marauders-era fanfiction agreed that there was no way the boys were not the biggest Queen worshippers and Freddie Mercury fans of all time. And THAT, crazily enough, is how I ended up, on a random late night from work, with what remains my favorite and most played Queen song to this day.
There goes my baby.. she knows how to rock n’ roll
She drives me crazy.. she gives me hot and cold fever
Then she leaves me in a cool cool sweat
This is a who I am – I listen to one magic song, I am hooked, so utterly obsessed, I end up listening to EVERYTHING. The quintessential 80’s rock n’ roll number from the album The Game, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, was my magic song. It was love at the very first note.
If I had to list every single Queen song that has a special place in my heart, I would point to what was the biggest rock concert of its time. Live Aid in 1985, featuring among others Led Zeppelin, U2, Black Sabbath, Sting, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, The Who, Eric Clapton and Dire Straits. And what is now referred to “20 Minutes That Changed Music”. A 72,000+ strong audience (holy mother of god what?!?!) at Wembley Stadium (top of my concert stadium wishlists), and a band that everyone thought was history. Queen had a great run in the 70s but this was the middle of the 80s. This was definitely not one of the top bands at the show, and this was not a Queen audience… but Freddie abso-fuckin’-lutely SLAYED it.
Every time I watch this video, the feeling is the same. I would give ANYTHING to be an audience at that show… not a single waving cell phone in sight, no cameras, no autotune, no crazy pyrotechnics, no back up choreography.. just an incredibly talented band and an enthralled audience that is witnessing history being made. Summarized in a documentary made years later by artists present at the show, “..through the back stage area, of all the stars, you have the unspoken feeling.. they’re doing it. They’re stealing the show.”
Queen crammed a full blown concert in those twenty minutes – Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga (Yes, Lady Gaga is named after this song), Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions and Is This The World We Created…? Every single one of the two billion people who watched concert telecasted live, and the people in the audience at this gig 30+ years ago, were testament to why millions of people continue to be influenced, and love Queen to this day.
Whenever I listen to Queen, I wish Freddie hadn’t passed away so young, that the world would have had his brilliance for some more time, a few more songs. Freddie was flamboyant and outrageous (something probably best illustrated by the music video of I Want To Break Free, another of my favorites), so out of the closet that it was fresh new inspiration for the entire late 70s – early 80s drag scene. Unfortunately like every other rock star, there came the string of one night stands and drugs .. it was a tragedy waiting to happen. Sometime just before or after that Live Aid concert, Freddie contracted HIV, and was eventually one of the most high profile celebrities to die of AIDS-related pneumonia.
I remember when I saw the video of the 1991 song These Are The Days Of Our Lives, his last recording, his last goodbye and I was blown away by how gaunt and decimated he looked. He looked nothing like the Freddie from those early years, but he was a true performer through the very last frame. He was suffering and in immense pain, and yet he said about the recording of the vocals for the song, “the show must go on”. In the very last seconds of the video, he looks straight into the camera and quietly whispers, ‘I still love you..”. His last words on camera, moved so many fans to tears with their honesty and simplicity. Freddie died just six months after the video was shot. 🙁
I doubt if my love for Queen, and this brilliant music from a decade before I was even born, will ever wane. Their music influences my writing, it takes me back to a time that is so different from my own, and yet feels like.. home.