Freddie

Paloma was already tired of hearing me voice the obvious during the opening ceremony of these London Summer Olympics. She finally cracked as we watched the closing ceremony.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s too bad Freddy Mercury isn’t alive for this, but we didn’t kill him.”

“It would have been epic,” I added to my lament.

Sure, it would have been epic if John Lennon and George Harrison were still alive and The Beatles had been around to perform, but it would have been epic simply because it was The Beatles.

But, if you want someone to work a room of several billion globally, Freddie Mercury doing what he did backed by his bandmates in Queen would have been well worth the price of admission.

The first thing I remember of Queen was News Of The World which was released when I was nine. Friends at school were twitterpated over We Will Rock/We Are The Champions.

(twenty minutes later, the former was already a staple at sporting events)

There was also an animated commercial for the album that I seem to recall seeing regularly.

I wasn’t into music and the commercial, featuring the robot from the album cover creeped me out.

I was just beginning to develop an interest in music when The Game spawned the mammoth hits Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites The Dust several years later.

And when Hot Space landed with a thud in 1982, music had become an obsession and America – for the most part – had lost interest in Queen.

That was the same year I joined the Columbia Record & Tape Club and one of those dozen cassettes I received for that lone penny was Queen’s Greatest Hits.

I doubt that I knew even half of the cassette’s fourteen songs.

I don’t think I even knew Bohemian Rhapsody.

Out of that initial Columbia House haul, it was Queen Greatest Hits and The Best Of Blondie that I played until the tape stretched.

I had my first Walkman in 1984 when the band released The Works. I endured a family trek into Cincinnati early that spring, purchased a copy of The Works and – fulfilling my obligations as a sullen teenager – spent the trip listening to it.

Throughout high school, most of my friends were fans of Queen. Even though we were enamored with the New Wave and alternative rock of the time and the band’s ’80s output didn’t get the attention in the States that it received in the rest of the world, we remained devoted.

And, judging by the response in Olympic Stadium when Freddie Mercury finally did make an appearance, I wasn’t alone in wishing he had actually been there.

Queen might not have produced as much of their classic music during the decade, but here are four of their songs that I enjoyed in the ’80s…

Queen – Flash’s Theme
from Flash Gordon soundtrack (1980)

There seemed to be a lot of hullabaloo about the movie Flash Gordon prior to its release. At least I seem to recall it getting a lot of attention on the talk shows that would be on after school. I didn’t see it then, but I did later catch bits of the campy flick on cable.

Apparently Queen’s theme just missed the Top 40 in the US, but I don’t think I ever heard the song on the radio. But it was one of my favorites from that greatest hits collection. It’s pure adrenaline.

(and my friends and I were greatly amused by the dialogue in the song from a movie we didn’t see)

Queen with David Bowie – Under Pressure
from Hot Space (1982)

Under Pressure is gloriously brilliant.

At the end of 1981, perhaps over Christmas break, I had liberated a small, tabletop radio from my dad’s basement workspace. During that winter, I’d go to sleep most nights with it on and I’d often hear Under Pressure.

It sounded ominous to me and yet it drew me in.

It stood out from most everything else I was hearing.

I recognized the song as a future classic.

(and somehow only reached #29 in the US)

Queen – Radio Ga Ga
(Live Aid) (1985)

Queen’s performance at Live Aid received kudos. I got to see a few hours of Live Aid as it happened, but Queen performed before the US concert began, so I missed the epicness.

I know a lot of my friends hated Radio Ga Ga, but I dug it.

Yeah, the baby talk in the chorus seemed lazy, but the song was wistful and grand. Radio was beginning to matter less to me during those winter months in 1984 when Radio Ga Ga was getting airplay.

We didn’t have MTV, yet, so it wasn’t the visual medium snuffing out radio for me. Instead, I was spending more time listening to the music I was buying as often as I had cash and access.

Queen – I Want It All
from The Miracle (1989)

I purchased a pirated cassette of The Miracle from a street market in Thailand and was summarily disappointed.

I had heard I Want It All before I’d left the States and loved it. It was full of bravado and showcasing Brian May guitar heroics and the simple, anthemic chorus immediately lodged into the brain.

I’ve never gone back and revisited The Miracle, but I Want It All still commands my attention.

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One Response to Freddie

  1. Not a huge Queen fan but I saw their free show in Hyde Park after their Bohemian record had earned them more money than the Pope rakes in at Christmas and Easter put together. Only crowds I have ever been in since that day close to that size are the ones that show up on the beaches of Vancouver to see the free fireworks displays every summer. The blood running in the first aid tent at the (sort of) hippy event taught me all I ever would need to know about the violent culture that is the English’s. From that moment on I never took my well being for granted until I returned to my snowy homeland.

    Of the roughly 2000 rock shows I have seen in my life I would have to rank it near number two thousand. (Steve Hillage was alright.) Right down there with the time I saw Aerosmith in the late ’70s, then so messed up they only managed to play together for the the length of the first song. Still was a good day however. How can’t a young man have fun when in the company of perhaps as many as half a million violent English people?

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