Queen were brilliant – at one time the best and biggest band in the world. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to scoff at Queen. The NME infamously ran a scathing interview with Freddie Mercury in 1977 at the height of punk, exclaiming “Is this man a prat?” And for all the spite in the article, they had a point.
- The utter lack of fashion sense among at least three out of the four band members, and then there was whatever Freddie Mercury decided to wear.
- Pompous pseudo-Jimmy Page riffs and bizarre operatic vocal harmonies.
- Bonkers lyrics – “She’s a Killer Queen, Gunpowder, Gelatine, Dynamite with a laser beam” … what was she going to do, blow me up with some jelly?
I was introduced to Queen when I was 7 by my Dad, who bought A Night at The Opera around the time Bohemian Rhapsody went to No.1 for about 4 months. It was an oddly decorated gatefold sleeve with ornate script and even more ornate lyrics.
It’s the perfect Queen album, covering all their bases from hard rock (that Bohemian Rhapsody riff, Sweet Lady), gorgeous love songs (Love of my Life, You’re My Best Friend), quirky genre-busters (Seaside Rendezvous, Good Company) and cod-opera (The Prophet’s Song, Bohemian Rhapsody, Death on Two Legs), I was hooked by the musicality, the skill and vision, the sheer unapologetic energy of it all. And in the end, I wasn’t the only one.
Noone sings like Freddie Mercury. The only half-decent attempt at a Queen song was George Michael’s performance at the FM Tribute concert, and that was a straight-up imitation with the orginal band and a choir of backing singers. Queen created a unique sound that was based around Brian May’s homemade guitar and Mercury’s flamboyant style. Oh, and they were bloody good musicians.
Their live shows were amazing. The Live Killers album from their pomp at the end of the 1970s is still my favourite live album by any band. They paved the way for countless stadium bands to follow their lead, and their 20 minutes at Live Aid still lives long in the memory. They played to 150,000 in Hyde Park in 1976, and for 10 years commanded the largest concert audiences all over the world.
And all over the world, noone could lead an audience like Freddie Mercury.