The year was 1979. A pre-adolescent boy who was collecting his first records discovered a mail-order music club. Offering 14 LP’s for a penny as their introductory hook was too good to pass up. When the records arrived I opened up the albums with great anticipation.
I was always eclectic in my tastes for music. There was Waylon Jennings, Aerosmith, Jackson 5, and Queen among the selections. The record with the biggest impact was Queen Live Killers, a gatefold 2 LP package with a collage of full color images from their European and North American Tour in support of their Jazz record.
There on full display was Freddie Mercury in tight black PVC pants and jacket (shiny like leather) with his jacket open to reveal a bare chest. Unknown to me at the time was the cabaret style he was doing. This was a new image for him in 1978/9.
All I know is the first time I saw an image of Freddie Mercury was a poster from their ‘Opera’ Tour. His penchant for stripping onstage thrilled me to no end. Onstage in candy stripe shorts and red suspenders with the band’s logo in the center of the poster. My eyes popped out of my head like a cartoon wolf.
Although years later I heard how much the band disliked the mix of the record I felt strongly it was a great representation of their live sound. I loved how they played a medley of hits too.
I was taken aback by how different the songs sounded in a live setting. Nothing like the studio engineered layers of over dubs or multi-tracked vocals.
Except for a brief spell following the release of their bio-picture, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I have never lost interest in them. That brief interlude was caused by too many kids finding them based on their parent’s tastes. Hey, that’s life!
For many years it was hard to find any Queen memorabilia in the states. I know this sounds crazy to the listeners of today. There are websites. Obviously there is the Queen Online Store which always has a great selection of Queen everything.
Back in the 1980s in America after their popularity fell away we had record stores and rock t shirt stores. Freddie Mercury’s most dramatic transformation into gay clone in 1980 was not appreciated by a largely straight audience.
Despite the huge success of The Game in ’80, the band ended their decade long relationship with Elektra records. The label released a Greatest Hits album in 1981. At the time it felt like rock fans were putting Queen out to pasture. Their Elektra years were ending.
‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by bassist John Deacon borrowed heavily from Chic. Becoming the best-selling single in Elektra’s history it topped The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, which gave the band an idea that funk rock was gaining traction in America.
The fact that Queen were in Munich, Germany enjoying the nightlife a bit too much influenced the next platter a lot. Freddie Mercury without stating it officially was out to anyone with two eyes, especially if you were gay.
What happened next was a mix of bad timing and trends that would exile Queen from the USA until well after Mercury’s death in 1991. In fact when he died I remember a news anchor stating there was bad news for fans of Queens. Queens? That was how out of touch our media were with Mercury’s death.
Rolling Stone magazine was never particularly kind to Queen. Freddie’s Obit was a single page in an issue with Michael Jackson on the cover. He was not an American star. I felt that kept the band’s mystique intact.
‘Hot Space’ was the final record owed to Elektra. The band never conformed to what their label wanted especially when it came to album covers. The label’s demand for a band photo was ignored for years. Greatest Hits has a portrait of the band taken by Lord Snowden. It has become an iconic image. The label got their wish granted by contractual obligation.
Freddie Mercury had a brief friendship with Michael Jackson. Mr. Jackson was a huge Queen fan. He was the impetous for releasing ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ as a single. Queen had a #1 hit with it. The new direction was clear for at least Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.
Freddie and John developed a friendship over the years based upon a mutual love for Motown music. The divide in Queen was clear. Brian loved heavy guitar driven music. Roger was into Punk then New Wave. Swaying him into drum techniques outside of traditional rock was done.
In the early days when they were in college the members of Queen were united in their dreams of rock stardom. As they grew in stature with the the rock audience experimenting with different sounds became a reality. Roger Taylor’s ‘Fun It’ was funky and danceable. This song in particular made me think it was not such a big deal for the band to express more of a funk beat in 1982.
Freddie’s single, ‘Bicycle Race’ actually incorporated rap within the track. Both songs were on Jazz. That title was a huge deal. A band that mixed every musical element in its music now titled a record for a specific genre. However, being the academically minded nerds that they were the name also meant calling the collection by a moniker that had many facets to it. Like the name Queen itself.
Change is inevitable. Every band faces it. Fortunately for Queen they were a big band by the time they grew out of their excessive 1970s persona. They could not be pigeonholed. Freddie Mercury never believed in doing anything by half-measure. He took every idea to its maximum. This attitude created amazing songs and music videos. The latter would compound their loss of popularity in America.
As a gay kid Queen were my idols. I bought every album as they were released starting with the #1 Game record. The video for the song, ‘Play The Game’, revealed a cropped haircut and mustache for the first time. I loved it. American fans hated it.
When ‘Hot Space’ came there was no doubt in the band’s new look and direction. Funk, dance, and disco were now emphasized. Even Brian May’s guitar was absent on some tracks, most notably the single ‘Body Language’ by Freddie Mercury. Pushing sexual boundaries the explicit video got banned by MTV. The sales dropped from the prior ‘Game’ LP and the tour proved to be the last in America with Freddie and John.
Throughout the 1980s I knew it was uncool to love Queen. I could understand why they lost their mojo with America. Homophobia was rampant. Conservatism was in power. New Wave and Heavy Metal dominated. Pop music developed new icons Madonna, Prince, and Duran Duran. Queen were the past, a relic of the 1970s. Despite releasing more records that hit #1 throughout the world, the USA would never allow them back into the Top 10. From Hot Space, ‘Body Language’ was the highest charting single in the US at #11.
Everywhere else in the world Queen kept selling records and tours. This was painful to me because I knew I missed my only chance to see them in concert with Freddie and John.
Back tracking here. In the 1970s I was a kid. Every Sunday I read the Times’ Arts section. There were ads for Broadway shows, movies, and rock concerts. I noticed that Queen played the Garden practically every year.
Then one fateful day following the debut of ‘Hot Space’ the Arts section had a full page ad for QUEEN Live In Concert with Special Guest Billy Squier at Madison Square Garden! Their faces appeared across the page in the Warhol—inspired, Freddie designed graphics of the album.
I begged my parents to let me go see them. Nobody would take me. Back in the early 80’s tickets were like $12! Still in that time parents were not keen on their kids’ love of rock music. I have never gotten over the disappointment of missing this tour.
The opener was Billy Squier! I still love his music. Back in 1982 I was mental for both Squier and Queen. In the 1970s, Thin Lizzy, Styx, and Journey opened for Queen.
It proved to be their last here until Paul Rodgers joined them decades later in the naughts.
America ignored A Kind Of Magic and The Miracle. Both albums were enormous sellers around the globe even hitting # 1 in several countries like the UK, Japan, France, New Zealand, Australia, and Netherlands. The Magic Tour of 1986 became a record called Live Magic. The Tour and record followed Live Aid in 1985.
‘Magic’ was also partly the soundtrack for the fantasy film “Highlander”. Like “Flash Gordon” before it loved by Queen fans, loathed by others. The American sitcom “The Goldbergs” actually did an episode that featured Highlander and one of its stars, Clancy Brown who was now a regular on the series.
I never lost my love for music, especially Queen. They were misfits. Remaining so throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The critics never really appreciated them. Only after the death of Freddie Mercury from bronchial pneumonia brought on by HIV/AIDS in November 1991 had the press expressed any love for him. Freddie was a Jimi Hendrix fan. He understood how much an artist’s value increases upon death. He lived life his way. A true rocker.
Being a gay kid in the 70s was amazing and scary. There were so many great looking boys. And the hippie 60’s had a lot of left over guys who sported long-hair. And going shirtless was part of street style. And rock stars were no exception.
Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones, Roger Daltrey of The Who, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and every other frontman have appeared shirtless on stage. Then along came South African born Freddie Mercury! He took the image to a completely different level. He performed a striptease!
Loving Queen was difficult. I had my first rock music tee featuring the band from 1977. Wearing it to camp one day I got called a faggot. The group had become stigmatized by straight kids who hated Mercury’s effeminate posturing. The rock press had a field day with his sexual escapades. The worst magazine coverage for any artist I have ever seen was Creem, a rock rag from the 1970s and ’80s.
They did a story on Queen that was not a story. It was just the magazine hating Freddie and Queen. Anti—gay comments filled their coverage. Truly shocking to me.
Queen made their only appearance on American TV live on SNL’s Season Premiere with Host Chevy Chase. He hosted remotely from LA as a joke. Today this would be protocol. Danny DeVito introduced Queen. Performing 2 songs: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” a #1 hit in America and “Under Pressure”. Freddie’s voice was in the low register only. Years later I read he was recovering from a cold when the band appeared on the show. This was not a good time for them.
Back to their transformation from 1970s glam to 1980s pop. Following the commercial failure of Hot Space which still went Gold in America, the band signed to Capitol Records in North America. They even recorded for the first time in Los Angeles. ‘The Works’ album featured all the trademarks of their sound with Brian’s guitar blaring and Roger’s drums more upfront. Then another music video did them more cultural harm.
John Deacon’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ was made into a video that parodied the British soap opera Coronation Street. It featured the band in drag! Not Freddie’s idea. In the USA once again MTV banned them. Momentum killed.
Although the album was a return to form with hard rockers like Brian May’s ‘Hammer To Fall’ the top ten eluded them in America. Roger’s anthem ‘Radio GaGa’ peaked outside the top ten stalling at #16.
I still believe Queen were ignored. Punished for Freddie’s unapologetic gay image. Other British bands from the 1970s did not suffer this fate—Genesis released pop music—Pink Floyd went pop—and The Who also went pop. Rolling Stones released a cover of the song ‘Harlem Shuffle’ which was totally their worst.
Why was Queen singled out? Strong expressions of gay sexuality were taboo in the states. Despite being multi–faceted Queen had only the one face in America. Flamboyant is code for gay. Liberace had the straight audience believing what they wanted to believe. Freddie did not suffer fools.
I went to Giants Stadium to see Pink Floyd, Genesis , The Who, and Rolling Stones on separate tours during the ’80’s. Their music was not very good at the time. It was crazy to me that Queen did not tour here. My theory was that Freddie’s HIV status prevented them from playing here. Sad but true.
In my teenage years I knew many people who were either indifferent to my love of their music or could not get into it. And a lot of the time gay people fit their stereotype with a love for disposable pop or dance tracks. I can tell you the Hot Space CD was on a jukebox in a gay bar.
The Queen album most likely to be on any jukebox was Greatest Hits. Unfortunate since I always thought they had great songs that were never going to be hits. No doubt about the high number of singles/hits in their catalog. Later in this blog post I have listed my all–time favourite Queen songs.
Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and Twisted Sisted were all influenced by Queen. The lead vocalists of those groups wore even more make-up than Freddie! Yet since they were hard rock/metal Americans accepted them. The make-up bands of the period were largely from America. Paradoxically this is also when the biggest make-up band ever, KISS, took their make-up off!
Unknown at the time that Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) and Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) were in the crowd that saw Queen open for Mott the Hoople at New York’s Uris theater on Broadway, it makes perfect sense.
Until the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley stadium few Americans understood just how much Queen had influenced the heavy bands of the 80’s. The line-up featured England’s Def Leppard, America’s Guns N Roses and Extreme alongside Elton John, George Michael, and David Bowie. Eclectic to the end Queen also invited Freddie’s main influence, Liza Minnelli to the proceedings. He got so much ridicule from the press for loving Liza as well as Hendrix.
I believe today that Queen got into my marrow, my DNA because their image and music were original. Upsetting the status quo was part of their appeal. Decades after his death the film of his life was a blockbuster. He kept the mystique. Proving that no other rock performer could rival him, Queen became paragons of rock music. Today their legacy has grown in leaps and bounds.
Taking them into my heart has kept me alive too. Queen have a few explicit anti—suicide songs. Mercury admitted in his final days that the image he worked so hard to build became somewhat of a monster to his personal life. Becoming less active, meeting a man named Jim Hutton who became his partner until the end was his ultimate goal.
For the first time since reading several biographies about Freddie I understand why ‘Somebody To Love’ was a personal favorite. Love is what we all need to survive. Take a listen to the many tortured love ballads he wrote and performed. His delivery is genuine. That’s also why it touched me so deeply.
I think it’s why I met my beloved husband Brian. I love him more than anything. He has made my life the best possible. Our mutual love of music with great singers has created a bond.
Here for the first time I have compiled my list of personal favourite Queen tracks. B-Sides and rarities are not included here. They are taken from the 15 studio albums released from 1973—1995.
My Favourite Queen songs of all-time
- My Fairy King by Freddie Mercury on Queen
- Great King Rat by Freddie Mercury on Queen
- Liar by Freddie Mercury on Queen
- Nevermore by Freddie Mercury on II
- The Fairy—Feller’s Master Stroke by Freddie Mercury on II
- Ogre Battle by Freddie Mercury on II
- The March of the Black Queen by Freddie Mercury on II
- Seven Seas Of Rhye by Freddie Mercury on II
- Doing Alright by Brian May & Tim Staffell on Queen
- Lily of the Valley by Freddie Mercury on II
- Now I’m Here by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
- Brighton Rock by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
- Killer Queen by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
- Bring Back That Leroy Brown by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
- Stone Cold Crazy by Mercury, Deacon, Taylor, & May on Sheer Heart Attack
- Flick of the Wrist by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
- Misfire by John Deacon on Sheer Heart Attack
- Bohemian Rhapsody by Freddie Mercury on A Night At The Opera
- ‘39 by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
- The Prophet’s Song by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
- You’re My Best Friend by John Deacon on A Night At The Opera
- The Millionaire Waltz by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
- White Man by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
- You and I by John Deacon on A Day At The Races
- We Will Rock You by Brian May on News Of The World
- We Are The Champions by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
- Sheer Heart Attack by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
- Fight From The Inside by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
- Spread Your Wings by John Deacon on News Of The World
- It’s Late by Brian May on News Of The World
- My Melancholy Blues by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
- Jealousy by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
- In Only Seven Days by John Deacon on Jazz
- Dead On Time by Brian May on Jazz
- Dreamer’s Ball by Brian May on Jazz
- Don’t Stop Me Now by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
- Dragon Attack by Brian May on The Game
- Play The Game by Freddie Mercury on The Game
- Rock It (Prime Jive) by Roger Taylor on The Game
- Don’t Try Suicide by Freddie Mercury on The Game
- Another One Bites The Dust by John Deacon on The Game
- Flash by Brian May on Flash Gordon soundtrack
- The Hero by Freddie Mercury on Flash Gordon soundtrack
- Football Fight by Freddie Mercury (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
- Battle Theme by Brian May (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
- Staying Power by Freddie Mercury on Hot Space
- Dancer by Brian May on Hot Space
- Back Chat by John Deacon on Hot Space
- Action This Day by Roger Taylor on Hot Space
- Put Out The Fire by Brian May on Hot Space
- Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie on Hot Space
- Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) by Brian May on Hot Space
- Machines (or Back To Humans) by Brian May & Roger Taylor on The Works
- Radio GaGa by Roger Taylor on The Works
- Keep Passing The Open Windows by Freddie Mercury on The Works
- I Want To Break Free by John Deacon on The Works
- Hammer To Fall by Brian May on The Works
- Is This The World We Created…? by Brian May & Freddie Mercury on The Works
- Man On The Prowl by Freddie Mercury on The Works
- One Vision by Queen on A Kind Of Magic
- A Kind Of Magic by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
- One Year Of Love by John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
- Pain Is So Close To Pleasure by John Deacon & Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
- Friends Wil Be Friends by Freddie Mercury & John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
- Don’t Lose Your Head by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
- Princes Of The Universe by Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
- Breakthru by Queen on The Miracle
- The Invisible Man by Queen on The Miracle
- Rain Must Fall by Queen on The Miracle
- Scandal by Queen on The Miracle
- Was It All Worth It by Queen on The Miracle
- Innuendo by Queen on Innuendo
- I’m Going Slightly Mad by Queen on Innuendo
- I Can’t Live With You by Queen on Innuendo
- Ride The Wild Wind by Queen on Innuendo
- The Show Must Go On by Queen on Innuendo
In 1995 Queen released Made In Heaven which re-worked some of Freddie’s songs from his solo debut Mr. Bad Guy. The record featured Mercury’s final songs. “A Winter’s Tale” was his last composition. The lyrics described Montreaux, Switzerland in his final days. The list of my all-time Queen songs continues below with the band’s posthumous release.
- Mother Love by Freddie Mercury & Brian May on Made In Heaven —This was the last track he recorded.
- A Winter’s Tale by Freddie Mercury on Made In Heaven
Queen Retired—Legacy Grew
My least favorite Queen album, Made in Heaven, was followed by years of inactivity. Then in America TV commercials began licensing their hits. LA Gear used We Will Rock You; Diet Coke used I Want To Break Free; Mountain Dew used Bohemian Rhapsody even copying the now iconic promo clip. These are just a few examples.
From 2004—2009 Queen added Paul Rodgers of Bad Company to their line-up. He was one of Freddie’s favorite singers. In the 1960’s he fronted Free. In the 1980’s he fronted The Firm with Led Zep’s Jimmy Page.
The Queen+Paul Rodgers tours would return Queen to North America for the first time in 20 years! I never missed a show in New York. However, this line-up never played The Garden.
American Idol, a talent search reality series would enable a meeting that was pure fate. Adam Lambert, an American youth who was also out auditioned by singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Queen are his favorite group. Idol invited Brian May and Roger Taylor to perform with the show’s 3 finalists for its season finale. Adam came in second but in my opinion he really won.
Eventually Queen would announce touring with Adam Lambert fronting the group. It was made explicit that he would never replace Freddie Mercury. For the past decade now known as Queen+Adam Lambert touring the globe again.
And this line-up brought Queen back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since Hot Space! The setlist celebrated the band’s live at the Rainbow concert in support of Sheer Heart Attack. They opened with II’s ‘Procession’ and Sheer Heart Attack’s ‘Now I’m Here’.
Adam Lambert has released new solo records while touring with Queen. He sang ‘Believe’ at the Kennedy Center Honors bringing Cher to tears!
His presence on stage is truly a sight to behold. Bringing back the flamboyance of Mercury without mimicking his moves. Adam’s voice is his own unique stamp. He can sing any Queen tune. He has a new album out now called Velvet.
The shows proved so successful that Queen returned to celebrate their News of the World album next time around. Complete with Frank the Robot in full mascot mode. Opening their shows with ‘We Will Rock You’ like they did in 1977. Brian May performed his solo against a backdrop of stars fitting for an astrophysicist.
Their current tour is centered around the global success of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” which tells Freddie’s story. Albeit with a completely incorrect timeline of events to create a cohesive cinema narrative.
In Freddie’s brilliant words it has been no bed of roses for Queen. For 20 years, 1971—1991, they reigned with the same line—up of 4 creative songwriters with extremely different personalities. Fans felt proud of their achievements.
Then the untimely death of Mercury from AIDS in November 1991. Queen ended. I always thought they could continue if the right elements fell into place.
Elton John performed with them during a final concert as Queen. Mr. John sang ‘The Show Must Go On”. He encouraged Brian and Roger to find a way. He said of their catalog of hits: ‘it must be like having a Rolls-Royce in the garage that you cannot drive anymore.”
Having them back today means so much to me. I want Queen to go on forever…
In my lifetime I have not played another artists music as often as Queen. They have rescued me many times with their life affirming works.
I have many other favourite music groups: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Judas Priest, Styx, and Elton John.
The Queen sound is unique and original. Their music is not rock nor disco nor black nor white. It’s Queen music.
The Queen catalog has sold over 300 million records worldwide. They are tied with The Allman Brothers Band at #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of Best Artists.
In England Queen Greatest Hits is the top selling record in British music history. Greatest Hits II is #10.
The Queen studio album catalog seen below does not include The Cosmos Rocks. That album featured Paul Rodgers.
Today the world is quite different then the early 1970’s. The band’s legacy has become it’s own cottage industry. The Queen Online website is updated every day. The Online Store has a line of goods that any fan would enjoy.
The Royal Mint in the U.K. has issued Queen coins in sterling; The Royal Mail will issue Queen stamps on July 9th, 2020 featuring 8 album covers including The Game and News Of The World and a set of 4 concert images from their world tours plus a proper band portrait as seen below.
Queen become the third British band to receive this honour following The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
Queen have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted into the songwriters hall of fame and most recently were given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” became the highest grossing bio picture of all–time. Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.
The film won a Golden Globe for Best Picture.
On YouTube Queen+Adam Lambert released a new version of their classic “We Are The Champions” called “You Are The Champions” to help raise funds for Covid—19 relief workers via The World Health Organization and U.N.
Drummer and Vocalist Roger Taylor’s daughter appears in the video. She is a nurse!
To see this mobile phone created clip click here: https://youtu.be/7LcLqIHzNkY
This Fall two new books will be published: Neal Preston’s Queen photos from their Tours and The Treasures of Queen.
2021 marks the group’s 50th Anniversary.
Don’t stop them now!
Thank you for reading my blog! To all my new readers, Welcome!
More Queen band features to come. Next week I will continue my posts featuring my photography.
Stay well! Wear a mask.