Monday, August 03, 2015

beelzebub has a blogging platform put aside for me

So there we were, the wife and I, all prepared to have an early night and watch something edifying on the TV, maybe something from our extensive DVD collection like Citizen Kane or The Seventh Seal or maybe the entire Three Colours trilogy. But, instead, we got caught up watching The Nation's Favourite Queen Song, like a high society couple on the way to a romantic dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant being lured into an alleyway by a syphilitic tramp waving a lukewarm KFC bargain bucket laced with crack.

Now obviously you'll have instant recall of my blog posts from eight years ago, so you'll recall this one wherein I cited Queen's A Day At The Races as one of the key albums of my formative years (i.e. my parents owned a copy). That album came out in 1976; my period of proper full-on Queenmania was a bit later and probably ran for two or three years between about 1983 and 1985. During that period I bought every album they'd released up to that point (yeah, even the Flash Gordon soundtrack). The Works was the only proper album that came out during that period and its major singles Radio Ga Ga and I Want To Break Free were probably the band's last great moments before the inevitable decline set in - One Vision and A Kind Of Magic are fine songs, but the accompanying album has a lot of fairly uninspiring filler off the Highlander soundtrack, and by the time of their next proper album The Miracle in 1989 I'd gone to university and had my head turned good and proper by the musical delights on offer.

Anyway, the point of mentioning this sort of TV show is always to bitch about the selections that were made, so here goes:
  • Firstly, there's far too much stuff from after A Kind Of Magic - my (possibly controversial) view is that pretty much everything after 1986 is best forgotten about, so 3 out of 20 from this period is too much, especially when two of them (The Show Must Go On and These Are The Days Of Our Lives) are clearly unavoidably associated with Freddie Mercury's death, and therefore immune from criticism.
  • I would have had Somebody To Love in my top three, or even two, or even possibly one. Number ten is definitely too low, anyway.
  • Christ knows what Who Wants To Live Forever is doing in this company; I can only assume this is another one that people have decided they like because the lyrical theme foreshadows Mercury's eventual death in some way, rather than because it's, y'know, any good. It's A Hard Life is a pretty ordinary song to be in a top 20 as well, especially at the expense of, say, Fat Bottomed Girls, which despite being toe-curlingly politically incorrect is irresistibly good fun.
  • Some minor quibbles about the order of other entries: I Want To Break Free being above Killer Queen is a bit of a nonsense, as is Under Pressure being above Another One Bites The Dust. Nice to see both entries from this list getting a look in, although to be honest Under Pressure is a bit of a horrible mess of a song. I've always thought Don't Stop Me Now was over-rated as well, but I think people like that whole I Will Survive/I Am What I Am slightly camp self-empowerment thing.
  • Since it was almost inevitable that Bohemian Rhapsody would be number one, the race was really to see what would make number two, and as it happens I think We Will Rock You is an excellent choice. The sparse instrumentation and brevity (just under two minutes) mean it's worn better over the years than some of the more overblown stuff. Obviously the magic bit is at the end, where we get a little whine of guitar drone through the last chorus, the big powerchord, and then an "all right" from Mercury as he hands the song over to Brian May's closing solo. Even the solo itself is interesting (guitar nerdery alert), since as well as being a little masterpiece of brevity it's an example of a different, cleaner, more chiming guitar sound May used on 1977's News Of The World and pretty much nowhere else. The criminally underrated minor single Spread Your Wings features a similar sound (and clearly had its video shot on the same day) as well as featuring the principal guitar solo right at the end of the song. By the next album (Don't Stop Me Now, for instance) we were back to the bigger, syrupy, chorus-y sound, as well as having the solo in the middle of the song. 
  • Speaking of things getting to number two, Queen are an interesting example of a group who had a lot of number 2 hits but precious few number 1's, during their main period, anyway. Between 1974 and 1984 they had five number 2's (Killer Queen, Somebody To Love, We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Radio Ga Ga), and two number 1's, Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure, and you could argue that's only one-and-a-half, really. A piece of associated trivia: Creedence Clearwater Revival had five number 2 hits on the US singles charts, but never a number 1, although Bad Moon Rising was number 1 in the UK in 1969.

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