Band of the Week (Week 6) – Queen

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 | By | Add a Comment


The year was 1986.

Chicago Bears beat NE Patriots in Super Bowl XX, 46-10 in New Orleans,

John Lennon: Live in NYC” album was released,

Prince Charles married Diana, Princess of Wales.

Oh, and on July 8th I was born.

But in the summer of 1986 my all time favourite band Queen went on their final tour with Freddie Mercury. A sold-out tour in support of A Kind of Magic, the tour’s highlight was at Wembley Stadium in London (which resulted in the live double album, Queen at Wembley, released on CD and as a live concert DVD which has gone five times platinum in the US and four times platinum in the UK). Queen could not book Wembley for a third night but they did play at Knebworth Park. The show sold out within two hours and over 120,000 fans packed the park for what was Queen’s final live performance with Mercury. Queen began the tour at the Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm, Sweden and during the tour the band performed a concert at Slane Castle, Ireland in front of an audience of 95,000 which broke the venue’s attendance record. The band also played behind the Iron Curtain when they performed to a crowd of 80,000 at the Népstadion in Budapest in what was one of the biggest rock concerts ever held in Eastern Europe. More than one million people saw Queen on the tour: 400,000 in the United Kingdom alone, a record at the time.

I was 5 years old when Freddie died but I remember the day I found out he was dead. I was (shamefully) 10 years old. Having the cassettes on in my bedroom and in my dad’s Vauxhall Cavalier, I didn’t realise that I was enjoying the sound of a dead man. On 24th November 1996, YTV showed a documentary about Freddie’s life and his sad demise. It was then I leant he was Indian (please remember I was young) and I was shocked as he looked and sounded like me. I feel uncomfortable stating that now. How narrow-minded but then again I was 10.

Over the years I have bought all of Queens albums and most of Freddie’s solo work. I have countless books and have trawled the Internet for weeks and months. Even now I’m finding things I didn’t know. Did you know that before Queen, during the days of Smile, Brian May had a gangrenous infection in his arm and very nearly had to have it amputated? Imagine a world without Queen; no ‘We Will Rock You’ at every party; no ‘We Are The Champions’ at most football grounds; no amazing Highlander sound track.

Bohemian Rhapsody, written in 1975 by Freddie, isn’t my favourite song but it’s the one that comes to mind when I hear Queen simply because I respect it. They took risks with it. Half rock, half opera. If someone suggested it to me now, if I hadn’t heard it, I’d tell them where to go.

At 5m 55s long this was a very long song for radio consumption. Queen’s manager at the time, John Reid, played it to another artist he managed, none other than Elton John, who promptly declared: “are you mad? You’ll never get that on the radio!”

According to Brian May record company management kept pleading with the group to cut the single down but Freddie Mercury refused. It got a big bump when Mercury’s friend Kenny Everett played it on his Capital Radio broadcast before the song was released courtesy of a copy Mercury gave him. This helped the single jump to #1 in the UK shortly after it was released. It remained there for 9 weeks. When Freddie died it went back to #1 for a further 5 weeks.

This song got a whole new audience when it was used in the 1992 movie Wayne’s World starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. They didn’t ask for permission to use it however, and Mike Myers received a call from Brian May. Fearing a law suit Myers tried to dodge the call but Brian May was calling him to thank him for using it. How British is that? As a result of the movie, it was re-released as a single in the US and charted at #2.

For these reasons I can only assume that, had Freddie not sadly passed away, Queen would still be rocking together today. I have only scratched the surface of my undying love and respect for Queen. I could write about them for hours, but I won’t because I’m only the bassist.

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