Name a more iconic band than Queen. We’ll wait…
Now, all jokes aside, of course there are many incredible musicians and artists in this world - dead or alive, jazz or rock, pop or R&B. However, there are some artists whose music and legacy is so far reaching that it is important to recognise the imprint they have left on the music industry, and Queen can definitely claim their spot amongst these elite musicians!
Rockers in Disguise
We’ve all seen that phenomenal video. Think Ena Sharples, scrubbing stubborn hot-pot from Friday-night dishes. Think Deirdre Barlow, rollers in, hoovering the carpet with some 20 years’ worth of cigarette-butt-burns, and looking all too glam for it.
Whilst the cobbled streets of Salford may be a niche reference to the UK market, the “I Want To Break Free” music video, which features all Queen band members dressed in drag, took the western world by storm (well, most of it). Although it was incredibly well received in most parts, the video was rather narrow-mindedly banned in North America, meaning that the song only went to number 45 in the US charts compared to top 10 across Europe and South America.
Whilst we wholly celebrate Mrs Mercury, the video was not the sole reason that we included the song in our Drums grade 1 syllabus! This classic track was first released in 1984 on Queen’s eleventh studio album, The Works. The album spent 94 weeks in the UK Albums Chart, the longest of any Queen record, and “I Want To Break Free” reached number 3 in the UK singles charts.
There are many theories surrounding the meaning of the song: love and relationships, breaking free from a materialistic world, escaping repetition and routine. Other theories suggest a nod towards Mercury’s sexuality, though it was bassist, John Deacon, who wrote the song. Freddie Mercury became known for bending the gender binary and pushing social boundaries in relation to sexuality, in both his lifestyle and performance.
Unfortunately, the ‘70s was a difficult time for the LGBTQIA+ community, but whilst he wasn’t able to ‘come out’, even in death, he became a queer icon who has undoubtedly inspired future generations.
MTV Before It Was Cool
From one acclaimed video to the next, it would be impossible to write about Queen without a mention of the unparalleled classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Who can forget the image of those four faces, curiously lit from below, hairstyles like a time-stamp taking centre stage.
Rolling Stone stated that the influence of the 1975 video “cannot be overstated, practically inventing the music video seven years before MTV went on the air”. It was Bohemian Rhapsody that helped to cement the video as a music marketing tool, and aren’t we grateful for it! According to Queen guitarist Brian May, the video was only created to avoid an awkwardly difficult mime on Top Of The Pops, although we’d argue that this would have been extraordinarily entertaining to watch!
So, this brings us to the end of this week’s Artists in Focus. Another One Bites The Dust, however, The Show Must Go On, so we will be back next time, feeling Under Pressure to make sure that each week We Will Rock You with more musings about some of our favourite artists. (Yes, I Want To Break Free from these puns!).