Queen 50th Anniversary pt 2- Brian May, Roger Taylor

Continuing our celebration of the first Queen album release fifty years ago, I just realized that  I have been causing “brown-outs” and frying tweeters from Hartford to Memphis to Dallas/ Ft. Worth by playing Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down” on the radio from A Day at the Races …and without the foggiest first notion of what the blasted song is about. Crotch rock wasn’t invented by Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, to be sure, but nobody incorporated the best aspects of Glam Rock with Hard Rock better than Queen.

By the time the credits roll concluding the four-time Oscar winning Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, a casual music fan might assume that the royal rockers’ career must have peaked with that July 1985 Live Aid London benefit concert performance which climaxes the film. In fact, the story portrayed in Bohemian Rhapsody  is only the first volume of the five decade Queen saga whose final chapter is being writ large in real time even today with Queen + Adam Lambert North American Tour. Queen’s A Day at the Races  came barely a year after their crowning achievement fourth album,”…an unapologetic sequel to A Night at the Opera , the 1975 breakthrough which established Queen as rock royalty. The band never attempts to hide that…” notes Stephen Thomas Erlewine on AllMusic.com . And why would they? Both albums had titles borrowed from classic Marx Brothers comedy films. However, A Day at the Races found the members of Queen bowing to no man, and that included sovereign rule in the studio without star producer Roy Thomas Baker for the first time, resulting in the raging rocker “Tie Your Mother Down” and the timeless singalong “Somebody to Love”.With the October 1977 release of News of the World, London-based Queen moved into the upper echelons of international rock bands with arena-filling (soon to be stadium-sized) anthems “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. But my guest, Queen guitarist/composer Brian May, reminds us that News of the World also contains “Spread Your Wings”,”Get Down, Make Love”, and the under-appreciated mini-opera “It’s Late” as well. With  News of the World, Queen had succeeded as four real “mates” on an international scale, which  would continue only to increase for the next decade. With four writers and vocalists, the band had a surplus of strong songs, while Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury possessed such an operatic voice that it’s easy to forget that both Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor also sang lead on select songs.

Funny how “Bohemian Rhapsody” and its accompanying album, A Night at the Opera, stands so firmly in our collective memory, but in fact it was The Game  five years later that crowned Queen #1 worldwide. It was precisely because of the balance of hits “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Another One Bites the Dust”, and “Play the Game” with the blistering album track “Dragon Attack”, “Rock It”, and the sleeper “Save Me”. Redbeard interviewing Brian May in the early Nineties.

One of the biggest sub-plots completely absent from the multiple Academy Award-winning film Bohemian Rhapsody is how, in the Eighties, Queen became one of the most popular bands in the world in the mid-Eighties…everywhere, it seems, except America.

“Yeah, well, we were definitely frustrated about this country. It’s very hard,” guitarist Brian May admitted to me, “because America is the place where we felt that we grew up and became a band. And there was a point where we had it all there, and it gradually trickled away. So it was very frustrating for us here, yeah.”- Redbeard