At Christmastime in 1992 I was 19 years old and felt like I was on top of the world. I was in the best shape of my life thanks to Basic Training with the United States Army, I loved my part time job at Sears in the Mens Department, and I had the most wonderful girlfriend a guy could ask for. She was kind, loving, compassionate, hotter than the sun, and sexy as hell. And for some reason she picked THIS nimrod to be with. Riiight? Anyway, where am I going with this? Oh yeah, that Christmas Eve she showed up to my house with a truckload of gifts, and each one was something from one of my favorite bands. And when I got to QUEEN Live at Wembley ‘86 I did friggin’ cartwheels!! So with that in mind let’s do some Classic Albums Live!!
I won’t challenge anyone else’s QUEEN fandom, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was/still is in as awe of Freddie Mercury as not only a singer, but also a frontman as this guy right here. From the time I was a wee one in the 70’s and saw the News of the World album cover I had to know everything I could about this glorious band. I also tried in vain to steal some of his stage moves. One thing I learned watching Live Aid in 1985 was that onstage they were simply untouchable. So having this masterpiece double disc concert recording was pure gold to me. My girl wasn’t out the door two minutes and I was already racing upstairs (may or may not have tripped) to dub a copy for the car’s tape deck!!
Opening with “One Vision” and then moving right into my all-time favorite number “Tie Your Mother Down” it was clear that the band (Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor) were truly on a mission. And that mission was to shut everyone the fuck up about, “Is QUEEN done? Are they breaking up? Do they still have it?” As if Live Aid wasn’t proof positive that this group could wipe the floor with anyone who wanted to take them on. But okay, doubters. Let’s do not one, but TWO nights at a packed Wembley Stadium! By the way, this live version of “Tie Your Mother Down” is still the best they’ve ever done.
Over the course of nearly two hours we are treated to rousing renditions of so many classics that it’s impossible to go through them one by one. But I will tell you this: in early January 1993 I had an idea for one of my two-cassette megamixes, and I used a LOT of these songs there. “Tear It Up” is such a killer guitar rock song that I had to use it, and who doesn’t love this awesome version of “I Want to Break Free”, right? So many of these tunes blow their studio counterparts out of the water, simply because the energy coming from the band could power a city grid for a month. I drove everywhere listening to these songs and I sang at the top of my lungs, too!
“Hammer to Fall” is another one of my favorite QUEEN tracks on this disc, with May finding the ultimate riff to anchor the song. Plus, you can really hear Taylor singing his heart out on the back-ups for this one. Oh, and when the guitar solos come, watch the fuck out! The Hollywood ending on this one fucking rules by the way followed by Mercury’s, “Give it to me one more time!” From here we go right into “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” introduced by Freddie saying, “This shitty guitar never plays the chords I want it to play. It only knows three chords, but let’s see what happens.” And we’re off! Seriously, if you don’t love this song, this version in particular, then fuck your face!
Another absolute killer live number shows up with “Radio Ga Ga”. I can remember when this one premiered on a Thursday night in 1984 on MTV. I was enthralled then, I was enthralled listening to this rendition at 19, and I still am to this very day. And yis, I still do the double hand clap, then hold my arms out no matter where I am. What, you don’t? Liar. I can also remember hearing this performance of “We Will Rock You” into “Friends Will Be Friends” into “We Are the Champions” and just marveling at how this band could be so electrifying as they close a show. This is QUEEN at the peak of their powers, and every second of this record shows it.
When I was 19 life was pretty cool. But it got a lot cooler when Live At Wembley ‘86 entered my world. QUEEN had long been one of my favorite bands on the planet, and this record only helped to further solidify that love. Plus, look at that cover, Freddie Mercury with an entire stadium in the palm of his hand. There are no words. The many memories I have attached to this live set are way more than what I’ve mentioned here. And they are memories I will carry with me forever. Everytime I hear these songs I can only smile as I think back to that amazing, thoughtful girlfriend of mine and the night she gave me the greatest Christmas gift ever…a timeless concert that will forever reside in Classic Albums Live. Happy New Year, everyone! ~dc
In Loving Memory of Freddie Mercury (5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991)