On November 24, 1991 the rock world suffered two devastating losses: drummer Eric Carr from my favorite band KISS (more on this later), and the greatest frontman to ever step onstage, QUEEN vocalist Freddie Mercury. I still remember exactly what I was doing the morning I learned of Freddie’s passing. Quite simply I cried my eyes out. As a kid growing up in the 70’s QUEEN was everywhere. On the radio, and also on our television screens. Mind you this was before MTV, but the band had a knack for using videos to promote themselves. Plus the songs were always killer. Anyways, where am I going with this? Oh right, since today is an incredibly dark day for many of us, welcome to this edition of Classic Albums.
For this installment we’re going the unconventional route, much like Freddie his whole life, and I don’t think he’d want it any other way. Classic Queen was released in March of 1992, and quite frankly it didn’t leave my car for the better part of a year. I already had Greatest Hits, The Game, and News of the World (all gifted to me by the cool older neighbors I’ve mentioned before), and had listened to them many, many times, but this record hit me, and hard. Because Freddie was gone. As soon as the first line of “A Kind of Magic” hit I felt the lump in my throat almost immediately. This is followed by “Bohemian Rhapsody”, one of the greatest songs ever written. PERIOD. How could I not get emotional, right? Powerful stuff.
Brian May was master of the rock riff before seemingly anyone, and there will NEVER be another guitar player like him. Iconic rockers like “Hammer to Fall”, “I Want It All”, and “Stone Cold Crazy” on this disc fit perfectly alongside his beautiful playing on “I’m Going Slightly Mad”, “The Miracle,” and “One Year of Love”. On this song Freddie really pours his heart and soul out, and it still moves me to tears. I’m not sure I have the words to truly describe “Radio Gaga”. I remember first hearing/seeing it in ‘84 and being mesmerized. It’s a song that has transcended time, and seeing it performed at Live Aid (on TV) was the stuff of legend. The command Freddie had of that audience was unrivaled and they truly stole the show. I still get chills. And cry.
Despite the incorporation of synthesizers and other things, when you get right down to it QUEEN is a rock band first and foremost. “Tie Your Mother Down” remains one of my all-time favorites, and I can say the same for “Keep Yourself Alive” as well as “Headlong.” Hell, “One Vision” from the Iron Eagle soundtrack kicks ass and was a great opener for their A Kind of Magic Tour. On the softer side, “These Are the Days of Our Lives” is so beautiful that yep, you guessed it, it turns me into a blubbering mess. Lyrically and musically it is sheer perfection, and when Freddie gives us that final, “I still love you”, man…I lose it every time.
The album ends with a pair of songs befitting Freddie in “Who Wants to Live Forever” and “The Show Must Go On.” The former is from the Highlander soundtrack and the latter is a true testament to what Freddie was going through as he recorded it. The man was dying, could barely walk, yet he still went in and nailed his vocals like no one on this earth could ever do. I had the privilege of watching ELTON JOHN perform it live at Madison Square Garden in 1992 as a tribute to Freddie and it was gorgeous. Freddie Mercury was more than a singer, songwriter, and frontman. He was larger than life, and he has cast such a huge shadow and left such big shoes behind that no one, and I do mean NO ONE will ever fill that void.
I want to end by saying one thing. Bohemian Rhapsody the film was amazing. Rami Malek did such an awesome job of channeling Freddie that I know he is looking down from Rock and Roll Heaven and smiling. If he were here today he’d probably tell Rami, “Great work, darling.” If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do. And if you don’t get chills watching the Live Aid performance, welp, you’re beyond help. My dear sweet Freddie, I miss you every single day of my life. There never was, and there never will be anyone like you again. Thank you for the tremendous impact you had on so many lives while you were here, especially mine. You will forever live on in our hearts. Rest In Peace, Darling…
In Loving Memory of Freddie Mercury (5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991)