Point/Counterpoint: Queen

Queen’s Greatest Hits, in Britain, has sold more than any other album in the history of music. Their front man, the late Freddie Mercury, has been elevated to sainthood in most countries around the world. Their hits will be played in stadiums at sporting events until the end of time, and the band just keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, thanks to a seemingly never ending reissue and compiling campaign by their label. So what makes them so good? Or, are they good? We’re going to let 2 guests to The Nightmare weigh in on this most canonized of rock bands. Introducing Todd and Sylvia, two constant readers of The Nightmare. One is squarely in the Queen camp (pun intended), the other, well, not so much. Have at it, guys!–Your Uncle E

Sylvia: Well this is going to be short. Queen, in a word, sucks.

Todd: I hope you can back that up, dear, as history has more than proven that Queen were, indeed, historically important but more than that they remain The Peoples Band of choice. Over the Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, or any other “the” band you’d care to mention. Critics aside, Queen’s early records are universally recognized as the masterpieces they are, and even the later, more controversial one’s are getting readdressed and reappraised. Have at me Syl!

S: Yes, the majority of music lovers around the world seem to have some sort of allegiance to this pompous, bloated band, but then again, the majority of ‘music lovers’ (note I put this in quotes this time) around the world are idiots. They are slaves to their sweet tooth, my friend. And candy, as we all know, is bad for you if consumed on a regular basis. It gives you canker sores, rots your teeth, gives you a nasty case of diarrhea and makes you feel pretty shitty about yourself after you consume it. This is how I feel each and every time I hear Bohemian Rhapsody.

T: That there missive was a little too visual for me. Sure, I can admit that some Queen ‘hits’ are a little saccharine, but what’s wrong with that? Name me an artist or a band that doesn’t have more than a few sickly sweet tunes in their repertoire and I’ll buy you a Prius for your birthday next February. IT’S POP MUSIC FER CHRIST’S SAKE!!

S: Pop music can be smart, though. The thing with Queen is that they took their shit so seriously. They had no sense of humor about what they were doing; it was all very deadly business to that bunch. Multi tracking so much that you could see through the tape, songs about sitting in the lap of the gods, wizards and…Jesus, I can’t believe I’m typing these words…a song about the destruction of Atlantis. Pure, unadulterated drivel. Crap.

T: What song is about Atlantis?

S: May’s The Prophet’s Song, off A Night At The Opera. Makes Mercury’s Bohemian Crapsody sound like a Buddy Holly number.

T: That’s not about Atlantis. Here, take a gander at the lyrics, you misguided fool:

Oh oh people of the earth!
‘Listen to the warning’ the prophet he said
For soon the cold of night will fall
Summoned by your own hand

Ah ah children of the land
Quicken to the new life take my hand
Fly and find the new green bough
Return like the white dove

He told of death as a bone white haze
Taking the lost and the unloved babe
Late too late all the wretches run
These kings of beasts now counting their days

It’s obviously a metaphor. How the hell do you live your life so literally?

S: Ok. A metaphor for what?

T: War. Duh.

S: Moving on…so what about the poorly executed disco excursions from the late ‘70’s and into the early ‘80’s?

T: Wait, hold on a minute. You’ve just decided to gloss over the fact that they pioneered thrash metal (Sheer Heart Attack, Stone Cold Crazy), have influenced everyone from The Flaming Lips to Elton John to Vampire Weekend, and…all right, let’s talk disco or, as I like to call it, The Funk.

S. Tomato Tomauto, I say penis you say pennis. Whatever.

T: I’m gonna start off with a bold statement: Hot Space was a brilliant album.

S: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa? And the Flash Gordon soundtrack was as brilliant as the one from Bladerunner, yes? Give me a break.

T: The Flash Gordon OST is underrated, but I won’t go there. No, Queen started with the funk as early as ‘77’s News Of The World. Get Down Make Love (covered by one of your favorites, Nine Inch Nails, who’s a big fan), Fight From The Inside and All Dead All Dead all have a futuristic mutant funk feel about them, and Jazz has it’s fair share as well. But it wasn’t until The Game and, ultimately, Hot Space that the funk element overtook the operatic element with Queen. Still Queen, just a different Queen.

S: Wasn’t May’s All Dead All Dead about his cat?

T: Yup.

S: How deep. Anyway, whatever stylistic direction Queen went it makes no never mind to me, it’s still just all a load of bollocks. The disco direction was the worst of the worst. It was like cracking an egg and finding a half formed embryo inside. Know what I mean. Todd, was this the era where bassist John Deacon (or, Deacon John, as he was known on the 1st LP) wore those short shorts and had the white afro thang goin’ on?

T: Again, the visuals…Yes, this is where all that stuff started. Hot Space had its share of filler and, yes, it was mostly filled with dance tunes, but I will tell you right now, especially with this whole ‘80’s revival going on right now, it is one Queen album that sounds very, very modern at the moment. And Body Language? A friggin’ classic.

S: This is going to be easy. Here, have some Hot Space lyrics, pal:

BODY LANGUAGE

Yeah sexy body sexy sexy body
I want your body
Baby you’re hot

 

COOL CAT

‘Cause you’re a cool cat
Tapping on the toe with a new hat
Ooh just cruising
Driving along like the swing king
Feeling the beat of my heart huh!
Feeling the beat of my heart

Ooh you’re a cool cat
Coming on strong with all the chit chat
Ooh you’re alright
Hanging out and stealing all the limelight
Ooh messing with the beat of my heart yeah!

 ‘Nuff said?

T: The album’s about the groove. Yes, the songs were the sort you’d hear in a gay disco circa 1981, but so what? Listen to any Pet Shop Boys cd’s lately? Good is good.

S: And crap is crap.

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