About a month ago, James and I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody. Seeing that movie (and Rami Malek!!!) reminded me how much I loved Queen. I’ve loved Queen since my early teens, but sometimes, one needs a little reminder.
Here's the thing about Queen: I really don't need to tell you how awesome they are. You already know. Because EVERYONE knows. Queen is a universal language. Queen is the only band I can think of that my ENTIRE family loves. I remember driving home from New Orleans with my dad (he flew down there to make the drive back to South Dakota with me after my three-month internship at the art museum ended), and during the 22+ hours we were in the car, Queen came up on my iPod (remember when we all had iPods and flip phones?). I found out then that Dad liked Queen, which was essentially life-changing. Five out of six family members (and the sixth has it on her to-do list) have seen Bohemian Rhapsody in the theatre, which is also pretty unheard of for us. I did some research for this story by asking them all what their favorite Queen song was, and the immediate response EVERY TIME was some variation of "how can I pick just one?"
So I didn't make them. After all, I picked ten.
James: Fat Bottomed Girls
Dad: Fat Bottomed Girls, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Somebody to Love
Mitch: Fat Bottomed Girls (are you noticing a theme here?), Somebody to Love
Mom: Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions
Darrah: Under Pressure
And here are mine.
An obvious choice, indeed. But “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not just a Queen song to me: it is THE Queen song. It was my first musical introduction to Queen. I wish I could remember the first time I heard it, but I know I was a young teen. This weird operatic masterpiece was EXACTLY my weird teenage style. Almost no one my age in my small Midwestern town was listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody”… except a couple of my friends and me. My friend Allison and I once spent part of a study hall attempting to write the entirety of the song backwards… and we could. In under five minutes, I believe. (Mind you, this was before you could easily Google lyrics, so we had to rely purely on our own memories to see if we were correct. We were.) Though I don’t listen to “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a terribly regular basis, I listened to it so much as a teen that I could probably STILL write most of it backwards. I’m going to try it later. I’ll let you know what happens.
Don’t Stop Me Now
The thing about Queen is that they continued to surprise me well into adulthood. For quite a long time, my musical knowledge of Queen was limited to what was often played on the radio stations and my copy of Classic Queen – one of the very first CDs I ever bought. While Classic Queen is a solid compilation, it’s missing some notable titles – in fact, only three songs on this list appear on Classic Queen (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Hammer to Fall,” and “Under Pressure”). I wasn’t a very good Queen fan, so I didn’t take a lot of time to explore their catalog in my younger days. The first time I heard “Don’t Stop Me Now” was in Shaun of the Dead. Yes, Shaun of the Dead. So every time I hear “Don’t Stop Me Now,” I picture zombies. And that’s ok with me.
Hammer to Fall
I actually forgot about “Hammer to Fall” for YEARS. As I mentioned, it was on my Classic Queen CD (which, if we’re being honest, I bought only for “Bohemian Rhapsody”). I remember being ok with it, but it was not a teenage favorite. I heard it again a few years ago in a store or on a commercial or somewhere kind of dumb, and I LOVED it. “Convinced our voices can’t be heard/We just wanna scream it louder and louder and louder” more or less sums up my existence. Brian May gets me.
Fat Bottomed Girls
Ok, I know this song is a little gross – and the only song I know of that contains the word “floozy” – but MY GOODNESS it is so catchy and bluesy and I can’t help but love it. And who has better basslines than Queen?
Somebody to Love
THIS SONG, YOU GUYS. Talk about pulling at my heartstrings. No one but Freddie Mercury could do this song justice. Those harmonies and the piano… goosebumps every time.
As you know, “Under Pressure” is actually a Queen and David Bowie song. If you recall from one of my earliest “ten favorite songs” lists, “Under Pressure” also appears in my list of ten favorite David Bowie songs. I’m bringing it up again. If you asked me to name my five favorite songs of all time, it would be a real struggle. It’s hard to choose five favorite songs – my favorite songs change from day to day. But there is one song that will always make that list, and it’s “Under Pressure.” Ever since the day I heard it. Queen and David Bowie are two of my all-time favorite performers, and what a match. The lyrics hit me right in the gut, especially when I feel like I’m under pressure myself. And can you think of a more iconic bassline? I can’t.
I Want to Break Free
I had no idea about this song’s music video scandal until I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, and that really solidified “I Want to Break Free”'s place on this list. The lyrics aren’t as solid as a lot of the other songs on this list, but the melody and Freddie’s emotive voice make up for it in spades.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
I am incredibly ashamed to admit this, but what else is this blog for if not to share my darkest secrets? Here it is: for most of my life, I thought this was originally a country song. SHAME ON ME. The early part of my life was spent listening to country (because that’s what my parents listened to, so obviously, I did to), and Dwight Yoakam covered this song in 1999. That was the first version I heard. I heard Queen’s version years later and just totally assumed the country song was the original because that’s the one I knew first. Great logic, I know. Thankfully, I now know the truth and love the song all the more for it.
Now I’m Here
Remember how I said I’m not the best Queen fan and still have some embarrassing gaps in my discography? Here’s an example. I had never really noticed “Now I’m Here” until I saw Bohemian Rhapsody and heard just a tiny snip. It's on the Greatest Hits album I talk about in the next post, but somehow slipped right past me - but after the movie, I listened to it in its entirety and was hooked. While this song has only been on my radar for about a month, I knew right away that it would be one of my Queen standards.
Yet another embarrassing gap: I had never heard “Save Me” until my brother bought me Queen’s Greatest Hits on vinyl for Christmas last year. “Save Me” has the power of “Somebody to Love,” but it’s easier on my emotions because the tune is a wee bit more upbeat. And like “Somebody to Love,” no one could do this song justice but Freddie Mercury. Then again, you could say that about every song ever. There’s no one like Freddie Mercury.
I have to tell you: narrowing this list down to ten songs was tough. “Killer Queen” and “Bicycle Race” were hot contenders, and “Radio Gaga” and “Keep Yourself Alive” are old favorites from my Classic Queen days. Ultimately, though, these are THE ten.
You will notice the absence of three of Queen’s best-known songs: “Another One Bites the Dust,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We Are the Champions.” While these are indeed great songs, I absolutely cannot separate them from their long-held association with sports. And sports? Not my thing. I was hearing these songs at various small town sporting events long before I had any idea they were Queen. I can’t even count the number of times I played sloppy versions of these songs for high school pep band. These songs will forever bring me back to hot and stinky gymnasiums, and for that, they can never rise above the rest to become my favorites.
Not to worry: there’s plenty of other Queen music to go around. I hope you’re listening to Queen right now.