We Will Rock You! We Are the champions! Bohemian Rhapsody! These are just a few of Queen’s biggest hits and there’s hardly a living soul who doesn’t know them, let alone go crazy when initially heard. With the upcoming release of the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, hitting cinemas this month, it’s frankly the perfect occasion to dive into the band’s remarkable legacy.
There has never been another band like Queen, and there simply never will be. The music that its classic line-up of Freddie Mercury (vocals), Brian May (guitars), John Deacon (bass) and Roger Taylor (drums), produced was not only ahead of its time, but it was also extremely varied, as the band saw themselves experimenting with a range of styles, but never losing sight of the melody.
The band rose to international stardom with their 1975 album, A Night At The Opera, in particular the track, Bohemian Rhapsody. Coming in at 6 minutes, the song is a progressive-rock suite, consisting of various sections. What the lyrics exactly refer to has always been open to wide interpretation, with the band never officially disclosing the exact meaning. The song is innovative in the way it flows in and out of its many sections, enhanced by the fusion of layered guitar work and vocal harmonies. Instantly becoming a phenomenon, the song remained in the charts for 9 weeks, also selling over a million copies.
Following this hit, Queen produced a whole array of others such as: We Are the Champions, We Will Rock You, Don’t Stop Me Now and Another One Bites The Dust. It was in 1985 that they performed at Live Aid, for which they received spectacular praise, with their set being regarded as one of the greatest rock performances of all time, if not the greatest. Mercury’s own powerful sustained note during the a capella section has often been referred to as ‘the note heard around the world’.
The aftermath of their ground-breaking performance, gave way to another wave of hits like Under Pressure (ft. David Bowie), A Kind of Magic, I Want To Break Free, I Want It All and The Show Must Go On. The band’s last actual live performance with Mercury would be in 1986, even though the band would go on to record 2 more albums with him, before he died from a complication of AIDS in 1991.
Mercury as an artist and performer was arguably, indisputable. There was a flamboyance and remarkable charisma, as well as theatricality to his on-stage persona which merely elevated his operatic and sonic vocal technique. He could master crowds easily, and Brian May has said that he could make "the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel that he was connected". May’s own guitar playing and technique is undeniably innovative and unique, influencing generations of guitar players who have marvelled at his style and tone, as well as the fact that he has always used his own home-built guitar, referred to as the Red Special.
The legacy of Queen has endured for decades, with Brian May and Roger Taylor continuing to perform under the Queen banner, alongside vocalists like Paul Rodgers and more recently, Adam Lambert, with whom they have been touring consistently with since 2012. Queen are certainly going to be around for much longer, and with the upcoming release of Bohemian Rhapsody hitting cinemas on 24 October, it’s safe to say that he, and the music, shall live on, forever.