Lazy Luddite Log

22.12.11

Queen Sized

My favourite band is Queen. These days that favour is a somewhat dormant one. I listen to a lot of different stuff and find most other things (whatever the age) fresher than Queen. This is hardly surprising given that I devoured the fifteen Queen studio albums in my young adulthood (including the posthumously produced Made In Heaven in 1995). Still my interest is regularly revived and recently a documentary on the ABC (These Are The Days Of Our Lives) has provoked a re-visiting of my collection.

I was always a dag and never had a favourite band like all the cool kids. Imagine then my excitement at discovering one round the age of 18. So exciting! I knew a number of Queen songs but had never known they were all by the same musicians – they were all so different. It is amusing to think that because now I can instantly detect the unique characteristics of Queen songs whatever genre they may be messing with in a particular song. The vocal of Freddie Mercury is (like all vocals) unique while the guitar resonance and playing of Brian May is incredibly distinctive. And they compliment one another – warm and round and ringing.

It was a blow to me back in 1991 to have discovered this band (at the time of its last album) to then have the vocalist die as a result of HIV. It was all over except I had two decades of back-catalogue to explore. And explore I did – all those layered guitar arrangements and vocal harmony. Also the wandering bass of John Deacon and the alternately skittering or smashing drums of Roger Taylor. Also the lush piano. Also the stamping and clapping. And then there were the themes of love and life and randomly getting employed to make scores for science fiction and fantasy films.

Naturally as a self-described “fan” I had to also consume band biographies. The story of some British youths who formed a band and went from on-campus gigs to stadium concerts was fun to follow. The process by which albums and songs are written was likewise interesting. The personal stuff however was the most fascinating and naturally it focuses most of Farrokh Bulsara (Freddie Mercury).

Somehow I had overlooked the ethnic Indian origin of Freddie. And apparently many others round the world overlooked his bisexuality despite his overtly camp stage persona. It is amazing how we can compartmentalize our perceptions of the world. I have even had conversations with Queen fans of the more bogan sort wanting to say nothing of the sexuality of its vocalist. And in some ways I do think it is fine to separate the art from the artist but I also think this was homophobia. Did they think they would get queer germs via the stereo?

Still in many other cases familiarity breeds respect and I think the fact this band of mixed sexuality got on with the job of producing music that inspired millions has done something to relax prejudices. It may be a pity that such inadvertent advocacy is needed. On the other hand everything that promotes a more accepting world is worthwhile.

I have moved on somewhat from my fanaticism partly because there is only so much life force one can suck from a finite back-catalogue. Queen is frequently bombastic while I have been drawn to gentler and more introspective stuff. Also Queen is polished while I have gotten into more gritty rootsy music. I suppose as life is lived one wishes music to reflect its many facets more accurately and one band can only ever do so much. Still Queen keeps the accolade of my favourite band and I have the t-shirt to prove it.

Cross-posted here.

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