Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Tribute To The Greatest, The Best, The Most Sadly Missed FREDDIE MERCURY, And QUEEN

"Mama Life Had Just Begun/But Now I've Gone And Thrown It All Away" So goes "Bohemian Rhapsody." I guess he was way closer to his Mama than sometimes I am although sometimes I'm very close to her. Songs about how much a boy or a girl hate their parents and want to kill them are stupid, trite, and childish nonsense yet you'll hear the Alice Cooper or AC/DC school of writing getting all the praise and I'm not saying those two write a million songs on that subject I just associate them with that kind of drivel. The best song having to do with obnoxious parents would have to also be a song by Queen written by Brian May, but song by Freddie "Tie Your Mother Down." Right now I'm disillusioned with my dad and in deep mistrust of my mother, but there will always be issues when people have been living with each other for what for me is now 36 years and there are disputes. The best song about never coming to terms with a family member is the most tragic, yet also the most poignant "The Living Years" by Mike And The Mechanics who are one of my favourite bands. Go ahead and knock me for it, bring up the kiddie chorus again- it worked brilliantly. Paul Carrack and the late Paul Young are/were/are two of the best ever which leads me to the topic at hand. The best singer we've ever had who also just so happened to be a genius as a writer was undoubtedly without question Freddie Mercury. It's here my story begins with "Mama Just Killed A Man" and "Bohemian Rhapsody"
       -The First Song I Ever Heard And I Want It To Be My Last: "Bohemian Rhapsody"-
   When I was born in 1976 Queen were at their height of popularity and the first song I ever heard was "Bohemian Rhapsody." I can, now 36 years later, never get enough of that song, never cease my amazement and what Freddie Mercury brought to us with all his heart and all his soul and passion. The line "Mama I Don't Wanna Die/I Sometimes Wish I'd Never Been Born At All" through all my miserable life has been MY LINE. That feeling of not wanting to be dead, but being horrified at your life and your situation. Basically, the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a kind of tragic/comical/serious/funny rock opera which is what Freddie Mercury's writing, what his stage presence, what his music is all about. Freddie later wrote the great song "Let Me Entertain You" and that's what he wanted to be- an entertainer. Alas, Freddie was a very tortured and self-lacerating person who deeply hated himself for all his life. I can't understand that. I can't understand how someone who brought so much joy to so many people and who seemed to really have a huge passion and love for what he was doing could have so much self-hatred. "Bohemian Rhapsody" if you listen to it reveals a little bit of what Freddie was suffering from. It's subtle to the point that you may take ages to realize it, but Mercury was essentially saying his life was a monstrosity and a comedy where he wasn't being laughed with he was terrified of being laughed at. Despite the dark nature of the song it is the first song I ever heard, maybe my most loved song ever, and I want it to be the last song I ever hear.
        -Going Back To That Horrible November In 1991: My Hero Died Of AIDS-
        Less than when I listen to Badfinger who now I find it hard to listen to, but still painfully when I hear Queen now it takes me back to when I first was a huge admirer of their music and struggling with my very closeted at that time homosexuality. I had just gotten big into Queen again in the same year that in that horrible November Mercury (born Ferup Bulsara) succumbed to AIDS. My first thought was I wanted to take a knife and carve up Sebastian Bach with it for his disgusting "AIDS Kills Fags Dead" T Shirt and I was feeling the hatred only a true homosexual or anyone who is attacked and then the blow gets worse can feel, but then the violent thoughts turned to sorrow. Here I was listening to early to mid Queen, loving their music, and ever since they'd released INNUENDO their last record I knew something was really wrong. Why were all the songs about death? That's what stuff like "Show Must Go On" is about. Freddie knew he was doomed long before his death. He had been in very poor health and was doing all he could to disguise it, but then he finally admitted it. He was going to die from this horrible illness and the next day he was dead. Now, if I hadn't been so young (I was 15 years old at the time) I would have known that something like "Who Wants To Live Forever" or "One Year Of Love" from even back in the 80s was hinting at the fact that life was fading from Mercury and that he was destroying himself, but the fact that it was AIDS he died from made me painfully aware of the illness. I was so scared, scared shitless, that I would hide my true identity and homosexuality for years afterwards. I never will be promiscuous and I can't help but feel that in some ways Freddie Mercury's rampant self-destructive and sexual urges brought him to his doom. In his most famous interview which he gave during the 1980s it is so sad, so hard to watch this genius, this hugely talented wonderful person be so down about himself, so self-mocking in a way that is anything but funny. I really had trouble going to school the day Freddie died. I was in a horrible place where education had flown out the window for hatred of children and I just couldn't handle it. I don't think I hardly said a thing the whole day. I still get horribly sad listening to someone who is no longer with us, but no one was a more devastating loss than Freddie Mercury. Thank God his music will live on forever. We all love you and we lost our soul the day we lost your life. Now only your music gives that fullness and richness of life back to us.
                      -Queen As Brief A Rave As I Can Make It For The Best Band Ever-
      Queen were/are the most intelligent, sophisticated, exciting, brilliant, extravagantly passionate band ever formed. Formed at The Royal College Of London they had way higher IQ levels than the losers and idiots who are Pink Floyd and if you want to dispute that it was Brian May who went on to a PHD in Astro Physics or something of the sort and most certainly NOT Roger Waters or David Gilmour. Queen came together in the line up that we know and love around late 1970 early 1971, but they would wait till 1973 before launching their first album and starting from the bottom to climb up. The first Queen record self titled doesn't impress me anywhere near as much as what would follow it. The ingredients are there, but Mercury's needlessly morbid "My Fairy King" or the boring heavy metal noise fest of "Son And Daughter" are downright nothing compared to the good stuff on the album of which there are several real standouts. My favourite song has always been "Liar" because it is the heaviest thing Queen ever did and sounds like Queen meets Led Zeppelin. Already the epic tendencies were flowing over with the shockingly dramatic "Great King Rat." Queen were never a glam rock band they were always far from that. As QUEEN II would prove Queen are heavy/progressive art rock with strong melodic pop brilliance thrown in. In the beginning their music was very much at its heaviest and hardest, but there was something very different going on. Unlike the boring macho posturings of later iconic metal singers like Bruce Dickinson Freddie Mercury had a lightness of touch, a subtle kind of soft/hard shading to his voice and his lyrical input which were at a stark contrast to his running around the stage with long black hair, black nail polish, and completely free and easy abandon. By QUEEN II Queen had gone from a band with some good ideas and some bad ones to practically flawless. Now how many other bands can do that? None. Are there any other hard/prog albums with pop know how that are as brilliant, as perfect, as exciting, and as rewarding as QUEEN II, the killer song "Killer Queen," the amazing 3rd record SHEER HEART ATTACT and all that would follow it in their 70s output? No. Queen I describe as "The Beatles Of The 70s" and maybe even that praise isn't praiseworthy enough. The 70s were a decade firmly in my mind owned by two bands for successful bands- Queen and a lot of what Yes would record. Both bands had the two most unique voices and lyricists/composers in rock Queen Freddie and Yes Jon Anderson. When Jon Anderson nearly died it was terrible. Thank Christ he came back from 3 close brushes with death and serious health issues. I've seen Anderson live twice. A great show both times. I saw perhaps the most underrated singer, although I'll admit he's really great at pop and not much of an out 'n out rocker, Colin Blunstone once, but my biggest regret is never getting to see Freddie Mercury when Queen were at the peak of their powers. I, however, saw a Queen tribute band two years ago right here in Princeton where the guy could sing almost as good as Freddie and it was both a joyful evening and heartbreaking as he included in his show a song that told more about Freddie than anything else and was released after he died: "Too Much Love Will Kill You." It was quite an emotional experience.
    Always great performers, by 1980 Queen had sadly run their course as an albums band. Maybe they'd had too high a peak with killer record after killer record, but their biggest flaw was to try and keep up with the changing times. Soon the most formless side of pop would come up with such banal and trite throwaway rubbish as "Don't Try Suicide" and "Body Language," but they still had a lot of great songs! "Hammer To Fall" is awesome. So is "One Vision," Mercury's solo shot "I Was Born To Love You," "Play The Game" which is just a wonderful slice of power pop, "The Miracle," "I Want It All," "Save Me," and many others including the previously mentioned sad as can be "One Year Of Love" and the funny kitschy David Bowie duet "Under Pressure," but Queen were no longer making great records. With most bands this really would have hurt them, but with Queen they had been so incredibly gifted and brilliant for the whole of the 1970s that it didn't matter at all.
   If you wanted an albums band there was Magnum- a band who showed strong influences of David Bowie, Yes, early Genesis, and especiall Queen before their more hard rock/pop rock AOR period where instead of falling flat on their face they were great. Queen inspired a lot of bands. A lot of the entire 80s metal/hard rock/power pop owed a whole lot more than its fair share to what Queen had accomplished.You even had a band who though as far from Queen musically as can be (they were at best a great Canadian melodic/hair metal/glam hard rock band) called themselves Brighton Rock most certainly I would guess because of the awesome Queen song. A band who spring to mind as the most creative band of the 80s vocally and arrangement wise and who showed some heavy Queen influences in their harmonies is Austria's best kept secret Opus.
People weren't just jealous of somebody as talented as Freddie, they were afraid of him. When the sickening Kansas opened for Queen it led to their stupid and talentless leader Steve Walsh gay bashing and Queen bashing not just because Queen blew them off the stage. Freddie's talent was always staggering, but so was what he stood for- "I'm Gay And Too Bad If You Hate It." This was at a time when homosexuality was still against the law in England and people's awareness of it and what it really means were at a pretty dismal low.
    An out of the closet homosexual is always going to have a hard time of it, but for Freddie Mercury it was even harder than it was for Rob Halford. Halford could get by without hating himself or going into fits of perfectionist-at-play-this-just-isn't-good-enough, but success had destroyed Freddie. A very private man and an outcast from birth considering his often persecuted Parsi birth and upbringing (The Parsis are a rare tribe who don't exist in large numbers and Freddie was born in Madagascar), Freddie couldn't handle success. Excessive sex binges were his woeful remedy and his death. The bigger Queen got the more Freddie hated being a pop star. He never had wanted that. In fact no one in Queen had wanted that. They had been all about the music from the start and to be one of the highest selling bands and a living legend back in the 1980s was a horrible amount of pressure on them.
     Queen hit their peak with A NIGHT AT THE OPERA to me. This album included wonderful songs from Brian May in the sentimental pop rock of "39" which dealt with WW2 in a space age fantasy, John Deacon who coined the lovingly sung by Freddie brilliance of "You're My Best Friend," and Brian May wrote the apocalyptic heavy metal opera of 'The Prophet's Song." Roger Taylor sang and contributed the quirky hard rocker "I'm In Love With My Car." Still, the lion's share of the material went to Freddie whether it was the ultimate put down/hate song "Death On Two Legs," the Music Hall inspired carefree pop of "Seaside Rendezvous" and "Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon," or his epic creative genius on "Bohemian Rhapsody." Mercury and Queen now went from a popular attraction to #1 multi-platinum status. Any other band probably would have cracked under the pressure of having made such a brilliant record, but Queen would do it again 3 more times. A DAY AT THE RACES isn't quite as exquisite as A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, but it's still one of the best records ever made and many of Queen's most brilliant songs that get overlooked such as "The Millionaire Waltz," "Long Away," and "You Take My Breath Away" are on this album. Then NEWS OF THE WORLD was Irony Of The World. Freddie Mercury wrote the two ultimate sports anthems as gay anthems! Now homophobes are stupid, but their chest beating while Freddie is positively out with his homosexuality in "We Are The Champions" and "We Will Rock You" is enough for me to break out into fits of laughter at them. NEWS OF THE WORLD is a really great one and it seemed when they made their last masterpiece JAZZ that there was no stopping them. And you know what, there still is no stopping them even with the tragic life and even more tragic fate of Freddie Mercury. He died without the love of true friends and never found true love in his life. That is the saddest part of all, but I will always love him and cherish him like he was my brother, like I actually knew him and there is definitely a feeling of intimacy when I listen to Queen and Freddie's music. Queen rock on! Be Gay! Be Proud Of It Too! It's The Good things that last and the bad things that are all gonna die.

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