FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Queen’s “A Night at the Opera”

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I have been listening to Queen ever since I can remember hearing things. The short drives to our swim practice in the summer were accompanied musically by some Queen album my mother had lying in the car. The one in particular I can recall as having stuck with me at the most susceptible time in my life was A Night at the Opera. I am sure this is the case for most people hearing Queen for the first time, as this album contains the one and only, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Many a Waynes World-esque sing along has been partaken in on my end, and I’m sure as you’re reading this, you’re recalling similar drunken nights at a party or a bar. When the first harmonizing vocals come on, you can’t help but stop whatever the hell you’re doing and shut up for a second. You then continue to butcher the song into oblivion.

Their 1975 fourth studio effort was, and is, their most prominent album in their catelogue as a band, debuting at #1 in the UK and #4 in the USA. It also took the name from a Marx Brothers film of the same name, which I as a Marx Brothers fan was ecstatic to find out about a few years ago. Additionally, the album was the most expensive one made at that time. Besides “Bohemian Rhapsody”, A Night at the Opera saw the release of other infamous hits such as, “You’re My Best Friend”, a pop ballad now featured on car commercials, and “Death on Two Legs”. The latter was one of those “F-you” songs written about the ex-manager who screws you over, which has been disputed by said manager in a tell all book, and then re-disputed by the band members. Personally, I see it as a great breakup song or if you were wrongly fired for some reason, as I always was when I was younger. At least in my eyes.

Queen isn’t just all about Freddie Mercurys’ amazing showmanship and crazy vocal range, which in itself is something to write about. But also, lends a chance for the other band members to showcase their talents. Brian May is undoubtedly one of the greatest guitar players in existence, and a modern day wizard. He also is a brilliant songwriter, as he penned some of my favorite songs on the album, including the sci-fi guitar ditty “’39” and the multi-layered, Biblical-influenced epic, “The Prophet’s Song”. Their drummer, Roger Taylor, was keen on writing high-energy hits from behind the kit, including “I’m In Love With My Car”. There’s no real theme to the album, and there doesn’t need to be one. Every song on it’s own has the classic Queen sound, with the multi-tracked harmonizing and inclusion of random instruments that blend perfectly with the song.

Queen continued to make classic albums and even went on to write the soundtrack for the movies Flash Gordon and Highlander, in all of their campy goodness, which Queen was perfect for. The death of Freddie Mercury in 1991 brought a break in Queens’ stride. They put together a benefit concert for Mercury in 1992, which independently accounted for some well-known performances by extraordinary artists like David Bowie, Robert Plant, Elton John, and many more. Their tongue-in-cheek attitude towards music will stand the test of time, as they continue to influence modern days artists, even inspiring some to take their stage name from songs (Lady Gaga, from “Radio Ga Ga”). A Night at the Opera is a definite milestone in the music world and and opened my eyes to other artists before and after them, but I always come back to Queen.

Here is Queen performing a medley of “Killer Queen” (a track on their previous album) and “I’m In Love With My Car” in Montreal in 1981.

 

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