This week he reflects on the one and only Queen (the band, rather than the monarch).
Watching the excellent two-part documentary on Queen to mark the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s passing, something struck me about one of rock’s most successful outfits.
For Queen were essentially two bands in one. Guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor were the rock duo while bassist John Deacon and Mercury were musicians whose influences were more poppy and funky.
In the early days, Queen were very much a rock band, evidenced by the famous 1975 concert from the Hammersmith Odeon which was shown immediately after the documentary’s final instalment.
Their self-titled first two albums, Sheer Heart Attack and even the groundbreaking Night At The Opera and its follow-up Day At The Races could quite clearly be bracketed in the rock genre.
But within seven years of that Christmas Eve gig, they had released Hot Space, an album which had more in common with Kool And The Gang or even Michael Jackson than anything they wrote in their formative years.
Taylor made it quite clear he despised the disco-influenced Hot Space, preferring the heavier sound of their first four or five albums and significantly when May and he reformed the band with Paul Rodgers on vocals earlier this millennium, the vast majority of songs they chose to play live were of the rock mould.
It would be foolish, naive and indeed wrong to castigate Queen for reinventing themselves even if there were mistakes along the way.
Songs like Radio Ga Ga and I Want To Break Free are classics in their own right even if they are as far removed from Brighton Rock, Death On Two Legs or Now I”m Here as it is possible to be.
But then again, did Queen ever release a bad single? Probably not. From the operatic Killer Queen to the rock and roll of Crazy Little Thing Called Love to the kaleidescopic genius of Bohemian Rhapsody right through to my own personal fave Innuendo, the fab four achieved something very few musicians even get close to.
For their popularity was all-embracing, uniting rock and pop fans, young and old, men and women and even those with barely any interest in music.
It’s no surprise therefore that Queen’s Greatest Hits I and II are among the biggest-selling albums in the history of music.
Yet Queen were not an outstanding albums band. Even their finest releases include some filler material while albums such as The Works, News Of The World and The Miracle are hugely forgettable outputs of work without the singles on them.
Queen will go down in history as one of the best live acts ever to strut a stage, Mercury rivals Plant and Rodgers as the finest frontman in rock while the musical We Will Rock You has ensured the band’s music will continue to enchant the generations.
Ask me to name my top 100 songs of all-time and it’s a fair bet at least three Queen tracks would be included (Innuendo, Now I’m Here and Don’t Stop Me Now). But much as I like the band, only Night At the Opera would have a chance of making my top 100 albums.