Top 100 Hard Rock Groups
By James West, The-Rocker.com
(Dedicated to my sister-in-law Carol Caywood)
Let’s tackle this right out of the gate- I don’t care if you are gay, straight, sideways, upside down or flip-floppin’, as long as you can ROCK you are a ROCKER to me! But, take this back a little. Queen was formed in 1970 and their first album came out in 1973. I was 10 years old and I really didn’t know what “gay” meant. I just figured folks like Freddie Mercury, Elton John, and Rob Halford could sing
in an “opera-type” style in addition to singing ballads and out-n-out rockers. Sure, they were a bit “flamboyant” in the way they dressed and delivered the goods, but I just figured it was all part of the show business of music to make themselves stand out from others. And to be honest I thought it was pretty kick-ass! I mean, would you rather watch and listen to a guy like Bob Dylan in his whiny little voice and a personality like a rock, or would you rather actually ROCK and be entertained by a guy who could sing in any octave he chose while prancing around in leotards? Freddie may not have written Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, but I’ll be happy to take Bohemian Rhapsody any day of the week!.
Queen at Live Aid 1985
Let’s head back to 1975; A Night At The Opera was the third album I ever purchased after Toys In The Attic by Aerosmith and Give Us A Wink by Sweet. Down on the end of my street in Dardanelle, Arkansas, lived a cool kid we all called “little Joe” because A: He was super cool and popular, and B: Bonanza was big on TV at the time. Little Joe was also the lucky little bastard who also owned a copy of
Montrose- Montrose, so every kid on the block would go over to his house to listen to it with him. Little Joe also for some reason liked to light matches and fart on them to become some sort of “flame-thrower” for whatever reason, but I digress…
I decided to take A Night At The Opera over to get his approval on it and Little Joe was blown away by it; so much so that he offered to let me “borrow” Montrose for “a couple of days” so he could enjoy Opera a little more. I was in high heaven, because he never let anyone borrow Montrose from him.
So for the next few days I was crankin’ Bad Motor Scooter while he was crankin’ I’m In Love With My Car. Well, after three freakin’ weeks I finally had to demand my Queen back. I got it back alright, but there were scratches all over it and it friggin’ skipped during “Prophet’s Song”, probably my favorite track on the album next to “Death On Two Legs”! Needless to say, Mr. Flamethrower never got to borrow any of my albums again, no matter how popular the little bastard was!
All Hail The Queen of Tanzania!
First and foremost there’s Freddie Mercury. Singer-songwriter Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946, in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Just think about that for a second. Tanza-Fu**ing-Nia? Have you ever even met someone from Tanzania? It’s not New York, It’s not Paris, It’s not even Dardanelle, Arkansas. For someone to come from out of the depths like that to become a household name is a feat in itself!
Imagine the dedication and drive he must have displayed in order to even stand out among the starving artists in Zanzibar. He studied piano in boarding school in India and befriended numerous musicians at London's Ealing College of Art before meeting his Queen bandmates in London in 1970.
I remember seeing the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video for the first time and being amazed at how different they were from every other band out there. The way Freddie COMMANDED the stage and held the audience CAPTIVE was astounding! I even felt back then that he would eventually RULE the ranks of the new age of Rock vocalists!
Enter The Astrophysicist Dr. May!
As much as Freddie was the presence of Queen, it was Brian May’s unique and wonderful guitar orchestration that set them apart from every rock band out at the time and even today for that matter. To me he ranks right up there with Hendrix, Clapton and Van Halen for his virtuosity and vision with the instrument. Without May’s sublime tone and unique layers of sound Queen would simply not be.
May was awarded a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London in 2007 and was Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University from 2008 to 2013. He was a "science team collaborator" with NASA's New Horizons Pluto mission. He is also a co-founder of the awareness campaign, Asteroid Day. Asteroid 52665 Brianmay was named after him. Basically, the guy is the smartest nerd on the planet to rock with a guitar... that, of course, he also made from scratch!
The Quadruple Queen Punch didn't stop there! Add Roger Taylor’s innovative drumming skills and John Deacon’s flirty bass lines to the mix and you had a quartet of sound that rivaled even the best from Zeppelin, Sabbath and Purple. And I haven't even mentioned those beautiful, layered vocals! Just check out "Prophet's Song" from Opera. Queen's vocals and production were Simply Mesmerizing!
Variety is the Spice of Rock!
The beauty of Queen was you never knew what you were going to get with each song either! They always kept you on your toes and your eardrums salivating; Death On Two Legs followed by Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon? Are you kidding me? But it worked magnificently, and we ate it up and wanted more. There was always an appetite for the diverse and unique menu that Queen brought to the table. For my own
musical experience, I learned that I could not only like heavy riff-rockers like Stone Cold Crazy, but also softer fare like You Take My Breath Away, to even odd selections like Mustapha and Another One Bites The Dust. Queen simply delivered the most diversity in their albums than any other band had ever offered, and the same is true of their catalog today. Their originality has never been rivaled or compromised.
My favorite Queen albums are News Of The World, Sheer Heart Attack, A Night At The Opera, and The Game. But they are all champions to me; even clunkers like The Works has killer tracks like Tear It Up on it, so they are all worth investing in your time. My favorite Queen songs are Death On Two Legs, Dragon Attack, and We Will Rock You. With Queen, I also made my own specific CD’s with one being filled with all the
rockers and one being filled with a mixed bag of gems ranging from Bring Back Leroy Brown to All Dead All Dead to Teo Torriatte.
A Rainbow in all its Brilliance
Mercury died of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia on November 24, 1991, at age 45, and Rock has not been the same since. You can’t blame his bandmates for continuing on to deliver the music of Queen to a new generation of fans who weren’t fortunate enough to enjoy them like I did in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I told myself, “why go see Queen without Freddie?” But like any of my other favorite Rock Bands Queen was truly a sum of all its parts, and sometimes, it’s still better to witness a rainbow in all it’s brilliance without necessarily having to see the pot of gold that helped make it shine so brightly.
Rockers United Speaks Out!
In a Queen poll I put on my Facebook Group Rockers United fellow rockers voted A Night At The Opera as their choice as their top Queen album; however, I disagree! While I love all of Queen's offerings, News Of The World has risen to become by favorite over the years, even over my past favorites Night and Sheer Heart Attack.
The overall substance is greater on News; from the stomp of We Will Rock You to the craziness of Get Down Make Love to the beautifully dark All Dead All Dead, there's not a weak song on the album but for the last song on the album, My Melancholy Blues, which always alerted me that it was time to get up and go over to the record player and get another Queen album ready to put on!
ROCKERS UNITED Member Chris Perrins from New Zealand sums it up nicely: "I always thought NATO and NOTW were the most popular albums in the US due to Bo Rhap and Rock You and Champions respectively. I actually don't think there was any mediocrity in the 70s Queen stuff. For me some of the 80s songs are not as essential and a bit weaker but nevertheless listenable. It's a shame John wouldn't join back up with Roger and Brian for one last gig. The live show these days obviously trades on the hits but to me Queen were always better than a singles band. Deep cuts like Drowse, My Fairy King, She Makes Me, You and I, Prophets Song and In Only Seven Days are more crucial than the more popular numbers."
Whatever Queen album you prefer one thing is for sure: Queen is Universal; their albums heal those in need, and their music demonstrates the uplifting power that Rock and Roll can bring in our lives. Long Live Queen and Freddie Mercury!
Queen - The Crown Jewels Residency
MGM Park Theater Las Vegas
September 19, 2018
A couple of years ago when I first learned about Queen touring with Adam Lambert I was a bit put off to say the least! How could they? It was bad enough I had to endure Queen with Paul Rodgers a few years ago (although I’m a huge Paul Rodgers fan). Everybody knows it just ain’t Queen without Freddie, right?
Wrong. I learned that lesson last week on a quick dash to Vegas to see one of the Queen Residency shows at the MGM Park Theater. The Rocker Chic knew I was a bit depressed after having to cancel plans to visit family out of state for my birthday this year. The funds and time simply were not available to make it happen.