A Love Letter to Queen

15.12.09, Words by: Ruth Saxelby

Ahhh QUEEN. When I was thinking about writing this I initially thought I’d focus on the facts that make them indisputably the world’s greatest ever rock band. The 300 million records sold, the staggering 27 years their albums have spent in the British charts, or the fact that they’re the only band where every member has penned more than one chart topper. But let’s face it, you either already know that Queen are simply the best or you’re probably some kind of irredeemable moron. Instead I want to declare once and for all how much this wonderfully ridiculous band have meant to me over the years.

I was eight years old when I first realised that all I really wanted to be when I grew up was a flamboyant homosexual rockstar. It was 1985 and all over Africa people were starving so that we could witness the greatest musicians of the age come together for one vast planet-spanning gig and re-launch their careers on CD. That fateful July day we saw things that defied conventional logic: a small balding guy somehow managed to play drums on both sides of the Atlantic, a homeless looking Irishman was given free reign to swear on British TV, but most memorable of all was Queen’s performance. Never before had I witnessed someone control so many people so effortlessly as Freddie Mercury did at Wembley that day. From the minute his bushy, manly moustache appeared on my screen I was captivated. Virile and muscular, the band looked as good as they sounded and for the first time in my life I fully appreciated the power of rock music.

I wasn’t alone in appreciating their performance. A year later, flush from their Live Aid triumph, Queen returned to Wembley on their biggest tour ever. I was too young to go and the original line-up never played live again, but the video of that concert remains one of my most treasured possessions. It’s a masterclass in stagecraft. If I had my way I would force new bands to study it before they shuffle half-heartedly onto some shitty Shoreditch stage. I know I did, I watched and watched and watched. I learned every move, practiced every prance and studied every strut and peacock pose of the band’s mercurial lead singer. With no Guitar Hero or Rock Band to channel my desires through, I would stand in front of our living room patio window and for hour after hour belt out the band’s greatest hits into a busted old microphone.

As I added each album to my collection my fascination with the band deepened. From their early proggy hard rock, through the mid seventies operatic bombast, taut funk and synthetic disco of the early eighties and onto the superior pop rock of the mid to late eighties there was seemingly nothing that the band couldn’t turn their hands to. Finally four years after that first exposure, I got the chance to actually queue up outside Our Price and hand over my hard earned pocket money for a brand new release, the aptly titled ‘The Miracle’. Few record purchases have filled me with as much anticipation as that one, and whilst it was no ‘A Night at The Opera’ (then what is…), a living breathing Queen album was about as mind bogglingly amazing as things can get when you’re 12 years old.

Two decades later and my love for the band remains undiminished. In that time I’ve discovered narcotics, techno and oddly enough country rock (one of the few genres Queen bypassed), learnt that I have absolutely no singing ability whatsoever and worked out after much soul searching that (sorry Freddie) I definitely play with a straight bat. Yet I still turn back to those legendary albums and constantly find new things in them to marvel at.

When dearest Freddie shuffled off this mortal coil in the early nineties, it was hard to imagine a band less capable of replacing their frontman. But of course once the tributes and memorial concerts were done and dusted, the band soldiered on. While for a long time I resented the ludicrous collaborations, dubious guest appearances and that musical, I’ve recently come to terms with the band’s prolonged half-life. Indeed it suddenly became obvious to me that if I was in their position, I’d want to keep on playing those songs till I too was on my death bed and Brian May’s version of God Save The Queen soundtracked my journey into the light. And then hopefully, if there is an afterlife, I may finally get to see them all play together.

John Power runs Slutty Fringe, a smashing blog.