Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > "Hot Space" / "Break Free" video killed Queen in America - Myth or reality?

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 02:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It seems most people, including Queen point to these events as the main factors in the decline of Queen's success during the 80s in America. But let's look at the facts:

"Body Language" which some may say is the worst of the Hot Space funk tracks was actually a big hit in America, peaking at #11 on the Billboard charts whilst the now-classic "Under Pressure" had peaked at only 29. America was sick of 'disco' and Hot Space killed Queen? Clearly not.

"Radio Ga Ga" managed a respectable peak at #16, perhaps aided by the video and the time-tested Queen success machine. But even 'Break Free' made it to 45.. nearly a top 40 hit, with very little video play due to this apparent controversy over the cross-dressing.

I personally think this shows that Queen could have recovered from any problems that video may have caused, had they been handled properly. I was a teenager during these years and really only a casual fan of Queen.. I always liked the stuff I was able to hear, but I didn't hear much over the next few years. One Vision, I Want it All.. that's about all I remember until Innuendo.

So I wonder if maybe the story of Queen not being happy with their handling at Capitol is true and is more the reason why they didn't do better. Perhaps the perceived funk/electronic shift brought on by Hot Space contributed, as well as that silly drag video, but I honestly think something like lack of promotion is most likely what did the most harm.

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 05:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

What killed Queen in America is them not touring. Bottomline. Freddie's insecurity because he thought hot space was such a failure (even though in hind sight it wasn't that big of one compared to the subsequent albums exceppt for maybe...no even including Innuendo) Freddie was fearful of playing smaller venues or not to sell out crowds in the states and thats what hurt them. He should've remembered that them motherfuckers where live killers and a tour would've won over the hardest hearted spectator which wouldve drove atleast a few hundred at every concert to go cjeck out the album which wouldve drove up sells. It was bad business sense not to tour.

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 05:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Queen played to packed halls in 1980 but the attendance in 1982 was much lower, no wonder they decided not to tour in the USA anymore.

Also I never understood how "not touring" can affect sales or popularity. Queen have never played in many countries (mine included), they never got any press coverage and yet are one of the most popular bands in the history. People always find the real quality ;-)

IMO it was Hot Space that killed Queen in America.

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 05:58 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

First of all, I don't think a single cause can be drawn for these things. They result from a combination of factors, most likely many 'little' ones instead of one or two 'big' causes.

Second of all, having one single peaking at #11 doesn't mean the public liked the entire album or that they agreed with that style of music in its entirety. 'The Ketchup Song' was #1 in the UK (something neither 'We Are the Champions' nor the original 'Somebody to Love' could achieve), and it was double platinum, but it doesn't mean people'd be equally thrilled about the album, or that a tour would be sold out. What's more, let's see which song is best remembered now (only 5 years after 'Ketchup'), between that one and 'Champions' (which is 30 years old). So, instant sales not always guarantee being at the top, and viceversa.

Third of all, I don't think Queen ever got "killed" in America. Their 70's albums and singles and 'The Game' sold much more than their 80's ones simply because the former were much much much better (and in this case it was proportional to chart positions). But Queen remained a popular band in the US, even if not at the same level as Led Zeppelin.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 07:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Having been a Queen fan since 1975 in America, my point of view is that Queen started its slide in popularity with the Game and AOBTD. Although the Game was their biggest selling album, it sold to a completely different audience and it was the beginning of the turning off of the Hard Rock audience that they had developed. Disco filled dance floors, didn't sell out stadiums. With their turn away from hard rock, and Freddie's move from adrogeny, which homophobic America could tolerate, to looking like one of the Village People, they alienated their core.
I have never heard anyone point to the "Break Free" video as the moment that turned America. By the Works, Queen was already much less relevent here. IMO the video didn't do much damage, it was already after most of the damage had been done.


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 08:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

rschoorl wrote:

Having been a Queen fan since 1975 in America, my point of view is that Queen started its slide in popularity with the Game and AOBTD. Although the Game was their biggest selling album, it sold to a completely different audience and it was the beginning of the turning off of the Hard Rock audience that they had developed. Disco filled dance floors, didn't sell out stadiums. With their turn away from hard rock, and Freddie's move from adrogeny, which homophobic America could tolerate, to looking like one of the Village People, they alienated their core.
I have never heard anyone point to the "Break Free" video as the moment that turned America. By the Works, Queen was already much less relevent here. IMO the video didn't do much damage, it was already after most of the damage had been done.


Thanks for posting. Interesting post from a long term fan!

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 08:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Brian points to a lot of things--lack of payola with Capitol Records, the IWTBF video. One bum album does not a ruined career make--ask Neil Young (Trans anyone?), Styx (Kilroy Was Were), Kiss (The Elder). It's almost a rite of passage for great bands who stick around after the first decade of success.

More and more it has to be about not touring the States.


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 09:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I've always agreed that Hot Space killed them here. Barring the Body Language single going to #11 here the album didn't do nothing and did much damage in ruining Queen's reputation here and alienating their hard rock audience here. As far as the Break Free video that was just icing on the cake....


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 09:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Ducksoup wrote:

rschoorl wrote:

Having been a Queen fan since 1975 in America, my point of view is that Queen started its slide in popularity with the Game and AOBTD. Although the Game was their biggest selling album, it sold to a completely different audience and it was the beginning of the turning off of the Hard Rock audience that they had developed. Disco filled dance floors, didn't sell out stadiums. With their turn away from hard rock, and Freddie's move from adrogeny, which homophobic America could tolerate, to looking like one of the Village People, they alienated their core.
I have never heard anyone point to the "Break Free" video as the moment that turned America. By the Works, Queen was already much less relevent here. IMO the video didn't do much damage, it was already after most of the damage had been done.


Thanks for posting. Interesting post from a long term fan!


Excellent post. Queen weren't as relevant, and in North America, more the US than Canada, they want their rockers to rock. From CLTCL to IWTBF, Queen had a slew of singles where Brian was virtually out of the band, and the drums and bass sounded programmed. People over here saw Queen as abandoning their hard rock roots, and they lost their core fans, plain and simple. The Game brought them huge casual fans who loved the singles, some of them may have bought Body language, but then bailed. When Radio Ga Ga came out it had been roughly 5 years from Jazz, which was the last real classic Queen album. Finally, for the people who use the IWTBF video as THE reason Queen lost the US. The Stones, Bowie, and a few other big acts had done the drag thing well before, and U2 did it 8 years later for One. Why didn't those bands lose their followings for doing drag? And wasn't this time of Culture Club and Dead or Alive? Androgyny was huge. If I recall, Queen had their biggest success when their front man drank champagne, wore ballet tights and slippers that virtually scrrreeeeaaammmmeedddd out "I. AM. GAY." But that guy in the ballet slippers destroyed every live show he did, rocked hard, and had a band that just killed and were as heavy live as Zeppelin or Aerosmith. They changed too much musically for American tastes and lost their audience. No other story, move on now.


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 09:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

New Wave was very popular in the US in the 80's..and maybe since Queen refused (thank God) to change thier sound to that extreme it hurt them in the long run.

And of course Hot Space and not touring after '82 didnt help either.

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 09:57 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The inherant homophobia of the wider public in the USA in the early to mid 1980's was directly responsible. White collar America was still in denial that people exisisted who didn't share their same sexual tastes.

Freddie was openly gay and the conservative suits at EMI / Capitol took the decision that they could not been seen to be overly promoting a band with a frontman as overtly contoroversial a Freddie. So they simply didn't push them on the all-important FM radio networks. There was also a conscious effort at the time to get American Rock bands back on the charts after decades of domination by British bands.

The markets in both Japan, Europe and South America were far more liberated than the USA and the success Queen had in those territories meant that, financially, they weren't overly affected by the fall off in the USA.


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 10:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Queen chose the wrong singles as a lot of people have mentioned their singles were more poppy.

I don't know why things like Put Out The Fire and Tear It Up weren't released as singles.


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 10:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Other than the Village People/"clone loo" mustache, I don't know how Freddie became more androgynous-looking. He had been wearing ballet tights and shiny leather outfits for years before then.

Bands have fallow periods. It's just the way it is. They had a fallow period in England, too, around this time, lest we forget; relative to their success there, of course.

And after fallow periods comes come-backs, one that Queen did not do for the four active years after their last tour.

So I put in my vote for not touring as well as what everyone says, which is the US hard rock/heavy metal audience being particularly masculine around this time (1983-1989).


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 10:22 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

QUEEN are still huge here in America guys!!
I should know!!
I live in Houston, Tx.. and everytime I put the radio on, it's one of the Queen songs playing, contest giveways, etc ....
commercials, TV shows, "Special events" LIKE recently the Thanksgiving parade had a float with the song you're my best friend, etc, I can go on n on...... another example, about 2 months ago, I went to go buy some more Queen albums, bought one, but wanted other copies of the 2 other ones sheer heart attack and INNUENDO, didn't have enough money, came back a week later, and they were GONE man!! :( I couldn't believe it.
anyway, that's just the tip of it all.
I always hear and/or see Queen somewhere, some place here! .....
all my friends LOVE Queen, all they can say is great stuff, and they are not EASY, if you know what Im saying ha :P;)
k, gotta go, just wanna say those bits.
They just need to tour here MORE next year!!!!! :)
stay safe! xxoo

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 10:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

rschoorl wrote:

Having been a Queen fan since 1975 in America, my point of view is that Queen started its slide in popularity with the Game and AOBTD. Although the Game was their biggest selling album, it sold to a completely different audience and it was the beginning of the turning off of the Hard Rock audience that they had developed. Disco filled dance floors, didn't sell out stadiums. With their turn away from hard rock, and Freddie's move from adrogeny, which homophobic America could tolerate, to looking like one of the Village People, they alienated their core.
I have never heard anyone point to the "Break Free" video as the moment that turned America. By the Works, Queen was already much less relevent here. IMO the video didn't do much damage, it was already after most of the damage had been done.


Spot on post. Many feel, including Brian, that the IWTBF video put off Americans, but what they don't realize is that most Americans never saw that video at the time. MTV and cable were young, and those of us that were there know that Queen was declining fast in popularity before that vid.

Here's my take, as a fan in the US through those years:

1975-1979: America Loves Queen! Great and Unique Rock Band! Yahoo!

1980: Rockabilly and Disco singles - WTF? Oh well, it's just a phase.

1980: FLASH! AAAH AAAH! Synthesizer orgy! Are these guys serious with this shit? WTF? This is so bad, it's funny.

1981: Greatest Hits! Well, I've already got those songs. I'll pass. Hmmm, nothing decent from this band in a couple of years now. WTF?

1982: Queen goes disco! WTF? Bad, bad move considering that disco died three years ago. Just embarrassing to listen to it was so outdated.

1984: A new Queen album! Last chance, boys after almost five years of terrible decisions. Maybe they've come through this time! The new single is "Radio Ga Ga, Radio Goo Goo"? Hahahaha! WTF? I'm moving on...

1986: Queen released something? Those guys are still around? Whatever...

Of course I'm a fan, and I followed them and bought the stuff, but this basically what I saw going on around me.


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 11:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I think it's unfair to blame Hot Space for Queen's demise here. There are some mitigating factors involved. First, Hot Space was their last studio album for Elektra before moving to Capitol Records. Some other Capitol artists at the time were Bob Seger, Billy Squier, Duran Duran, Iron Maiden, and The Motels. I think Queen has a better standing in the US now versus those others.

Capitol records just couldn't promote albums properly in the 80s & 90s. WEA and Columbia/Sony were getting every record store to play their albums and display their artists more prominently. I know. I worked at a record store during some of those years.

Plus, for some strange reason, you couldn't buy a older Queen album or CD. They weren't available commercially.

So why would a band tour where you can't even buy their records? I don't think they would've been happy playing 5000 seat pavillions so they didn't.

Blame Queen, their management, their record company, but I don't think it's fair to blame a very good album.

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 11:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Benn wrote:

The inherant homophobia of the wider public in the USA in the early to mid 1980's was directly responsible. White collar America was still in denial that people exisisted who didn't share their same sexual tastes.

Freddie was openly gay and the conservative suits at EMI / Capitol took the decision that they could not been seen to be overly promoting a band with a frontman as overtly contoroversial a Freddie. So they simply didn't push them on the all-important FM radio networks. There was also a conscious effort at the time to get American Rock bands back on the charts after decades of domination by British bands.

The markets in both Japan, Europe and South America were far more liberated than the USA and the success Queen had in those territories meant that, financially, they weren't overly affected by the fall off in the USA.


That's nonsense. Plenty of homosexual artists were doing fine in the U.S. at that time, and many of them were way more obviously homosexual than Freddie; Freddie never went out of his way to make an issue of his homosexuality, and he actually seemed more homosexual in the 70s with his outfits and voice, whereas he had a more masculine image and voice in the 80s. Besides, execs don't care about morality if money is involved.

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 11:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Queengirl47 wrote:

QUEEN are still huge here in America guys!!
I should know!!
I live in Houston, Tx.. and everytime I put the radio on, it's one of the Queen songs playing, contest giveways, etc ....
commercials, TV shows, "Special events" LIKE recently the Thanksgiving parade had a float with the song you're my best friend, etc, I can go on n on...... another example, about 2 months ago, I went to go buy some more Queen albums, bought one, but wanted other copies of the 2 other ones sheer heart attack and INNUENDO, didn't have enough money, came back a week later, and they were GONE man!! :( I couldn't believe it.
anyway, that's just the tip of it all.
I always hear and/or see Queen somewhere, some place here! .....
all my friends LOVE Queen, all they can say is great stuff, and they are not EASY, if you know what Im saying ha :P;)
k, gotta go, just wanna say those bits.
They just need to tour here MORE next year!!!!! :)
stay safe! xxoo


We're talking about Queen's status in the US back in 1982-89 or so. I was in HS back then & they were off the radar. I was the only kid in my school who was a "Fan". Not touring hurt them. The songs released were not what Americans wanted to hear. Yes HTF, POTF should have been singles here to show they still rocked. But even so, without a big advertising push from Capitol Records those songs may not have made an impact either. OV made some noise during the winter months of late 85 & eary 86. Even that song faded as quickly as it arrived. When Highlander came out they still didn't get much notice. The fact that the movie bombed in theaters hurt I'm sure. It didn't become the cult classic it is now for another few years.
Brian & Roger even when on Rockline one night that early spring. They played 'Universe' that night as the premier of the single...I never heard it again on the radio. By the time AKOM was released both the single & album, the movie was a memory & they got little airplay w/ that single. WWTLF should have been released here. By then the tour in Europe was over. Freddie soon realized it was the beginning of the end & any touring beyond that wasn't an option. The Miracle & IWTA got some notice as did Headlong w/ Innuendo. Once again they really didn't get a big push by the record companies. Hollywood did re-release all the back catalog on CD then but it was too little too late. ICLWY was released in June of 91 & even though DJ's loved it, at least here in Philly, it didn't sell very well. After that I didn't hear of another single being released in the US. I think its wonderful that the band is finally getting so long deserved credit here. All of you young fans are so fortunate, you really have no idea how much so. Embrace all of it while you can. I love all this new found popularity in the country. Suddenly its cool to be into Queen, that wasn't so 20-25 years ago.


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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 11:18 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The Bunny who lost her Golden Pants wrote:



"Body Language" which some may say is the worst of the Hot Space funk tracks was actually a big hit in America, peaking at #11 on the Billboard charts whilst the now-classic "Under Pressure" had peaked at only 29. America was sick of 'disco' and Hot Space killed Queen? Clearly not.

"Radio Ga Ga" managed a respectable peak at #16, perhaps aided by the video and the time-tested Queen success machine. But even 'Break Free' made it to 45.. nearly a top 40 hit, with very little video play due to this apparent controversy over the cross-dressing.



At that time, chart positioning was mostly a matter of label manipulation. Sales were "reported" by record stores, and radio play was "reported" by the stations. I worked at a record store, and a billboard rep would call and ask for sales numbers. I made the list and the numbers - of course I included Queen whether they sold or not! Anyway, Capitol and every other label would give free albums, tickets to shows, etc. and ask you to report their bands. It was basically payola with gifts instead of money (although I did get some cash out of the process as well).

Around the late 80's, they started actually tracking sales (Soundscan I believe was the company that started it). These numbers made it more difficult for a label to manipulate, but they still had a bit of a say in chart positioning. But soon the only criterion used was actual sales, and that is where we are today.

Queen can blame Capitol all they want, but those chart results were the effect of a lot of hard work on the labels part. Let's face it - you can put a dress on a pig, but it's still a pig. Few Americans were buying Queen, and the ones that did weren't playing those albums and singles much.

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Posted: 07 Dec 07, 12:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The "One" video by U2 with the drag was banned as well(watch the makin of One on the Best of 1990-2000 DVD).

Queen fans, even in America were used to Queen's eclectic albums by then...maybe the lack of diversity on Hot Space was the reason, if they'd dropped a few songs (and made b-sides out of em) and added some other styles (reggae, Police were big then) and dunno maybe some classic Queen ballads and rockier songs Hot Space would've done as good as Jazz or NOTW.

And why didn't they release Put Out The Fire or Tear It Up as singles?? Well, because they weren't good tbh. Radio Ga Ga and I Want To Break Free were great singles and the fact that Hammer To Fall didn't do as well as it's predecessors is proof that the public didn't care.

I think the Sun City thing did them more damage than Hot Space and Break Free video combined. In the end The Works and A Kind Of Magic did very well on this side of the Atlantic and South America and that's what matters. :P


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