Added on 20-Feb-2003
From The Advocate, the national gay & lesbian news magazine
A crowning year for Queen
More than a decade after Freddie Mercury’s death, Queen go on and on. Is this band immortal?
By Lawrence Ferber
This year was the Queen’s jubilee—and we’re not talking about Queen Elizabeth II. In 2002 the legendary rock band Queen continued to reign, even though the band effectively ceased to exist on November 24, 1991, when front man Freddie Mercury succumbed to AIDS complications.
These days surviving members Roger Taylor, Brian May, and John Deacon ably carry the torch—along with any number of testosterone-bursting heterosexuals who regularly stomp along to the refrain “We will rock you” at sporting events.
“One may not realize Queen is all around, but is it *so* all around,” opines Stephin Merritt, puckish New York musician and closet Queen fan. “I was just reading a book in which all cassettes left in cars turn into Queen’s Greatest Hits in two weeks, which is so true to my life experience. If it’s not labeled, it’s probably Queen’s Greatest Hits.”
This year the champion’s presence practically spanned the media: A musical based on their songs had audiences singing. The band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. A concert tribute to Mercury just came out on DVD. And, yes, Queen took part on that *other* British Queen’s jubilee pop concert.
What’s the band’s enduring appeal? Sheer virtuosity, for one thing. Queen’s swoony, soaring sound is as thrilling today as when the songs were recorded. And Mercury’s obvious, through never admitted, homosexuality also added spice into the mix. “Having a flamboyant gay front person allowed them to do all kinds of absurdly sexual music,” says Merritt. “*Queen* was a triple entendre name. Whatever the name means, it ends up being sexual.”
In a year when everybody wanted to forget their troubles, London’s West End musical We Will Rock You took Queen hits and wove a silly but fun story around them. Written by Ben Elton and musically supervised by May and Taylor, We Will Rock You imagines a conformist world—Planet Mall—in which a rebel named Galileo Figaro (after a character in a Queen song) recaptures the world for rock and roll. Critics blanched, but audiences went wild.
In May came the queen’s jubilee concert (celebrating Elizabeth’s 50 years on the throne), at which May performed an electric guitar version of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
And to crown Queen’s de facto jubilee, December saw the release of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert Special Anniversary Edition DVD. Originally organized to raise AIDS awareness and funds for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, this 1992 all-star concert event starred a crazy mix of celebs, including David Bowie, Elizabeth Taylor, Axl Rose, Elton John, Annie Lennox, George Michael, and Liza Minnelli. The DVD includes bonuses like rehearsal footage and a TV documentary. For those disappointed that 2003 won’t be the year of Liza (on reality TV, at least), the disc features the diva’s rendition of “We Are the Champions”—a rousing, if not strangely drag queen-esque, debacle.
Mercury would be proud. “The original was a strangely drag queen-esque debacle,” Merritt rhapsodizes. “Just a little too early for video.”
[Notes: The person quoted here, Stephin Merritt, is the lead singer/songwriter of the band Magnetic Fields, and their 69 Love Songs 3-CD album is great. There’s a couple of factual errors to we Queen fans – John’s involvement and Brian’s playing of “Star Spangled Banner”! – but here is the article is verbatim. I’ll scan it and upload it as well.]