For a large percentage of this country, it’s impossible to have a fully satisfying Christmas Day without a little bit of Queen. At 3pm every December 25th, a nation unites to watch Elizabeth II chat utter nonsense for ten minutes. It just wouldn’t be the same without it, turkey, Top Of The Pops, and a haughty voice – it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Many others prefer another Queen, the quartet led by Freddie Mercury who were one of the most popular bands in the world for much of the latter part of the twentieth century. Much like The Beatles, Queen were a band who very few people disliked, because they had songs which catered to most people. Anthems, bangers, dirty rock n roll, operatic quality vocals, a big haired wizard on electric guitar, a world class drummer, and most underrated, a bass player who did what all bass players should do – chill out in the background letting the actual talent do their thing.
Except for the bass in Another One Bites The Dust, that was pretty good.
In 1975, Queen released Bohemian Rhapsody which is one of the most famous songs of all time. Like A Day In The Life by The Beatles, or Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues, the song is based on sections, of which there was six in this track consisting of everything from a slow ballad, to an operatic bit, even a hard rock 30 seconds or so.
When initially released, critical reaction was mixed but it caught fire commercially, selling over a million copies in its first incarnation, reaching Christmas number one in 1975 beating out the also superb I Believe In Father Christmas by Greg Lake.
You can listen to the track, and all of the others on the countdown so far via this very handy Spotify playlist.
The music video was one of the first of its kind, with an arc and effects that were very sophisticated for its time, adding to the technical innovations in the actual song itself.
A notable aspect of the incredible detailing of the song was the bands inability to play it live. Because of the many layers of the track, and the various genres it traveled around, live performances saw various tweaks which enabled the group to give even an adequate performance of their most popular song.
One such example of this is the version of the song they performed at the Live Aid concert in 1985. By the mid-eighties, Queen were beginning to slip from their regular pedestal of one of the biggest bands in the world. The hits had dried at somewhat, and the band, especially singer Mercury were losing confidence.
Their Live Aid set has since gone down as one of the greatest gigs in musical history, and its foundations were set strong, with the opening number a modified version of Bohemian Rhapsody. By starting so strong, the audience were quickly on the side of the band, and they subsequently reacted to everything Freddie threw at them for the remaining set. It was a masterpiece in showmanship, in musical proficiency and in fully understanding a moment – and it all began with their most iconic track.
Bohemian Rhapsody holds a unique record in Christmas number one folklore, with it being the only song released by the same band to hit the festive top spot twice. As well as its 1975 success, following the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991, the track was quickly rush released as a double a-side along with These Are the Days of Our Lives as a tribute.
It worked, with the songs quickly reaching number one for Christmas 1991, preventing a generic Diana Ross track from reaching the top. One can only assume this frustrated Ross so much that three years later she failed to score a penalty kick from about two yards out.
A year on from Mercury’s death in 1992, the Bohemian Rhapsody saw a resurgence of popularity in America, due to its use in the classic comedy Wayne’s World, which subsequently made millions of people attempt to re-enact the scene whenever the song played on a car radio.
To this day the song has massive popularity, and is a staple of wedding discos, reality TV music competitions, and wacky YouTube covers the world over. It’s one of those instantly recognisable songs which everybody knows, and secretly everybody at least kinda likes. Queen were never cool even in their pomp, but their mystique was always strong, especially after Mercury’s death.
Even through musicals, new singers and countless butcherings of their classics, Queen have lasted through it all, much like Christmas in a way. Despite the gimmicks, the over saturation and the somewhat questionable clothing, both Christmas and Queen are good for the soul, much like a particularly delicious apple pie and custard is, or a particularly cold can of Rio.
So on 3pm, December 25th instead of listening to one Queen humble the hoi polloi, stick on a bit of Bo-Rap, get the finger piano and air guitar out, and celebrate being alive, and not being patronised.
To read the rest of the countdown – just CLICK HERE