Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
Made of up Freddie Mercury’s vocals, Brian May’s guitar, John Deacon’s bass, and Roger Taylor’s drumming, Queen was the band that the world needed in the time that they first came into international success. Flower power was dead, but people still wanted rock music that was indulgent in its sound but honest in its reliability. Listeners were wanting the lost but not forgotten British rock sound of the Beatles with something that was a bit more representative of a time they may not have been alive in or witnessed. Even though their career would last only twenty years, Queen remains one of the most popular and best selling bands ever. Their first compilation, 1981’s Greatest Hits, remains the best selling album in the UK. Here are five of their greatest songs.
- “Killer Queen” from Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
This song served as the catalyst for Queen to introduce the tongue-in-cheek, vaudevillian-like songwriting of Freddie Mercury as well as their flaming brand of power rock and glam rock to the rest of the world. It was Queen’s first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number twelve, and it went all the way to number two on the UK Singles Chart. Paired as a double A-side along with “Flick Of The Wrist”, “Killer Queen” would help secure Sheer Heart Attack as one of the glam era’s classic works. When it was included in the first installment of the Guitar Hero video game series, it helped introduce Queen to a new generation of listeners.
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” from A Night At The Opera (1975)
There is much debate over what Queen’s most popular song is, but if the UK number one smash “Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t qualify for the most famous, it most certainly qualifies for one of the most artful and craftsman-like pieces in the band’s repertoire. Clocking in at seven minutes, the song is an epic, multi-sectioned art rock masterpiece centered on the story of a young bohemian who runs away after committing murder. The different parts of the song ultimately represent the change in feeling and emotion the killer feels from the beginning of the song to the end, going through regret and eventually evolving into carelessness and self-righteousness. The narrator then frees himself from any responsibility by declaring at the end of the piece, “Nothing really matters”.
- “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” from News of the World (1977)
Yes, these are technically two tracks, but they were released as a double A-side to promote one of Queen’s most famous records, and it also appears as the opening segue of the album. The listener gets a yin-yang effect of Queen’s sound on the two tracks, contrasting the floor on the floor stomp (literally, foots stomping on a wooden floor) of “We Will Rock You” with the inspiring piano ballad gone full-fledged opera on “We Are the Champions. Together, this combination is a true contender for the most popular Queen hit, as they are often if not always played together on classic rock radio around the world.
- “Another One Bites The Dust” from The Game (1980)
As popular as Queen had become by the 1980s, it would take them a whole decade as a band to land a number one single. Little did they know that the wait would be worthwhile, as two international number ones popped up on The Game. With “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, the album would’ve probably still been Queen’s best selling record, but after Michael Jackson suggested to Freddie Mercury backstage that “Another One Bites The Dust” was the true single on the album, they released it as such and it was the second track from The Game to spend multiple weeks at number one. Queen was coming out of their art rock period to explore the immerse success that was given to them through Live-Aid and other high profile appearances.
- “Under Pressure” (with David Bowie) from Hot Space (1981)
Queen’s collaboration with David Bowie remains one of the touchstones of both those artists’ careers. Although it was technically released as a Queen song, it was one of the most played tracks on the radio following the death of David Bowie last year. The collaboration was spontaneous and unplanned, but we should be thankful that it happened. Bowie’s razor-sharp baritone and Mercury’s desperate yelps for “one more chance” will forever remind people who grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s that the culture they provided for future generations will never be forgotten.