The ground-breaking and iconic band Queen have defied the odds, remaining vanguards of music and pop culture over the decades.
In the trendiest clubs around the world, DJs frequently play Queen hits, along with music from many contemporary artists whom Queen inspired. Meanwhile, far beyond city nightlife, in football stadiums from the US to the UK to Japan and Brazil, fans stomp-stomp-clap in unison, and chant Queen’s anthemic We Will Rock You.
So influential is the band that just this summer, Queen songs occupied three of the Top 20 spots on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs Chart. Not only does their music defy categorisation and break convention; it transcends generations.
The beat is irresistible, the style, timeless. Unlike many ’70s and ’80s groups that came and went, Queen remain as relevant today as they were then.
“Whenever and wherever people hear Queen’s music, it’s instantly recognisable,” explains Brian Southall, who spent 15 years as head of press, marketing and promotion for Queen’s record label, EMI, “You could release Bohemian Rhapsody tomorrow and it would be a hit.”
Today’s leading musicians cite Queen as a major inspiration. “Freddie Mercury was and remains my biggest influence,” said Katy Perry about Queen’s legendary frontman.
“The combination of his sarcastic approach to writing lyrics and his ‘I don’t give a f***’ attitude really inspired my music.”
Lady Gaga was such a big fan that she borrowed from one of Queen’s songs to form her stage name: “I adored Freddie Mercury – and Queen had a hit called Radio Gaga. That’s why I love the name,” she said.
“Freddie was unique – one of the biggest personalities in the whole of pop music. He was not only a singer but also a fantastic performer, a man of the theatre and someone who constantly transformed himself. In short: a genius.”
And Muse’s Matthew Bellamy declared: “The best band in the world is Queen, definitely.”
“The best virtuoso rock and roll singer of all time,” is how Roger Daltrey described Freddie Mercury. Eric Clapton enthused about Brian May’s talents, saying the guitarist “can do things on the guitar which are beyond my reach … things I would dream of doing”.
And, according to Elton John, the members of Queen “were among the most important figures in rock and roll”.
What was it about the music that is so compelling? In essence, they defied categorisation. “Queen didn’t choose to follow any particular fashion,” adds Southall. “They just made the music they wanted to make.
“Queen crossed genres and it was impossible to pigeonhole them. And, remember, everything was written by the band members themselves.”
The new film Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek in an uncanny performance as Freddie Mercury, charts Queen’s extraordinary story, from the band’s roots as bright London college students, to the dazzling heights of international stardom, when they filled stadiums across the world at record-breaking concerts, including the legendary 1985 performance at Live Aid, which was watched by a global audience of 1.9 billion and raised money for the famine in Ethiopia.
As the story unfolds, it becomes crystal clear why the band had such lasting appeal.
The film also stars Gwilym Lee (Jamestown, Midsomer Murders) who plays Queen’s lead guitarist Brian May, Ben Hardy (East Enders, X-Men Apocalypse) as drummer Roger Taylor, and Joe Mazzello (Jurassic Park, Justifed) as bass guitarist John Deacon, as well as Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Wayne’s World) and Tom Hollander (Breathe, The Night Manager).
Infused with indelible Queen songs, the film highlights the dynamics of the trailblazing band.
It also focuses on the moving and complicated personal story of Mercury, the man, exploring his relationships, both with his muse, Mary Austin, and with the men in his life.