A few weeks ago, I added an old classmate as a friend on Facebook. We had been to primary school together, more than 20 years ago. Within seconds, he sent me this short message: “One word: Queen.” It made me smile, because I honestly couldn’t recall bothering my schoolmates with Queen trivia …
Then I remembered how I mimed to the ‘Live Killers’ version of Sheer Heart Attack, dressed as Freddie Mercury at Live Aid, with a painted moustache and a thin pvc pipe that served as a sawn-off mic, in front of a baffled audience of Spice Girls and Take That fans. Indeed, only one word mattered at that time: Queen.
QueenPod is doing all right and diving deep
Why am I writing this? I’m kind of late to the party, but over the last week I’ve been listening to the QueenPod podcast. Every episode digs deep into a single side of a Queen album. How deep? Well, to give you an idea: side A of Queen’s 1973 debut album is just four tracks long, but it keeps the panel going for 1 hour and 53 minutes straight. That’s how deep.
An interesting detail is that the podcast is made with the consent of Queen’s management, meaning that the makers are allowed to use the music they’re discussing, which is a huge advantage—even if this extended track-by-track approach will mostly appeal to fans who know the entire discography by heart.
“It was never easy being a Queen fan. But Queen music was my launching pad into an eclectic jungle of sound.”
It enables the members of the panel to draw attention to particular details in the music. Roy Thomas Baker playing a stylophone in Seven Seas of Rhye? All right, let’s hear it. And what is Rhye anyway? No stone is left unturned.
Comedian Sooz Kempner delivers nice insights into musical matters such as key changes, Freddie’s vocal range and time signatures. Fellow comedian and superfan John Robins is brilliant throughout. In Simon Lupton, the QueenPod has a guy on board who actually worked closely with the band in recent years, literally a witness from the wings. Host Rohan Acharya ties it all together nicely. Everyone shares their personal stories and invites the listeners do to the same. So here we are (though not born to be kings).
Flash Gordon approaching (and disappearing fast)
A picture exists of my classroom Queen gig. Behind me, a friend in a football shirt sits slumped on a chair, with his hand covering his mouth, trying to hide his laughter. It was never easy being a Queen fan. But as someone shared with QueenPod, Queen music was my launching pad into an eclectic jungle of sound.
The first artists I got into in my early teens after Queen were Van Halen, Bowie and Jeff Beck. Then Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Then King Crimson, Frank Zappa (who gets regular mentions on the QueenPod show, particularly by John Robins), Rush, XTC, Wire and Porcupine Tree. Then Miles, John Zorn, Swans, Snarky Puppy and Stereolab. If you’re exposed to Queen from a young age, you can easily develop a taste for the eccentric or the outlandish. At least I did.
I got to know Queen through a copy of ‘Greatest Hits’ in my uncle’s collection, which soon became the first CD I bought for myself. When later I cycled to the record shop to buy another Queen album with my pocket money, I decided to choose value for money and picked the CD with the most tracks on them.
“I imagined how we would return home without even catching a glimpse of Brian’s tour bus.”
The next day, my father, brought the ‘Flash Gordon’ soundtrack back to where it came from. He returned home with his own childhood favorite, ‘A Night At The Opera’, which really set things alight. From that point on, I had to have, read and hear everything. The solo stuff too.
The night that nearly did me in
Then in 1998, at the age of 12, an event happened I had been ridiculoulsy nervous about for weeks. Brian May, who had just released ‘Another World’, played the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels. Unfortunately, driving there in pre-GPS days, we got lost in the busy streets of the city. And stuck in traffic.
I panicked and imagined how we would return home without even catching a glimpse of Brian’s tour bus. Luckily, dads always get the job done.
I found a good spot in the back, leaning on the fence around sound engineer Trip Khalaf’s mixing desk. I sang along as if it was the last time I would ever need my voice. And for a brief moment in time, life was perfect.