Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Night At The Opera

One of the hundreds comments to the complete album upload on YouTube reads, "The Beatles reached greatness, Queen reached perfection".
As questionable as the first part of the sentence might be, there's no arguing over the second part.

A Night At The Opera is Queen's fourth studio album, released in 1975 and, probably, their best one together with Innuendo and Made In Heaven.

As they came closer to Freddie Mercury's end, Queen's music became more introspective, animated by a sense of almost religious reverence towards the memories of their glorious personal and professional past.
A Night At The Opera is, instead, where Queen rocks. Literally.

Brian May's electric riffs in Sweet Lady alternate with Roger Taylor's great drumming, and Freddie Mercury's voice reaches the pitches of quicksilver; Wikipedia terms it "distorted rock". I honestly don't know what that means, but if I were a writer, I'd think it describes it perfectly. Roger Taylor mentioned, in a later interview, that "Sweet Lady" had the most difficult drumming part he ever performed.
The song is followed right by "Seaside Rendezvous". That's where Freddie Mercury's dandy style and unique sense of humour come out at their best, together with "Lazying on a Sunday Afternoon":
if Oscar Wilde had been a rock-star, he would be Freddie Mercury.

But there's not only rock.
Love of my Life is the song I'll sing to my loved one tonight, as I talk her to sleep, and like "Lazying on a Sunday Afternoon", "Seaside Rendezvous", and Brian May's amazing Good Company, although in slower and dimmer ways, it features the nicest Victorian whims.

Bohemian Rapsody.
How can I describe it?
The album alternates pure rock with lighter strumming ("Good Company" is played almost entirely on an ukelele by Brian May. An ukelele in a rock album!). There's John Deacon's romantic mood with "You're My Best Friend" and Mercury's insults in "Death on Two Legs". There's Taylor's car roars in "I'm in Love with my Car" and May's visionary dreamworld in The Prophet's Song. Then, there's Bohemian Rapsody.
Bohemian Rapsody has it all: the perturbed introspection of he that can scream, but that knows how to whisper too and deals with the sadness of existence. Here, Freddie Mercury fears but also mocks his own destiny. His call to Beelzebub sounds more like "Come and get me, if you can" than "Spare my life". But the sweetness with which he addresses his mother can only be found in the last song he ever sang, "Mother Love". And then, who hasn't, at least once in their lifetime, identified with the words, I don't wanna die / but sometimes wish I'd never been born at all?
There's fragility and arrogance, defiance and surrender, sighing and mockery, all framed in Freddie's daffodilly frills.

In A Night At The Opera, Queen blend a fastidious search for perfection in each fraction of the album songs with vocal and instrumental experimentalism.  
No Beetles could have ever come to such heights.
Only Queen.

What's your favorite Queen song?



  1. Oh crap... I don't have a favorite... I need to get into Queen more, yes? Bohemian Rapsody, of course is classic--but I'm not familiar with too much of their stuff. New music goal!

    Fun post, Jay. :D

  2. Queen are fine, but I still hold out for the Beatles. Their playing isn't as virtuosic, but their tunes are timeless. Try "Revolver"....
    In the meantime, Queenwise, I go for "Fat-Bottomed Girls". It rocks, it has a generous spirit and makes me laugh...

  3. Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Hendrix, then Queen and Pink Floyd. First three in no particular order - dependent on mood. Bohemian Rhapsody is my favourite. And thanks for the links, had a pleasant half hour : )

  4. Queen is amazing although I don't think much of them without Freddie Mercury. His charisma and unique vocals IS Queen in my opinion.

  5. Great post! I enjoyed learning more about a band that I enjoy. I am a big fan of The Beatles, but Queen is also good. My favorite song is probably "You're My Best Friend".