Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009

For my whole life, one of my favourite bands has always been Queen. My mom used to listen to the albums when I was young, so I can remember being as young as four years old and listening to A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, and other classic albums. When I was a kid, that big robot on the cover (and fold-out inside) of News of the World gave me nightmares, with the lifeless bodies in his hand and blood dripping off of one finger. But it didn’t steer me away from the music in any way.
As I grew up and learned to love music, Queen stayed in the forefront of the bands that shaped my youth. My mom gave me all of her old Queen LP’s, and I still own them all to this day. One of the first albums I ever bought with my own money was The Game in 1984, primarily because of the track Another One Bites The Dust. It’s astounding to me 25 years later, that my son absolutely loves the same song, and when we play it together on our Rock Band video game, it’s a pretty amazing moment.

My mom took me to concerts at a young age, and it was always one of my lifelong dreams to see Queen in concert, but alas, I never did. The last time they were in Toronto was in 1986 for the Kind of Magic tour, and I was only 13 years old. I just assumed I would see them the next time they came, but they never came back. A couple of years ago, I was at a friend’s house sitting on the back patio talking with her uncle, who was visiting from B.C., and he told us about a time back in the 70’s when he wanted to see a concert in London, Ontario, and he hitch-hiked all the way to see Queen performing with Kiss as the opening act. Wow.

So, my love of the band grew and sustained over time. Working at a music store for almost 10 years was great in the sense that I had access to so many great things, like a 13-cd box set of Queen singles from Japan, with Japanese liner notes. At last count, I think I had 37 Queen CD’s. When Bohemian Rhapsody was re-released after being featured in Wayne’s World, it was great to see a resurgence of the song and the band, and that scene in the movie may be one of my favourite of all-time, simply for the fact that my best friend in high school and I used to drive around with Queen blaring and singing full-out without a care in the world. (Paul, whatever happened to those days?)
I remember going to Toronto one night a long time ago to see Les Miserables with my girlfriend at the time. After the show, we were driving home late at night, and just as we approached the Bridgeport Road exit in Waterloo, the news came on the radio that Freddie Mercury had died.

That was 18 years ago yesterday, November 24, 1991, and that’s why I write this post today.

I had known, along with the world, that he was sick, and that it was just a matter of time before he died, but still, hearing the news was a huge moment. In my young life (18 years old at the time), it was the predominant ‘remember where you were’ moment. Even 18 years later, I remember it clearly like it was yesterday, driving a Blue Honda Accord and just putting my signal on to merge right onto the off ramp as my girlfriend slept with the passenger seat reclined.

Shortly after his death, The Concert for Life was planned, and when it happened on Easter Monday in 1992, I locked myself in my room and watched for five solid hours as all of the top artists of the day (and Def Leppard) performed the songs of Queen (with the remaining 3 band members) live from Wembley Stadium. Some of the highlights for me were George Michael singing ‘Somebody to Love’, David Bowie and Annie Lennox singing ‘Under Pressure, and a very emotional performance from Seal singing ‘Who Wants To Live Forever.’

Queen has seen a resurgence in recent years again, after touring with Paul Rodgers, releasing a new album, and being introduced to a whole new generation with the Rock Band/Guitar Hero craze. There is a new Greatest Hits album that came out this month, as well as new YouTube sensation video of the Muppets performing Bohemian Rhapsody, with over one million hits and counting. I’ll post it another time, I don’t think it fits with the tone of this post.

Eighteen years after Freddie Mercury’s death, I still love Queen as much as I did as a child. When Lucas was a baby, we used to play Queen’s Greatest Hits and Classic Queen while he was in his crib, and he would always get excited. As a dad now, it’s amazing to see Lucas love Queen, as well as learning to love his own specific bands. I have to wonder if 30 years down the road he’ll be talking about the music he listened to with his dad when he was kid.

I sure hope so.

Rest in Peace, Freddie. You are missed.


Evana said...

Great blog....Was that driving around on Rhonda Road??? I think Paul was screaming instead of singing.......E

northvanman said...

I too am a life long Queen fan and I share the same respect you have for this fantastic group. Thanks for sharing how you came to love the band.

There are few inaccuracies in your post that I'd like to comment on:

1. The last time Queen played in Toronto was in 1982, not in 1986 (they played on 2 consecutive August nights at Maple Leaf Gardens and I had the good fortune to be at both shows - Billy Squier opened for them on that tour). The Magic Tour in 1986 included 26 shows exclusively in Europe. In fact, with Freddie as their frontman, Queen's last show in North America was in New York City in 1982.

2. The friend who told you about seeing Queen in London, Ont. with Kiss is pulling your chain. Queen NEVER played a gig with Kiss in their career, nor did they play in London Ont. By the time they made it to Canada (Night at the Opera tour), they were playing arenas in big cities as headliner.

3.Your comment "I had known, along with the rest of the world that he was sick and it was just a matter of time before he died" is a stretch. Maybe you were aware, but I can tell you his illness was well hidden and largely limited to speculation in the UK tabloids. You can find interviews where Brian May and Roger Taylor openly tell how they lied to others about Freddie's illness right up until the end. There was some minor speculation in the music pages in North America that he had AIDS, but no one knew until the day before he died how gravely ill he was - he announced in a press release that he had AIDS less that 24 hours before he died.

Anyway, this is not intended to be critical...just a few things I caught as I read. cheers.

Sean said...


Thank you for your insight into the band. As a 9-year-old in 1982, I guess it was unlikely I could have seen the show anyways.

I guess my friend has a large imagination...I guess part of me is glad to know it never went down like that.

When I say 'I knew', I suppose that what I meant was that I suspected, as the rest of the world did, based on the rumours and Innuendo (pardon the irony). Despite the fact that the news was officially announced 24 hours before he died, we weren't surprised because we had heard the rumours already...

Glad you posted. Welcome to the blog, I hope you'll continue to comment.