I saw it, and it was great! No, more like terrific! Over the weekend, my whole family, plus my nephew and his lady friend, all went to see the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and, as usual, walked away in full-blown Queen obsession like I have not experienced since high school, or maybe the release of and tour behind their 1982 album, Hot Space. Growing up a Queen fan in the conservative Mid West gets you many anti-gay insults thrown at you no matter how many beautiful girls you were dating at the time. It’s ironic to see the same bullies from high school stepping our as either Queen fans or being gay. I truly do not care, but they really didn’t have to project their issues onto me back then. Oh well! Let’s get back to the movie.
The movie is great, not the cheesy affair I was afraid of it becoming. No, the whole thing was well-written for the most part and the actors were outstanding. Rami Malek really was Freddie Mercury, perhaps rock’s most original AND iconic figure. Malek embodied Mercury with the correct touches of tenderness, intensity, compassion, explosiveness, all traits of the Mercury psyche. Somehow, Malek actually brought Freddie back to us for the duration of the film, and I thank you for that opportunity to relive all those contradictions that made the man such a unique talent. I honestly would not be surprised if Malek gets an Oscar nomination for his performance. As a matter of fact, wouldn’t it be so cool to have Oscars going to an actor portraying a rock star (Malek as Mercury) and a rock star portraying an up-and-coming rock star (Lady Gaga). Their performances are worthy of such high praise.
As I have stated before, I was privileged to have seen Queen twice in concert. The first time was their triumphant 1980 The Game Tour, during which the band was celebrating their first American number one album (The Game) and their first two number one songs: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” Then, I saw them on their ill-fated Hot Space Tour, that America said goodbye to the band forever. For some reason, no “self-respecting” American could back an openly gay rock star such as Mercury, even though it was SO obvious in the Seventies that he was gay. But, the Midwest did the same thing to Elton John back during the Reagan era as well. At least now, Queen and more specifically Freddie Mercury have been recognized for their genius. Too bad Freddie never lived to experience his redemption as Elton has.
Today, my friends, I bring to you my personal ranking of all 15 studio albums by Queen, from 15 all the way to number one. So, let’s get this party started.
15. Made in Heaven (1995). It must have been cathartic for the band to have finally put together some music for some vocals that Freddie left behind. This album was released posthumously. My Rating: 6/10.
14. The Miracle (1989). Overall, this album was the most disappointing to me. For the first time ever, Queen seemed as though they did not care. My Rating: 6.5/10.
13. Flash Gordon (1980). This soundtrack has grown on me over the years. And, I should remember that it is a campy band making soundtrack music for a campy movie. And, when you put it in that context, this album is pretty good. My Rating: 6.5/10.
12. A Kind of Magic (1986). Back in 1986, this album pissed me off. Back then, I felt Queen was following the trends and not setting them. Boy, was I wrong. When you give the album a chance outside of the context of my mid-Eighties preference for alternative music, Magic is a pretty good album. My Rating: 7/10.
11. Queen II (1974). This is the sound of a young band trying to find their true voice. You can hear what they will become, but they are not yet the Queen we all came to love at this point. My Rating: 7/10.
10. Innuendo (1991). The last album Queen made while Freddie was still with us was a triumphant comeback of sorts, no matter how briefly that comeback lasted. The album is pompous, majestic and self-assured, just as all great Queen albums are. My Rating: 7.5/10.
9. Queen (1973). The band’s debut makes Queen seem as though they were going to battle Led Zeppelin for hard rock supremacy. I guess no one was listening closely to songs like “Great King Rat” and “My Fairy King,” which were early clues to the camp that lay within the band. My Rating: 7.5/10.
8. The Works (1984). The Works was the album that proved Queen’s rock might in the Eighties, like everyone needed reminding. Of course, Americans proved their bigotry when they forced MTV to ban the band’s video for “I Want to Break Free” for the members dressing up in drag, using typical English humor (go back and watch episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and you’ll see drag in nearly every episode!). This album should have shot the band back into the stratosphere here in the States, but this was the Reagan era, which we are still suffering from today. My Rating: 8/10.
7. News of the World (1977). This album records Queen at their most raw, as if the band were telling all the trendy punks to stick it. The album is known for the ubiquitous “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” The band even gives a nod to Zeppelin with their take on “Whole Lotta Love” called “Get Down, Make Love.” My Rating: 8/10.
6. Sheer Heart Attack (1974). This was the album during which the Queen we all came to love began flexing its muscles. Contains “Killer Queen” and “Now I’m Here.” My Rating: 8.5/10.
5. Hot Space (1982). I’m telling you right now: This album was THE album that Queen proved they were going to be the band of the Eighties, every bit as innovative as they were in the Seventies. Although their are many dance rhythms used on songs, this is NOT a disco album. This is the album Duran Duran or INXS always wished they could have made. My Rating: 9/10.
4. A Day at the Races (1976). For the longest time, this has remained my favorite Queen album, warts and all. I got it during a difficult time during my life and it got me through it. It’s not really their best, but it does contain “Somebody to Love,” and wouldn’t every band wish they could say that about one of their albums? My Rating: 9/10.
3. The Game (1980). Before this album was ever released, I KNEW it was going to be great. Then, it dropped during the Summer of 1980, and never left my turntable for very low throughout my senior year of high school. If you listen to this album, then Flash Gordon, Hot Space makes perfect sense within that context. My Rating: 9.5/10.
2. Jazz (1978). Talk about an album that keeps getting better with time, Rolling Stone once calls this album a “fascist” album. What the hell did that mean? Boomers hated Queen while us young Boomers/old Gen X-ers loved Queen. And, Jazz is full of Queen classics: “Bicycle Race,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Mustapha.” My Rating: 10/10.
1. A Night at the Opera (1975). What a perfect album that came out at the perfect time. This album shows Queen at its most definitive, as they are being innovative and fearless. Their vocals are impeccable and complex, while their growth as musicians was nearly immeasurable. This is what The Beatles had hoped Sgt. Pepper had sounded like. My Rating: 10/10.
That’s it! Queen’s career laid out before you, sans all the live albums. Long live one of the greatest bands of all time!