Out of all of the amazing front-men singers we have experienced so far, there is nobody with the combination of creative talent, flamboyant performance chops, and the singular ability to command an audience like Freddie Mercury. In 1975, Queen released “A Night at the Opera”, one of their most celebrated and successful albums. It is quite the eclectic mix of songs, even more than I expected. The album is rated #128 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of all Time.
The record opens a fairly typical Queen song, a mix of rock and theatrics, “Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To…)”. More of Freddie’s over-the-top presence emerges on “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”, and then I was thrown my first curveball. As the rocker “I’m In Love With My Car” kicked in, I quickly realized that wasn’t Freddie singing. I looked it up, and it was drummer Roger Taylor, who also wrote the song. As I have said many times, I usually enjoy hearing the others in the band take a run on lead vocals, but in this case, if you have the best front man in the world, you might want to just let him do all of the singing.
Next comes the well-known song “You’re My Best Friend”, and it is now confession time. For over 40 years, every time I have heard of this song, it reminds me of the song “Come On, Get Happy” by the Partridge Family. Listen to both and tell me I’m wrong… but I do love both songs, so no harm done at all. The song “’39” follows, and it quickly reminds me of the type of anthem they might sing at the end of a Premier League football match in Wembley Stadium. And wait a minute… THAT’S NOT FREDDIE, EITHER!! Yes, this song has guitarist and astrophysics PhD Dr. Brian May on lead vocals. It works better than Roger Taylor’s song, but again, let’s have Freddie do the singing here. Apparently, whenever they played this song live, that’s exactly what they did.
Other favorites include “Seaside Rendezvous”, another hysterical Mercury top-shelf performance, and the song “Love of My Life”, which has a great preview of their grand finale embedded in the music. That’s right, as expected, the climax of this imaginative album is the timeless classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a true masterpiece composed by Mercury. We are ALL guilty of singing along with this one in our cars like Wayne & Garth, and it really is a beautiful, if slightly absurd piece of music. It fits in well with Freddie’s overall place in the spotlight. The album bids farewell with an instrumental performance of the UK anthem, “God Save The Queen”, composed and primarily performed by May.
Queen is a one-of-a-kind act, and certainly another act who shined brightest on the big stage. In two stadiums filled with the biggest acts in the world, they completely stole the show at “Live Aid”, and like a few other acts, I will always regret I never was able to see the amazing Freddie Mercury show live in person.