Over the 20-odd years that the classic line-up was together, Queen made such an impact on music that there’s always some tenuous anniversary waiting to be celebrated. So, as this year marks the fortieth anniversary of Bohemian Rhapsody, the thirtieth of the band’s career-defining performance at Live Aid and the twentieth of their final, posthumous album with the legendary Freddie Mercury on vocals, here’s a brief history of Queen’s albums from 1973 to 1995. Although each of the band’s releases has something to recommend it (some more than others, it must be said), as much as I love them I think it’s fair to say that quality control wasn’t always Queen’s strongest point. With that in mind I’ve highlighted the best and worst track on each album and collated them into two handy Spotify playlists: Killer Queen and Filler Queen. Naturally your experience may vary, so no threatening letters, emails or photos of yourself riding a bicycle in the nude, please.
In 1971 former Smile members Brian May and Roger Meddows Taylor came together with singer and Smile fan Farrokh “Freddie” Bulsara and bassist John Deacon, inexplicably referred to as Deacon John on early releases. The new band, christened “Queen” by the flamboyant Bulsara, signed a management deal with Trident Productions which allowed them use of the company’s recording studio, meaning that the band’s début album was fully recorded by the time a record deal was secured. Positioning themselves somewhere between heavy metal and prog rock, the album includes enduring rockers Keep Yourself Alive and Liar alongside oddities such as Jesus which steers the band into Christian Rock territory despite being written by Bulsara, a Zoroastrian; and My Fairy King, a progressive track set in Bulsara’s fantasy world known as Rhye. A reference to “Mother Mercury” in this song would inspire Bulsara to adopt Mercury as his own surname, while the fantasy world was also referenced in the album’s short closing instrumental Seven Seas Of Rhye… but more of that later.
Best track: The classic early Queen sound arrives fully formed on album opener Keep Yourself Alive – multiple layers of vocals, double-tracked guitar break, implausible boasts of sexual prowess (“I loved a million women in a belladonic haze” – did you, Freddie? Did you really?) and even an actual drum solo in the middle of the song. Chosen as the band’s first single release, it introduces everything we would come to love about Queen in a barnstorming three minute statement of intent.
Worst track: Changing styles and tempos within a song would become a Queen trademark, but such techniques would take time to master, as their first attempt Doing All Right clearly shows. A leftover from the band’s Smile days, it starts off pleasantly enough but quickly dissolves into adolescent smartarsery, slipping in a quiet acoustic section, a couple of bars of jazz, an uptempo guitar section and returning to the original motif within three minutes. The uptempo guitar section is reprised for the final minute, before everyone looks to their student friends for approval of how clever they are.
Queen II (1974)
By the time the first album had made it into the shops, Queen were completing work on its follow up. Released just eight months after their début, Queen II was more of the same but with added polish and professionalism. A semi-concept album, it was split between a “white side” of May and Taylor’s compositions and a “black side” of Mercury’s faintly ludicrous fantasy pieces such as Ogre Battle and The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke. Confusingly Queen II mimics Queen in closing with Seven Seas Of Rhye, although here we get the full length version and not just the introduction as on the previous album. When the song gave the band its first hit single in early 1974, one wonders how many people were tricked into buying the first album expecting to hear the hit single, only for it to fade out after a minute.
Best track: As if to show how quickly Freddie mastered the art of the tempo change, side two of the album is effectively one long suite of Mercury compositions, each flowing seamlessly into the next. The highlight of the suite is its centrepiece March Of The Black Queen, an epic piece comprised of numerous sections in varying tempos and styles but bearing all the hallmarks of classic Queen. It could be seen as a prototype Bohemian Rhapsody – there’s a piano and guitar section towards the end which sounds eyebrow-raisingly familiar – but if anything Black Queen is even more complex than its more famous cousin.
Worst track: Roger Taylor only contributes one song to the album and really the album would be better off without it. The Loser In The End is a story of a mother’s distress at her grown up son leaving home, yet Taylor somehow manages to be unsympathetic to either party, gruffly berating the son for not showing his mother enough respect, but then turning on the parent for not being able to let go. A guest slot hosting the Jeremy Kyle Show surely beckons for Roger.
Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
With a proper hit single under their collective belt, Queen’s third album saw the band set a course away from the choppy waters of prog towards the more hospitable shores of mainstream rock. Their increasing confidence produced a diverse yet coherent set of songs, from all-out rockers like Stone Cold Crazy and Brighton Rock to the effortless pop of Killer Queen and John Deacon’s first Queen composition Misfire. There are still nods towards prog in the three-song suite Tenement Funster, Flick Of The Wrist and Lily Of The Valley, while Freddie could be auditioning for Bugsy Malone on the ukelele-happy Bring Back That Leroy Brown. Killer Queen reached number 2 on the singles chart and briefly made Queen into pop stars before Now I’m Here followed it into the top twenty and proved that their rock credentials were still intact. Like the single that heralded its release, Sheer Heart Attack reached number 2 and was easily Queen’s strongest album to date; many would argue that it remains their best.
Best track: A strong album needs a strong closing track, and the anthemic In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited is among the band’s very best. The Mercury falsetto is very much in evidence on the verses, before we hit a chorus of few words but impossibly infectious melody. A live favourite throughout Queen’s career, it’s almost impossible to listen to without visualising Freddie, virtually naked from the waist up, conducting the crowd through the wordless singalong.
Worst track: Confusingly, side two’s opening track In The Lap Of The Gods is an overblown muddle, much of which sounds like it was recorded on a faulty cassette machine in a wind tunnel. Freddie’s distorted, slowed down vocals probably seemed like a good idea in the studio, but the effect spoils the only real content in an otherwise slight song which spends its second half repeating the title and going nowhere with it. The sense of relief as it segues into Stone Cold Crazy is palpable.
A Night At The Opera (1975)
Queen’s first number 1 album and the one most widely regarded as their masterpiece – mainly because it has the deathless Bohemian Rhapsody on it. Despite EMI’s reluctance to release the six-minute opus as a single, with Kenny Everett’s patronage it couldn’t fail and topped the chart for nine weeks, plus another five after Freddie’s death in 1991. The track inevitably dominates the album, although it shares vinyl with some of the band’s finest songs. Opening with the blistering Death On Two Legs, a no-holds-barred attack on a former manager who left the band virtually penniless during their early period of success, the album careers through an eye-watering variety of styles over the next forty minutes. Brian May’s folky ’39 remains a live favourite, John Deacon’s sweet You’re My Best Friend is another of the group’s best loved hits and the eight-minute epic The Prophet’s Song gives Bo Rhap a serious run for its money. In amongst all this, Brian manages to sneak in another George Formby moment in Good Company and Freddie briefly channels the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band on Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon and Seaside Rendezvous. Concluding with a rendition of God Save The Queen, there is something for everyone here, but only the truly open minded will really enjoy the whole album from start to finish.
Best track: The achingly beautiful acoustic ballad Love Of My Life is an unusually personal Mercury composition, stripped of Freddie’s customary bravado and proving that even rock megastars have relationship problems. Ironically for such an intimate song, it generally turned into a mass singalong when played live; indeed, a live recording of the song was released as a single in 1979 but could only stagger to number 63, whereas the studio version would surely have been an enormous hit.
Worst track: At the risk of repeatedly singling out Roger Taylor for criticism, I’m In Love With My Car is just dreadful. Over a harsh, unsympathetic backing track Taylor bellows inane couplets such as “With my hand on your grease gun/Oh, it’s like a disease, son.” Legend has it that Brian May thought Taylor was having a laugh when he played him the demo, but Roger was deadly serious and locked himself in a cupboard until the band agreed to put it on the B-side of Bohemian Rhapsody. One could probably construct a strong case for leaving him in there.
A Day At The Races (1976)
With its derivative title and sleeve design, A Day At The Races can be seen as a companion piece to A Night At The Opera – or it can be seen as the band treading water, being contractually obliged to release yet another album before they were truly ready to do so. The album is certainly more compact, jettisoning the shorter, flippant tracks of the previous two albums to make a set which is leaner and more focused. Despite this, the experience just isn’t as enjoyable. You Take My Breath Away sounds like a strained rewrite of Love Of My Life, Tie Your Mother Down is petty where Death On Two Legs was piercing and Drowse is I’m In Love With My Car with a bigger engine and nicer paint job. Blame the relentless work schedule; it might have been a better album if they’d had another six months to finish it off.
Best track: The multi-tracked gospel of Somebody To Love almost gave the band another number 1 hit; nearly twenty years later a live version with George Michael on vocals did top the chart. Despite the absence of Roy Thomas Baker in the control room, the production is perfect – dynamic but not bombastic, intricate but not convoluted, while it’s hard to believe that the enormous harmonies are the work of just three voices. Stick around for Fred’s little piano flourish at the end and you might just have the perfect Queen song.
Worst track: Queen with a social conscience? White Man deals with the plight of the indigenous peoples of the Americas – “Our country was green and all our rivers wide/You came with a gun and soon our children died.” Very commendable, the decision to sing it in a fake American accent is a nice touch and it must have gone down a storm at Sun City when the band played there in Apartheid-era South Africa.
News Of The World (1977)
With Britain in the iron grip of punk, Queen thought it prudent to tone things down a little. In contrast to the usual complex arrangements and time signatures, News Of The World‘s opener couldn’t be more stripped down; the primitive stomp-stomp-clap of We Will Rock You would become one of the band’s best known songs, inextricably linked with the altogether more conventional but equally popular We Are The Champions. Elsewhere the beginning of the band’s transition to stadium rock behemoths is evident in no-nonsense rockers such as Sheer Heart Attack (arriving a mere three years after the album of the same name) and Fight From The Inside, while My Melancholy Blues and All Dead, All Dead display an unexpected subtlety which makes them genuinely touching. It’s by no means punk, but News Of The World sees the band clearly distancing themselves from the pomposity of previous albums and allowing the songs to speak for themselves.
Best track: By far the longest track on the album, It’s Late remains instantly recognisable as Queen while also sounding unlike anything they’d done before. Resisting the urge to overdub layer upon layer of instrumentation, the stripped down backing allows Freddie’s voice to shine, although it’s not long before the inevitable multitracked harmonies kick in. There’s a nod to the past as everything speeds up a bit in the middle, before settling back down for another verse and then speeding up again as we sprint to the finish, like Bohemian Rhapsody run through a post-punk filter.
Worst track: On the other hand, Sleeping On The Sidewalk takes the stripped-down approach too far: a lazy blues jam over which Brian quietly, almost apologetically, sings a generic rags-to-riches story in a fake American accent. It feels like Francis Rossi asked Brian to write a song that would break Status Quo in the States, but not to tell Freddie, so the rest of the band recorded this as a demo one night trying not to wake Fred who was asleep in the next room, and then due to some clerical error it’s ended up on the album. Snooze of the world.
If News Of The World was Queen sucking in their collective gut in order to appear leaner, the follow-up Jazz was where they let it all hang out again. Reunited with Roy Thomas Baker, there was no evidence of any jazz but plenty of rock on perhaps the band’s most self indulgent album to date. The set opens with what sounds like a call to prayer in Mustapha – baffling to Western ears, yet chosen as a single in fun-loving Bolivia. The bawdy Fat Bottomed Girls and proto-rap of Bicycle Race formed the perfect double A-sided concept single, each song referencing the other, while the perennial party starter Don’t Stop Me Now is curiously placed as the album’s penultimate track. In between there’s plenty of balls-out rock in Dead On Time and Let Me Entertain You, the latter seeming particularly narcissistic even by Queen’s standards. Roger even flirts with disco on Fun It, a decision that would come back to bite him a few albums down the line. As for the free poster of the fat bottomed girls participating in the bicycle race, the question of why they had to do it starkers remains unanswered. Imagine the chafing.
Best track: It seems hardly credible now, but Don’t Stop Me Now was considered to be relatively inconsequential when it was released, reaching only number 9 in the UK and barely registering on the charts elsewhere. Agreed, the lyrics are not of earth shattering importance, but over the years the song has come to represent Freddie’s “have a good time… all the time” approach to life and has turned into one of the band’s best remembered – and most covered – songs. For added irony, consider the fact that an inferior version by McFly reached number 1 in 2006 and thus Don’t Stop Me Now became the last song performed on the last regular edition of Top Of The Pops.
Worst track: If you thought the lyrics to Don’t Stop Me Now were lightweight, how about the irony of Let Me Entertain You? Seemingly written as a show opener, the track is filed away at the end of side one and pulls out all sorts of tedious showbiz clichés, even namechecking the band’s record labels Elektra and EMI in a breathtaking pageant of self indulgence. “We’ll have a son of a bitch of a time!” promises Freddie (it is to be presumed that this is a promise rather than a threat), before his persistent cries of “Let me entertain you!” come to an end and… it’s time to turn the album over. Genius.
The Game (1980)
A new approach for the new decade as Queen relocate to Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland studio in Munich. Opening with an eerie swoop of descending synths on Play The Game, the almost title track is about as heavy as the album gets; the next half hour or so consists largely of tight, restrained pop-rock with elements of funk on Dragon Attack and even disco on Another One Bites The Dust, a US number 1 when it was reluctantly released as a single at the insistence of Michael Jackson. The casual rockabilly strum of Crazy Little Thing Called Love also topped the chart in the States, making The Game Queen’s biggest success there. Overall it’s a very relaxed album, the influence of new co-producer Reinhold Mack bringing out a spontaneity in the band’s performance which hadn’t previously been a feature of Queen albums. As if to signify the new approach, Freddie’s famous moustache made its first appearance shortly before the album’s release.
Best track: For a song that Freddie wrote in ten minutes in the bath, Crazy Little Thing Called Love has endured better than much of Queen’s catalogue. Released in 1979, way ahead of the album, its carefree jangle is a million miles away from the intensity of Mercury’s early work and shows obvious Elvis Presley influences, yet still remains every inch a Queen classic. A chart topper in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and the Netherlands and a number 2 hit in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, the song still sounds fresh despite its familiarity.
Worst track: And now a public information message: if you know someone who’s suffering from depression and you want to help them, for Christ’s sake don’t play them Don’t Try Suicide. Its heart may be in the right place but the lyrics are the most appallingly insensitive, contemptuous drivel. Freddie offers up helpful advice such as “Don’t try suicide, you’re just gonna hate it”, “Nobody gives a damn”, “Think you’re gonna slash your wrists this time / Baby, when you do it all you do is get on my tits” and most breathtakingly of all “You just can’t be a prick teaser all of the time” – it’s a wonder she wasn’t dead before the end of the song. With friends like that, etc.
Hot Space (1982)
After the mainly instrumental Flash Gordon soundtrack, Queen’s first studio album for two years needed to build on the foundation of their massive first volume of Greatest Hits. Rather than consolidate their success, though, they struck out in a new direction. Buoyed by the positive reaction to Another One Bites The Dust, Freddie decreed that they should do an entire album of dance music. In retrospect he should have gone off and done a solo album but the rest of the band was cajoled into recording Hot Space, the album that almost finished them off. The production is flat and tinny, the synth bass flabby and electronic drums weedy, but worst of all the songwriting is lazy and unengaging, particularly on the more dance influenced tracks. Even the moments of real emotion such as Life Is Real (Song For Lennon) and Las Palabras De Amor are tarnished by the pedestrian production and layers of sickly synthesisers where a band of Queen’s stature deserves a real orchestra. There are many ’80s records which sound dated now, but Hot Space sounded dated even then. Despite this, it holds the distinction of being the band’s only 1980s album to include a UK number 1 hit, having the David Bowie collaboration Under Pressure stapled on at the end.
Best track: Knowing the reputation Queen had gained following the naked cyclists controversy, giving a song the title Calling All Girls was just asking for trouble. Despite the obvious connotations, it wasn’t a Benny Hill romp or an invitation to one of Freddie’s sexy parties, but in fact a plea for everyone to just love each other (in an entirely platonic way, unlike much of side one of the album). It may have the most misleading title in the Queen canon (the first line, incidentally, is “Calling all boys, calling all girls”) and suffer from the same over-polished, substance-free production as the rest of the album, but it’s about as good as it gets here.
Worst track: Amazingly issued as the first single from the album, Body Language exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Hot Space. Over an uninspiring synth bassline, Fred riffs around the phrases “Give me your body” and “Body Language” and tosses off a few platitudes about how hot his unfortunate quarry’s body is. This goes on for four and a half minutes, during which literally nothing else happens. If the idea of a lead single is to give listeners a taste of the album, it certainly did its job – it alienated most of Queen’s old fans while failing to win them any new ones.
The Works (1984)
After the well deserved critical mauling dished out to Hot Space, Queen needed a spectacular album if they were to avoid fading into insignificance against the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club. Taking a step back, almost as if Hot Space had never happened, tracks like Radio Ga Ga and Machines (or Back To Humans) take the funk from the likes of Another One Bites The Dust and marry them to tracks that actually sound like Queen. Elsewhere there are traditional rockers (Tear It Up, Hammer To Fall), anthems (I Want To Break Free), rockabilly pastiches (Man On The Prowl) and Is This The World We Created?, an acoustic ballad about hunger which pre-empted Band Aid by several months. The production still left a little to be desired in places but it was a huge improvement over Hot Space and salvaged Queen’s career.
Best track: Over-familiarity has blunted the impact of the albums four massive hit singles, but even so it’s hard to see past Radio Ga Ga, the song that became Queen’s first major hit since 1981 and consigned the Hot Space debacle to history. A song decrying the importance of music videos, sung by the band that invented the music video, which you can’t hear without seeing the music video in your head – there has to be genius in there somewhere.
Worst track: Almost as if they’d been instructed to “write us another Radio Ga Ga“, Machines (or Back To Humans) takes the same basic “modern life is rubbish” theme but applies it to technology. Bad move. Roger Taylor’s technophobe lyrics make Freddie sound like a Luddite, picking up his computer mouse and shouting into it to make it work. “It’s bytes and megachips for tea,” apparently, whatever those are.
A Kind Of Magic (1986)
Queen had planned to take a long break from each other during 1985 – and possibly beyond – while Freddie finally got his solo album Mr Bad Guy out of his system. After their triumphant performance at Live Aid, though, the band regained their enthusiasm, releasing the single One Vision before the end of the year and commencing work on a soundtrack for Russell Mulcahy’s bonkers epic Highlander, much of which appears on this album. Singles A Kind Of Magic and Friends Will Be Friends, alongside the enduring image of the band’s swaggering performance at Wembley Stadium, paint a picture of Queen at their most bombastic, although the album is a mish mash of musical styles which never quite gels. The clinical production on tracks like One Year Of Love and Pain Is So Close To Pleasure replaces emotion with precision and places the whole project dangerously close to Dire Straits territory.
Best track: Although the single release only limped to number 24, Who Wants To Live Forever remains one of the band’s most enduring songs. It’s also one of the few tracks on the album that doesn’t sound like it’s being played to a click track and displays genuine emotion, even before the events of the next few years imbued the lyrics with real life poignancy.
Worst track: One of many problems with this album is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s not a Highlander soundtrack album, but the inclusion of songs written specifically for the movie means it’s not a regular Queen album either. This is demonstrated best on Gimme The Prize (Kurgan’s Theme), a lumpen, tuneless slab of thunderous drums, squalling guitars and meaningless lyrics overlaid with samples of dialogue from the film. As part of the movie soundtrack it serves its purpose; as an album track it generates no emotional involvement whatsoever and is just taking up space.
The Miracle (1989)
After a gap of three years – the longest between Queen albums to date – the band returned from their various solo projects with a new unity. For the first time all the writing credits went to the whole band rather than individual members, while the cover digitally morphed the band’s faces together into a (slightly creepy) single-headed rock behemoth. Everyone even gets a namecheck in The Invisible Man as if to emphasise the importance of each member to Queen as a whole. This united front brought added cohesion to an album which encompassed driving rock (I Want It All, Breakthru), funk-lite (Rain Must Fall, My Baby Does Me) and overblown pomposity (the title track, complete with baffling tempo change). Despite this bravado, alarm bells started to ring with the strange sense of finality in the lyrics of Was It All Worth It? and Freddie’s mysterious, unexplained reluctance to tour the album.
Best track: Perhaps the last great single made in the classic Queen mould, I Want It All announced the band’s return in no uncertain terms – powerful production, those multi-tracked harmonies, the vaguest hint of a story you didn’t quite understand in the lyrics and a blisteringly fast guitar solo in the middle section, a nod in the direction of bands like Metallica who had come to prominence during Queen’s downtime. It showed the band clearly still had it and made the lack of any live shows even more inexplicable.
Worst track: The CD version came with three additional tracks, including the aptly-named Chinese Torture, an atonal thump of ominous synths and random guitar solo. Outside of the “bonus” tracks, My Baby Does Me derails the album with its cheap drum machine beats, banal lyrics (“My baby / My baby does / My baby does… me good / My baby does / My baby does me / My baby does me good” – no wonder nobody wanted an individual writing credit) and just the faintest hint that Freddie’s voice might not quite be up to scratch any more, although nobody really knew why at the time.
Another Queen album just eighteen months after the last one? Something clearly wasn’t right here. Concern for Freddie’s health had been building since his frail appearance at the 1990 Brit Awards and the fact that the band didn’t feature on the album’s illustrated sleeve or the lead single’s animated video didn’t help. Knowledge of the circumstances in which Innuendo was recorded make it very difficult to analyse objectively, but at the time it was a very confusing album; the Queen-by-numbers pomposity of the title track (a flamenco guitar section, for Christ’s sake), the driving rock of Headlong and I Can’t Live With You, the unsettling semi-novelty I’m Going Slightly Mad with its Viv Stanshall-esque “Oh dear” refrain, the implied finality of songs like The Show Must Go On set against the seemingly throwaway Delilah – it seemed like Queen were just recording anything. As it turned out, with Freddie’s health rapidly deteriorating, that’s exactly what they were doing.
Best track: Released as the fourth single from Innuendo as well as a taster for Greatest Hits II, it’s fitting that The Show Must Go On was still in the chart on the day of Freddie’s passing. Determined to keep working for as long as he could, the song is a perfect expression of Freddie’s attitude – his make-up may have been flaking (and lord knows he had to wear a lot of it in those last videos) but his smile stayed on. Clearly illness has taken its toll on his voice, Freddie straining to reach notes would have hit with ease a few years earlier, but here it gives his performance added poignancy and the line “My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies” still brings a lump to the throat.
Worst track: You can justify it in many ways, as an ode to a treasured companion, as the last love song of a dying man, but the fact remains that Delilah is a song about Freddie Mercury’s cat. Without the knowledge of Freddie’s condition, it seemed like an abomination at the time; the band that sang Fat Bottomed Girls reduced to singing “Miaow” while Brian attempts to mimic the sound of a cat on the guitar. In hindsight it probably brought Freddie some comfort in his last months, although the idea that he spent so much of his precious time multi-tracking harmonies on the line “You make me slightly mad when you pee all over my Chippendale suite” still rankles.
Made In Heaven (1995)
Freddie’s approach to his failing health was to record as much as he could in the time he had left, both as a distraction for himself and a gift to his bandmates. Even though Freddie would sing literally anything in his last weeks in the studio, there still wasn’t quite enough material left over for the rest of the band to shape into a final, posthumous Queen album, so unfinished demos, out-takes, obscure B-sides and solo recordings all became fair game. Released around the same time John Lennon’s old cassette demos were being turned into fully fledged brand new Beatles singles, Made In Heaven never quite reaches the ethereal heights of Free As A Bird but equally never quite feels like a Queen album, perhaps due to an over-reliance on familiar material like I Was Born To Love You and Too Much Love Will Kill You. The album’s best moments are a welcome reminder of Freddie’s great talent but it’s hard to ignore the hand of death tapping its fingers in the background; Mother Love, the last song Freddie ever wrote and recorded, is so personal it’s actually painful to listen to. Making the album may have been a cathartic experience for the rest of the band but the finished product is a strangely unfulfilling epitaph for Freddie.
Best track: Based around an unfinished out-take from The Works, the unfortunately titled Let Me Live is rare in that it features an actual choir of backing singers rather than just Freddie, Brian and Roger repeatedly multi-tracked, giving an unusual gospel feel to proceedings. It’s also unique in that all three vocalists get to sing a verse each, which works well if you can bring yourself to believe that this was the original intention and not just a way to cover up the fact that Freddie had only recorded one verse.
Worst track: You Don’t Fool Me sounds like it was constructed in the studio out of various phrases from unfinished songs, which in fact it was. With a lazy, half-arsed Hot Space groove and repetitive lyrics (it’s well over a minute before Freddie sings anything other than “You don’t fool me”), there’s no real sense that the song is saying anything or going anywhere. More than any other track on the album, it gives the impression of having been put together out of a need to fill space on the album rather than any need to present Freddie’s last work in the best possible light, which is sad.
And so the Freddie Mercury era of Queen shudders inevitably to a halt. Well, just about. To me Queen should have called it a day at this point, or at the very least after the release of 1997’s one-off single No-one But You, a tribute to Freddie recorded by Brian, John and Roger. Discretion was never one of Queen’s strong points though and while John Deacon opted out, May and Taylor carried on under the Queen name. They toured for a number of years with ex-Free singer Paul Rodgers in Freddie’s ill-fitting shoes, even recording an album of new material, 2008’s The Cosmos Rocks which need not concern us here (because it’s rotten). After Rodgers’ departure, hopes that May and Taylor would finally let it lie were dashed by the appointment of American Idol contestant Adam Lambert as “Queen”‘s latest frontman. As if to undermine his new position, even as Lambert was preparing for his first UK tour with the band, three old Mercury tracks were dragged out of the vault and spruced up to adorn 2014’s Queen Forever compilation. Whether Queen & Adam Lambert go on to collaborate on new material remains to be seen, but if not there must be more old Freddie tracks that haven’t been overdubbed yet…