Queen: guaranteed to blow your mind (but not always in a good way)

Freddie Mercury on stage at Wembley Stadium, 1986
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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. Continue reading

Sing when you’re winning

"Back Home" by the 1970 England World Cup Squad
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Ever since the English national football team, still flushed with success from winning the 1966 World Cup, decided that their defence of the title would be enhanced by recording a pop single, football and music have gone together like cheese and custard. Professional footballers will insist on making tools of themselves by attempting to sing, rap or just mumbling incoherently in the hope of matching their success on the pitch with success in the charts. It’s not an easy thing to do, partly because the inherent tribalism of football means that while a player may have his team’s supporters on his side, there are countless other teams whose fans wouldn’t touch his record with a barge pole; but mainly because records by footballers are shite.

But can this theory hold true all the time? Are all footballers loutish oafs with the musical talent and sophistication of a warthog on a bouncy castle? What about those who buck the trend, who gave 110% in the studio and got a result at the end of the day? Leaving aside World Cup or Cup Final songs where the whole team reluctantly chants a song in unison, here are five (actually six, but two of them count as one) footballers who released singles in their own right. Will good or bad prevail? Find out in this hastily conceived and ill thought out penalty shoot-out! Continue reading

The UK’s 20 Greatest Eurovision Entries – Part 1

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The Eurovision Song Contest has always been one of the year’s major events in my household, ever since I was young enough to believe that the voting was actually based on the quality of the songs rather than a desire to avoid being invaded. Every spring I would look forward to the thrill of the Song For Europe competition to choose our entry for the main event – and the inevitable crushing disappointment when the UK failed to get anywhere near the sharp end of the voting, or even worse, came second to the Irish entry again. Being familiar with most of our entries over the years (there’s a fair number of the late ’70s and early ’80s ones nestling in a box of 7″ singles in the cupboard somewhere), I’ve attempted to pick the best of them and put them in order, based not on their success in the contest or any kind of intangible “Eurovision factor”, but simply on how good the song was. Is it possible for a song to be too good to win the Eurovision Song Contest? Let’s see… Continue reading