QUEEN: A Look Back On What Made Them So Memorable By Ted Cantu
QUICK NOTE:   “WE WILL ROCK YOU” is currently on tour. It features the iconic musical majesty of UK rock band, Queen. The genius is in the details. Before you get blown away by the theatrics here is a little bit of info on that powerhouse of a band.

In the 1970’s there was an iconic sound that broke through the airwaves for me as a kid. Growing up in Muskegon, Michigan there were only so many rock stations. In the early 70’s there was the standard folksy quasi post hippie type stuff that was classified as rock music. I didn’t understand it at the time and had no interest really in any of it aside from the Beatles. There was a bizarre band I saw on American Bandstand that was doing something with opera or at least that’s what I thought. To be honest I really did not understand it and I thought it was a very weird sound. That sound turned out to be the classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the band was Queen.

Word of mouth quickly spread, this was all before the web, and everyone was talking about this operatic sounding band. The other track bouncing around the airwaves back then was, “Killer Queen” which was also very bizarre but yet interesting. When these songs came on the radio I was glued to it and sat there until the songs were finished in completion. Growing up in the 70’s meant that you did all of the things that defined that generation. One of those activities was roller skating. The epic track, “We Will Rock You” was played at ear deafening levels. That song was quickly followed up with, “We Are The Champions” which is a 360 on tone and tempo and it made no sense to me at the time but like thousands of other people I knew that I liked it.

As the 70’s came to a close there was talk about something called Punk Rock but that really hadn’t reached the masses. It only existed in rumors and on late night news programs. There was a glimpse at New Wave with bands like Devo and the B-52’s which left me clueless and they played live on Saturday Night Live. During this time Queen released its absolute wunderkind of an album called, “Live Killers”. This thing looked friggen awesome. It was a double album and there were a lot of songs on there that I wasn’t familiar with. The album had a picture of the band on stage and it was in silhouette. Behind them were blinding yellow, red and green lights and it lured me to buy it. I knew there was something on here that I needed to hear.

The tough kids in my school listened to Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and anything with a skull or a devil on the cover. I’m not knocking metal but I was more interested in the Queen vibe. The double record set was recorded somewhere in Europe. The inner sleeve design talked about it incessantly like you were really there and how the audience sang along with the songs and knew all the words which to me was astounding.

Considering that most of the tracks on this album were never even on the radio at the time. The people in the crowd were serious fans and that added to the energy of the overall performance. The album starts with thunder and applause and tears into a fast ripping rendition of, “We Will Rock You”. The pace of the song is not anything that was released prior so it comes off as a surprise. Now I cannot imagine it played any other way.  From there the album rolls into five songs that are presented as a melody. These include, “Let Me Entertain You”, “Killer Queen”, “Death on Two Legs”, and more before the band takes a pause and addresses the auditorium. I was hooked. This was powerful and exciting. When I look back on the rock and roll records I owned in the 70’s this one tops the list. I still play it frequently from time to time and with great fondness.

The energy of the performance is powerful and electric. It demands attention and pulls you in and there is nothing like it. Even by today’s standards it is a really strong show and a big part of that reason lies within the way the band works together. There are no synthesizers working on the tracks and that is impressive and something that the band held tightly to as a banner of pride. Brian May, the lead guitarist, was a master of sound effects, pedals and feedback. There was such control in his playing that it was really artistic and articulate in its presentation. When the band delivers its songs they have a way of making it all so seamless and dare I say – easy to pull off.

QUEEN:  LIVE On Saturday Night Live
The band was living large with articles in Rolling Stone Magazine in the 1982 despite having one of the least popular albums in their catalog with the release of, “Hot Space”.  Unfazed the band played on, “Saturday Night Live” when comedian Danny DeVito hosted. This time Queen appeared stripped down and didn’t have the monstrous light show or light up drum riser. They rocked out to, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and brought the house down. Freddie and the boys proved that they could still rock the people and could deliver a tight song without the glitz and wide arena approach. It was simple, straight rock and roll and it was delivered in a no nonsense way.

** For you history buffs out there watch for the end of this performance. There is a coda in there for another Queen song, “You’re My Best Friend”.



The world was treated to a performance by Queen during the 1985 Live Aid concert. This was created to benefit the starving people of Ethiopia. The event was organized by Bob Geldolf of the Boomtown Rats and it had a global presence. While the UK performance was happening at Wembley Stadium in London, (with an estimated audience of 72,000) there was another stage set up at JFK Airport in Philidelphia, PA with about 100,000 in attendance. There were other stages with performers that were linked through satellites and multiple broadcasts. The Live Aid concert had an estimated viewing audience of 1.9 billion. Nothing of this magnitude had ever been attempted before and the energy of this show was nothing short of magical.


When Queen rocked Argentina in 1981 they played to an audience of 300,000. This dwarfs anything that is done in today’s rock arenas. In fact, it doesn’t even come close. When rock veterans Van Halen come to tour Detroit they can only sell 18,000 seats at Joe Louis Arena. There really is nothing that can compare to that by our current standards. When Freddie Mercury died tragically of the Aids virus in 1991 the world became a little more silent. Nothing has ever really come close to matching the bands intensity, the fire, and the power that this band delivered.


Queen With Adam Lambert, Detroit Summer of Rock, Review At The Palace Of Auburn Hills, Michigan

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