One of the finest and most unforgettable moments in music history was created by Queen at Wembley Stadium in London at the Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985. The band stood out like shining beacons at an event which was to raise funds to help the victims of a famine in Ethiopia, and one which had a line up for the ages – David Bowie, Led Zeppelin The Who, Dire Straits, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan.
A 20-minute set – an almost seamless medley of the band’s hits like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Radio Ga Ga’, and ‘We Will Rock You’ – is all it took for the band, Brian May’s screaming guitar, and Freddie Mercury’s infectious enthusiasm, to floor those in attendance. As Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters reminisced about the day: “Queen smoked ’em. They just took everybody. They walked away being the greatest band you’d ever seen in your life, and it was unbelievable.”
Two billion people watched that performance on television around the world. Queen had forever been cemented in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll history.
In fact, if you run an experiment and ask people with even the barest knowledge of rock music as to who has the best voice in rock history, chances are that Freddie Mercury’s name will be high up on anyone’s list, alongside Chris Cornell, Robert Plant and Aretha Franklin, among other greats.
Skip to 33 years later, and Queen’s songs still remain embedded in our collective cultural conscience. Greatest hits still play in more than the occasional bar and find their way into the movies and television series. Which sporting event is truly complete without audiences belting out ‘We are the Champions’ or ‘We Will Rock You’?
Now, with the much-anticipated biopic of the band due for release in November, it’s more than likely that Queen will soon have a revival it very much deserves – much like the recent Stephen King resurrection across entertainment platforms.
Starring Mr Robot‘s Rami Malek (for the longest time, Sacha Baron Cohen had been pegged for the role) in the lead as Mercury, the trailer doesn’t actually dish out too many scenes unlike so many trailers these days where you practically get to see the whole film even though all you were looking for was a good tease.
What it does include is an epic medley of a few hits, and a glorious moment from Wembley where Mercury, in between songs, smoothly commands the audience to sing everything he does. It also includes the making of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a masterful song that is so musically complex as it shifts from movement to movement. Let’s not forget the song’s lasting impact – it is, after all, the third best-selling UK single of all time.
“When I got this role, I thought… this could be a career defining performance. And two minutes, later I thought, ‘this could be a career killer,’” Malek said at Fox’s CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas in April.
The cast includes Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as guitarist Brian May, and Joseph Mazzello as bassist John Deacon.
The trailer, which was released online this week, has already come under fire, as all things do these days in this overly politically-correct present day reality. The criticism pouring in hits out at the makers for allegedly ignoring Mercury’s sexuality. Some have called out 20th Century Fox of “heterosexual-washing”, including producer Bryan Fuller who’s credits include the Star Trek television series and American Gods.
ANYONE ELSE MILDLY ANNOYED (enough to tweet about it) THAT THE #BohemianRapsody TRAILER FEATURES GAY/BI SUPERSTAR FREDDIE MERCURY FLIRTING WITH AND TWIRLING WITH A WOMAN BUT NO INDICATION OF HIS LOVE OF MEN?
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) May 15, 2018
Well, to be fair, such scenes may have only been cut for the trailer, as it would be hard to explain just how Mercury died in 1991 of AIDS if the film became a prime example of being afflicted by what is called “queer-erasure”. Then again, even the official synopsis of the film has nothing to say about Mercury’s sexuality:
Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury, who defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound, their near-implosion as Mercury’s lifestyle spirals out of control, and their triumphant reunion on the eve of Live Aid, where Mercury, facing a life-threatening illness, leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music.”
But perhaps it would be best to not really infer just how good or terrible the film would be without actually sitting down to digest it. In fact, it’s likely that it will be either utterly magnificent or cataclysmic – films like this have a way of dodging the middle ground.
Fans will hope it will lean towards being a stupendous affair, of course, and considering that the script, which focuses on a 15-year period from when the band got together, to Mercury’s illness and to that unforgettable performance at Live Aid six years before Mercury’s death, has been penned by Anthony McCarten of The Theory of Everything fame, we may just be in safe hands.
There was some drama with the filming: Bryan Singer, who was originally hired to direct the film, was fired for a wide variety of reasons including absenteeism, and Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) was brought in to complete the project.
Fans will have their fingers crossed that the film does justice to a band as legendary as Queen, and to the musical prowess of Freddie Mercury, who holds the rare distinction of being a singer who could go over three octaves with great ease.
So after marking the November release on your schedules, here’s a few more songs to dive into for a glimpse of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
Somebody to Love:
Radio Ga Ga:
The Show Must Go On: