Thursday, 8 November 2018

My Top Ten Songs About Freddie Mercury

The movie Bohemian Rhapsody has received mixed reviews from the critics - but then, so did the song it was based on. It is a film made by fans for fans, and as such it was a success for me. Yes, there are some creaky bits where you can sense the hand of messrs. May & Taylor bigging themselves up as script editors, and the Mike Myers cameo belongs in a different movie. A very bad am-dram movie. But put these aside, and this is a film Queen fans will cheer - not just for Remi Malik's star-making turn as Freddie, but for the note-perfect performances of the other band members too - Brian "nice but dull" May, Roger "cocky knob" Taylor and John "quietly witty" Deakin. I believed every one of them was the band member they played, and I was a bit of a Queen aficionado in my teenage years.

There'd been criticism of the film beforehand for glossing over the more sordid elements of Freddie's life, so I was surprised to find it pulled few punches. Yes, it could have been more graphic and sleazy, but  I thought the filmmakers chose the right tone - hinting at such debauchery without needing to splash it all over.  The final scene, at Live Aid, gave the film its musical climax, but it was the scene prior to that (Mercury visiting his parents and introducing them to his new "friend", while his dad quietly came to terms with everything that his son was) which broke me. It made me realise why I always connected with Freddie as a teenager - the outrageous glamour was just a cover for his loneliness, and we connected with that. Anybody who's ever cried while listening to Queen's finest moment will know that Freddie understood. That was the message I took away from the film, the tragedy of Freddie... he wasn't looking for fame and glamour and excess, all he really wanted was a family and a "friend". Don't we all?

I wouldn't recommend Bohemian Rhapsody to non-Queen fans. It won't convert you, it'll probably just annoy you even more. But for the fans... it was everything we needed.

Here's ten songs by ten fans... well, nine fans and one who's not quite sure.

10. Elton John - The Last Song

The song Elton wrote after hearing Freddie had died. Typical late-stage Elton, so there could have been a much better tribute, but at least it's from the heart.

9. Hollerado - Good Day At The Races

Menno Versteeg, frontman of Canadian indie band Hollerado, says this one's about Freddie, so who am I to argue?

8. Five Iron Frenzy - Fahrenheit

Interesting one this. Songwriter Reece Toper wrote it about his own ignorance and bigotry as a teenager, a Queen fan who "turned his back on Freddie Mercury" when he found out he was gay and had died of AIDS. I imagine quite a lot of serious Queen fans did the same. At least this guy wised up when he was older.

7. Train - This'll Be My Year

This'll be one that will irk the musos, I know the comments I got the last time I featured Train here... so their rip-off of We Didn't Start The Fire will probably go down like a lead balloon! Like that's gonna stop me...

In ninety two
A boy is born
The skies were blue
In Ohio
Boris Yeltsin chills
Freddie dies
But Queen is still
Barcelona has the games
Lady Di is single again
Clinton wins
And I still dream
That I'll find you someday

6. The Tragically Hip - Fly

If you're gonna steal a line from Bohemian Rhapsody, at least credit the author...

Seventy days to cross the ocean 
Seventy nights where no one's gonna hear me fall 
Freddie Mercury, "I sometimes wished I'd never been born at all."

For more on what that's all about, look here.

5. Craig Finn - No Future

You might not expect the Hold Steady front-man to be a big Freddie fan...

Good old Freddie Mercury is the only guy that advises me
This time, he said if you can't beat them join them

...but he certainly knows his Queen album tracks.

4. Mika - Grace Kelly

Over the years, there have been many imitators wanting to grab a seat on Freddie's throne and Mika looked to be giving it a good try with this single... but he really didn't have the legs.

I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
I've gone identity mad!

3. Idles - Danny Nedelko

One of the singles of 2018, no doubt about it. And a very timely message...

My blood brother is an immigrant
A beautiful immigrant
My blood brother's Freddie Mercury
A Nigerian mother of three
He's made of bones, he's made of blood
He's made of flesh, he's made of love
He's made of you, he's made of me

Take that, Brexit!

2. Frank Turner - Eulogy

Frank Turner knows his place in the world...

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut,
Not everyone was born to be a king,
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury,
But everyone can raise their glass and sing.

Well I haven't always been a perfect person,
Well I haven't done what mum and dad had dreamed,
But on the day I die, I'll say at least I fucking tried.
That's the only eulogy I need.

1. Freddie Mercury - Mr. Bad Guy

Much is made in the film of Freddie's foolhardy attempt at a solo career, and his return to Queen, tail between his legs because the new musicians he was working with "did exactly what I told them" rather than pushing back against him, that friction being said to have created better art. Whether that's another example of May & Taylor having a little too much input into the script or not, it's fair to say that Mr. Bad Guy, his first solo album for CBS, wasn't a classic, although it did have its moments - notably the single I Was Born To Love You and this, the title track in which Freddie gives Morrissey a run for his money in the self-pity stakes...

I'm Mr Bad Guy
Yes I'm everybody's Mr Bad Guy
Can't you see I'm Mr Mercury
Oh spread your wings and fly away with me

I'm Mr Bad Guy
They're all afraid of me
I can ruin people's lives
Mr. Bad Guy they're all afraid of me
It's the only way to be
That's my destiny
Mr. Bad Guy

Oh, and just to Brian doesn't feel left out... here's a song about him:


  1. Frank Sidebottom’s Tribute to Queen and his pronunciation of Mercury springs to mind

  2. I didn’t even know there was a solo album. Learned a couple of other things too. You certainly know your Queen.

    1. They were my first love, band-wise, Brian.

  3. You have summed it up perfectly and glad you enjoyed it. I have seen the film twice now and have a feeling a third visit might be on he cards. I thought the casting for the band members was excellent (although Roger still looked 18 at age 40!) and all very believable. This was not a documentary but a piece of film entertainment so I for one are more than happy that some of the sleazier elements of Freddie's life were omitted. Being the age I am I still remember well that first TOTP performance (the furry jacket) and of course all 20 minutes of their show-stealing Live Aid slot so it really took me back.

    Bot of course as you so eloquently point out, whether the exotic Freddie Mercury or just an Ordinary Joe getting on with life, all we really need is the unconditional love of our family and a special friend. I'm glad Freddie had that before he died and although relatively young in years, he'd packed a few lifetimes into that short span - Not many Top Tens could be written referencing just one person, but as you have just proved, Freddie was definitely one of them.


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