When I think of the 1980s, when I think of skinny ties and big hair, when I think of many, many sweatbands and teal pants with white drawstrings, I think of Queen.
The 1980s marked the band’s descent, its overblown, Fat-Elvis epoch. And throughout the decade I remained the loyal fanboy, through the critical drubbings, through the ballet slippers, through the mustache-torching pyrotechnics, and stayed with them even after all their followers had forsaken their new fat-synth soundreplete with medleys grafted onto the end of extended remixes.
It was the 1980s, and I was fairly sure I was the last remaining Queen fan in America.
I’ve Developed 10 Possible Reasons Why Queen Tanked in America
1. An unfulfilled retrospective impulse, which was not provided by the rock literary establishment, referred to in the mainstream press as catalog padding
2. Vanity, pridefulness: desire to admire footage of themselves before MegaVision stage explosions
3. A yen to tinker in contemporary digital recording technologies
4. A need to make connections within their own work, dismissed in the press as rehashing songs (such as doing another rockabilly song, another gospel song, another mock-opera song, another timeless anthem, another singalong ballad contrived to make East Germans cry)
5. Cocaine, vodka
6. A couple of way-overdue divorces and a genuine lack of interest in the songs at hand
7. The mustache that Freddie Mercury maintained in a world whose exposure to gay culture was still by way of Paul Lynde on Bewitched, not to mention:
7a. The videos in which Freddie dressed as a woman or womanly centaur poured into alpine-white tights
8. Pressure from EMI and Capitol to pad out the new 12-inch single format
9. A lack of non-album B-sides (all the filler material already soaked up on the last album)
10. Because they could. They’re Queen, the greatest rock band there ever was or ever will be, and they can do whatever they want. And because nobody at the label said they couldn’t.
A Not Very Well-Timed Highlander Theme Flashback
You know you don’t belong here.
These are the last words you will hear as you flee the security guard’s gorilla-like grip in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria. You are here to break into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and to do this, you take a dumbwaiter ride in a chef’s smock, then strip down to a black tuxedo.
One pretend-call on a cell phone, some backs turned, and you’re in. Time this mission, for you know which bandyes, Queenwill open. If not for Jann Wenner’s overlong oratory, your lack of nametag would not be a problem. But it is. And no credentials either. Game over, superfan.
Bask in the onstage glory before you’re busted. Lookit’s the bass drum from the Princes of the Universe video!
Whereas John Deacon, Queen’s bassist, writes the crappiest songs in the band;
Whereas from 1973 to 1984 the others must have helped with instrumentation;
Whereas at this point Freddie’s now-wavering will to dress this up befalls on Roger and Brian;
Whereas now it’s just John and a big Casio,
I proclaim this day Experience John Deacon Day.
The More Things Change
At the 2002 Official Breakthru North American Queen Fan Club Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, trainees from the next-door Lockheed Martin conference room steal all the cranberry juice from our breakfast buffet.
The joy-screams from Kim’s Baby Shower down the hall completely drown out our Osaka ‘82 concert screening.
In Conference Room B7, there’s a lecture given by an S&M expert. A man in a rubber suit with a hole exposing his anus bellies up beside me at the Radisson bar.
I offer to buy him a Michelob Lite. He accepts.
I tell him I’m here for the Queen convention. He rolls his eyes.
I Want To Break Free
Back from another splurge at the record store. Before me I have four interview picture discs, each bearing the likeness of a different band member.
Was it worth it to buy all four?
That’s exactly what my friends Bob and Tom want to know. Weary of my ever-increasing Queen purchases, they’ve insisted I come over and prove the merchandise’s worth. We fire up the turntable.
First picture disc: Freddie in tights, circa 1977. The first interview question, posed to Brian May:
Have you played Leeds before?
Second picture disc: Brian onstage, probably an American tour, bathed in orange backlight. First interview question:
Have you played Leeds before?
Bob and Tom snicker and cheer.
Third picture disc: Roger in sunglasses, a shot from a recent solo album junket. First interview question:
Have you played Leeds before?
Bob and Tom, their knees in World Cup celebration, begin chanting
Leeds, Leeds, Leeds.
Fourth picture disc: John, sleepy-eyed in a turtleneck, with his white-boy afro. First interview question:
Have you played
Bob and Tom explode in a torrent of laughs, and I can’t hear the rest of the interviewer’s question. I trudge home to listen to them alone with headphones, determined to discover the outcome for myselfwithout the ceaseless distractions of Philistine non-Queen fans.
(That fourth question: Yes, Leeds before. Four fucking Leeds interview picture discs. Jesus Christ. The money I have spent on this band.)
The Moment Before the Moment Before the Existential Moment
In 1984 I joined the Official International Queen Fan Club, and shortly thereafter called their London office at the number off The Works sleeve notes. I was home sick from school, and I wanted to talk to someoneanyonewho actually liked Queen.
Hello from America! I announce. Have the boys been around today? Have you seen them?
Of course they hadn’t! No!
I scold myself, and think of anything else to say
Jeffrey Osbourne as Agent for Social Change
Flashback to Beat It at the Camden Catholic High School, all the kids dancing together, blacks, whites, girls, boys. Super Mario DJ jumpstarts the air-guitar orgy: Ladies and gentlemen, on lead guitar, Mr. Edward Van Halen! Torsos crane, ribs trill. Knees slide across the cafeteria floor. Every one of them doing their best, their most practiced solos sans guitars.
But where’s my guitar hero’s crossover solo? Where’s my moment to show off his majestic licks?
Later in the set we’re treated to Jeffrey Osbourne’s Stay With Me Tonight, featuring the guitar guest-work of one Mr. Brian Harold May, and whose solo I now perform for my nerd posse friends, whom I have collared onto the dance floor. They are left stunned, staring down into their soda cups.
The Existential Moment
It would be nice to live in England, where there are more Queen fans, I continue, half-sobbing into the phone.
Well, the guy at the fan club says, We did have another person from America who sent their membership forms in.
Really? Who??!? A pen pal, maybe? A girl, hopefully?
Yes, let’s see, he says, flipping papers, That person
I’m hanging in time, hyperventilating in anticipation.
The newest single fails to even chart, and I’ve never been so alone.
The Last Queen Fan in America
The names Freddie, Roger, Brian, and John may not mean much to many ’80s music fans, but to DANIEL NESTER they were the best of the decade: Queen, ever the champions.