Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Killer Queen

Having endured the indignity of listening to this season's American Idol cast butchering the songs of one of the greatest rock bands of all time — Queen, featuring the talents of guitar hero Brian May, percussionist extraordinaire Roger Taylor, bassist John Deacon, and the inimitable Freddie Mercury on lead vocals and piano — I feel the urgent need to compile my list of all-time favorites from the Queen catalogue.

Get on your bikes and ride...
  1. Fat Bottomed Girls. If I have to explain to you why I love this song, (a) you don't know me — or my predilections — very well, and (b) any explanation won't help.

  2. Keep Yourself Alive. Back in my disc jockey days, those words were my customary signoff. Queen's first single, and still one of their most enjoyable rockers. Fun, energetic vocals by Freddie.

  3. You're My Best Friend. One of several Queen hits written by bassist John Deacon, it's unusual in that it features Deacon on electric piano (an instrument keyboardist Freddie despised and refused to play).

  4. Don't Stop Me Now. If I ever got the chance to direct a motion picture about a superhero, this song would be on the soundtrack. It just has that anthemic feel.

  5. Another One Bites the Dust. The least Queen-like number in my Top Ten, but I like it anyway. Another John Deacon original. Remember Weird Al Yankovic's parody, "Another One Rides the Bus"? I thought of that before I ever heard of Weird Al.

  6. Bicycle Race. Freddie Mercury's paean to the Tour de France — only with hot naked chicks instead of Lance Armstrong. Maybe the only hit song in the history of rock to use a bicycle bell as a percussion instrument. On the single, it's the A-side to "Fat Bottomed Girls" — which strikes me as being entirely backwards.

  7. Somebody to Love. One of the most amazing choral arrangements in popular music — somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 vocal overdubs of Freddie, Brian, and Roger — as well as one of the greatest power ballads in rock history.

  8. Tie Your Mother Down. Built around one of Brian May's most distinctive guitar riffs, this was one of the highlights of Queen's live show. The title started as a joke — Brian intended to write a new lyric to replace it, but Freddie talked him into leaving it in.

  9. Seven Seas of Rhye. Queen's first UK hit, it stands as a monument to the band's straight-ahead early sound. Supposedly, Freddie wrote it about a fantasy land he made up when he was a child.

  10. I Want to Break Free. I'm not as much a fan of Queen's '80s material as I am of their songs from the '70s, but this 1984 number is as good as it gets. Even if it did end up as a Coke commercial.
I know what you're thinking: Where's "Bohemian Rhapsody"? You know me — I never take the road most traveled.

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