February alphabet of records Steve O - February 18, 2016

A Night at the Opera

Q is for Queen

A Night at the Opera

EMI, 1975

So I was debating what to do for the letter Q. It is far and away the letter with the fewest options. Yeah, there’s the Queers, but I’ve never been huge into them. Queensrÿche had some pretty decent stuff in the 80s. The first few Queens of the Stone Age records are good; I think Songs for the Deaf is a fantastic album. On my iTunes I’ve got a band called Qwertzuiop, an ambient band from Hungary. I could write about them and see if anyone checks out a random ambient noise band. But there really isn’t much choice. As obvious as the answer is, I gotta write about Queen.

A Night at the Opera is a great Marx Brothers movie, which you should definitely go watch if you haven’t seen it already. Or you should go watch again. It is also a great record by Blind Guardian, but we’re not gonna talk about that anymore despite the influences Queen had on them, particularly vocalist Hansi Kürsch borrowing some ideas from Freddie Mercury. What we are going to talk about is A Night at the Opera, as Queen’s fourth record, released in 1975. It is easily most famous for including one of Queen’s most well-known songs, "Bohemian Rhapsody." Appearing everywhere from Wayne’s World to Muppet parodies and everything inbetween, it really is an amazing song and certainly deserves the fame it’s received. It highlights Mercury’s vocal chords and his genius for vocal arrangements, and even with the variety of entertaining instrumentals, the song really is Mercury’s show. The incredible epic, “The Prophet’s Song” is another chance for Mercury to show-off that famous voice of his. Just listen to the middle of the song, running from 3:25 until just about the 6 minute mark. Mercury’s imagination runs absolutely wild. And then astrophysicist guitarist Brain May gets one of his many opportunities to show his spectacular guitar chops.


Elsewhere, “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated To…)” is surprisingly heavy for Queen. “’39” is a softer, acoustic styled ode, sung by May, featuring John Deacon on an upright bass. “Sweet Lady” sounds like a 70s rock and roll song, while “Seaside Rendezvous” has this jangly twang to it, especially with its extremely unique interlude (all those “instruments” are actually Mercury and drummer John Taylor’s voices), and is largely piano driven. “Love of my Life” is Mercury and a piano and easily the calmest song on the record. Queen wrote some amazing songs and had some masterful musicians. There really is a genius to their songwriting ability and the way they arranged so many parts into a concrete whole. And yes, A Night at the Opera has “Bohemian Rhapsody” on it, a perfect example of these skills. But the record is so much more than that admittedly awesome song. Give the whole thing a listen.