I’ve just spent three days away in the Lake District camping with family, with all the usual laughing, walking, eating, playing Frisbee and bickering this entails and I made sure that apart from the car stereo, which we never seem to use when we’re all together, I had no music with me at all. It was a really nice thing to do actually, curbing my obsessive ways for a few days and hopefully cleansing my palate a little. Last time I walked up to the shelves looking for something to put on, I just couldn’t be bothered.
Still, now I’ve come down (literally) from the mountain to dispense my wisdom and lore to my faithful followers I decided upon one that was a real life-changer for me, Queen Greatest Hits.
Like the rest of my generation I fell in love with Queen after their consummate performance at Live Aid. I knew of them before and had enjoyed the video for ‘I Want to Break Free’, but that was about it; but where to start? my friend’s big sister’s copy of Greatest Hits was the perfect answer. What an LP! 17 tracks of brilliance, the best-selling album ever in the UK – 5.8 million sold in a population of (today) 62.74 million, without allowing for babies and irredeemable homophobes that means that by my crude calculations one in 12 of us own a copy of this LP. Add in all the copied and illegally downloaded ones out there and I strongly believe that the actual figures point to every man, woman and child in the UK owning at least 4.2 copies of this LP*.
I love that fact it means that for every difference that shapes us as a nation, be it ethnic grouping, religion, language, gender, social class, political views, sporting allegiances, regional loyalties whatever we are all united in a common ability to sing the wrong lyrics to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, all the right ones to ‘Flash’ and in our ability to do a half-decent Freddie Mercury impersonation. In these days of mistrust and division I find that a comforting thought.
I understand that the LP was released with a different track-listing in every territory to reflect the singles actually released there, the US version which I’ve just looked at is a substantially different LP. The UK one opens with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a song that just blew my mind when I first got hold of it, but one which I’ve heard so many times now that I actually find it difficult to listen to, my brain shuts off after a chord or two and wakes up again during the ‘silly’ bit. One hell of an opening track too, how do you follow that? ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ of course! John Deacon’s borrowing (and slight inversion) of Chic’s ‘Good Times’ Every track here is brilliant, even the slightly soppy, John Deacon penned, ‘You’re My Best Friend’ which I never used to like at all.
I was a teenage Queen freak and I loved all the LPs fairly indiscriminately and Greatest Hits was my launching point. It was good to have some reference points I knew already when I went potholing into the LPs proper, I could pitch camp and rest up safely during ‘Now I’m Here’ and plot my assault on the summit of Side 2 of Sheer Heart Attack. I’m not much of a one for greatest hits-type LPs normally^ you need the band in question to have been a real singles machine to make it worthwhile and that art seems to have gone the way of the cooper, fletcher and farrier**; and woe betide any so-called Greatest Hits LP coming my way padded out with favourite LP cuts and live versions. At their best though Queen were a singles band quite unlike anyone else. their tastefully schizophrenic dabblings in rock, pop, dance and ballads give them a volume of quality singles unrivalled by anyone band I can think of excluding the big legendary 60’s ones. So they are the only band who’s back catalogue I have explored in this way.
Anyway, all that babble aside Queen Greatest Hits is, as I might have said earlier, a brilliant LP full stop. It’s fun and playful, ‘Flash’ makes me smile from ear to ear as well as hard-hitting at times, ‘Save Me’ is the track that my overly dramatic adolescent self went for big time. It just has most bases covered and it also has my fave all-time (today anyway) Queen song on it, ‘Somebody to Love’ – I just don’t think rock/pop gets any better than this. You add the inner sleeve notes (gotta love sleeve notes) about each track and I’m a happy little obsessive.
Interestingly enough my kids, with whom I’ve adopted a strict ‘don’t-force-them-to-listen-to-your-music, it’ll-only-turn-them-away-from-discovering-it-themselves policy’, LOVE this album already. It’s become a family thing singing along to ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ in 4-part harmony and let’s face it they do make the rocking world go round!
P.S – we do actually own 2 copies of this LP, Mrs 1537 and I both bought copies before we were manacled together for life; and yes, it was my wife’s copy that was the ‘stunt LP’ for these photos! Shhhh.
*I don’t want to dazzle you with my rigorously peer-checked scientific calculations here, you’re going to just have to trust me on this one.
^although I’m not against the idea of Greatest hits LPs per se, a Kanye West’s one will be a great LP one day and maybe Lady Gaga too – it’s more of a pop than a rock thing, maybe.
**yes, I know there are still lone practitioners out there doing their coop-thang, but you know what I mean!