…screaming, let me out

Today’s selection comes at the request of a friend who asked for something by this group, whose albums have spent more time on the UK record charts than any other musical act in history and whose flamboyant lead singer (with a four octave vocal range) was “Britain’s first Asian rock star.”

Born in Zanzibar (then a British protectorate, now part of Tanzania) in 1946, to parents who were Parsi, Farrokh Bulsara, spent much of his childhood in India where he learned to play the piano at seven and later attended boarding school.  When Zanzibar descended into bloody revolution resulting in the deaths of thousands of its Arab and Indian residents, the then 17 year old’s family fled to suburban London.

Recognized there as a British Subject, Farrokh, who now went by the name of Freddie, studied art and design at Ealing Art College, where he became friends with the members of a band named Smile. In 1970, after some line-up changes, he was encouraged to join the group although the others were hesitant about his prevailing suggestion that they change their name.

As he later explained, “I thought up the name Queen. It’s just a name, but it’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.”

Freddie also decided to adopt a new stage name, choosing “Mercury” from a line in one of his own songs, “My Fairy King” which went, “Mother Mercury, look what they’ve done to me.”

In 1971 the band settled on a permanent bass player (John Deacon) and played their first show, at a local college, with the “classic” line-up of Mercury, Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Queen, of course went on to become one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world, releasing a total of 18 Number One albums, selling upwards of 300 million of them, with 18 Number One singles and ten Number One DVDs. Fronted by Freddie Mercury, their performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert is regarded as one of the greatest in rock history.

“…. Apart from the audiences at the transatlantic events (72,000 at Wembley Stadium in London; 99,000 at the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia), it was estimated that another two billion people in 60 countries watched it on television…Competition was fierce: the “global jukebox” charity event, to raise funds to help victims of a devastating Ethiopian famine, also featured U2, Sting, Mick Jagger, Dire Straits, David Bowie, The Who, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan.

And, for once, it was a gig that Queen had practically no control over. They would be using the same sets, lights, backdrops and sound system as all the other artists. However, they seized on the day as a chance to show that they were about more than just pyrotechnics, timing their rehearsals down to the last second.

“Our opportunity to show that it’s the music first and foremost,” as guitarist Brian May put it. Queen wanted to do Live Aid because of the cause, but also because they relished the chance to pitch themselves against other bands: “Everyone will be trying to outdo each other, which will cause a bit of friction. It makes me personally proud to be a part of it,” said lead singer Freddie Mercury.

The band did not ask to open or close the show. Instead, they cannily requested a 6pm slot – prime time in the UK and, five hours behind, perfect for the US audience before there was any danger of viewers lapsing into big-band fatigue. Their set squeezed six of their best-known hits into 20 minutes, shortening some of the songs until it became almost a seamless medley. “Bohemian Rhapsody” preceded “Radio Ga Ga”, “Hammer to Fall”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”.

Reaction to Queen’s performance was extraordinary. In the stadium, the crowd was floored, as were the other acts: Elton John rushed into their dressing room afterwards, screaming that they had stolen the show. Their back catalogue suddenly took off again across the world….” ~Adapted from “40 Years of Queen” by Harry Doherty~

Although he had no formal vocal training, Mercury (who would sadly succumb to AIDS In 1991) had a voice, according to his biographer that would escalate “within a few bars from a deep, throaty rock-growl to tender, vibrant tenor, then on to a high-pitched, perfect coloratura, pure and crystalline in the upper reaches”.

Timid and reserved in private, especially when around those he didn’t know, Mercury was quite the opposite onstage, as was notoriously noted in the suicide note of a great admirer, Kurt Cobain “…when we’re backstage and the lights go out and the roar of the crowd begins, it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love and relish the love and adoration of the crowd.”

Primarily written by Mercury and released in 1986 on the album/DVD “Live at Wembley Stadium”, today’s selection was first recorded by Queen and David Bowie and featured on Queen’s album “Hot Space” in 1982 when it reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart.

With a bassline that would be memorably “sampled” by Vanilla Ice for his single “Ice Ice Baby”, bassist John Deacon had apparently played the riff over and over throughout the recording sessions.  However when the band returned from dinner and it was actually time to utilize it Deacon was suddenly stymied. Fortunately drummer, Rodger Taylor remembered it well and was able to alleviate some of the pressure there in the studio.


Under Pressure

 Pressure pushing down on me

Pressing down on you no man ask for

Under pressure that burns a building down

Splits a family in two

Puts people on streets

 It’s the terror of knowing

What this world is about

Watching some good friends

Screaming let me out

Tomorrow gets me higher

Pressure on people – people on streets

Chippin’ around, kick my brains across the floor

These are the days, when it rains it pours

People on streets – people on streets

It’s the terror of knowing

What this world is about

Watching some good friends

Screaming let me out

Tomorrow gets me higher, higher, higher…

Pressure on people – people on streets

Turned away from it all like a blind man

Sat on a fence but it don’t work

Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn

Why, why, why?


Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?

Why can’t we give love that one more chance?

Why can’t we give love, give love, give love..?

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word

and love dares you to care for

The people on the edge of the night

And love dares you to change our way of

Caring about ourselves

This is our last dance

This is our last dance

This is ourselves

Under pressure

Under pressure


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