Last week, Queen + Adam Lambert announced details of their American summer tour. "This is the closest that you'll ever get to see Queen as it was in our golden days," said guitarist Brian May. "But it's not a reproduction." The group pledged to center their show around Queen's large catalog of hits, though they did say they wanted to revive some deeper cuts like "Dragon Attack." In honor of the tour, we asked our readers to select their 10 favorite Queen songs. Click through to see the results.
Many giant bands of the 1970s had great difficulty adjusting to the MTV era. For Queen, the transition was seamless. Their 1984 single "I Want to Break Free" topped the charts all over the world, with the very notable exception of America. That might have something to do with the fact that the video featured the entire band in drag. They were parodying the British soap opera Coronation Street, but very few American rock fans had ever heard of the show. This was also the time of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Huey Lewis, leaving little room for Queen on the charts. Still, the John Deacon-penned song remains one of their biggest hits overseas. The song had a second life in 2012 when it was prominently featured in an Hyundai ad.
The classic lineup of Queen had been together for four years by the time "Killer Queen" hit the radio in 1974, but for most rock fans it served as an introduction to the band. They couldn't have picked a better song for the task. It's a perfect showcase for Freddie Mercury's eclectic lyrics and soaring vocals as well as Brian May's virtuosic guitar playing. It reached Number 12 on the American charts, and the group was just getting started.
Freddie Mercury knew his body was rapidly failing him when Queen began work on their 1991 LP Innuendo. He was determined to complete one final masterpiece, and Brian May wrote "The Show Must Go On" about his unbelievable drive. It ends the album on a note of defiance and hope, and Mercury has rarely delivered stronger vocals. They weren't able to perform live to support the disc and in videos from the time it's alarmingly clear just how frail the singer had become. He died nine months after the album came out.
David Bowie stopped by Switzerland's Mountain Studios during the recording of Queen's 1982 LP Hot Space to sing background on a "Cool Cat." During the session, the four members of Queen and Bowie started jamming on a new song built around a killer bass groove. The result was "Under Pressure," which came out in October 1981 and became a global sensation. It remained in Queen's set list through the end of their live career, and Bowie played it all through the 1990s and early 2000s. Sadly, they never played it together, even though they performed back-to-back sets at Live Aid in 1985.
Freddie Mercury could barely play the guitar, but in 1979 he managed to sit down with an acoustic instrument and come up with "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in about 10 minutes. Written near the height of the disco and punk movements, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is a throwback to 1950s rock, specifically Elvis Presley, who was one of Freddie's heroes. It was their first Number One single in America.
Being a Highlander isn't always easy. The immortal beings are able to love us mortals, but then they have to watch us grow old and die while they remain unchanged. Brian May tapped into this unusual source of agony when he wrote "Who Wants to Live Forever" for the soundtrack to the first Highlander movie. He sings the first verse, while Freddie takes over for the rests of the song. The group was joined by an orchestra for the recording.
Queen had a tough task in front of them when they went into the studio to begin work on their 1976 LP A Day at the Races. How in God's name do you follow up "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Freddie knew he couldn't match the grand madness of that song, but he still came up with a pretty incredible soul tune with "Somebody to Love." He wrote the song on the piano and then dubbed in vocals by Brian May and Roger Taylor, making the trio sound like a full choir. It was a huge hit that year, reaching Number 13 in America. George Michael delivered a stirring rendition of the tune at the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute concert.
Queen were on a pretty amazing run by the time their 1978 album Jazz came around. They'd gone from tiny clubs to stadiums during the past four runs, and every single song they released seemed to fly up the charts. "Don't Stop Me Now," the lead single from the LP featuring the group's trademark multi-tracked harmonies, didn't quite live up to expectations, peaking at Number 86 in America. It was, however, a Top 10 hit in England. Time has also been very kind to it and it's widely seen now as one of the group's best works.
Long before Sir Mix-A-Lot declared that he liked "big butts and can not lie," Queen told the world that "fat bottomed girls you make the rocking world go round." The song was released as a single along in 1978 with "Bicycle Race," whose lyrics also refer to "fat bottomed girls." The 45 sleeve shows such a woman on a bicycle, and they promoted the songs by having sixty-five models ride bicycles naked around Wimbledon Stadium. Needless to stay, the stunt caused a firestorm of protest in the press, which probably did little but promote the song.
Queen's most enduring and beloved song remains one of their most mysterious. The six-minute classic was written by Freddie Mercury, breaking most rules of convention songwriting by omitting a chorus and shifting tones wildly through the course of the tune. The group spent weeks and a small fortune creating the masterpiece, layering on vocals until the tape couldn't physically fit any more. The story don't tell much of a cohesive story, though the narrator is clearly plagued by a horrible past and endless frustration. "It's one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it," Mercury said. "I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them." Realizing they had something special, the group made a video for the song, a full six years before MTV came on the airwaves. An entirely new generation of rock fans embraced the song when it appeared in Wayne's World.