For Freddie

Three years ago, somewhere around your birthday, you came into my life through the young voices, through your greatest song. I do not believe in accidents, it probably was meant to happen. Two months later I opened my first (Russian) blog page and started writing about your music – because I just needed to verbalize this overwhelming feeling. Six months later I became a follower of your friend, learned about stereo photography, and found my people from all over the world. A year ago I finally allowed myself to write in English, just for my own pleasure. I wrote about you and your songs a number of times but words generally eluded me. And now I think it is time to offer you this little tribute.

  1. The March of Black Queen / Funny How Love Is

I must confess that “Queen II” is one of my most favorite albums; I missed it in my young years and only discovered it recently when I fell in love with their music. For me, it epitomizes everything I love about British culture, from dark magic to green hills of the Shire; from the battle cries of ogres to the mysterious White Queen. The “dark side” of this album is dominated by a mini-symphony “The March of the Black Queen,” a full-scale painting showing funny, scary, and absurdist images, zooming in on a listener, seductively luring into a trap, and drawing into the whirlpool of this crazy world. What does it remind me of? “The candles all grew up to the ceiling, looking something like a bed of rushes with fireworks at the top. As to the bottles, they each took a pair of plates, which they hastily fitted on as wings, and so, with forks for legs, went fluttering about in all directions: ‘and very like birds they look,’ Alice thought to herself, as well as she could in the dreadful confusion that was beginning.”(*)

The polyphony of this song is staggering, and we are so deeply immersed into this vision that by the end it is hard to draw the line between dream and reality. However, just like with any night, it dissolves into dawn, morning, and light, with Freddie leading us out of his dark fantasy. And while “The March of the Black Queen” is intricate and profound, the song follows it is on a surface much simpler, with one message that is repeated over and over again, as if chanting a mantra, as if making sure that these triumphant chords and vocals make all these lyrics come true. But in reality Freddie sings a universal anthem that not only describes all faces of love but also makes you experience it, with all the highs and lows, and with the “running wild and feeling free.” I cannot think of a better way to describe it.

2) Love of My Life (Live from 1979)

I chose this particular video because it is probably one of my most favorite Queen concerts, so raw and gentle, at a crossroads between the sweet and refined 1970s and explosive and powerful 1980s. I love Freddie of the 1970s, with his young fervor, and a complete absence of the impending tragedy that I can always sense in the 1980s videos. In this performance, “Love of My Life” is still relatively new but people are already singing along, and this choir of voices blends with Freddie’s incredible vocals. I am choosing this because this song became a portal for me, a window to the times that I cannot reach – because I was born too late, and in a country where Queen have never performed. Funny that now I half-expect that during those instrumental riffs Brian would talk to the crowd, and the sea of lights would engulf and overwhelm you. After hearing it live, after singing along, after crying like a child when Freddie’s projection came along at a QAL concert, I no longer feel sadness when I watch the original performance but rather a gratitude.

3) Tavaszi szél vizet áraszt (traditional Hungarian song, arr. by Queen)

As I was thinking about this essay, the tune started playing in my head, and I knew that I need to mention it here. I think this is one of the most significant and touching moments in the history of live shows – when the wall that separated people from each others became irrelevant and disappeared. There is nothing political in this – only love and kindness towards these people. I think it is impossible not to cry when you hear the audience exploding with happiness as soon as they realize which song Freddie is singing. Having grown up in that part of the world, I know what it means when your idols not only come to play for you but also sing in your own language. That’s what I love about Freddie, along with all of his friends in the band.

And what is even more fantastic is that this precious moment of preparing this gift has been preserved in film, with this happy and warm atmosphere of music, calm waters, and beautiful acoustic guitar played by Brian. I love Freddie’s lightness and goofiness, in the way how he laughs, jokes, and compares himself to Elizabeth I. And that we can hear his magical voice without any microphones.

4) In My Defense (by Dave Clark)

Freddie had the power of covering songs in such a way that later they would be strongly associated with him and his story. It started with “Goin’ Back” – his first studio record that mystically has predicted so many things in his life, and ended with “In My Defense” – one of his later projects, recorded for Dave Clark’s musical “Time.” This song has recently become a soundtrack for me, especially for months spent in lockdown, giving me strength and courage to face what is to come, just as he was making me a bit braver in the course of these three years that I have been his fan. And now, watching this wonderful and touching video made by Rudi Dolezal, I cannot help but think how lucky I am that this music has become a part of my soul.

Happy Birthday, Freddie, forever and ever.

Katya Neklyudova, September 5, 2020

On Queen

Tiny Essays

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