“Innuendo” is one of the few Queen albums I knew for my entire life. I first heard this record in 1991, and it became inseparable from my coming of age. When I decided to dedicate this Tiny Essay to Freddie’s memory, I found out that my perception of “Innuendo” is split into two levels: I see these songs through the prism of my current knowledge of the Queen history, of all the books and documentaries I saw, and of the experience of attending a QAL show. And at the same time, a lower level of my memories is constantly showering me with images and sensations of my youth. I remember how I found out about Freddie – it was December 1991, I was 15, and “The Show Must Go On” was playing on Russian channels and radio stations all the time. Knowing only a couple of Queen songs back then, I still mourned his loss, recorded everything I could from the radio, bought the cassettes, and wished I would discover his music while he was alive.
All Queen albums take you for an emotional journey; but “Innuendo,” in my opinion, is a true roller coaster, because you move so momentarily from grief to joy, from sadness to laughter, from deep and sad memories to a playful love confession to your cat. The title song, with all its pain and desperation, is a sweeping force that pulls you out of inactivity and weakness. In my young years, I used to be intimidated by the dark mood of this track; however, three years ago Freddie’s words “be free in your tempo” gave me a powerful push to finally admit who I am, and start writing my essays. And after this erupting volcano, the mood suddenly changes, and while we know that Freddie talks about his illness, he turns this into a theatrical performance, just like he did in the early years – only now behind this English absurdism, “I’m Going Slightly Mad” hides a great deal of pain and sorrow. “Headlong” takes me back to my 15-year-old self, when there was a party in my school, and all of a sudden this song started playing from the speakers. Our little group of Queen fans cried out with delight and started dancing like crazy. And while I do not remember what happened for the rest of this evening, this powerful and overwhelming feeling of liberation always rises up in my chest every time I hear this song, even 30 years later.
“Don’t Try So Hard,” with its heartbreaking mood and message, stretches into the past with the invisible ties to Freddie’s early songs – we can hear the bits of “Lily of the Valley” in his piercing falsetto, only the lyrics are wiser and sadder, and name things precisely as they are. Then, Freddie tells us about his love through the words of Roger, in a gentle and nostalgic song that flows like a river on a warm summer day. And then, and then… I am struggling to put my feelings into words, and tears fill my eyes. What is it? Is it a perfect creation of Freddie and Brian, a crowning finale of their friendship and collaboration, or a point in time when the inpenetrable borders between day and night, life and death disappear for just a brief moment? The silver, cosmic tones of the Red Special pierce your heart, her living voice cries out into the night, and the white bird flies off from a tree of life… Freddie’s voice is calm and gentle, and the words are laconic and direct. Because this is not a place for the figures of speech, this is love, true and simple, shining and eternal. The fleeting vision dissolves into the final song but we are left with a sense of miracle that blesses us with its glow.
In these dark and strange times, I cling to this music, it gives me a feeling of eternity, of something that will always prevail, whatever happens to us here or beyond.
In memory of Freddie –
Katya Neklyudova, November 24, 2020