Queen II

Writing about Queen II makes me extremely happy – along with A Day At the Races, this is an album that I can always listen to without getting tired.  I take a deep breath at the beginning, synchronizing my heartbeat with the rhythm of “Procession”, breathing out only at the end, after the jolly singing of “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside” is over.  And while in A Day At the Races we are spectators in an old and cozy theatre, Queen II is an immersive and entrancing experience; you live through these songs and lyrics.

I took some time thinking about this album, letting it flow through my head and heart so that I could start writing.  I needed to digress from the usual interpretations of Side White and Black, from the  legendary cover photo, and even from Freddie’s fantasy world. Suddenly, I got a feeling of holding a vinyl record between my palms, and turning it to the other side. Why so?  I have never had Queen II on  a vinyl LP – either now, or in the past; I think that it happened due to such a definite separation between the two sides – something we do not think about in our digital era. Even on Spotify playlist, I could still hear the crackling noise and a specific sound that the needle of a turntable would produce when touching a vinyl surface of an LP record.

From then on, everything became clear, and the universe of Queen II drew me in.  In my mind, I saw a dark seashore – was it dusk or dawn, I do not know;  but in “Father To Son” a figure was calling to a child,  who probably was not born yet. I saw dark waves, tears on this man’s face, and pale sky. I realized that Side White is all about life, and even more, about love – from parents’ love that stays with you forever, to a troubadour’s adoration of a Beautiful Lady, to the promise of a true relationship.  I could feel that “White Queen” definitely belongs to evening or nighttime, the realm of dreams and fantasies, where a young knight is waiting for a mysterious lady under a dark tree. And “Some Day, One Day” is a song of spring, a song of hope, when you sit on a warm grass under a tree, looking at the shadows of its branches in front of your stretched feet.

I think that in the long run,  Queen II is all about standing on a border with another world, just like in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Golden Pot.  On the White Side, we get a brief insight into this realm, as a shadow, as distant starlight. Roger’s song briefly whisks us back to the real life; but with the turn of record, we finally plunge into the world of fairies, ogres, and spirits, and emerge on the other side. Freddie becomes our guide; and his voice, ranging from the ancient war cry of “Ogre Battle” to the gentle sorrow of “Nevermore” leads us through the strange places. He shows us the battle originating from the prehistoric, mythological times; he fearlessly dives into the mind of a madman, transforming his bright and scary fantasy into a terrifying “Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke”  that races at an enormous speed through the album.

And then Freddie draws us into a game, starting not just a song but a mini-symphony, loaded with images and tropes from English absurdist poetry. As I have already said in my other essay, this density of images always reminds me of “Alice Through the Looking Glass” finale, where the crazy world starts collapsing. But here instead of imploding, the multicolored universe of “Black Queen” resolves into “Funny How Love Is,” an empowering, overwhelming anthem of love and freedom. For me, it is almost symmetrical to “Some Day, One Day” – two seemingly simple songs that in fact constitute the essence of Queen’s power to inspire, to breathe joy and hope into people’s hearts. That’s what I consider the biggest blessing of being their fan.

Funny how love is the end of the lies when the truth begins
Tomorrow comes, tomorrow brings
Tomorrow brings love in the shape of things
That’s what love is, that’s what love is
Katya Neklyudova, December 2020

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