I needed to listen to something fresh and young, something that would alleviate that sickening feeling from not-so-happy news from around the world and from the cold breath of the pandemic winter. While revisiting my “tiny essays” format, I thought of Queen’s first album – again, a memorable item in my cassette collection, often played in my youth, and then somehow left out of my current playlist. I started listening to this album during my morning walks, and my spirits were brightened considerably, as if I suddenly found myself in the past, having fun with friends, being amazed and hypnotized by music that I always carried with me in my Walkman.
To me, this album is a promise, a glimpse into the future greatness that will come with the next record, an overture to a grand opera of Queen music. If you listen closely, you will recognize the origins of Freddie’s mythology (“My Fairy King” and “The Great King Rat”), Brian’s experiments with tempos and rhythms (“Doing All Right”), or their rock’n’roll roots, especially in Roger’s song (“Modern Times Rock’n’roll”). But even more important, in my opinion, is a presence of two tracks that are not like anything else, that give us a glimpse into the future, when every album would contain something different and unexpected.
The first one is “Liar,” a perfectly scripted, orchestrated, and directed music drama, with Freddie playing all parts by using different intonations, different tones of his voice in the semi-serious, semi-mocking dialogue between an accused and a persecutor, a repentant sinner and a priest, or a disobedient child and a strict parent. You can see Freddie’s acting even when listening to the album track but even more – when seeing the live performance (especially, Rainbow’74). I love how articulate and present all members of the band are in this song – from the introductory drum beats to the powerful guitar riffs, to John’s dramatic solo.
The second song is Brian May’s “The Night Comes Down,” a gentle fantasy that is so close to my understanding of happiness: it shines through every sound and every note, from the stunning intro featuring the duet of bass and drums, to the delicate riffs of the Red Special, to Freddie’s gentle and clear vocals. Just like in many, many other songs written by Brian, we are immersed in a mysterious and dreamy world, at the time of dusk, of deep blue sky, and the bright stars. When I listen to this song, I remember my 10-year-old self dreaming of magic worlds – I felt they existed somewhere, only to discover them later in books of Tolkien and Lewis, in English poetry and music, and in some corners of London streets that I was so lucky to see. There is something special and unexplained that always draws me to this mysterious and beloved island, shining through many rock songs of the sixties and seventies, including this one. Every time when I feel the glow of this magic, I think how blessed I am to know this language and to consider this island my spiritual home.
Katya Neklyudova, 2021