The Queen, Queen, and Me

According to my research, Queen Elizabeth II was 49 years old when Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” came out.

That’s how old I am now.

This terrifies me because the Queen has always seemed like an old lady to me. Part of what makes it feel so weird is that BoRhap — like the Queen — has never really gone away. It (not she) is constantly reprised (or should I say “revived”) on “rock” radio stations and on American Idol, so it doesn’t seem all that dated. Unlike, for example, any given Elvis song, which would invariably sound like it came from 1000 years ago.

But here’s the kicker — I’ve always hated “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I was a young teenager when it came out, all wrapped up in big-haired guitar music from Kiss, BTO, and the less subtle strains of Led Zeppelin. I couldn’t understand how the kind of highfalutin orchestration we hear in BoRhap was supposed to be cool. To my angry and unrefined ears it sounded like a cross between a Broadway show tune and the snooty music that tea-sipping ladies enjoyed — with a bit of unmelodious guitar banging thrown in at the end for good measure.

Queen!The worst part was the dancing. You cannot dance to Bohemian Rhapsody. At least you couldn’t according to the strict dancing codes we adhered to in the time and place of my youth. (In brief, you shuffled around, more or less in time with the music, being careful not to appear very good at it or to be having much fun, lest the banner of “fag” descend upon you.) Regardless, girls loved BoRhap. They’d want to dance to it so badly they’d even grab me — surly me, crunched up in a corner conspicuously despising everything — and drag me to the dance floor. I had no choice but to comply or my odds of necking with one of them would be reduced from a high of 1% to absolute zero.

So there I’d be, stumbling through the first part of BoRhap, which is too slow and theatrical to dance to. I’d awkwardly rock from side to side while the girl ignored me and twittered (in the old fashioned sense) with her friends who in turn were subjecting various other males to this torture. Then the tempo would pick up. In our current age — that of So You Think You Can Dance and its variations and offshoots — kids would start busting moves left and right. But back then all you could do was flail around a bit more, hoping she wasn’t really looking.

On it went, for what seemed like hours. When it was finally ending I’d pray for some kind of pop song, something that I would obviously despise but at least I could pick up a beat and maybe redeem myself just a little. There was no point in hoping for a slow dance, even though nothing could have been finer than for my virginal hands to encircle the body (the body!) of a nubile classmate of the female persuasion, and to actually touch (touch!) the fabric of her blouse and to smell the faint aroma of Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo from her hair. No, BoRhap got the girls too revved up for slow dancing so no DJ would make that kind of segue.

I’d invariably get my damned pop song, but then the girl would run off to giggle with her gaggle and I’d be left there, both tortured and humiliated.

Thanks a lot, Queen.

14 thoughts on “The Queen, Queen, and Me

  1. OK. First of all, how can you hate Bohemian Rhapsody? (Well, I know you just stated your case in the post, but again, I ask: How can you hate Bohemian Rhapsody!!?!). Unless of course Constantine is singing it on American Idol. (It was him that sang it, I think, with his ridiculous eye f#$(*ing the camera).

    Secondly, though I agree that many Elvis songs immediately conjure up images of the times in which they were hits, there are a few songs that have made it into the here and now: Suspicious Minds is the first one that comes to mind. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much Fine Young Cannibals in the 80’s. OK. Well the 80’s was, ahem, 25 years ago, but still. Their version still holds up. I think there’s even been a more recent revival of that song, but I have no idea who else covered it.

    And thirdly, if I just listened to your and Michel’s stories of mean girls at school dances, I might think that all the poor, shy boys had it rough. But IME, it was those cute, shy boys that never (NEVER!) asked us shy but hopeful girls to dance to the slow songs. They just stood in a group together making fun of the whole situation. And we went home brokenhearted. Boo hoo.

    And yeah. Not much you can do in Bohemian Rhapsody when the craziness in the music starts. Just gotta hope for the best and wait ’til it passes. Same thing with Stairway to Heaven, if I remember correctly (probably haven’t heard that since a high school dance either, which, refer back to the 80’s comment…25 years ago…).

    Oh, and for the record, I think Under Pressure is the best Queen (OK, Queen & David Bowie) song evah.

    Nice post :)

  2. I like the song, but can’t imagine dancing to it. What’s worse: being forced to dance to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or being forced to dance/sing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light?”

  3. Looks like I struck a nerve with that one. To be fair, the biggest reason why I hate the song is because of the dancing thing. Had I never been subjected to that I would probably not hate the song. (Might not particularly like it, but wouldn’t hate it.)

    The biggest tragedy of that era is that the shy boys and the shy girls were completely unaware of each others’ true nature. It’s the stuff of great literature but was painful to live through for both parties.

    Thanksfully, that is no more! Kids these days can learn all about each other on Facebook! [/sarcasm]

    Oh thanks, Carl! I had ERASED THE MEMORY OF THAT SONG from my mind until you came along! ;-)

  4. I always hated dancing to pop or rock songs. Many have decent enough beats, but most don’t. It always seemed like that music was meant for listening.

    Makes me think that the two possible reasons I really enjoyed going to dance clubs were because they had music you could dance to and you could dance without a partner (in the crowd) without looking anti-social.

  5. Ha ha ha! Back in my day (and back in my place) you wouldn’t dare dance by yourself! That was on par with publicly f*cking a goat — a total and shameful affront to “the rules” and sure to get you marked as a freak and an outcast. Ostracized!

    I think I was 20 years old the first time I saw someone dance by themselves. That was at a college “beer bash” and it was some proto-hipster from Ontario. People were shocked. We all thought me must be high on drugs or something. People gave him a lot of space in case the “drugs” made him go whacko and want to kill people.

    At some point later that night I went over and asked the guy about it. He went “huh?” To him, it was as if someone walked up to you and quizzed you on why you’re wearing socks or why you put money in your wallet. Completely normal stuff not worthy of inquisition.

    From my point of view (after establishing that it wasn’t due to psychosis or his being hopped up on goofballs), it was like someone flung back the curtains and let the sun shine through. The next week I went up there and danced by myself (if only for a few minutes). I felt like I was making a total spectacle of myself, but hey, I survived. That’s one of the turning points at which I decided not to let myself be constrained by the oppressive monochromatic gravity of my immediate surroundings.

    (OK, to be fair, my memory of that time in place is a bit, um, *tinted*. It wasn’t that bad for everyone, but my particular combination of friends, family, and personal anxieties made a bad situation worse.)

  6. December 1978, the Jazz Tour at the Montreal Forum, I had a lesbian girlfriend at the time and she convinced me to go to the concert with her and a group of her “queen” friends. I was the only straight in the group and she even dressed me up for the part. Quite an experience, the word that comes to my mind is flamboyant. I don’t know if you can call it dance, but we certainly moved a lot during the whole show, including Bohemian Rhapsody.

    Funny what the 9 years difference that we have can make.

  7. Freddie, Freddie, Freddie. I’ll always remember that in the first band I ever joined in Montreal, back in ’77, a heavy metal band, the lead singer thought he could do Queen. So we did lots of Queen, quite badly. I hated Queen.

    But there are possibly some things you never knew about them — that Brian May, the guitarist, has a master’s in astronomy. That Freddie, while being ostensibly gay, started his love life with some amazing female opera singer. That he was , like, a bastard hybrid of British and Mauritian.

    That Brian May wrote the soundtrack to Road Warrior.

    Still, BoRhap (where did you come up with THAT?) was possibly the most bizarre song of the decade, if you discount that one by MC5 or anything by the Thin White Duke (what the fuck were they all smoking back then? Probably the same stuff I was).

  8. SalesGuy, I don’t think it’s the nine years that made a difference. It’s the 1000 miles.

    Nick, Brian May actually has a *PhD* in Physics (he completed the degree a couple of years ago) and he moonlights as the chancellor of some university in the UK.

  9. Missed your solo dance. Blork… was likely avoiding the issue aforementioned issues by pounding down some Chipman’s Golden Glow apple cider in back of the hall or gym or forum or all of the above.

  10. HA HA HA HA!!! The old “Golden Glow.” I forgot all about that!

    FYI, you were there when I saw the Ontario guy do his solo gig because I remember talking to you about it. You were far less put off by it than I was, having already left the nest and (and returned) by then. Oh, the exotic things you saw in the far reaches of northern New Brunswick!

    The BoRhap blues I mention were from an earlier time (high school). By the time we got to college things had improved.

  11. You are absolutely right . . . a PhD. in astronomy. You know what? I don’t think I even know ONE PERSON with a PhD.

    Oh well, I suppose it’s better than an S.T.D. Can you see that? “Brian May, PhD, STD, HIV, CUL8TR”.

  12. Oh QUEEN! My first real concert, at the CNE stadium in Toronto c. 1980. (I miss you, Freddie.) I like BoRhap, but how in the hell could anyone dance to it?

    But never mind that, what about that bloody Stairway to Heaven for slow dances?! And all those male hands on the fancy-stitched butt-pockets of über-tight female bluejeans. (If I weren’t middle-aged, I might actually be able to remember the brand names of those jeans!)

    And Dr. May, what a star.

  13. Paaaaaradise by the dash. board. LIGHT.

    I want you. I need you. But there ain’t no waaaaay I’m ever gonna looooove you….

  14. I think u r the first person I know who hates ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’! Everyone else loves it – even the non-rockers who hear it like it. I’ve never been much of a Queen fan, except for a couple of songs like the aforementioned. But it’s a classic!

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