QUEEN RELEASED A KIND OF MAGIC ON JUNE 3RD, 1986
This is the album that really got me into Queen. Sure, I knew about the band for years. Radio had played tracks “We Will Rock You”, “We Are The Champions”, “Another One Bites The Dust”, “Radio GaGa”, “Under Pressure” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” all the time. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was on the Chipmunk Punk album I was given a few years earlier. And it was played all the time at the two roller skating rinks we frequented as kids. MTV would play some of their videos, as well as their incredible Live Aid performance.
Then came a single called “One Vision”. The track was featured in the movie Iron Eagle, as a result, the video was full of imagery from the action flick. But that wasn’t the movie that did it for me. I saw this video from the band, where Brian May was using a white flying V. There where scenes with sword fights, sparks, medieval scenery and included Sean Connery. It immediately grabbed my attention. The movie was Highlander, and the track was “Princes Of The Universe” off of A Kind Of Magic. But Queen at the time wasn’t really cool in the U.S. so I only saw the video once or twice. The same essentially happened for videos for the title track, and the aforementioned “One Vision”.
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO FOR THE QUEEN TRACK “PRINCES OF THE UNIVERSE” HERE:
Fast forward a few years, I was lent a mixed tape. I had just arrived in Spain for the summer before my freshman year in high school. I asked friends to lend me tapes to see what they had been listening to. This one cassette introduced me to Judas Priest’s “Freewheel Burning”, Saxon’s “Crusader” and a few songs off of Queen’s A Kind Of Magic that I didn’t know. Like I mentioned above, I knew “One Vision”, “A Kind Of Magic”, and “Princes Of The Universe”. But not these other songs, they where “Gimme The Prize”, “Don’t Lose Your Head” and “Who Wants To Live Forever”. I’ve never been a ballad guy, but I’ve always enjoyed this last song. The two other tracks are littered with samples of Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod character, and Clancy Brown’s Kurgan. The mix of Highlander, with their music was perfect. The album kind of doubles as a soundtrack for the movie.
HIGHLANDER FEATURED SEVERAL TRACKS OFF OF THE ALBUM THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE
When people talk about bands that they’ve lost interest in, Queen would be one of those bands for me. I feel like they’ve done nothing after Freddie Mercury’s passing to preserve my interest in the band, quite the opposite. I’m the first one to defend a band when they want to carry on with their name. I always say “what are they supposed to become painters”? The brand name Queens sells more than the individual band members’ names.
But it’s been one greatest hits album after another. An album Made In Heaven, which was a bunch of left over material that should never have been released. When was a Queen album only ballads? Look at A Kind Of Magic, it was your typical Queen album. In that it mixed up tempo songs, pop-rock songs, ballads, and some hard rock songs. It has a little of everything, like every album that came before, and up to the release of Innuendo. Made In Heaven was so one dimensional, it totally fell flat for me. It made me think “would Freddie actually want this released”? John Deacon parting was with the band shortly there after has never been officially explained. I’ve often wondered if the release of this album had something to do with it?
CHECK OUT “GIMME THE PRIZE (KURGAN’S THEME)” HERE:
The Paul Rodgers album was so off the mark for me. Why not have David Lee Roth up there? He has as much business trying to sing Freddie’s parts as much as Rodgers does. Their lone release The Cosmos Rocks was just bland. I expected so much more from this combination. But it was all just so safe, and uninspiring for me. It further demonstrated to me that all four members of the original band where needed.
Then there was the travesty of the fictional docu-movie that was called Bohemian Rhapsody. When watching a made for TV movie, at least they say “based on events”, letting you know as a viewer that they took liberties finagling the facts to create drama or what ever effect they want. The real story was actually good enough for most. But you know, Hollywood didn’t think it was good enough. So Brian May and Roger Taylor signed off on things like the members of Queen being mad at Freddie for his solo album after Taylor and May had each already worked on projects outside of the band. Or how about the fact that they didn’t find out about Freddie having AIDS until a few years after Live Aid? But it made for great copy to say it happened right before going on stage. If anything, they didn’t want Freddie to continue to work with Michael Jackson, and get bigger than the band. Jackson instead enlisted Mick Jagger to record the song.
MICHAEL JACKSON AND FREDDIE MERCURY’S DEMO VERSION OF “STATE OF SHOCK”:
I get it, they wanted to garner a new fan base. The album sold incredibly well around the world, and reached number two in the states. The outcome of Bohemian Rhapsody was that a new generation fell in love with Freddie’s voice. Queen was a great unit, all four of them, but the prime example of one of those bands that lose a specific component, in this case Freddie, and that it factor is gone. As great as Adam Lambert may be, he’s not Freddie. And there is no, Jason to John Bonham that can just step in and hit 99% of everything. Notes, swagger, feel, it factor.
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A Kind Of Magic was the perfect album for when I discovered it. It sent me down a Queen rabbit hole, that I still enjoy revisiting from time to time. The album has aged very well, and I still play tracks off of it frequently. Like everything else I write, this is strictly my opinion. You don’t have to agree, and I have no problem with you enjoying any of the things I’ve listed that I do not care for. I just want to toast a great album that still holds an important place in my collection.
Article by Victor M. Ruiz of Mars Attacks Radio & Podcast, and Galaxy Of Geeks Podcast. Connect with him on Twitter: @vmr907