5. Who Wants To Live Forever´- Highlander (1986)
“Brian, Brian is a bit more sort of a thinker. He puts a lot of thought into his songs, and the ideas.” John Deacon told an interviewer in 1977.” We don’t actually write songs on the road, but Brian sometimes often picks up ideas on the road, which he’ll develop later into songs.” Was May the best song-writer of the four? Melodically, perhaps not. But lyrically, he proved himself far more astute, versatile, affective and personal than the other four members.
Writing music for the Highlander film, May found himself greatly moved at the film´s themes; how does one love forever as people grow old and die? Recently bereaved of his father, May put was certainly his most personal song written and recorded at that point, Michael Kamen´s beautifully ornate arrangement adds to the ever rising vocal lines.
Played over serene clips where the audience watches two lovers fall for each other, as the Scottish landscape draws them ever nearer together. She ages, he doesn´t and the scene plays out as Conor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) pains himself as the woman he loves grows ever greyer. Featuring one of Mercury´s more earnest vocals, there is a tangible power to the scene, making it, however briefly, far more than thrash fantasy.
May, commentating on the single´s music video, claimed the band´s exclusion from the film´s sequels proved a sufferance to their quality. While perhaps mildly conceited (the films still retain Mercury´s ´Princes of The Universe ´), none had the power to move without a ballad as beautiful as ´Forever´.
4. ´The Show Must Go On´- Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Moulin Rouge, a melange of a century´s worth of music, featured a plethora of pop songs covers, some successful (the tango scene set to The Police´s ´Roxanne´is incredible), some less so (Diamond Dogs with electronics, seriously Beck?). But no one could argue that Jim Broadbent´s and Nicole Kidman´s Queen rendition was anything but the undisputed highlight.
Discussing the 1991 hit with Absolute Radio, Brian May claimed “I could hear the song so clearly and when everybody had gone I put down a demo of it”. Undoubtedly inspired by Freddie Mercury´s weakening state and the media´s ungodly interest in his relationship with Eastenders star Anita Dobson, the song spoke of marching on with life, whatever the cost.
One of May´s best tracks, it proved one of the standout moments when performed by Paul Rodgers, Elton John and the live cast of ´We Will Rock You´ in their live repertoire (Mercury never got the chance to play the song live, though it would remain one of his most haunting vocals on record).
And its hauntingly played out in the film as Kidman´s Satine and Broadbent´s empresario realise that the happiness of its star are at risk of loss, with Broadbent´s further knowledge of Satine´s worsening illness will lead to her demise. Forlorn with sadness, embittered with regret, there is a tangible power to this cover and a testament to the lyrical power of Queen. Fittingly, the Nostalgia Critic has used an amalgamation entitled ´The Review Must Go On´ for his YouTube videos since reviewing ´Moulin Rouge!´.
3. ´Don´t Stop Me Now´-Shaun of The Dead (2004)
A song that Brian May hated for a long time, ´Don´t Stop Me Now´ encapsulated Freddie Mercury´s greater and racier excesses (it is highly doubtful that the family oriented Deacon and May indulged as heavily as their singer did), punched with break neck speed, as Taylor and Deacon keep the pace going over Mercury´s punchy piano parts and exasperated vocals.
What better song to play while attacking a zombie in the Winchester? Hitting the pool cues to the sound of Taylor´s sparse whacks, the song interjects and adds to the scene´s thorough quality. ´Kill the Queen´screams Simon Pegg´s abashed Shaun to Dylan Moran´s ineffectual David, before a comely choreograph awaits the un-dead bar tender.
Í wanna make a supersonic woman of you´ Mercury sings as Dianne (Lucy Davis) pierces Shaun´s head with a dart- not the desired effect ´traveling at the speed of light´. Following the song´s wonderful a capella sequence, the song is itself stopped as the assailant´s head is pushed head-first into the jukebox machine that plays the song.
A life-long Queen fan, Pegg told The Daily Mail at interview that he used John Deacon´s ´Your My Best Friend´ as a dance number at his wedding; this earnest ballad also closes ´Shaun of The Dead´.
2. ´Bohemian Rhapsody´- Wayne´s World (1992)
“I think we´ll go with a little Bohemian Rhapsody, gentlemen” dictates Wayne Campbell (MIke Myers) to his effervescent passengers. So begins one of the zaniest renditions of a song which would perennially haunt karaoke bars for the next twenty or so years. As the florre of a-capella verses are sung at the loudest of voices, the ensuing head banging provides the perfect response to Queen´s most fondly remembered song.
” An example of something I fought very, very hard for, and it was my first movie: It was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in ‘Wayne’s World.’ ” Myers recounted in 2014. “Queen, at that point — not by me and not by hardcore fans, but the public had sort of forgotten about them….I always loved ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ I thought it was a masterpiece. So I fought really, really hard for it. And at one point I said, ‘Well, I’m out. I don’t want to make this movie if it’s not ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’”
The song serves as a strong introduction to the film´s primary blockheads Wayne and Garth, a perfect amalgamation of where they stand as people and nineteen seventies afficianadoes, perhaps the most famous scene out of both films the pair starred in. And the band loved it, providing solace for its Freddie Mercury at a time of great sickness.
I took it around to Freddie, who was not in a good state at that time,” May told GuitarWorld. “He was confined to his bed, but I took it round and played it to him and he loved it. Strangely enough, the humour in it was quite close to our own. Because we did that kind of thing in the car, bouncing up and down to our own tracks!” Partially thanks to the film, the song re-entered the music charts and re-popularised the band in America after years as musical albatrosses.
1. ´The Hero´- Flash Gordon (1980)
Certainly the Queen that got away, as debauched as ´Don´t Stop Me Now´, as energetic as ´We Will Rock You´ and as fun a song to listen to as ´Hammer To Fall´, May´s energetic power chord would rarely be heard post 1980 (Queen primarily went in a more pop tinted keyboard direction from ´The Game´ onwards, to match the ever changing times of the eighties). But what a send-off of gregarious seventies metal, played over a plethora of Hawkmen, diving for the chance to kill and thrill. It´s as silly as it sounds and as marvellous as it sounds.
A fine example of tongue in cheek cinema at its most wonderfully jocular, Queen proved the perfect band to play for such a comic opera, given their penchant for the grandiose and the jocose. Inside, Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton) de-activates the lightning field, outside, a horde of Hawkmen fly to destroy Ming The Merciless´s (Max Von Sydow) palace in a fiery line of ferocious fighting, led by the fustian Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed at his most wonderfully bombastic), while the hero in question, Flash Gordon (Sam J.Jones) leads his hovercraft to rescue his ethereal love. It´s Wagnerian at its height, un-coincidentally, May flourishes his premier song with touches of the German composer.
It’s a camp scenario in need of camp wonder- who better than Queen, complete with synthesisers and May´s Red Special. Synthesisers sound the war sounds of horns, while Deacon and Taylor hammer their respective instruments with the sound of marching gusto. “Put your feet on the ground/Put your hand on your heart/Lift your head to the stars/And the world’s for your taking” wails Mercury as the film closes, as heroic a song as any could sing for the saviour of the universe!
Author Bio: Eoghan Lyng is an Irish man, who studied English and Gaeilge at University College Cork. Currently a TEFL teacher, Lyng spends his spare time thinking and writing about movies when he´s not teaching the Three Conditionals. He can be found on Twitter @eoghanlyng.