Back in November 1975, Queen made history when they debuted what is widely regarded as the first ‘proper’ music video on Top of the Pops. As they were back on the road (and also had no idea how they’d ‘perform’ the operatic section), they submitted a pre-recorded film for Bohemian Rhapsody to play in place of them miming in the studio – and the rest is history! From then on it became a more routine thing for bands to do, and Queen became particularly proficient at this new art form.
There are so many to choose from, but I’ve managed to whittle down my top 10 favourite Queen videos…
10. Under Pressure
Probably a bit of a surprising one, but it’s just something I vividly remember watching a lot when I was younger, fascinated by all the different images and curious to work out what it all meant. Both Queen and David Bowie were touring so it wasn’t possible to film a video with them in, but I’m quite glad that we ended up with this musical montage of pressure-filled silent film footage put together by David Mallet.
9. Tie Your Mother Down
Another slightly leftfield choice! Over their music video career, Queen had a mix of concept and performance films – and as I obviously never had the chance to see them live it’s nice to see extra bits of their showmanship captured on film. This song is rather energetic, so the perfect choice for live footage accompaniment.
One of my absolute favourites as a kid, as I was obsessed with steam trains! I grew up near the West Somerset Railway line and was convinced that they had to have filmed it there (they actually used the Nene Valley Railway in Cambridgeshire)… A fairly straightforward concept for a music video, but the pulsing of the bassline reflecting the chugging of the train is perfect.
7. Princes of the Universe
Unlike a lot of music videos for songs from films, there are more than just clips interspersed with footage of the band, as Highlander star Christopher Lambert comes and briefly joins the band on their scaffold while they perform the song – stopping to challenge Freddie to a swordfight, in which he uses his legendary broken mic stand as a weapon. It’s pure Queen, playing with the art form to create something uniquely theirs.
6. Bohemian Rhapsody
How could I not include this? It’s only around halfway up the list because the band definitely upped their game as music videos became almost obligatory, but in spite of the early technology used it’s still a pretty good piece of work with some absolutely iconic stills – who doesn’t know the opening shot?
5. The Miracle
A stroke of genius. By this point Freddie’s health was on the wane and the band weren’t touring, but they still needed a way to promote their singles through medium of video. How better to put on a customarily energetic performance than by hiring a lookalike band of youths to take each member’s place? Several of Freddie’s most famous looks are shown off throughout the song, so you get the sense of history, before the real thing joins forces with the young band. Simple but so, so effective.
4. Radio Ga Ga
For a while when I was younger I really couldn’t work out how Queen had magicked themselves into Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (once I knew what that actually was)… Like Bohemian Rhapsody this has some truly iconic moments – the clapping seemed to get into people’s minds by osmosis, judging by Live Aid – and I also love the little montage section, which I remember introducing me to other Queen moments.
3. I’m Going Slightly Mad
Another childhood favourite. I love the very literal & playful interpretation of the lyrics – there is unravelling, three-wheeled driving, and even a field of daffodils; the song itself is Freddie drawing inspiration from one of the possible effects of his illness and keeping a sense of humour to the last. The black & white filming (and heavy make-up) did its best to hide Freddie’s increasingly gaunt appearance, with a wacky hairpiece for good measure.
2. These Are The Days Of Our Lives
From the same era as I’m Going Slightly Mad, but a really pared-back performance video instead, as befits the lyrics. But perhaps the most poignant thing about it is that it ended up being Freddie’s final goodbye to the fans; I can’t watch it without crying, and even listening to the song often sets me off (I’m even tearing up just thinking about it). It’s horrible to think what they were all going through at that point, but it’s a really beautiful tribute. “I still love you.”
1. I Want To Break Free
Another cultural classic that must be seared onto many people’s brains, for the sheer camp comedy of it – not to mention the conflicting feelings naughty schoolgirl Roger must have provoked! And it somehow manages to incorporate two other (completely different) strands as well, with the band surrounded by miners in one and Freddie with ballet dancers in the other. The proof of its strength & longevity lies in the opening chords conjuring up the terraces & teasmade in my mind, and watching it never fails to put a smile on my face.