The news that Queen will appear with yet another lead singer has some fans returning to what’s becoming an age-old conundrum: Is it Queen without Freddie Mercury? Heck, is it Queen without John Deacon?
Don’t ask Adam Lambert, the American Idol finalist who’ll front Queen at this year’s Sonisphere Festival.
“That’s really up to (Queen co-founders) Brian (May) and Roger (Taylor); it’s their band,” Lambert told NME.com. “I think that at this point the feel what they’re doing is appropriate and it’s their prerogative. If someone feels like their legacy should be left alone then they’re missing out on a great concert. That’s the bottom line.”
Mercury, one of rock’s most dynamic frontmen, died in November 1991 from complications related to AIDS. Since then, Queen has also appeared with George Michael of Wham (1992), Paul Rodgers of Bad Company (2005-09) and, at the Prince’s Trust Rock Gala in 2010, with Tom Chaplin of the band Keane. Queen released the 2008 studio effort The Cosmos Rocks with Rodgers, as well as three live albums. Lambert has earlier appeared with the band in the Idol finale and at the EVMAs.
[SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: We dig into Queen favorites like “Under Pressure,” “Spread Your Wings” and “Stone Cold Crazy,” then return for spins of “You’re My Best Friend,” “Ogre Battle” and “Flash”.]
Bassist Deacon, who retired in 1997, is perhaps best known for penning the Queen hits “You’re My Best Friend” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” He has not participated in the band’s more recent collaborations, and was also absent from Queen’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. There are some who miss his presence, as well.
“Of course having the original bass player there would be amazing, don’t get me wrong,” Lambert added, “but that’s just not the situation. I don’t mean to sound defensive and I totally understand and respect that opinion. But that’s no fun!”
Lambert has made it a point to say that he doesn’t see himself as a replacement for Mercury. Queen also billed the earlier collaboration with Bad Company’s former leader as “Queen + Paul Rodgers,” underscoring the idea that he was a guest singer — not a permanent stand in.
“It’s just different. Nothing is gonna beat the original. No one’s ever going to be better than Freddie Mercury — never,” Lambert said. “But I don’t think that’s the point. I don’t think it’s a competition. It’s about music and it’s about making people feel something. It’s not about beating out the original.”
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Queen. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
QUEEN – DAYS OF OUR LIVES DVD (2012): As this sprawling new documentary makes clear, Queen knew — and from the very beginning — that they were on to something. That it took everyone else so long to notice only seemed to spark them to greater heights of genre-jumping, expectation-confounding genius. Because of the way that they had built their own legacy, Queen didn’t have a working template to get trapped in. “They were very opened minded, Queen audiences,” May adds. “We never felt constrained.”
ONE TRACK MIND: TANGERINE DREAM WITH BRIAN MAY, “STAR SOUNDS” (2011): You suspected, just from listening to his wildly inventive work with Queen, that there was little guitarist Brian May couldn’t do. This live collaboration with space-music pioneer Edgar Froese’s Tangerine Dream confirms it. Sure, May has a well-known interest in the cosmos and its exploration, having earned a doctorate degree in astrophysics. But, for all of the many styles that May has excelled at over the years, for all of the times he’s played completely in service of the song — showing such great flamboyance, then such sharp-edged restraint — I still didn’t know what to expect once that famously bushy mane was dropped in amidst this kind of long-form, open-ended improvisational music. We will, we will … space you?
ONE TRACK MIND: QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS, “SAY IT’S NOT TRUE” (2007): “Say It’s Not True” originally appeared on the group’s 2005 live album, Return of the Champions, in a more stripped-down acoustic form sung by Roger Taylor. This version, however, is a much more embellished studio recording with Brian May and Paul Rodgers contributing significantly. Otherwise, it’s a very typical charity song: The lyrics were a bit trite and obvious; the melody was also a bit simplistic. It felt like something we’d heard a million times before. Yet, while there were no real surprises in store, it managed to invoke some of the magic of Queen: It builds at just the right moment into a glorious power ballad.