One of the Web’s biggest 2012 viral sensations so far has been that video of a Canadian man, under arrest for drunken driving in the back seat of a Canadian police car, singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in its entirety. Count the band’s co-founding drummer Roger Taylor as a fan.
“It’s very funny,” Taylor says, “and it’s had so many hits. Many millions of people have seen that guy.”
[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”.]
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” a Freddie Mercury composition included on the band’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera, ranked No. 163 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Famously complicated, the song incorporates pop balladry, hard rock guitar and Baroque opera vocals. Nevertheless, 17-year-old Robert Wilkinson remained undaunted — singing the song from start to howling finish.
“I thought it was interesting,” Taylor tells Billboard, “the fact he sang it right through to the end. I just wondered what he was on.”
Meanwhile, Queen has added some additional dates after the unexpected cancellation of the Sonisphere Festival, for a total of four summer 2012 shows with American Idol runner up Adam Lambert. The band will play June 30 in Moscow, a date with Elton John in Kiev and then two shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in early July.
Brian May and Roger Taylor will also introduce this summer’s Queen Extravaganza cast on the April 25-26, 2012 episodes of Idol, before beginning rehearsals for an American tour of the show, which will feature Jeff Scott Soto, who’s previously worked with Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The two-hour show will feature 40 classic Queen songs.
Over the years, Queen has previously featured Paul Rodgers, among others, in place of the late Mercury. May and Taylor performed with Lambert at the program’s 2009 finals, and then again at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards.
“We’re really excited about it,” Taylor says. “Adam … of course he has this unbelievable range, like Freddie (Mercury) had range. Adam can really cover it. He’s an extraordinary singer and a real talent. I feel he fits into our sort of theatricality.”
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Queen. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
SHOULD QUEEN CONTINUE WITHOUT FREDDIE MERCURY AND JOHN DEACON? ADAM LAMBERT SAYS: ‘IT’S THEIR PREROGATIVE’: 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 said. “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.”
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.