Queen, “Flash” from Flash Gordon (1980): One Track Mind

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Queen’s theme song of a justly forgotten 1980 film called Flash Gordon, this UK Top 10 hit was part of a goofy, thunderingly melodic, simply unforgettable soundtrack that could have been composed and performed by no other band. Who else, really, would you call to score a movie about the fight by a football player and his friends (including future 1980s-era James Bond named Timothy Dalton) to save Earth from the terrible machinations of a fu-manchu-ed overlord from the fluorescent world of Mongo?

Of course, the edited version of the dialogue on “Flash” is all you ever need to know about the film itself, a unwatchable bit of B-movie sci-fi schlock despite the presence of Max Von Sydow as Ming (no kidding) The Merciless. Still, taken together with Queen’s outsized sense of pop proportion — who can forget that thudding bass line, as Brian May, Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury sing our hero’s name like a spark of ozone? — the band arrives at a kitschy hand-in-glove symbiosis. The Queen themes on Flash Gordon actually work seamlessly within the movie itself, creating the kind of aural landscape that makes it inseparable from the work. (Like Vangelis’ “Blade Runner” soundtrack, though forgive me for saying it in this context.)

Composed by guitarist May, “Flash” again incorporates the synthesized modern sound of their uneven project of the year before, The Game — because it was, in fact, recorded simultaneously. Still, you could argue that this album, released in 1980, retains a fizzier creativity, despite the fact that all but two of the tracks are instrumentals.

Paste “Under Pressure” on the back of this project, as the Queen did with 1982’s Hot Space, and it might be the better album — if only for the way Flash Gordon mirrors its subject’s story arc, from the title track here to Queen’s heavy-metal howl on “Battle Theme.” Well, and the fact that it sounds like they are having a whole lot more fun.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • dd

    Queen and especially Brian May are criminally underrated in the US

  • Rich Drees

    “Forgotten” and “unwatchable”? What’s it like to be a) completely wrong and b) have no sense of fun?

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