Saturday, February 24, 2007

Top 25 Albums #20

This post is about my favorite album from the band Queen, but it is not A Night at the Opera, which is considered by many to be their crowning achievement. Instead, I have selected A Day at the Races, the follow-up record that was released the following year, in 1976.

I can't tell you exactly when I heard this record, but it was very early in my music-appreciating career.

I do know that I had very little in my collection when I was given the cassette. If memory serves me right, the tape was a gift from John Lukehart, who was my "Big Brother," courtesy of Big Brothers of Hawai'i.

I became involved with the organization as I was being raised by a single mother in Honolulu, and I only had a consistent daily positive male role model over summers, when I stayed with my father on the Mainland. I don't know what prompted John to give me the tape, and I doubt he would remember. Perhaps I had been caught up in the whole "Bohemian Rhapsody" madness of the mid-seventies. The song hit #9 on the U.S. charts, so I must have heard it.

I do remember though, being entranced by the cover art of the cassette, and studying it thoroughly. As a frame of reference, I was nine when this album was released. It is definitely my first-owned rock album, so I rank it as an influential landmark in my early musical education.

Here's what I think is interesting about this choice, at least for me. There were only two bona fide "hits" on this record. Both singles, "Somebody to Love" and "Tie Your Mother Down", led off each side of the record.

The two songs are classics in and of themselves. I think I was more apt to go for "Tie Your Mother Down," than the love song, because I took it literally and as a nine-to-ten year old boy being raised by a mother, I remember thinking that it was pretty funny.

Of course, I didn't register the lyrics:

Your momma says you don't
And your daddy says you won't
And I'm boilin' up inside
Ain't no way I'm gonna lose out this time

Tie your mother down
Tie your mother down
Lock your daddy out of doors
I don't need him nosing around
Tie your mother down
Tie your mother down
Give me all your love tonight

That was track one, and I was hooked. That opening guitar riff from Brian May was imprinted on my psyche and when I think of Queen, "Tie Your Mother Down" is the first song that comes to mind.

Of the ten tracks on the album, two others drew me in. Both on side 2, "White Man" and "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" were standout tracks for me. That is, when I look at the track list, those two jump out at me as ones I remember liking as a kid. "White Man" was a hard-rocking song that bemoaned the fate of Native Americans at the hands of the settlers. "Good Old -Fashioned Lover Boy" is a rollicking song that I just thought was lots of fun.

Listen: "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" (mp3) via polaroid > un blog alla radio

The final track on the record is "Teo Torriate (Let Us Cling Together)" and was released as a single in Japan, as a tribute to the band's Japanese following.

There is no disputing that Queen was an influential band for so many people. This album could have been replaced by any other record of the band's had I heard it first. It's safe to say that, as a band, Queen was/is in a league of their own. This record is not Queen's best, but it is my favorite, out of sheer sentimentality.


"Somebody to Love":

Performing "You Take My Breath Away," prior to the band recording the song:

"Tie Your Mother Down," the surviving members of Queen at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert for AIDS Awareness, April 20, 1992, with Joe Elliott (Def Leppard's lead singer) and Slash on the guitar solo:

Queen performing "White Man" live in Houston, in 1977. The video quality is fair, but the audio is amazing:

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