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Queen is Drawing a Fine Line Between Tribute and Exploitation - by Colin Gawel

Brian May & Roger Taylor Should Let Freddie Mercury Rest in Peace.

I finally made it out to see the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. In fact, I saw it the night before the Oscar awards were chosen. I had been resistant to seeing the movie because as most Queen fans and certainly all of my music snob friends know, the film is basically BS. I’m not going to go through the whole thing, but if you need one example, Freddie Mercury had not been diagnosed with AIDS before the band’s legendary Live Aid performance. If you are rock n roll fan like myself, that is a troublesome bit to work around.

Still, I went into the theater beer in hand, ready to enjoy the dish Hollywood was serving. I told myself “Lighten up, this is just like a big, glorified VH1 movie. You love those.”  And you know what? I loved it. I mean, I literally turned to my wife during the opening scene when Freddie was getting ready to go onstage at Wembley and said, “This is awesome, I already love this.” Obviously, Rami what’s-his-name killed it in the lead role, which really helped too.

When I shared my thumbs-up review later that night on social media, my opinion was met with a resounding thumbs-down. I couldn’t really argue with the critics, I just enjoyed the movie. It’s funny, I never considered myself a huge Queen fan (relative to the other Queen fans I know), but I suppose - compared to the rest of the general public - I’m relatively hardcore. As a kid taking the bus down High Street every weekend to blow my paper route money on used records, I bought almost every Queen album. Hell, I even bought the soundtrack to Flash Gordon the day it came out and saw the movie opening weekend too. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself less of a Queen fan than myself. Still, I never saw them live so I’ve spent countless hours watching YouTube footage and the famous Live Aid show itself probably.….35 times? And I even went to that Queen play. It was pretty good. (editor’s note: Huh? WHAT Queen play? I’m simultaneously fascinated AND appalled. And check out the rest of our music page here)

Another random Queen fact: My favorite song is Dragon Attack.

So you get the gist: I like Queen and damn the torpedoes, I like the movie Bohemian Rhapsody too.

However…. the next night when the Oscar’s opened the show with Queen performing and Adam Lambert playing the role of Freddie, something about it made me queasy. It was one thing for the band to go out and play with (gulp) Paul Rodgers and now this latest line-up when they were kinda, sorta under the radar, but in light the of the movie’s success it felt really tacky. I felt gross watching. I felt bad for Freddie. This was his band. And now they are going on another huge tour, without him. From the tour press release:

“This is a great opportunity,” May said. “Our last tour featured our most ambitious production ever, and got us our best notices ever.”

Really, Brian? “Our best notices ever.” So you guys are better without Freddie Mercury? I mean Lambert does a fine job, but what’s next? In the future will Adam Levine be fronting the Stones on their final tour in honor of Mick? The line Queen is drawing between tribute and exploitation is getting increasingly blurry.

The surviving members taking yet another victory lap after this huge theatrical success feels disrespectful to Freddie. And to the legacy of the band. Of course it smacks of a money grab, but even worse, a glory grab. Right now Queen is the most popular they have ever been. It’s time for them to stand down and let people remember them as the band fronted by Freddie Mercury. Not by Adam Lambert or Paul Rodgers or Rami Malik or anybody else. They twisted Freddie’s life to make this movie. He brought them fame & fortune and everything that goes with it.. And this is how you thank him? Brian May and Roger Taylor should stand on their history and let Freddie Mercury rest in peace: remembered as the amazing lead singer of the rock band Queen. - Colin G.

Colin Gawel wrote this at Colin’s Coffee. He also plays in the band Watershed and The League Bowlers. Below is one of his favorite Queen clips and one example of how future generations should remember the band.

Bonus video!!! They don’t really show this side of the band in the movie, but I would guess that metal fans were the majority of Queen fans right up until around Live Aid. Then the pop fans sorta took over. Still, all true headbangers respect the band. Dig the clip below for a taste why.