I don’t remember a lot from the past. In the last couple of years I’ve developed this frustrating memory problem that’s hindered my recognition. But there are some things which I can recall in vivid detail.
One of those things is sitting in my childhood friends’ living room and watching this video, as mere adolescents emulating the silliness our favorite band’s members were exhibiting. Yes, we were Queen fans even then. This single was released in March 1991. I was eleven.
It was no wonder why it appealed to us then, what with Freddie Mercury’s Mad Hatter attire, John Deacon’s jester’s hat, Roger Taylor with a functioning tea kettle on his head, and Brian May’s enormous beak and penguinesque tuxedo. And, don’t forget the actual penguins.
For sure at the time it was funny and cute to us, and we were enthralled by the song as much as the video.
But Freddie passed away later that same year, and it wasn’t until some years later that I was able to understand and appreciate an undertone in this video of which I was before unaware. Freddie’s heavy makeup and the video’s being shot in black in white concealed how ill he really was. As I got older and my appreciation for these artists grew, I learned that Innuendo, off which this song was released as a single, was Queen’s last studio album during Freddie’s life, having been released only ten months prior to his death.
Now back to the video, a little back story about myself, and why this seemingly silly nonsense is so important to me. As I’ve mentioned, I recall seeing this video with the two best friends I had growing up. We lived across the street, and we knew each other as far back as we can remember. They are twins, and I was a single child. But I didn’t long for companionship because we were always together. Except when we were in school and those annoying times when our parents forced us to go inside for sleep.
We played outside until it got dark, and sometimes even after that as long as we were in the front or back yard. I had a turntable and a bunch of my parents’ old records and I’d record them to a tape (Shh! Don’t tell. We didn’t know it was piracy back then.) I had a portable cassette player, and we’d listen to music and run around outside until our parents felt we were calm enough to re-enter the house.
Anyway, we listened to a lot of classic rock (still do), and Queen was on the playlist a lot. We had a plush toy named Freddie Flamingo, and he loved to dance to “Don’t Stop Me Now.” I even had the original vinyl Jazz album with all the naked ladies on the inside jacket, most of whom were not fat bottomed, by the way.
One memory I have is of me and my friend, my very dear friend, running amok in my back yard and listening to “You’re My Best Friend.” My friend stopped running-we were literally running-and said, “Donnell, you’re my best friend.” I thanked her and said she was mine, too, and we got back to the business at hand. There’s a reason whenever I listen to A Night at the Opera I skip this song. Even though I still cry all the way through “’39.”
In our early twenties, my dear friend, my best friend, passed away. Her life had gone in a different direction than mine, and I’d watched her become someone I didn’t know. But she’d rediscovered herself, and we were finally getting reacquainted. I spoke to her on either a Sunday or Monday. As I’ve said, my memory is not what it once was. I was visiting my mom, and I asked her to come over. She declined because she didn’t want to leave her grandmother, who was ill. Later that week, my friend went to sleep and suffered a grand mal seizure. If ever death was a thief in the night, it was that night.
I want to show you all more photos of my friends, of us together, but in 2005 Hurricane Katrina obliterated my home town. She took my home and with it all the photos and memories I had of my dear friend. The only ones I have now were sent to me by others who were able to salvage their own photos.
The aforementioned is only one part of why this video and Queen’s music in general is so special to me. A big part. But only a part.
I wrote about Innuendo being released only months before Freddie’s passing, and this video being made when he was quite ill. His health was declining, yet he continued to work and create amazing music alongside his band mates.
What I like most, though, is how happy Freddie looks in this video. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun. I find it such an inspiring attribute, being so joyous and knowing he was terminal. It’s something I hang on to in this time of my life, facing the worst challenge ever and knowing it very well might end tragically. I find inspiration in Freddie’s ability to laugh during that time of his life, the months leading up to the end of his life.
However, “I’m Going Slightly Mad” isn’t the only song on Innuendo I find uplifting. There are several, but one that I find more so than others is the song “Don’t Try So Hard.” This song is profound to me-thinking of Freddie writing it at the end of his life, and knowing it. I find comfort in the lyrics, almost the kind you feel receiving guidance from an elder. Someone who’s been down a road on which you hope to embark, artistically I mean. Except that I’m no musician. The song is one I go to when I feel like I’m running on a treadmill of rejection and literary atrophy. It also helps me focus on what is important, even when I feel
overwhelmed. I’d like to share the lyrics now.
Of course reading it is not the same as hearing it, which you can do this way QueenOnline.com or by visiting iTunes or any other place, like an actual record store-if they actually exist anymore. I wouldn’t know because the internet enables me to foster my borderline agoraphobia.
Speaking of using the internet, why not take a click on over to The Mercury Phoenix Trust where you can purchase cool merchandise or donate to help the fight against AIDS worldwide. I’m thinking of our next Freddie for a Day activity. This was last year’s.