Queen – ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980) – Album Review (The Studio Album Series)

Queen was never one to do things the standard, normal way. Nope, they thought outside the box constantly. Who am I kidding, they threw the freaking box into the recycle bin never to be seen or heard from again. In secret, Queen worked on an album that no one would expect from them. They did a movie soundtrack. Yes, Queen did the music for the movie Flash Gordon. They jumped in to right after finishing up the album, ‘The Game’ and before that tour sometime around February-March 1980. And after the tour, they quickly went back in and finished up the soundtrack around October-November 1980. The album would come out on December 8, 1980 to everyone’s surprise. Why did they keep it a secret? Because they didn’t want the news to overshadow the movie because let’s be honest, Queen doing a movie soundtrack would make some news for sure.

The movie Flash Gordon is a cult classic. Mainly because it is so bad, it is actually a little good. The acting is horrible, the sets are cheap, I mean it screams B-Movie. And like the movie, the soundtrack is just as campy. It is quirky at times, it rocks out at times and it is a little bit awful at times…just like the movie. Freddie had the bright idea of including some of the film’s dialogue in with the songs to help give the songs some context considering most of the songs were strictly instrumental pieces. That is right. Freddie only sings on 2 songs with minor vocals on 3 others. This is not your typical Queen album. You expect to hear Freddie…well..you don’t get many opportunities for that. Back to the dialogue. As hokey as it sounds, it actually does help having the dialogue. It helps make the album pure campy fun. Doesn’t mean I like it, but it has its moments.

The album kicks of with “Flash’s Theme” which is the only single off the album…however, this isn’t really the single version as that seems to be pieces from a couple songs on the album blended together. This is one of the few songs to include Freddie’s vocals and it has Brian May also doing vocals. John Deacon’s bass and Roger Taylor’s drumming are the driving beat to the song. It is one of the few songs that sounds like Queen especially when May’s guitar comes in. It is anthemic and over-the-top and bizarre. Next up is “In the Space Capsule (The Love Them)” which was written by Roger Taylor. It is feels like outerspace and atmospheric with the synths. There is some great drum beats by Taylor to give it a tribal feel. And the song sounds grand and regal. Overall, not bad for a movie score, but doesn’t sound anything like Queen.

The song bleeds straight in to “Ming’s Them (In the Court of Ming the Merciless)” which uses more synths to sound menacing and evil. This has a lot of dialogue and seems more movie than song. “The Ring (hypnotic seduction of Dale)” is up next and is a short instrumental piece written by Freddie that has Dale feeling quite erotic in her breathing and that is all the good I can say about it. “Football Fight” is the one of the few straight out rocking tracks even with the heavy synths. It is upbeat, action packed like the fight scene. Brian’s guitar riff comes in to add more punch while Taylor’s driving beat pushes it up a notch as well. It is one of the few songs I would enjoy hearing while going through the album. It is a lot of fun and then Flash gets knocked out and it’s over.

“In the Death Cell (Love Theme reprise)” is by Roger and another synth song which is pleasant like his early track and feels like a movie score. “Execution of Flash” is by John Deacon has some guitar and synth and feels like it could be so much more, but being only 1 minute is gone before it can get anywhere…this had promise as the end kind of felt like a later Queen song “Don’t Try So Hard” off ‘Innuendo’. “The Kiss (Aura Resurrects Flash)” comes in soft and gentle and gets real dramatic as any Kiss should be. There are some background vocals from a woman who is uncredited (or could be Taylor as he can get pretty high). One of the few songs to be co-written by an outside writer. Howard Blake helped bring some extra orchestration.

We then get “Arboria (Planet of the Tree Men)” written by Deacon. This one is full of synths and isn’t much musically. “Escape from the Swamp” comes in with pounding drums so must be by Roger (and it is). It has more synths is very dramatic, but doesn’t do much. Then comes in “Flash to the Rescue” which bits are part of the Flash single. We get some Freddie vocals which are sorely missed…well, we get “Flash…ahhh ahhh” and we get a lot of movie dialogue.

Up next is “Vultan’s Theme (Attack of the Hawk Men)” which is an action packed song full of energy, great drumming and heavy on rocking synths. It feels like a battle and is campy and cheesy all at the same time. Then we go straight in to the “Battle Theme” which brings back some Queen sounds with May’s guitar (who wrote the song as well). It is a full on rock & roll treat and takes the energy up and makes the battle even more intense. There is a line from the movie that says “Who Wants to Live Forever” which we see much later in the Queen catalog for another movie soundtrack. This one is a treat for those missing the Queen sound.

“The Wedding March” is well, the true “The Wedding March” by Richard Wagner…you know it. This one is just done with Queen flair and May on guitar. “Marriage of Dale and Ming (and Flash Approaching)” is by May and Taylor and has Freddie on vocals. It has a wedding them sound to it and it has a lot of dialogue which is quite funny on the wedding vows. It has parts of the Flash Theme included. Then we get “Crash Dive on Mingo City” which has laser shots being fired, some heavy drums and is very uptempo fast like you were crashing into something at full speed.

“Flash’s Theme Reprise (Victory celebrations)” is more of the Flash Theme but even more uptempo as it is a celebration of victory against Ming. Flash has Dale back and is one big party. Lastly, we get another vocal song called “The Hero” which could’ve been another single. It is pure Queen sounding with May’s guitar, rocking out and Freddie on vocals singing away. This also has Blake helping with the co-write. It is another song celebrating Flash and the victory and it is a great way to end the album and the movie. It is grand and a spectacle and perfect to roll the credits.

Track Listing:

  1. Flash’s Theme – Keeper
  2. In the Space Capsule (the Love Theme) – Keeper
  3. Ming’s Theme (In the Court of Ming the Merciless) – Delete
  4. The Ring (Hypnotic Seduction of Dale) – Delete
  5. Football Fight – Keeper
  6. In the Death Cell (Love Them Reprise) – Keeper
  7. Execution of Flash – Delete
  8. The Kiss (Aura Resurrects Flash) – Keeper
  9. Arboria (Planet of the Tree Men) – Delete
  10. Escape from the Swamp – Delete
  11. Flash to the Rescue – Keeper
  12. Vultan’s Theme (Attack of the Hawk Men) – Keeper
  13. Battle Theme – Keeper
  14. The Wedding March – Delete
  15. Marriage of Dale And Ming (And Flash Approaching) – Delete
  16. Crash Dive on Mingo City – Keeper
  17. Flash’s Theme Reprise – Keeper
  18. The Hero – Keeper

The Track Score is 11 of 18 or 61%.  It was really unfair to track score it, but those are the songs I like.  Overall, the album isn’t a good Queen album, but its not a bad soundtrack as it fits the campiness of the Flash movie.  The two work together in being so bad they are kind of good.  I did miss Freddie’s vocals though.  This is way out of left field for the band and a valiant effort even if not totally hitting the mark.  My overall score is a 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars.  It had its moments, but missed the mark quite a bit. If it didn’t have the dialogue, I think the score would’ve been much lower as that helped explain what was going on a lot more.  The little ( ) after the song titles helped tell the story as well.  Maybe someday I will like this a little more, but for now, it is just so-so.

BONUS E.P.

Now, the Bonus EP is actually better than the album for me. You get the Full “Flash” song that was released as the single and not bits spread out over the album. There is a version of “The Hero” that was revisited in October 1980 and I might like it better than the original on the album. It could’ve been a single for sure. A big missed opportunity. Next you get a piano version of “The Kiss” and this version is so much better than the album version as well. This was an earlier version of the song done in March of 1980. Without the synths, it felt more like a song and had a lot of Freddie vocal sounds.

We then get an early version of “Football Fight” with no synths!!! This one was from early on in February 1980. I have to say, as much as I do like the album version, this again works with piano and not synths. It isn’t as over-the-top and campy which is why I also like it. It rocks out and is a great Queen song. We then get two live tracks and both are from the Montreal show in November 1981. The first one is “Flash” and shows that it isn’t really a great song live..it ain’t bad, but sucks a little energy from the show. And the second is “The Hero” which translates better live unlike “Flash”. It is more upbeat and rocking and would be nice in a medley or something like that. I could see myself listening to the Bonus E.P. more than the album which is really unexpected!!

Thanks for hanging around so long on this one. I hope you enjoyed and we will see you for the next one…

UP NEXT: ‘Hot Space’ (1982)

THE STUDIO ALBUM SERIES:

  1. Queen (1973)
  2. Queen II (1974)
  3. Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
  4. A Night at the Opera (1975)
  5. A Day at the Races (1976)
  6. News of the World (1977)
  7. Jazz (1978)
  8. The Game (1980)
  9. Flash Gordon (1980)
  10. Hot Space (1982)
  11. The Works (1984)
  12. A Kind of Magic (1986)
  13. The Miracle (1989)
  14. Innuendo (1991)
  15. Made in Heaven (1995)

31 thoughts on “Queen – ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980) – Album Review (The Studio Album Series)

  1. Knowing my hatred for instrumentals, I probably won’t like this record! I remember the first time I heard “Flash” was from the movie ‘Blades of Glory’ and I had no idea it was Queen, then again, since they did so many different genres, how was I supposed which songs were by Queen or not growing up?!?!

    Liked by 1 person

          1. By the way, I just ordered the Queen 40 albums box sets since it was cheaper to buy all of the albums in the set, versus buying them separately. I read some reviews though that the CDs are tightly in the case and it’s hard to get them out. Have you experienced that with your set?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Good for you. The boxes are kind of cheap and the CDs are tight in there for sure. You just turn it upside down and when they start to slide out, you grab a CD and pull it out. Then you have room to get the one you want. It isn’t a big deal at all.

              Liked by 1 person

                1. When you hold the box upside down with the opening at the bottom, the CD cases were start sliding out and you can grab the CD you want. You will see when you get it. It beat trying to force your fingers in there and damaging the box.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah I hate to say it but it’s a stinker! Soundtracks by musicians can be hit and miss sometimes. It just depends on how well the music suits the movie. I’ll tell you who knows how to write good songs for a film? Eddie Vedder for Into The Wild.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That Vedder one was great. I don’t think this was as bad as I remember, but yeah, not the greatest thing they’ve done. I’m not sure if its the worst yet. There might be two that can grab that title.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I watched this movie not long ago again. It is a fun movie if you go in watching it that way. Love the theme song and most of what I heard.

    Liked by 1 person

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