For My Sunday Song #222, we are focusing on the song “Tenement Funster” off the Queen 1974 album, ‘Sheer Heart Attacks’. The song was written by Roger Taylor and sung by Roger Taylor. It was not a single and was actually part of a 3 song medley on the album with “Flick of the Wrist” and “Lily of the Valley”. Since the songs are only tied together somewhat musically, they are all 3 different songs lyrically and don’t really go together in any kind of story. For that reason, I want to focus only on the first track, “Tenement Funster”. What a song name. I love saying it…”Tenement Funster”, “Tenement Funster”, “Tenement Funster”…you try it now…see lots of fun and hard to say it 3 times fast.
As I said, the song was written by Roger and seems to be about youth and rebellion which is a typical rock & roll theme. Lyrically, it seems a little out there as I know idea what is so special about his “new purple shoes”, but his “rock-and-roll 45s, been enraging the folks on the lower floor” makes total sense as I can imagine if I was living in an apartment complex my music would enrage many a neighbors. I am still not sure what a “Tenement Funster” is except maybe it is as simple as a guy who lives in a tenement (apartment) and loves to have fun and not worry about what everyone else thinks. Good enough for me.
Musically, it is a solid rock track and Roger sounds really great on it. There are elements of the Beatles and yet there is still the Brian May guitar sound, the theatrical feel to it and the Queen backing vocals and if you listen close someone goes really, really high singing “Young and we’re crazy”, it is actually quite funny. You have John Deacon doing the bass and opening the track on the acoustic guitar while Brian still handles the lead. Freddie Mercury doesn’t do any vocals, but he does contribute on the piano. Roger’s drumming is great and it is an all around fantastic Roger sung song and one of my favorites of his.
For My Sunday Song #221, we are starting the next set of 10 songs with the band Queen and first up is “Innuendo”. The song is the title track to their 1991 album ‘Innuendo’ which was their 14th studio album and for me their last proper studio album as Freddy died a short time later after its release. The song was the first single off the album and went to #1 in the UK and #17 in the US. I bought this album the day it came out and loved this song instantly.
The song was written by Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor and actually developed from a jam session that was going on by Brian May, John Deacon and Roger. It was very “Bohemian Rhapsody” with all the style changes and is actually longer than that song. It was pieced together from many different pieces, but when joined together it is a kind of magic. The lyrics are part tribute to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ (Roger’s part) and part shout out to the stories on Freddie’s health (Freddie’s part).
But it is the music that blows me away with it’s drum roll opening and eerie tones building until we get to Freddie’s voice. It is dark and haunting and then goes “Bolero style” with its flamenco guitars with help from Steve Howe of Yes and Brian May. Steve actually handles the solo part. There is full on orchestration which harkens back to ‘Bohemian” and then it rocks out. The orchestration was done all on keyboards by Freddie and David Richards the producer. It is progressive rock, 1991. It is one of those songs that has so much going on that you find little nuggets that you missed in the prior listens. It is a song that keeps on giving. Queen does excess well and this song screams excess and over-the-top and it works on so many levels. What an opening track to an album.
I have been a Queen fan since I was a young teen back in the 80’s and when this movie came out, I wanted to go see it. I was worried about the cheesiness of a biopic and if they could represent Queen and Freddie Mercury respectable enough or would it look like a LIfetime biopic? Could the actors make it believable enough that I could imagine that this was really the guys from the band I know so well? Could I get lost in the movie and enjoy it?
All valid questions and let me tell you, the answer is yes to all three questions. The movie was respectable, believable and I enjoyed it. It opens with the band about to take the stage for their Live Aid show and then cuts to 1970 where it all began and Freddie would meet Brian and Roger while the latter two were playing with their band Smile. And the rest you can say is history.
The movie takes you through the start of the band, the struggles with the label, the struggles with each other and the struggles of Freddie’s life. And the movie ends with that Live Aid concert which was quite possibly the greatest 20 minute set of any band in history. How they recreated the Live Aid scene was magical and the Blu-Ray comes with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look on how they did it. Probably worth the price of admission alone.
For My Sunday Song #103, I am going with another classic rock song “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie. Two of the best come together to deliver what has become one of my favorite songs. The song went to #1 in the UK and only #29 on the U.S.’s Billboard Hot 100. We Americans can be stupid sometime. It was only Queen’s 2nd #1 song in the UK, the other was “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The song appeared on their 1982 album ‘Hot Space”.
“Under Pressure” is about how life’s pressure can really take a toll on your life and how it destroys everything; however, love is the answer and can make everything so much better. I definitely got all that from the song, but it was less about the words and more about the give & take of the vocals between Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. Two of the best artist of all time duking it out vocally is one of the greatest things you can ever hear. I guess God wanted to hear this song too as now both have passed over to the other side.
The song is also famous for that simple, two note bass line by John Deacon. That “don don don dondo don” (or something like that) was immediately recognizable and played throughout. After Deacon had come up with that riff, the band went to lunch or something and completely forgot the riff. One of the band members (or maybe Bowie) helped remind him what it was. That famous bass line is not to be confused with “don don don dondo don don” the Vanilla Ice riff for “Ice, Ice Baby”…there is a difference and he will tell you…whatever.