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Taken from LouderSound (Oct 20, 2023)

10 classic Queen songs you won't hear on the radio

10 unsung Queen classics that truly made the band who they are but aren't Bohemian Rhapsody or any of the other massive radio hits you hear every day

by Dave Everley


(Image credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)
(Image credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)


Queen's debut album, released more than 50 years ago, kicked off one of the most memorable careers in the history of music. But while countless TV and radio polls would have you believe that their story begins and ends with Bohemian Rhapsody, connoisseurs know different. Which is why we've picked out 10 Queen songs you'll never hear on the radio - those unsung classics that truly made the band who they were. And it's a 'Bismallah!'-free zone.


1. Liar


Few bands are born fully formed, and Queen were no exception. But all the parts settling into place on this six-minute highlight from their debut album: the Freddie Mercury wail, that ringing guitar tone, those towering harmonies, the restless time changes. All that and some cracking cowbell too.


2. Father To Son


If their first album was an am-dram take on grandiose rock'n'roll, then Queen II served up the full La Scala experience, right down to its Bohemian Rhapsody-prophesising sleeve. Its second track, Father To Son, was the perfect fanfare of what was in store: some outrageously ambitious baroque'n'roll that made Led Zeppelin sound like Simon & Garfunkel.


3. Tenement Funster


Forget A Night At The Opera - every connoisseur knows that Sheer Heart Attack is Queen's greatest album. Just look down the track list: Brighton Rock? Now I'm Here? Stone Cold Crazy?! But this effortlessly cool Roger Taylor-fronted ode to cars, girls and rock'n'roll is one of the best things on it - and one of the best things they ever did on any album. As the man himself sings: "Just find me an open car, I'll make the speed of light out of this place."


4. She Makes Me (Stormtrooper In Stilettos)


This distinctly strange Brian May tune from Sheer Heart Attack isn't to everyone's taste: the hazy, hypnotic strumming and May's fractured vocal sound as un-Queen-like as they ever got. But if you're in the mood for something utterly different, this is the place to go.


5. Sweet Lady


A Night At The Opera is an enormous, chiffon-draped meringue of a record - wondrous to behold, glorious to taste, but occasionally just a little bit too much to digest in one sitting. But amid all the grand operatics and seaside-themed tomfoolery was this earthy rocker in which Brian May sets his guitar to 'stun' while Freddie Mercury bemoans his woman doing him wrong: "You call me sweet, like I'm some kind of cheese," he wails memorably at one point. We still don't know exactly what that means.



6. Drowse


He doesn't half do nostalgic rock'n'roll brilliantly well, that man Taylor. This supremely laid-back not-quite-a-ballad from A Day At The Races recasts Rog as an old fella looking back fondly on the "the brighter sun and the easier lays" through what sounds like a fug of Panama Red smoke. Keep an ear out for that affectionate pay-off too: "Jimi Hendrix, he was good..."


7. Put Out The Fire


Hot Space - that was Queen's 'disco' album, yadda, yadda, yadda. True, but only half the story. Get past the leather-chapped sex-funk on what used to be called side one, and you'll find a handful of tunes that prove that Queen hadn't cut themselves off completely from their rock'n'roll roots. Chief among 'em is this thunderous anti-gun rant, which sees Brian May finally being allowed to cut loose again. Listen carefully and you can almost hear him sighing with relief.


8. Tear It Up


By the 80s, Queen's pop proclivities were threatening to swamp their rock'n'roll tendencies. But they still managed to pull a nugget of hard rock gold out of the hat. With its near-metal riff and bullish vocal performance, this blast of energy from 1984's The Works was one of the finest songs of the 'Tache Era, and proof there was life in the old dogs yet.


9. Innuendo


Okay, so it reached No.1 in the UK on release, but you'll never hear the title track of their last album on the radio, if only for the fact that it lasts six-and-a-half minutes. It possesses the same 'anything goes' spirit as Bohemian Rhapsody, chucking in a bit of Kashmir, flamenco music and prog rock craziness for good measure. The sound of a band coming full circle.


10. It's Late


Saving the best 'til last. Let's not mince words here: this isn't just Queen's greatest 'forgotten' song, it's the greatest song they ever recorded full stop. Buried at the back of 1977's punk-baiting News Of The World, it's a six-minute ball of tension which yokes a sweat-soaked Freddie Mercury vocal that crackles with sexual tension to the single best riff Brian May ever served up, while Roger Taylor gives it his best John Bonham impression behind the kit. Simple, effective, utterly glorious - you'll be crying out for a cigarette when it's done.






 
 

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