Sunday, 13 August 2017

Every Single UK Number Single (1980-2009) - 1991

Last time we kicked off the 1990s with... well, 1990. Here it is:

Now it's on to 1991...

  • Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter – Iron Maiden – 2 weeks, December 30th to January 12th 1990

1991 begins with a contender for the title of the heaviest song to ever hit the top spot in the UK and it’s from the Gods of British heavy metal, Iron Maiden. I scarcely need to talk about this band and how insanely amazing they are, contributing so many of the best heavy metal songs of all time from shorter bursts of absolute fury (The Trooper, Run to the Hills, The Clairvoyant) to deeper, darker and much longer epic numbers (Alexander the Great, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son). This makes the idea of the band getting a UK number one single a very tantalising prospect. Unfortunately not even Iron Maiden are immune from the curse of their biggest hit in the UK being far from their best as Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter proves.

Right away the prominent feature of this song, as well as the rest of the No Prayer for the Dying album, is the much more brittle sounding production quality and Bruce Dickinson’s vocals sounding much snarlier. The production sounds empty and incomplete with Steve Harris’ bass sounding like it was turned down several notches; this makes the song sound less glorious than Maiden’s previous songs. Meanwhile Dickinson spends the majority of the song growling and it’s a step down from the soaring vocals that we’ve seen from him prior and since; it gives the impression that Maiden were trying too hard to go darker on No Prayer and it doesn’t work that well. It’s not all bad; the riff is an earworm and a half in a great way and the guitar solo is truly epic. These prove that newcomer guitarist Janick Gers had been able to step into the big shoes left by his predecessor Adrian Smith and made himself a part of Maiden. Were this any new metal band entering the scene for the first time I’d probably give Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter a rave review. However, it’s a rather weak song by the insanely high standards of an incredible metal band – which to be fair is still pretty decent by the standards of most other music – and the poor production and Bruce’s subpar vocal delivery really bog it down.

  • Sadeness (Part I) – Enigma – 1 week, January 13th to January 19th

On the precise other end of Bring Your Daughter in terms of intensity comes this song by German new age band Enigma. This is a strange beast of a song as it encompasses choral chants and a mystical sounding flute solo with pounding dance beat drums and a seductive sounding voice whispering the title of the song. There’s no doubt that the song sounds quite relaxing with its melody being uplifting and quiet whilst the drum beat doesn’t threaten to drown out the peace. But once you get past the gimmick of the choral chants and the other new age elements of the song you realise that Sadeness is really just a standard dance track and goes on for far too long. You feel that there’s a perfect place to stop with the sinister keyboard chords that come in suddenly but after that the song just keeps on going for another minute or so. This leads to a song that’s not bad but doesn’t really do much to shake off its gimmicky nature.

  • Innuendo – Queen – 1 week, January 20th to January 26th

Queen had become truly more of a singles band by the 1980s – their albums were decent but it was really only the big hits from those records, like Radio Ga Ga, I Want to Break Free, A Kind of Magic, One Vision and I Want It All. Innuendo though was a fine return to form with them, a record that seemed to know that Freddie Mercury’s time on Earth was coming to an end, as unknown to the public at the time he had contracted AIDS, and celebrated life in all its forms. Not only did the song have excellent singles such as The Show Must Go On and Headlong, it also had some cracking album tracks like The Hitman and Ride the Wild Wind, leading to the best Queen album since 1977’s News of the World.

Standing tall at the beginning of the record is the title track, a monolith that at six and a half minutes runs even longer than Bohemian Rhapsody and like that number is a suitably grand epic. Kicking off with a drum roll and sinister synthesisers, you know that this is going to soar right away, which is confirmed by the entrance of Brian May’s guitars and the flying harmonies of the legend that was Freddie Mercury as he belts out lyrics about humanity’s inability to live together in peace – in spite of being taken over by disease his vocal performance has rarely been better. Innuendo is a number that runs through a number of different sections, ranging from the epic rocking of the intro to the slower paced area that features a gleefully fun Spanish guitar solo by guest star Steve Howe from Yes. And of course Brian gets an insanely epic guitar solo of his own that combined with the pounding drums from Roger Taylor is an absolute blast and one of the standout solos of Queen’s discography. Returning to the beginning to conclude the song on a suitably bombastic note, Innuendo wraps up as one of the most sinister and yet most beautiful numbers of Queen’s vast discography and it’s a more than worthy beginning for the end for the band and Freddie Mercury.

  • 3 a.m. Eternal – The KLF – 2 weeks, January 27th to February 9th

Three years after successfully trolling the UK under the guise of The Timelords, The KLF return for this absolute stomper of a dance track, a song that’s both dark and upbeat at the same time and manages to be an exciting pounder of a track all the way through. Beginning with gunfire and the female vocals calling the name of the band, the beat explodes in wonderfully and balances it with a brilliantly gritty melody. The rap on the song is a little bit goofy in its lyrics but the flow of it is well done whilst the female vocals that sing the title have a gloomy sense of soul to it. The solo where a squeaky sounding keyboard beeps a lot also works with the tones of the keyboard contrasting well with the heavy techno edge of the song. This all adds up to 3 a.m. Eternal being a crazy beast of a song, a big beat techno number that has a hardcore almost punkish edge to it, and it seriously works with its ambitions to become an insane floor filler.

  • Do the Bartman – The Simpsons – 3 weeks, February 10th to March 2nd

It may be hard to believe nowadays given how its ridiculous over longevity has killed most of the goodwill that it acquired in the 1990s but there was a time when The Simpsons was the most ground-breaking, dare I say edgy, show on television. It was the show that took aim at every trope of conventional family sitcoms and skewered the world all over from politics to the media, with plenty of references and tonnes of laughs, producing multiple classic quotes and some words that have entered dictionaries (“D’oh!”, “cromulent”, “yoink”, etc.) And how controversial it was too – George H.W. Bush had made a point of lambasting the Simpsons in his re-election speech in 1992 (“We are going to make American families a lot more like The Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons”) and merchandise was banned in several schools, particularly T-shirts featuring Bart and featuring phrases such as “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?” and “Underachiever and proud of it, man!” (Incidentally the latter T-shirt was purchased by my own mother not long after she graduated from Oxford University. Oh, the irony).

With The Simpsons being an enormous smash from the second it was first broadcast there was an inevitability that a music deal would come through for our favourite yellow family and Geffen Records quickly snatched them up. Since Bart was the leading figure on all the merchandise of the show (before Homer became the face of the show later down the road) it only made sense that a song about him be the main focus, and as such a number that was allegedly penned by a certain Michael Jackson became the lead-off single off the album. What’s astounding is that even though the number has the name of The Simpsons on it Do the Bartman is pretty much devoid of humour all the way through.

The main gimmick of Do the Bartman is that it’s a pop-rap song with slightly silly lyrics being sung from the perspective of a ten year old boy (who’s voiced by a woman in her thirties), and that’s not enough to take this song into the territory of remotely funny (the closest line that the song gets to humorous is “If you can do The Bart, you’re bad like Michael Jackson”). Musically it’s not terrible; it has a groovy beat to it and a neat guitar blast about three minutes in. The lyrics however basically seem like a more intentionally dumb version of Hangin’ Tough with Nancy Cartwright rapping about Bart’s troublesome ways and his conflicts with his parents and sister Lisa (it should be mentioned that despite being credited to The Simpsons only Cartwright and Homer’s voice actor Dan Castellaneta appear on the song), as well as imploring the listener to dance along to his brand new dance craze. This leads to a song that’s not as painful as other novelty songs that have topped the charts before and since. But ultimately Do the Bartman suffers from the greatest crime a product with The Simpsons on it – it’s not funny. It’s crazy that this song was first broadcast following the absolute classic Bart the Daredevil (the one with Homer attempting to leap the Springfield Gorge and failing) – you’d fail to realise that these characters were from the same show from how rubbish this song is.

  • Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash – 2 weeks, March 3rd to March 16th

What else but Levi’s Jeans for resurrecting classic songs? The Clash held the slightly dubious record for being the band with the most top 40 hits without cracking the top 10 until yet another advert for the pieces of denim goodness bought the number from their 1982 LP Combat Rock up to the top spot. Perhaps that’s what AC/DC needed in 2013; not another Facebook campaign to get them to the top but an appearance in an advert. A crisps advert with For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) is a tantalising prospect…

Should I Stay or Should I Go scarcely needs any introduction as it’s arguably The Clash’s best known song in spite of it having a more commercial vibe to it than some of the band’s previous more punkier numbers. The song relies on an absolute stormer of a riff that repeats itself all the way through the strutting verses of the song as guitarist Mick Jones belts out the lyrics that have been rumoured to be about either his impending departure from The Clash or his stormy relationship with Ellen Foley with great swagger. There are some goofy moments, such as the distracting background vocals in Spanish from frontman Joe Strummer that begins from the second verse and the strangely nonsensical lyrics of the chorus (“If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double” – odds are that you probably ought to go then, Mick) but Should I Stay or Should I Go is still an epic in the grand discography of The Clash, a sign of their reach into a more commercial nature whilst retaining the dangerous attitude of their punkier efforts.

  • The Stonk – Hale and Pace – 1 week, March 17th to March 23rd

Oh Comic Relief. I know that what you’re doing is all for a good cause but you couldn’t have picked a better song for getting people to dig into their wallets and make a donation to people in need? This was performed by comedy duo Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, of whom I know, perhaps thankfully given this song, next to nothing about, and features a stunningly star studded line-up, including Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath (his only appearance on a UK number 1), Whitesnake’s bassist Neil Murray, legendary drummer Cozy Powell and even Rowan Atkinson. None of these legends can stop The Stonk from being an absolutely dreadful number, evident from the beginning with the farting sounds that kick off the song. Like the previous novelty track we encountered, Do the Bartman, the lyrics concern the duo attempting to start a dance craze and like Do the Bartman it’s not funny in the slightest, with the lyrics being inane with their hackneyed attempts to be humorous and shove in the word ‘stonk’ and references to them Comic Relief Red Nose in to every crevice of the song. Both comedians are bland vocalists and their performances are absolutely unmemorable, failing to sell any part of the number as any form of comedic. Worst of all is The Stonk’s unbridled refusal to end. You think it’s going to come to an end after about two minutes but no, it keeps on trucking and repeating the chorus over and over for another minute and a half. This all adds up to a number that’s a tremendous waste of all the talent that was involved and gives yet another reason to why songs recorded especially for charity are so notorious; they have no intention to be either good quality musically or funny at all. 

  • The One and Only – Chesney Hawkes – 5 weeks, March 24th to April 27th

Yet another hit song that came from a film far less famous than it; Chesney Hawkes was the lead actor from the little known picture Buddy’s Song about a young man trying to make it as a pop star with the help of his ex-convict father (played by The Who’s Roger Daltrey, of all people) and recorded The One and Only, which was penned by 80s pop star Nik Kershaw, to great success. He was clearly being pushed as an idol singer for a new decades for teenage girls to hang posters of on their bedroom walls but ultimately became merely a one hit wonder. It’s fairly easy to see why; Hawkes is clearly trying his hardest in this song and is quite chipper in his enthusiasm but he’s not an especially good singer and his voice not only sound strained but also quite nasal in places. This makes many parts of the song that are supposed to soar into the ether, especially the chorus, fall flat and make you think that poor old Chesney is just out of his league. The music meanwhile also sounds quite empty; in spite of the attempts to rock with the heavy guitars the rest of the instrumentation just sort of plods along and the sudden shift into solely a keyboard focus in the middle eight seems jarring and out of place. This isn’t a terrible song; it’s got an OK upbeat spirit to it sometimes, but Hawkes and the weak instrumentation can’t carry this song to the soaring heights that it wants to do.

  • The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss) – Cher – 5 weeks, April 28th to June 1st

After over twenty five years in the music business Cher finally managed to wrangle a UK number one single – and wouldn’t you know it, it’s also from a film that starred the singer that got outpaced by the song itself? (Despite this trend kicking off somewhat in the 80s it was really the 90s where this phenomenon became ridiculously prevalent). A cover of a decades old song used in Cher’s starring vehicle Mermaids, Cher manages to make the song her own by the sheer ridiculous power of her voice – this was the point in her career where she became ridiculously bombastic with numbers such as If I Could Turn Back Time and Just Like Jesse James. Cher belts every syllable of the song as if her life depended upon it and though it can get a little irritating to hear it blasted at you for three minutes it definitely shows off the power of her lungs. The instrumentation is upbeat and layered with a gloriously cheesy AOR feel to it and the lyrics, though a little cheesy, are enjoyable enough with the backing vocalists who chant out the word “Shoop” frequently during the chorus being enjoyable. This adds up to a number that’s very cheesy but is still a tonne of fun with how bombastic it is and shows off the strong vocals of Cher nicely.

  • I Wanna Sex You Up – Colour Me Badd – 3 weeks, June 2nd to June 22nd

The third number one in a row to come from a film that was less known than the song in question, I Wanna Sex You Up was a cornerstone track to the soundtrack for New Jack City, and as befitting for the name of the film has a very groovy new jack swing style to it. This helps the song remain fun and upbeat throughout as the beat is strong and memorable and has an almost jazzy quality to it. The vocals are pretty good too being very smooth an airy throughout giving the whole thing a seductive quality almost like Prince, which makes sense given that the lyrics are sexual in a not particularly explicit way and work with the seductive charm of the song. There are some obnoxious moments of I Wanna Sex You Up that arises from its use of sampling (specifically the “Tick tock you don’t stop” that serves as a hook) but overall it’s a very fine smooth R&B song about sex that has a good sense of seduction to it.

  • Any Dream Will Do – Jason Donavon – 2 weeks, June 23rd to July 6th

Way way back many centuries ago (I exaggerate, it was in 2007 – which still makes me feel ridiculously old) I, like many other kids, was in a school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I played one of Joseph’s eleven brothers (don’t ask which one because I don’t remember), who gleefully got envious at his colourful coat (which incidentally was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and blue) and hammed it up in a solo in French style song Those Canaan Days. Fun days, I tell thee.

As such I have a bit of an affinity with the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical; I greatly enjoy the film version with Donny Osmond as Joseph, and though I know the whole thing is a bit goofy and silly it’s all in fun good nature and I love it. Too bad that Any Dream Will Do, the song that both opens and closes the show, is the naffest number of the production and that Jason Donovan, who originated the part of Joseph in the West End revival in the early 90s, is poor in the song, once again continuing to sound like he has a cold whilst singing, sounding nasal and slightly off tune. Musically this sounds like a relic from the 80s with its poor instrumentation that sounds startling incomplete and has an obnoxiously annoying bass synthesiser that repeats itself over and over, not to mention a crappy keyboard solo before the chorus and second verse get repeated again just to pad the song to four minutes. The lyrics are a little sappy and clichéd and this all leaves Any Dream Will Do being the poorest song from Joseph, which is only accentuated by a poor performance from Jason Donovan and weak instrumentation. A shame, it doesn’t reflect the silly fun of the show.

  • (Everything I Do) I Do It for You – Bryan Adams – 16 weeks, July 7th to October 26th, biggest selling single of the year and longest consecutive run atop of the UK charts

Sixteen goddamn weeks. Nearly four straight months. You’d expect any song that managed to rack up that much time at the top of the singles chart to be an epic in the true sense of the word, something so ridiculously brilliant that everybody would have to buy swarms of copies of it. Obviously you know the punchline to this introduction; the song that attained this prestigious record is far from an epic.

Everybody knows this song and everybody mocks this song; it’s hard to find an individual who will defend it, aside from maybe a very nostalgic housewife. And for very good reasons. (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, a song written for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, is a diabetes laden syrup fest with its lyrical content; it’s basically full of all the biggest clichés of romantic ballads, with Bryan Adams promising his love that he’ll fight for her and walk the line for her and die for her and all that other sappy bollocks that he’ll never actually have to do in his life if he got his lady. This is only accentuated by Adams’ vocals which are forced and strained as he tries to hit the higher notes and make the whole number feel epic; to say he falls flat is an understatement. Speaking of trying to be epic, the music tries to go for a rousing punch in the middle eight with the drums crashing and the instrumentation getting harder, but with the turgid melody it rings utterly false and feels out of place. To add insult to injury, if you listen to the album version of this song you experience a continued instrumental after you think the song has ended (which is the point where the song ends on the single version), which is padding in the purest sense of the word as it bloats (Everything I Do) I Do It for You to a ball breaking six and a half minutes. This is not a song that deserves that kind of length at all. Epic songs like November Rain are grandiose enough to warrant an extended instrumental conclusion; a sappy love ballad does not.

Who was buying this turgid song after its fifth week at the top, let alone the tenth? Were people really wearing out their tapes from so many listens of this song? Apparently so; (Everything I Do) I Do It for You’s chart record is wholly undeserved. It’s a song that perhaps wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t for its ridiculous success; had it spent two, three, perhaps four weeks at number one it wouldn’t be as notorious a song. It still wouldn’t be good, mind, but it would have been passable in a forgettable sense. The insane time it spent at the top of the charts, particularly in the UK, has rightfully made it an absolute joke and officially made Bryan Adams, and the entire nation of Canada, a laughing stock. Hope the success was worth all the loss of any integrity you had, Bryan…

  • The Fly – U2 – 1 week, October 27th to November 2nd

Riding in to the rescue after nearly four months of Bryan Adams, U2 shows how successful they could be at reinventing themselves. In a conundrum after the mixed reception to the film and album Rattle and Hum, U2 decided to shift their musical output as they moved into the 90s, adding in elements of industrial rock and electronic dance, effectively becoming more of an alternative rock band. With their first album of the decade Achtung Baby they showed just how beautifully they could incorporate their elements, with songs such as One, Even Better than the Real Thing, Until the End of the World and Mysterious Ways demonstrating their epic strides in working with these new elements.

Standing at the front of the pack as the lead single of the album was The Fly, a song that captures U2’s new style from the very beginning. The Edge is the MVP of this track as his guitar riff has an industrial, almost techno sound to it that’s brilliantly produced and an epic earworm. This can be captured in the insanely good guitar solo that is one of the top solos of his career, flowing like butter with how wonderful it sounds. Bono meanwhile delivers in two ways on The Fly; on the verses he sings in a low voice leading to the song sounding darkly sinister and quite seductive which works well with the music and the grim lyrics, which Bono described as being akin to “a crank call from Hell... but [the caller] likes it there”. The chorus has him singing in a falsetto which he dubs “the Fat Lady voice” which could be obnoxious but thankfully isn’t at all and shows off the true majesty of his vocals. This adds up to a song that’s sinister yet danceable, an thrilling epic that perfectly shows how exciting the new direction that U2 were going in was and a great omen for the awesomeness that would be featured on the rest of Achtung Baby and, to a lesser extent, the rest of their output in the decade.

  • Dizzy – Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff – 2 weeks, November 3rd to November 16th

If one song by a comedian topping the charts this year wasn’t enough for you, we have a second one! Yay.

Surprisingly though despite featuring Vic Reeves, who’s actually madder than a box of frogs, on the song, Dizzy isn’t really that much of a novelty song. A cover of a number by Tommy Roe, it’s a song about a woman making the narrator insane in the membrane with her playing hard to get; pretty standard stuff, so why is Reeves on this track? He’s not too bad a singer even with his obvious accent slipping through and occasionally sounding as though he’s going through the rounds with this song on the karaoke machine at the pub. But he feels a strange addition to the track nonetheless. The music’s pretty fine for the most part, with the riff being a fun earworm and the chorus being gloriously enjoyable to sing along to, but the additions of the key change and multiple repetitions of the title makes it feel like the song was being padded quite a bit towards the end, seeming like it was hard to stretch the song to over three minutes. Overall Dizzy is an OK pub rock anthem but it’s nothing amazing lyrically or musically and it has a somewhat repetitive quality to it, especially towards the end.

  • Black or White – Michael Jackson – 2 weeks, November 17th to November 30th

Bad was a pretty solid album from the King of Pop but it did have the tendency to sound a bit too much like Thriller 2.0. With Quincy Jones out of the picture and Teddy Riley stepping in as producer, Michael decided to take use the flourishing new jack swing style of R&B as the main inspiration of his next studio album Dangerous; the result of this is that Dangerous may be the most exciting record of his career. It isn’t perfect at all; it runs too long, has a couple of sappy ballads on it like Heal the World and Gone Too Soon, and a couple of parts hint at the overindulgence that would be the death of him in subsequent records like History and Invincible. But when Dangerous hit, it hit hard, with songs like Remember the Time, In the Closet, Who Is It, Give in to Me and the title track being some of the best tracks in his discography.

Black or White kicked off the new phase of Jackson in fine style; though it’s a little far removed from the new jack swing that features on much of the album it’s still an epic funk rock number. Jackson’s vocals are once again in fine form, clear sign that he’s been maturing in his style whilst also retaining many of his signature elements including the falsettos that run through much of the song (what MJ song is complete without a “Hee-hee” or two?). This makes his performance utter electric to listen to, especially in the rocking middle eight of the song where it almost seems as though he’s growling at points. Musically this is among his harder edged songs which ranks well with me; I enjoy the more rocking songs like Beat It and Dirty Diana most in his discography. The riff of Black or White is a great ear worm and is effectively layered in a very well-produced number, leading to the whole song to be both a great funky and hard rocking song. Lyrically this is a song that preaches racial equality and it’s overall not too overbearing with these themes. The rap by writer Bill Botrell is probably the least subtle part of the song and it’s a little clunky in both lyrics and flow but isn’t too bad, unlike some of Jacko’s other social commentary songs. This all adds up to a gloriously enjoyable number that proves the skills of Michael once again and shows how he could transform his image very nicely with the nineties rolling around.

There is one major flaw, however, and it’s not technically related to the song itself; why is the Macaulay Culkin intro from the music video (which is already a very obnoxious part of a very strange and scattershot video) tacked right onto the beginning of the album version of the song? It’s not funny, it wastes time and it’s a complete waste of a cameo appearance from the legendary Slash – contrary to popular belief Slash doesn’t play the main riff of the song (Botrell does that bit), instead only featuring on this dreadful introduction. If you heard this album version for the first time I wouldn’t blame you if your first thought was “What the fuck is this shit?” and you switched off before the song itself started up. It furthermore helped to set a terrible precedent for MJ’s overindulgence that would be turned up to eleven on his subsequent studio albums, especially History. Thankfully the rest of the song is great enough so that you can ignore that introduction but it’s still a deeply sour beginning to an otherwise fantastic listening experience. Trace out the single version to listen to instead if you can.

  • Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me – George Michael and Elton John – 2 weeks, December 1st to December 14th

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me was never really my favourite song by Elton John. It’s not a bad song by any means but when it came to Elton I much prefer the upbeat numbers to the ballads. One person who did seem to love it though was George Michael, who first performed it with John at Live Aid before making it a part of his solo tours. This all culminated at a concert at Wembley Stadium where he bought Elton out to sing with him. That was the moment captured on this recording of the song and it’s a decent rendition of a song that I’m mostly ambivalent towards. Michael’s vocals are strong, having matured quite a bit since his time in Wham! and his first two solo records, and he powers through the lyrics effectively. John comes in at around three minutes in and he sounds quite different to the original studio rendition, with his register being far deeper. This works well for him as though he can’t quite hit all the high notes he has a gloriously warm timbre to him that fitted his work from the 1990s onwards. Instrumentally it’s not too amazingly different from the original studio recording from Caribou but it suits the song well enough with the piano in particular being strong. This adds up to a song that I don’t love but is fine enough and both John and Michael give it their all in their rendition.

  • Bohemian Rhapsody/These Are the Days of Our LivesQueen – 5 weeks, December 15th to January 18th 1992
On November 24th 1991 the greatest tragedy of the year occurred (yes, greater than sixteen weeks of Bryan Adams and The Stonk). Freddie Mercury, the ultra-cool and charismatic frontman of Queen, passed away from pneumonia that arose from complications from his diagnosis of AIDS, which he revealed that he had only a day prior. His death was a ridiculously great loss to the music as the pop world had lost one of the greatest frontmen of all time who had a grand sweeping vocal range that was demonstrated until the day he died – see his powerhouse performances on The Show Must Go On and his final song Mother Love from the posthumous Made in Heaven for proof that though he was nearing death’s door he could rock out even better than a man in the best of health.

As per usual following a musician’s death sales of Queen boomed; their recently released Greatest Hits II flew off shelves and became the Christmas number one album, whilst a combination of Freddie’s death and the use of Bohemian Rhapsody in the smash hit film Wayne’s World revived Queen’s reputation in the US which had been flagging since Hot Space in 1982. And a double A-side single was released back home to commemorate him that landed at the top of the Christmas charts; a re-release of Queen’s biggest song, one that had gotten to Christmas number 1 already back in 1975, and a new song from the Innuendo album. Both iconic in different ways.

What more is there to say about Bohemian Rhapsody that hasn’t been said already? It’s a song that’s so celebrated, referenced, talked about, that it borders slightly on the overrated but is no less of an epic in spite of the number of times it’s been played. It’s a song that’s six minutes in length but never feels that long and could never be edited at all. Every part of it; the acapella introduction, the piano ballad section, the operatic part with all the glorious vocal effects, the epic guitar solo that got everybody driving headbanging and the beautifully melancholy conclusion; they all mean so much in the song and are just so necessary. It’s a song that makes you feel sympathy for a character who’s a murderer being put onto death row even though that you know he did the crime. Though it may be somewhat overplayed, Bohemian Rhapsody is an epic for the ages and can never be taken out of Queen’s vast discography.

These Are the Days of Our Lives by contrast is far less known, but it is no less a beautiful song. It’s relaxed all the way through with its calming synthesiser melodies and soft conga drum beats. The lyrics suit the calm and serene nature of the song, which take the form of a nostalgic look into the past when the narrator was younger and was in the prime of his life. These obviously take a much sadder turn when you consider that it was written by a man who was on the verge of losing his life but the song remains heartwarming with its serene atmosphere and contemplative tone that accepts how lucky the narrator was then and even now. Add on an understated yet still brilliant guitar solo by Brian May and a lyrical harkening back to Love of My Life (“When I look and I find, I still love you”), this is more than a worthy epitaph for Freddie Mercury. The whole package really cements itself as being a sad double A-side thanks to his passing but there’s something so joyous about the whole thing, a celebration of the man and his brilliant work.

FINAL THOUGHTS – 1991 is a funny old year. It’d be hard to call it a good year given that nearly a third of it was dominated by one very sappy and boring song but looking past that there were quite a few great numbers. A couple of musicians reinvented themselves very well and one band said goodbye in a suitably grandiose way, showing that the year definitely had some greatness to it. On the other hand we still had the omnipresent dreadful comedy records and some teen idols falling flat. And of course, Bryan Adams for sixteen weeks. Overall though it had lots of failings 1991 was an OK year. Some pretty strong songs, some pretty naff songs; pretty much all we can ask for at this point, really.

  • BEST SONG – Innuendo
  • WORST SONG – The Stonk

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