Monday, 14 July 2008

Killer Opening Songs (Queen's Mustapha)

Some artists manage just one Killer Opening Song in their whole musical career. Some others get to release just a handful. But there are performers and bands for whom Killer Opening Songs are part of their DNA. One clear example is the British rock and pop group Queen.

I must declare an expression of interest here. I am a Queen fan. I have been one since age thirteen and I’m about to enter my thirty-seventh year of existence in a few months, so that would make me twenty-four years listening to one of the top bands in the vast rock universe.

So, there, I’ve written that paragraph. Now, you can either stop reading this post or the blog altogether and make tracks (no charge will be levied, mind) or stay for a while and learn a little bit more about one of the most dynamic and forward-thinking groups in rock’s short life.

Queen fans come under two guises, those who are enamoured of the band’s Greatest Hits Volumes (and can quote most of their hits by heart) and those who listen to their albums in their entirety and really understand the group’s ethos. I guess that by now you know which team I am in.

The first element that attracted me to this band when I was still a teenager and living in Havana, Cuba, was their pure and unbridled creative energy. From their debut album, ‘Queen’, with its nod to Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, the band embarked on a never-ending experimental tour that brought them a huge following but also derision. It’s not strange that Queen never courted favour with British rock critics. In a country where self-effacement is the lifestyle of choice, captions like ‘No Synthesizers’ (plastered across the first seven albums) did not attract praise but mockery. And Freddie’s artistic vision (like for instance in the song ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’ from their second album, ‘Queen II') did not find an enthusiastic audience amongst rock’s cognoscenti.

The other aspect that always appealed to me about this British band was their chutzpah. Theirs was a form of musical audacity that led them to see off more narcissistic rock styles, like punk, for instance, at a time when most people were writing their musical obituary.

That’s why it is a pleasure to bring to this column this week a song that encapsulates everything I have described above. Never released as a single, yet it has the same quality as ‘We Will Rock You’ or ‘Play the Game’ (two other anthemic Killer Opening Songs by Queen). Not sung live very often, however in a moment you will see footage of a very rare performance of it. The words are not in English, bar a few ones, but any real fan familiar with Queen’s music will know by now that the band sometimes indulged in French, Japanese and Spanish in their compositions. In short, ‘Mustapha’, the song I am uploading this week, was a very creative and challenging outing for his writer, Freddie Mercury. Sung in Persian, the song was very popular in France due to the large Muslim population in this European nation. The fact that I’ve selected this track from a plethora of songs used by Queen to open their albums with, attests to the brilliance and intelligence this band displayed for their entire twenty-year career (yes, to me they were finished after Freddie died in 1991, so that means 1971-1991 R.I.P.). Just to give you fellow bloggers and readers an idea of what else to find within the ‘Jazz’ album, where this song first appeared here’s a roll-call: ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, ‘Bicycle Race’, (yes, the one with the naughty video), ‘Let Me Entertain You’, (a real camp-fest with words like ‘I've come here to sell you my body/I can show you some good merchandise/I'll pull you and I'll pill you/I'll CrueladeVille you/And to thrill you I'll use any device) and one of their stadium anthems, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, currently used in a car ad.

So, do you see my point? ‘Mustapha’ was nothing but the introduction to a huge musical extravaganza, the likelihood of which is hard to find these days amidst the anodyne and formulaic pop that gets churned out by production companies so often. What other songs from the album did not make it to singles or hits? Oh dear, you got me on a roll now: ‘If You Can’t Beat Them’, (the male rock version of ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor), ‘Dead On Time’ (heavy metal anyone?), ‘Dreamer’s Ball’ (Freddie said of this song in the ‘Live Killers’ album: ‘The things you have to do for money’) and ‘Fun It’ (precursor to Queen going disco in the 80s, but still a brilliant tune).

Now that I’ve held your attention for all this time, allow me to explain what you’re about to witness. The first clip is the original intro from the ‘Live Killers’ album, the Paris leg, which, as I have already explained, had the whole crowd asking for the song. The second clip is that aforementioned rare performance and the third video is just the album version, no funky visuals or anything.

I hope that you come away from this week’s column with a different idea about this British band that broke every single barrier there was out there in terms of creativity and originality.








Copyright 2008

17 comments:

  1. As a red blooded Cuban male, I must admit and firmly attest to the fact, fat bottomed girls DO make the rockin' world go round!!

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  2. Thanks for the visit on my blog, and yeah, I'm a big footie fan too, I live in Brazil and work with a small club here.

    You should check out this blog:
    http://luismgarcia.blogspot.com/

    He is a Cuban living in Australia, and he and his suegro, who is also Cubano traded in "ponchao" for "howzat".

    Now, the important question on my mind is, do you have good lechon asado, platanitos maduros, congris, cafecito and media noches there?

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  3. I am not a big Queen fan, but I did read your entire post, free of charge. And even clicked on the sound bite. Nice and informative review. Hope you've had an enjoyable evening across the pond!

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  4. My husband loves Freddy. Thank you for the informative post.

    Oh my God, from Daniel talking about it, I now need my cafesito!

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  5. Some years ago when I was working in security I was surprised to hear that I was going to work at Queen’s concert at Wembley. Just like you, I was of the opinion that there was no Queen without Freddie Mercury.

    Still, the concert was good, the audience was excited, but unfortunately I have nothing to compare it with as I never went to any of their concerts with Freddie Mercury.

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  6. OK, Daniel, the answer is yes! But, I have to tell you, mate, that I've given up on buying pork here in GB. It's tasteless. I've no idea what they put in it, but it does not smell like the pork we cook in Cuba. Remember what we call it? 'La carne chismosa' (the gossip meat) because it tells everyone what's for dinner.

    Hi, willow, thanks for passing by and I appreciate your honesty, too. I had a lovely evening writing my next two columns for the blog to appear in a couple of days and reading a marvellous book, 'If This is a Man/The Truce', Primo Levi's memoir of his time in Auschwitz.

    Hi, yoli, I, too, loved Freddie. He had joie de vivre, that expression that French speakers have bequeathed the whole world and that conveys a sentiment of pure bliss and enjoyment (and self-enjoyment, too, why not?).

    Sara, I, too, entertained the idea of seeing Queen in concert a couple of years ago whenthey toured with that other singer, whatsisname? Oh, never mind. I'd rather stay at home and watch the Wembley concert on DVD, really.

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  7. Many foods are similar here, but just not the same. Frijoles colorados are most common, but I got my wife to switch to the black ones. No pan cubano, and no pastelitos de guayaba, but guava is very common, no one has thought of using it as filling yet.

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  8. Although I always was a Queen fan, I never liked this song. One of the few songs I don't like. I don't know why. Maybe too primal?...

    Saludos,
    Al Godar

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  9. Siempre fui fan de Queen (aunque no creo que a tu nivel :)) Esta cancion no la conocia nada, esta interesantisima y como se reconoce la instrumentacion tan particular de Queen. Gracias!

    Por cierto, que danza ensenias?

    Saludos,

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  10. Yes, Al, it is very primal and raw. And that's probably the reason why I was hooked the first time I heard it. Thanks for passing by.

    Lena, la instrumentacion de esta banda fue siempre una de mis predilecciones. Me encanta como sus piezas van escalando (o bajando) de una forma gradual y ritmica.

    Doy clases de baile afrocubano, ya sabes, los orishas, palomonte, arara. Gracias por pasar.

    Saludos desde Londres.

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  11. Now I recall many times in the High School Antonio Guiteras in Havana, junior year, when I just to goin inside the classroom, often asked ‘Pachi’ of the FEEM Organization, to let me play the record called: JAZZ. That was the only chance to make people dance rock n 'roll.
    I specially liked the second song named Fat Bottomed Girls. It was super cool!

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  12. como nosotros cuando no la hacemos a la entrada, la hacemos a la salida... se me olvidaba contarte que a veces cuando tiro una meada larga, me da por cantar MUSTAPHA, sobre todo aquella parte: IIIbrahiiiiiim, alA, alA, alA...

    ;) nos vemos cuban, tU cojElo suave con takE iT easy.

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  13. Jajajaja! Oye, a mi Mustapha me espanto la primera vez que la escuché, pero como le comentaba a Al, es ese caracter crudo y primario que me encanta. Asi que meando mientras que escuchas al Freddie cantando, esa si que es buena :-D. Nos pillamos, horita te paso por alla.

    Saludos desde Londres.

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  14. qué tipo FM, un físico amazing, una voz y una energía musical amazing también, esto es un exceso pero no hay nadie perfecto

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  15. Vivio excesivamente, también, betty y esa fue una de las razones por las que Queen se convirtio en una maquina de hacer 'hits'. La confianza que tenia Freddie en los otros tres fue insuperable.

    Saludos desde Londres.

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  16. Hi, I'm A Cuban from Miami who has been in London for a few weeks now. I wanted some new British friends of mine to try authentic Cuban food, but the "cuban restaurants" around here are a disgrace (at least the ones that hav menus online.) I'd like to find a few essentials like yuca, platanitos maduro, flan or tres leche, and GOOD black beans. I'm even willing to cook it myself if I can find the right ingredients. As for the meat, lechon is ideal, but too complicated to make. Have you found any good restaurants or markets around here? I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

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  17. Hi, Jessie, best thing to do is to go to the so-called 'ethnic markets' and as you can see I don't like that expression. If youre in south London, try Brixton Market today on a Sunday. If you're north of the river, then go to places like Tottenham or Finsbury Park. You will usually find outdoor markets, although today it's rainning quite a lot. In terms of restaurants, it's hard to find real Cuban food, do not go to the Little Havana restaurant in Leicester Square, it really is crap. Best if you cook the food at home. Buy the pork from a good butcher's, don't buy from large supermarkets because the pork meat is tasteless.

    I hope this helps.

    Greetings from London.

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