Dave Marsh hated Jazz. I’m unaware of his opinions on jazz; I assume they’re easily accessible, but I can’t be bothered. He wasn’t alone, either: all the Important Rock Critics hated Queen with a passion, and when you read these old reviews you get the feeling that the IRC’s saved up all their meanest lines for the whole year, scribbling them in their notebooks, just waiting for the new Queen record to come out.
Important Rock Critics liked the music of the people: Dave Marsh worked for Creem, which was based out of Detroit. That magazine championed a young man named James Osterberg, who assumed a ridiculous stage name and liked to show people his chest and cock; you can see how they would find Freddie’s act vulgar.
Queen was also guilty of breaking a sacred commandment of Important Rock Criticism: technical proficiency is to be distrusted; virtuosity is to be dismissed. There was nothing worse than a guy who knew how to play, according to the IRC: songs required three chords and the truth, even if sometimes the truth is complicated, and requires weird chords like F#aug11.
PUNK! the young men yelled as they chose their clothes with precisely the same amount of care that Queen did, and that was the rock landscape that Jazz was released into in 1978.
They looked like this:
Everyone out there still playing Rock Star Bingo should check their cards for the “Standing by the private plane photo” space. Also: look how happy John Deacon is. You know he loves airplanes and knows facts about them. (I may or may not be confusing John Deacon with James May from Top Gear at this point.)
Freddie’s choice in hats becomes an important part of the story from here on out.
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols had come out less than a year before, and now there were punk bands everywhere, but not actually everywhere: less than a dozen clubs and bars in three or four cities in America and London, and the record collections of Important Rock Critics. Nobody else cared; this scandalized the IRC community. How dare the general public not warm to The Dead Boys, and their hit single Caught with the Meat in your Mouth?
Punk wasn’t about Rock Stars. They could keep calling, but the punks wanted to stay in their garage. Notwithstanding the fact that all of them behaved like Rock Stars at all times, of course. And the fact that all of them always took the money, every single time. Or died very young, which is a very Rock Star way of going about things.
Or Bruce Springsteen. Important Rock Critics loved them some Bruce Springsteen: that guy was authentic, birthed from the boardwalk down the shore, and certainly not carefully and studiously honed from thousands of bar gigs and bands. Bruce told stories, instead of prancing around the stage in little outfits. (Even though Bruce pranced around the stage in little outfits.) And Bruce played 3-hour shows, which is more moral than 100 tight minutes, somehow. (The Dead also played 3-hour shows, but the IRC’s also hated the Dead.)
The critics were right about Springsteen, and they were right about punk, too: I still listen to the Dictators. There’s two types of music, good and bad, and everything else is just some asshole in a messy apartment trying to be clever about his record collection.
But they were wrong about Queen.
So, yeah: Jazz.
Jazz is a typical Queen album, in that the album is all over the place: there’s some of the heaviest rockers of their career (Let Me Entertain You, Dead On Time), Freddie’s ballets and ballads (Bicycle Race, Jealousy), and holy shit they let Roger sing lead on two numbers?
But Jazz also has this song on it:
And God bless the punks, but none of them wrote Don’t Stop Me Now.
Brian didn’t like the song, the theme in particular: Freddie had interests he was exploring with a newfound and growing ferocity. This is what’s known as foreshadowing.