Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

The Works

What is this, this wearying and gleeful obsessiveness I bend over for every time, catching bands like colds and fixing my ears to accept one sound, and to just complain when it’s not there. Taking my time, taking my power; snatching from me my finest hour. All it is, is TotD gaga.

I see what you did there.

I’m writing about The Works! It’s the eleventh album by Queen.

The eleventh album is so often the best one.

Sure.

Wait, eleven?

I skipped Live Killers and the Flash Gordon soundtrack.

Why?

Live Killers is best viewed in the totality of their official live output, and how shitty a job they’ve done of it; Flash Gordon isn’t an album so much as it is the title track and 40 minutes of synth noises and guitar sounds, so it goes with Highlander.

Sounds right.

Anyway, it’s 1984: the last album, Hot Space, was a dud saved only by the last-minute accident of Under Pressure. (David Bowie was recording down the street in Montreux, came by to do cocaine with Queen, and they ended up writing Under Pressure in one night. Again: what did you do the last time you were in Montreux doing cocaine? Did you write Under Pressure? No. No, you didn’t.)

The group was not made up of easygoing people: Queen was a fightin’ band. They didn’t throw punches, just tantrums, but it was just as ugly; every interview with them (or other Rock Stars or Rock Star handlers) from the time features several “jokes” about how many arguments there were.

It may have been the songwriting arrangement, especially in the studio: each member would come in with a song, and then “direct” the arrangement and recording, exercising veto power over the others’ contributions. It’s as if they were trying to design a system that would generate the most conflict. Or, maybe they were all coked-up jackasses.

Except for John Deacon, who never did anything wrong. Look at him:

No one in this band could dress themselves.

So: The Game. Unlike the last album, which was done in Munich, they recorded this one in Los Angeles.

Reminder to the Younger Enthusiasts: Munich was not in Germany in 1982, it was in West Germany. Also, ’82 means that Munich’s nightlife would have been full of the children of WWII–whatever the German for Baby Boom is–and so the place had an edgy vibe. Los Angeles in 1982, Younger Enthusiasts, was exactly the same as it is today, at least the part of LA that Queen was hanging out in.

The studio was the Record Plant, and it was (and still is) on West Third, in between Fairfax and La Cienaga, and it is firmly ensconced in what I always called Our Little White LA: Hills down to the 10, La Brea to the ocean. That Los Angeles, that one-reel town, has not changed in a hundred years except for the cars: it is where the sun lives, and no one has anything to do in the afternoons, and a party at night. It is not Munich.

They made this record there:

And it’s a good one, though certainly firmly in the “New Queen” mold. No more songs about fairies or dragons or Jesus, and there were synths everywhere, but the harmonies were back, and so were the hits: Radio Gaga and I Want To Break Free both got to the top of the charts everywhere in the world except for America.

I have no idea why 1984’s America–a country in which the press secretary for the President felt comfortable making fag jokes at his podium when asked a question about AIDS–rejected I Want To Break Free, and its attendant video.

No idea whatsoever.

The drag stuff was a parody, actually, of a long-running British soap opera called Coronation Street, but MTV outright banned it.

No, it’s not just you: Roger Taylor is a hot chick.

Break Free is a great song, though–maybe their last one–simply due to its melody. Go listen to it again, or even better just turn off the music or whatever’s playing: you can sing the whole song through, can’t you? And once you start, you can’t stop. That’s a good melody. John Deacon wrote that one. Respect John Deacon, motherfuckers.

(Yes, the production is terribly dated. Or is it vintage? Checkmate, motherfucker.)

Stop calling the nice people motherfuckers.

You’re back?

I never leave.

Creepy. Anyway, that’s The Works. They did a tour, and then some Irish guy called them up to do a charity show at Wembley. Middle of the afternoon, and they’d only have 20 minutes. Obscure performance.

10 Comments

  1. That video made me uncomfortable. I am sure I would have built a fallout shelter if I saw it in 1984.

  2. Luther Von Baconson

    December 15, 2016 at 11:18 am

    i loved that video. we had the Piltdown MTV. Moses Znaimer’s Much Music.

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