“In 1971, four college students got together to form a rock band.”
Queen: Days of Our Lives is a relatively recently released documentary about the band. The core of it is a two-part band history that played on the BBC. The Blu-Ray adds about 90 minutes of bonus material.
There have been many Queen biographies before this one, a number sanctioned by the band. The special thing about this one is that Brian and Roger provided a lot of new interview material for it.
As someone who has seen a lot of those earlier documentaries, not to mention read a number of books about the band, I didn’t learn too many new facts. But I definitely still enjoyed the structure of the documentary. It was well-edited, moving briskly along from milestone to milestone. Aspects of the band’s story that have really been covered to death by now—the early success in Japan, Bohemian Rhapsody, Live Aid—are of course here again, but not especially dwelled upon, as how much new is there to say?
Instead, the insights are more personal. For example, Brian discusses how his father, understandly, was just flabbergasted that his son chose rock music over completing his PhD in physics. And it wasn’t until well unto his career that a huge show at Madison Square Garden really brought home to his Dad that Brian wasn’t wasting his life or his education. Brian still tears up at the memory.
John Deacon, generally considered the least interesting member of the band, casts a surprisingly large shadow over the production. There is, for example, a fair amount of attention given to “Another One Bites the Dust”, which he wrote. One fact I hadn’t know that came out is that it, and not BoRhap, is Queen’s best-selling song. And one of the extras amusingly relates how, in later years, John kept a full bar behind some of the stage equipment, and would nip back there for drinks when his bass playing was not required. (Which reminds me of another rather humorous anecdote from this, of the very rare occasion where Fred was really too inebriated to perform the first part of the show, and the rest of the band struggled to cover. Of course, Freddie brought it home in the end.)
Of course, the fact that John is alive and yet did not provide any new insights for this project is hard to ignore. Naturally, Mr. Deacon has every right to retire, and doesn’t owe the fans any more than the 20+ years he already gave to a band that, this documentary reveals, he was surprised to find become such a big success. Still, it would have been nice to hear from him. And it is a bit sad to hear Brian comment that “We’ve lost John, too.”
Also clear from this project? “Queen were never cool,” as Roger said. And as a fan from the time, I can tell you, this is true. Except for a fairly short time in the late 70s, Queen fandom was something I tried to keep quiet. Because it was not cool to be into them.
The 1970s were a battle between disco and punk, and Queen were… Queen. The 80s brought Brit pop, but except for a little ill-received (though I liked it) foray into funk sounds, Queen still kept sounding like… Queen. Ultimately, this has made them endure. But at the time, they were about as respected as Nickleback as is now.
Never cool. Just really popular.
Well put-together though the documentary was, I also enjoyed the extras. Some were extensions of was seen in the film, some were additional interviews that didn’t make the cut at all. The only thing I found a bit superfluous were the seven music videos, supposedly “all new”. But many are so close to the original videos, it took me a while to realize they were different cuts (often with more “backstage” views of what was going on).
I live you with a video one of the most delightful extras from the disk: Scrabble Wars.