Queen tries to revive career with new album

February 12, 1991|By Orange County Register

Queen is dead. Long live Queen.

Such sentiments probably are heard these days in the hallways of Hollywood Records, Disney's new pop music label. The company's first big-name music release, "Innuendo," is from the veteran British rock band Queen, a quartet that still has a large following internationally but hasn't enjoyed a high profile in the United States in recent years.

In the '70s, the foursome -- vocalist Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor -- had five Top 10 albums and such major hit singles as "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Somebody to Love," and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."

Hollywood threw a big Queen bash, with fire-eaters and fireworks, at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., last weekend, the first volley in what Hollywood hopes will be a successful attempt to revive Queen's U.S. career.

"It's very bizarre. We never thought we'd beassociated with anything like [Disney]," Mr. May said. "Our first reaction was, 'What do they have to do with rock and roll?' But you've got a lot of people there who are committed. They've got great imagination."

Of course, there are many who would contend that Queen -- known for heavily produced music, semiclassical flourishes and Mr. Mercury's theatrical inclinations -- has little to do with rock and roll. Mr. May concedes that it might be the love-it-or-hate-it showbiz aspects of Mr. Mercury's personality that turned off Americans to Queen.

"It could be the small things," hesaid. "As soon as he cut his hair, that alienated people. People sometimes don't know where we're coming from."

Also, Mr. May said, the element of humor gets past some critics. "There's a strong undercurrent of humor in what we do, a kind of PTC dry humor that runs through it," he said.

As for the critical griping that Queen's music is pompous and pretentious, that's the whole point, Mr. May said.

"We're quite aware of going over the top quite deliberately and that's what we do," he said. "To say it's pompous is not saying anything. That's one of the ingredients in the arsenal we use. A lot of this over thetopness, the grandeur that gets up some people's noses . . . is, in fact, how some people feel. When you hear it at a gig, it's not overstating it. It gives people a chance to vent their anguish."

Queen won't be playing anywhere soon. The band has not been on the road since a 1986 world tour.

While Queen dabbled with dance music on some of its '80s material, the style is missing on "Innuendo."

"We've been in and out of that stuff," May said. "We were into it a bit too early. Maybe, if we'd waited a year or two later, it would have done very well. But I think we've realized some of our best stuff is rock and roll."

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