If not for The Beatles using the phrase, “The Fab Four” could certainly describe Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor. Combining Mercury’s huge operatic vocal range and piano styling, May’s phenomenal guitar work, Deacon’s legendary bass riffs, and Taylor’s exceptional drumming, the band Queen produced some of the biggest cultural touchstones until Mercury’s untimely 1991 death. With renewed interest in Queen thanks to their box office hit biopic, let’s revisit their greatest music videos of all time.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody
We start with the biggest video of them all. Rather than risk having their song butchered with a dance routine on the ’70s British show “Tops of the Pops” the band recorded their own performance for broadcast and basically invented the modern music video in 1975, six years before MTV existed. The song saw a revival in 1991 when the movie “Wayne’s World” introduced it to a new generation, and immortality ensued.
2. You’re My Best Friend
Penned by bassist Deacon (who did not write many songs, but those he did the tops of the charts) for his wife, this song is a staple of wedding receptions. Pop and rock blend into a perfectly wonderful anthem to love, made all the better thanks to Mercury’s stellar voice.
3. The Show Must Go On
The final track on their final album, Mercury was by this time too ill to sing… and yet he sung it anyway. May wrote it (though it’s credited to the entire band) and it’s literally about Mercury fighting to keep singing till the end. And he did, and he died six weeks after recording it; the official video includes clips from all their other video performances, and it’s the best possible tribute.
4. I Want To Break Free
The anthem of freedom, and later a power ballad for coming out among the LGBT community, the video for this song was banned from MTV because, gasp, they were decked out in drag! MTV didn’t get the reference that the band was parodying the long-running British soap opera “Coronation Street.” British fans got it though and this was a huge monster hit.
5. Another One Bites The Dust
Another contribution by John Deacon and ostensibly about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1920s Chicago, this song is 50% Mercury vocals and 50% killer base line. Famously parodied by Weird Al Yankovich in “Another One Rides The Bus,” this song was all over the ’80s like a leitmotif, hitting #1 on the U.S. charts and becoming one of Queen’s best selling singles ever.
6. Fat Bottomed Girls
Often followed up and paired with “Bicycle Race” on the radio, this ode to women with extra junk in the trunk paved the way for Sir Mix-a-Lot (and, hilariously enough, was spiritually spoofed in the mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap” as the song “Big Bottoms”), this was penned by guitarist Brian May.
7. Somebody To Love
Like “You’re My Best Friend,” this is another perennial wedding playlist favorite. This rock/gospel mashup cements the quartet’s signature four part harmony in the annals of music history. Penned by Mercury, this song’s chords go every which way but loose and May’s guitar solo makes lesser instruments weep; it’s a complete show stopper when performed live.
One of the oddest videos they made, Mercury was too sick at the time to perform in a video so they made an animated spectacle that for its day was not only innovative, but also top of the line, combining rotoscoped concert footage (in four completely different art styles!) and stop motion animation during May’s epic flamenco guitar solo. It’s a trip of a film.
9. Radio Ga Ga
The music video hater’s music video, this song is the anti “I want my MTV” chant. Combining the heavenly harmonics with a kind of Metropolis/steampunk/Golden Age motif, this song has the added distinction to being the inspiration for young Stefani Germanotta to adopt the moniker “Lady Gaga.”
10. Killer Queen
The definitive video is from another appearance on “Tops of the Pops” but this time, they got to perform it live, and it’s as mind blowing as the song’s subject. Who would have thought that a song that features lyrics name checking Khrushchev, Kennedy, dynamite, and laser beams would be so inspiring?
11. Princes Of The Universe
Unlike their video for the title song for the movie “Flash Gordon,” this song, for the ’80s fantasy epic “Highlander,” isn’t just a bunch of movie clips edited into a video. Choosing to make a meta statement before anyone knew what meta was, the band and the film’s hero – played by Christopher Lambert – cross swords, literally, on stage. Also, Brian May’s wicked solo brings down the house, also literally, and it’s a castle. There can be only one and this is it.
12. Under Pressure
Freddie Mercury plus David Bowie plus a bass line so perfect Vanilla Ice tried to swipe it. This song is phenomenal in the studio, but you owe it to yourself to watch the live video from the historic Wembley Stadium concert, proving what a showman Mercury really was.
13. We Will Rock You
Not unlike the “Fat Bottomed Girls/Bicycle Race” combo, “We Will Rock You” is usually played together on the radio with “We Are The Champions” since they segue so well, but each is in its own right a rock anthem. Both have been played during sporting events worldwide, and were the band’s signature finales during live concerts. No time for losers indeed.
14. We Are The Champions
What more needs to be said? Just watch.
15. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Another interesting stylistic choice, this rockabilly throwback to the age of Elvis and Grease almost single-handedly brought back the jitterbug and gave Brian Setzer of Stray Cats fame an excuse to put together a swing band.