Plenty of material here that is good but just rather ordinary by Queen’s exceptional standards. Another couple of singles feature, as do some of the better non-album, b-side tracks. With numbers 185 to 141 now complete, only tracks from the first album and A Day at the Races have yet to feature anywhere on the list.
For details about how I compiled the list and to view numbers 185–161, scroll to the bottom of the page.
160. Dreamers Ball (May), Jazz, 1978
Another nod to America from Brian — this time the milieu is the New Orleans jazz scene — Dreamers Ball (the title appeared on the original Jazz album without an apostrophe; sometimes, as on the Live Killers sleeve, it is displayed as Dreamer’s Ball; arguably it should be Dreamers’ Ball) is in truth one of his weaker efforts, a poor relation of the magnificent big-band sound of Good Company. The rather ponderous feel is perhaps deliberate, evoking (for this listener at least) a sleazy late-night bar, complete with cast-off, booze-soaked dreamer drowning his sorrows.
The acoustic early-take released in 2011 is also somewhat leaden, though the finished version features nice multi-tracked lead guitar and backing vocals. Best moment: the guitars from 2:48 to 3:10.
159. Friends Will Be Friends (Deacon/Mercury), A Kind of Magic, 1986
This song perhaps tries a little too hard to capture the anthemic, arms-in-the-air quality of Queen’s best stadium-ready songs (the video is a big clue to its intent — the nearest Freddie ever got to crowdsurfing, despite what a certain well-known film might suggest to the contrary).
Released as a single to coincide with the Magic Tour, it was inexplicably placed between We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions at the climax of the show — an egregious error, as far as this fan is concerned. As often, the guitar breaks (particularly at roughly 1:58 and in the outro at 3:44) are the best bits.
158. It’s a Beautiful Day (Reprise) (Queen), Made in Heaven, 1995
157. It’s a Beautiful Day (Queen), Made in Heaven, 1995
Apparently, a half-idea of Freddie’s from the Game sessions (a bit like what became the opening bit to Breakthru), it’s such a shame he didn’t pursue it further. A wonderfully optimistic lyric, less decadent and hedonistic than Don’t Stop Me Now. Nicely moulded into a coherent shape by the band, including samples of early songs on the reprise.
156. Coming Soon (Taylor), The Game, 1980
After his two funky missteps on the Jazz album, this is more typical Roger fare. Propelled along by a driving drum beat, I Wanna Testify-type vocal flourishes and what sounds like Roger on rhythm guitar, this doesn’t quite hit the heights, though the backing vocals at 1:35 and at the end are gorgeous. A Human Body would perhaps have been a better choice of second Roger song on The Game, with this as the non-album b-side.
155. Tear It Up (May), The Works, 1984
A sledgehammer of a song from Brian that lacks the subtle shades of his very best heavy songs: a tribute to wild partying but without the wit of Freddie’s Don’t Stop Me Now. It’s certainly a statement of intent lyrically and musically: we’re here to have a good time, we’re here to rock. It draws a line under Hot Space, as if to say ‘we know we pissed off a lot of our fans with the dance stuff’. Indeed, that sentiment was in part the inspiration for the album’s title — ‘we’re going to give ’em the works’. Full-on, driving guitar compensates for awful, crashing drums.
Despite the lyrical theme, it was an unlikely set opener on the Works tour. Even more surprising that it remained in the set for the Magic Tour. Even more surprising that it was resurrected by Q+AL.
154. Let Me in Your Heart Again (May), released 2014
Another promising but unfinished idea (again, one wonders why), this one from the Works sessions and nicely shaped into something releasable by Brian and Roger. Fred Mandel plays keyboards — check out his comments on the song in this interview at roughly 45:15. The Anita Dobson version is worth a listen for Brian’s guitars, though perhaps not for the singing.
153. A Dozen Red Roses for My Darling (Taylor), b-side, 1986
An example of where that ’80s Phil Collins-esque, big-yet-compressed, dry drum sound works well (taking the lead in this instrumental), this is a delightfully left-field Roger creation. The repeated guitar riff is great, as are the synths. It was reworked into a more traditional song for the A Kind of Magic album, but A Dozen Red Roses definitely works as a piece of music in its own right.
Best moment: the atmospheric break at roughly 2:09, which sounds like a cross between something from side two of David Bowie’s Low album and the X-Files theme.
152. The Loser in the End (Taylor), Queen II, 1974
Perched at the end of side one on the original vinyl release, Loser follows uneasily — both lyrically and musically — in the wake of Brian’s magnificently dark and introspective songs, the juxtaposition as jarring as the guitar treatments in the song itself. The theme is typically early-years Roger, the inter-generational tensions involved in growing up and embracing rock-‘n’-roll, girls and fast cars.
Best moment: Roger’s percussion, particularly the repeated marimba sounds (for example at 0:06).
151. Feelings, Feelings (May), released 2011
From the News of the World sessions, this song didn’t make it through the weeding process to the final album cut, and at roughly two minutes’ duration it obviously remained unfinished and unpolished. Its upbeat, rocky feel is reminiscent of It’s Late and the latter part of the BBC session version of Spread Your Wings from the same period.
150. The Invisible Man (Queen), The Miracle, 1989
One of Queen’s more ‘humorous’ pieces, it certainly has an infectious bassline and nice guitar from Brian — though, take away the various aural flourishes and it’s not immediately obvious what else. Many people will doubtless disagree but it’s also one of their less likeable ‘thematic’ videos: as with anything using technology as a central reference (in this case, video games), it quickly dates.
It is widely reported that the Miracle album was originally going to be called The Invisible Men. Someone, somewhere — fortunately — had a change of heart.
149. Sleeping on the Sidewalk (May), News of the World, 1977
In a sign of things to come, much of this blues-y piece was apparently recorded in a single take. Like many of Brian’s lyrics, he is wrestling with the price of fame and success, though with more humour that is typical in his songs. The live version from the News of the World tour, released in 2017 with Freddie on vocal, was an unexpected delight on its release: one wonders where it was placed in the set during its (very) limited run.
Best moment: leaving the laugh in at the every end of the take (very much not a Queen thing up to that point).
148. One Year of Love (Deacon), A Kind of Magic, 1986
Another of Freddie’s more ‘shouty’ vocals from the ’80s, One Year comes complete with saxophone solo and orchestral arrangement. It is by no means the worst of the ‘mushy ballad’ type but, with its plodding beat, struggles to go anywhere particularly interesting and is sorely missing Brian’s guitar.
147. Crash Dive on Mingo City (May), Flash Gordon, 1980
It may only last a minute or so but Brian’s guitar, joined by Roger on timpani, evokes Flash’s frantic crash-dive through the city’s defence shield, ruining the wedding and mercilessly killing Ming in the process.
146. The Hitman (Queen), Innuendo, 1991
This certainly sounds like a no-holds-barred Brian rocker, though there is a lengthy quote ‘out there’ attributed to Brian, saying that the original idea came from Freddie with further work from John. It is full-on and relentless, leaving little room for subtlety, though it has some outstanding guitar from Brian.
145. Funny How Love Is (Mercury), Queen II, 1974
The weakest of Freddie’s songs on Queen II, Funny is notable for the Phil Spector-esque ‘wall of sound’ arrangement, courtesy of Robin Cable’s production (also featured on Freddie’s Larry Lurex arrangement of I Can Hear Music). A somewhat slight song, although it comes in at nearly three minutes the fade-out starts ridiculously early.
144. Man on the Prowl (Mercury), The Works, 1984
A more full-on, Elvis-inspired, rockabilly arrangement than Crazy Little Thing Called Love, this is upbeat throughout, and has a great middle-eight (“Well I keep dreaming about my baby …”) and piano solo to finish, courtesy of Fred Mandel, who had played keyboards on stage with the band in 1982. Apparently it was pencilled in as a single (another?!) from The Works until Thank God It’s Christmas came along.
143. Hang On In There (Queen), b-side, 1989
This track didn’t make the Miracle album but is undoubtedly better than some that did. It sounds like a number of studio jams spliced onto a basic song, notably at roughly 2:30 and 3:10 (the latter Brian-John-Roger jam is particularly good, using part of what has become known as Fiddly Jam).
142. Life Is Real (Song for Lennon) (Mercury), Hot Space, 1982
A somewhat uncharacteristically serious ‘price-of-fame’ lyrical theme from ’80s Freddie, the song doesn’t quite do justice to the undoubtedly heartfelt sentiments. Like (say) The Invisible Man, strip away the flourishes and what is left is something rather ordinary by Queen standards and would probably not have made the cut on any of the first six albums.
141. Dear Friends (May), Sheer Heart Attack, 1974
At just one minute and nine seconds, this is an affecting piano ballad in miniature. One cannot help but feel that, by the ’80s, an idea such as this would have been worked on to bring it closer to a more conventional three-minute length or abandoned. Best moment: the backing vocals from 0:32.
The Queen song journey starts here — plus an explanation of the rationale and ground rules I followed
Queen songs ranked — from Calling All Girls (1982) to Tenement Funster (1974)
Reviewing books about Freddie Mercury and Queen — what’s good and what’s not