Speak to any Queen fan and they’ll tell you why they love the music of Messrs Mercury; May; Deacon; and Taylor. From their first smash hit single The Seven Seas of Rhye to the songs that have made them bar-room favourites in every pub in Britain, the band did something that almost no other pop combo of any stripe has managed to do. It made tongue in cheek into an art form.
There’s a huge discrepancy between being successfully tongue in cheek and just being rubbish. Subsequent pretenders to the Queen throne have ably proved that measure. Just having floppy locks and tight trousers, and committing epic axe murder (enormously long guitar solos, in other words) isn’t enough. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe in your music. And you have to be clever.
Smartness is the thing that set Queen apart. The lyrics were clever. The music was infectious. And while they were theoretically a joke band, poking fun at the oh-so-worthy guitar soloist bands that had preceded them, they were also onto something. They wrote love songs that were better than the love songs they pilloried. They wrote epics that knocked the socks off more serious compositions. They even wrote hard rock songs whose drive and lyrical grit made them sound gnarlier than the self-obsessed groups whose music they were mimicking.
It takes a special kind of talent to do that – a talent that has been found only once or twice before in popular music history. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band managed it. So, in a way, did Lonnie Donegan. Queen became the latest in that list, and are probably still the final pretenders to the throne.
We Will Rock You tickets, then, are more than simple tickets to a show. They’re a chance to hear some of those songs performed live – and in a suitably bizarre environment, as any Queen fan will tell you. Indeed, the “plot” of the show, which has been ridiculed from pillar to post by every critic in the land, is just another element in the on-going Dadaist aesthetic of the Queen mythology. It centres around a load of absolute nonsense, it’s drawn with a heavy hand to point out the most obvious tropes of modern dystopian pieces. Only it does both not because it’s not very good, but because that’s probably exactly what Queen would have done if they’d still been around to do it.
Queen songs, after all, are more or less pastiches of other people trying to do serious stuff with very silly subjects. The musical in which those songs may now be heard is essentially the same thing.
The original question was whether the show was just for Queen fans or for all musical lovers. It should more properly be asked whether it is for Queen fans alone, or for all music lovers. In the latter case, the answer is simple. It’s for anyone who understands that sometimes, good music is also a great joke.
Maria Bruno is a music critic. She has written many articles on We Will Rock You the Musical. In this article she is providing us with some valuable information on why We Will Rock You tickets are more than simple tickets to a show.