Queen: Crowning Achievements
In 2002, Brian May took time out to reflect on a Queen box set, a DVD compilation, a stage musical based on Queen’s hit songs and the extra- ordinary legacy of his brilliant band.
October 18, 2002, 11:30 A. M.: A large crowd of people gathers on the street at 6356 Hollywood Boulevard, many of them carrying Queen album sleeves, photographs, makeshift posters and other mementos of the eternally popular British rock group. The Queen-crazed mob lets fly a collective howl of delight the instant the band’s guitarist, Brian May, and drummer, Roger Taylor, step out onto a low, carpeted platform that had been erected on the sidewalk. Mr. Johnny Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood, presides as May and Taylor kneel on the pavement and unveil Queen’s brand-new star on the city’s Walk of Fame. The 2,207th such plaque to be fitted into Hollywood’s most famous thoroughfare, the coveted stellar monument places Queen in the distinguished show-biz company of immortals like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Charlie Chaplin.
That night, a party and impromptu jam takes place at a funky Hollywood bar, celebrating Queen’s enshrinement in America’s sidewalk of dreams. Steve Vai, Nuno Bettencourt and Carmine Appice are among the special guests who climb onstage that evening. But the most raucous applause comes when May straps on his venerable Red Special guitar and Taylor mans the drum kit. The duo leads the way through gangbuster renditions of Queen classics like “Tie Your Mother Down,” “Under Pressure,” “I’m in Love with My Car” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The entire packed house sings along. Young and old, hipsters, rock geeks, smarmy music biz types—everyone knows the words.
“I was really thrilled,” May later says of the ceremony and its aftermath. “In England it would have been much more formal. But in L.A. there’s a more relaxed vibe that I really enjoy. It is a place where I’ve had a home since the early Eighties. So for me it’s a great personal thrill to be part of the fabric of Los Angeles.”
Far more than just another shiny thread in L.A.’s synthetic cultural garment, Queen are integral to the fabric of rock and roll itself. Rock history would be appreciably less radiant had classics like “Killer Queen,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “We Are the Champions” and “Another One Bites the Dust” not been recorded. And rock guitar playing would certainly be a poorer thing without the soaring harmonies of Brian May’s Red Special. The death of lead singer Freddie Mercury in 1991 has done nothing to diminish Queen’s stature. If anything, Mercury’s passing has helped to confirm the band’s place in the classic rock pantheon.
Queen’s new star on the Walk of Fame is just one of many recent band-related honors and activities, all of which seem to be leading up to the band’s 30th anniversary in 2003. “I’ve never had a year like this, where so much has happened,” says May. “So much positivity and creativity.”
May and Taylor spent June 3, 2002, in style, performing at the Golden Jubilee show at Buckingham Palace, honoring the 50-year reign of that other famous English Queen, Elizabeth II. We Will Rock You, the stage musical based on Queen’s hit songs, is breaking box office records in London’s West End. The Queen Symphony, also based on the group’s music and composed by Tolga Kashif, was performed for the first time ever by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall on November 6. May was recently awarded an honorary doctorate in England. Queen’s latest three-CD box set, Greatest Hits I II & III, is selling briskly. And the band’s American label, Hollywood Records, has just put out a DVD collection, Greatest Video Hits 1.