Queen Documentary Pays Tribute to the Rock Band That Conquered the World

If there were ever a band that per­fect­ly embod­ied all of the mas­sive excess­es of late 70’s are­na rock, that band was Queen. Occa­sion­al­ly ridicu­lous, often sub­lime, nev­er bor­ing, the four piece over­took The Who for stage spec­ta­cle and rock the­atrics, and could boast of one of the most adven­tur­ous and inno­v­a­tive rock gui­tarists of all time in Bri­an May.

The rhythm sec­tion of John Dea­con and Roger Tay­lor didn’t slouch either, but as we know, when we’re talk­ing Queen, we’re talk­ing Fred­die Mer­cury, the most charis­mat­ic, pow­er­ful lead singer in rock his­to­ry, or as Allmusic’s Greg Pla­to put it, “one of rock’s great­est all-time entertainers/showmen,” who “pos­sessed one of the great­est voic­es in all of music and penned some of pop’s most endur­ing and instant­ly rec­og­niz­able com­po­si­tions.” I sus­pect there a lit­tle hyper­bole there, but maybe not much.

In any case, Mer­cury sold all those “great­ests” to hun­dreds of mil­lions of fans, over a 20 year career span­ning 26 albums and many hun­dreds of oper­at­ic megashows. Mer­cury and the band worked incred­i­bly long and hard to earn every acco­lade, trib­ute, box set, and memo­r­i­al since Mer­cury’s shock­ing­ly sud­den (or so it seemed) death from AIDS com­pli­ca­tions in 1991. One of the most recent of those trib­utes is the doc­u­men­tary above Queen: The Days of Our Lives.

Released on the 40th anniver­sary of Queen’s found­ing in May 2011, the film takes its title not from the long-run­ning soap opera but from the band’s final record­ing togeth­er, “These Are the Days of Our Lives” (below), writ­ten by drum­mer Roger Tay­lor and issued as a sin­gle in the U.S. just one month before Mercury’s death. The song (and video) sub­se­quent­ly became a poignant reminder of Mer­cury’s tal­ent and pres­ence; it is a fit­ting ref­er­ence for a Queen film this com­pre­hen­sive.

The “plot” of the doc­u­men­tary, so to speak, can rough­ly be sum­ma­rized as: rise from band of hun­gry uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents to glob­al rock stars; declin­ing sales, low times, infight­ing; rise again in tri­umphant revival after the ’85 Live Aid and the Mag­ic Tour in 1986; and, final­ly, trag­i­cal­ly, the end. Pro­duc­er Rhys Thomas says of the film:

We have set out to make the defin­i­tive Queen doc­u­men­tary. It’s a fun­ny, hon­est, inspir­ing and ulti­mate­ly trag­ic account of ‘a cer­tain band called Queen,’ as told by the band them­selves. We tell the sto­ry of four stu­dents who met in West Lon­don, slogged hard and con­quered the world, ulti­mate­ly chang­ing rock music for­ev­er.

Whether you think Queen always changed rock music for the bet­ter is a mat­ter of per­son­al taste, but they’ll nev­er be for­got­ten. Orig­i­nal­ly released in two parts on UK tele­vi­sion, the full ver­sion of the doc­u­men­tary above has Dutch sub­ti­tles, tons of archival footage and reveal­ing inter­views, and enough awe­some gui­tar solos to fill up Wem­b­ley Sta­di­um.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fred­die Mer­cury at Live Aid (1985)

Fred­die Mer­cury: The Untold Sto­ry of the Singer’s Jour­ney From Zanz­ibar to Star­dom

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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