Remembering The Queen

When I was about eight years old, my older cousin excitedly showed me the little .wav file he had of an excerpt from a Pop Song, which he had reversed in windows sound editor. When played, it made a little weird yelp which he informed me was the phrase “It’s Fun to Smoke Marijuana.” This was proof of the danger of that kind of music.

The excerpt was a snippet of Another One Bites The Dust.

When I was about fifteen, we’d moved from the cult, and I went from being driven to school every morning at around 7 AM by my parents, I was instead riding to school on a big metal box I’d seen in movies and TV series, called a ‘bus.’ There was a group of boys who went to that school who all sat at the back of the bus, on the back seat, and they did a strange thing for a few months towards the end of year ten:

They sang.

It was only a few songs each trip, but one that happened almost every day, was this really weirdly big one where they all had parts and split themselves apart into groups for sections and I didn’t get it, but it sounded amazing.

It was Bohemian Rhapsody.

A few days before my 17th birthday, Five Iron Frenzy released the album All The Hype Money Can Buy, which was their best album yet, a pattern that they have continued their whole career for me (except Proof the Youth of America Are Revolting, that’s just fine). On that album, there was a pair of songs that split their title – Four Fifty One, and Farenheit.

The two songs were meant to be critical of the church, of its position on things like rejecting outsiders, and about how it handled (whispers) gay things. Farenheit even names someone by name; a guy called Freddy Mercury, Mr Farenheit. The song held out a familiar phrase to me at the time – love the sinner, hate the sin.

I didn’t know who that was – but a friend told me he did the song that was in The Mighty Ducks 2 that I heard again in the opening of Knights Tale a year later.

That song was We Will Rock You.

Freddie Mercury died in 1991. I don’t know much about him, much about his life. There’s a movie that I don’t trust, anecdotes from his bandmates that I don’t trust, anecdotes from the man that I kinda do, and a lot of tabloid noise and gossip I heard growing up.

When Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy wrote that phrase, love the sinner, hate the sin, I did still kinda believe in sin. These days I think that Reese Roper is probably pretty embarrassed of that phrase, given his much more aggressive anti-hate, anti-homophobia statements since. What’s wild about it is that it’s not like Reese ever met Freddie. But that’s kinda how it went for me, how it went for the Christian Media Bubble.

Reese said, when he was a child, he ‘hated’ Queen because ‘Freddie was a queer.’ As an adult, he had to reckon with that, and the guilt he felt about it. Farenheit was an attempt to grapple with that, with how he could, as a musician, absolutely love Queen’s excellent work, but somehow come to terms with liking it despite that. I know when I was young, I assumed that demonic powers were why popular music was so popular and successful; everyone listening to it was a little bit possessed.

Freddie Mercury was so talented, so powerful, so good at being Freddie Mercury and so blatantly a great big queer, that it put a crack in a very easy wall to leave untouched in the Christian community. I never realised how important he was to me until well after he was gone, how his thread of cultural power just wended through everything… but much like how Kafka created his forebears, I feel like once I looked at the history of it, at the timeline of the story of Queen, that there was that strange relationship of Freddie’s sun burning so bright it burned through blocked up windows.

I never got to meet a lot of the people I dehumanised because that was normal for me. I was insulated in a fundamentalist christian cult; I honestly don’t know when I first met a person of colour as a social entity and not a smiling face at a shop at all, but the first one I remembered meeting was in the new school when I was fifteen. I don’t know how I handled that relationship but I know full well that when I first started talking to him there were lessons from the Planeteers of all people saying ‘don’t be racist’ in my head.

We learn a lot from media. No, we don’t learn everything, but it’s a lot better to be trying.

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