It’s been really hard to get back into writing these.
Prince, the other royalty in my personal fandom, apparently meant more to me than I knew. Trying to catch myself up on his actual music (I’ve been trawling the entire back catalogue, rather than just settling for the greatest hits I already knew, because that’s apparently the sort of thing I do, I don’t know if you noticed) has been a fascinating experiment, but it’s really hard to jump from that particular brand of precise, abrasive, oversexed funk back into Queen.
So I’m struggling here.
I guess you could say I’ve been having to… fight from the inside.
Yeah. I’m definitely reaching here.
Hey you boy, think that you know what you’re doing
You think you’re going to set things to rights
You’re just another picture on a teenage wall
You’re just another sucker ready for a fall
It’s really odd switching from one type of arrogance to another. The assured, sexy certainty of Prince is very different from the hostile, needy anger of Roger Taylor.
Again, I can’t believe I’m trying to maintain comparisons here. It’s ridiculous. This song has nothing to do with Prince, but I can’t get him out of my head, so here we are.
Prince to me was always an icon, a symbol (appropriately), more than something I really grew up understanding. I don’t know the music that well, his sex, sass and obvious perfectionism were just another colour I could add to my DJ sets. A certain kind of androgynous queer sexuality (at least how I read it, I’ve since read criticisms of his latter attitudes to sexuality that clash with my previous readings) that I could dip into, and be fed by.
Plus Sexy MF is a song he wrote about me, so I’ve got a lot of affection there.
So it’s very different deep diving into his back catalogue than it has been diving into Queen’s. It’s a different experience, albeit a quicker one (not writing about it does make it simpler).
Prince has a consistency that Queen don’t manage. So far the only totally duff set I’ve discovered is ‘Kamastura’, a New Power Generation Orchestra second bonus disc on an already three disc album (the Crystal Ball boxset). It sounds like the soundtrack to an incredible 90s adventure game detective story, but was actually written for Prince’s wedding…fuck only knows how that happened. But anyway, Prince covers a more narrow range of tones. The funk is always there. The beats always follow a pattern, even when he pulls jazzier or rockier, it’s still fundamentally Prince. This is fine. The sound is incredible, and within it there is a diversity, richness and joyful experimentalism that is utterly engaging.
Now Queen, they have a sound, and it ties everything together, but the songs themselves are outrageously diverse, pulling in entirely different genres, and mashing them into weird shapes, then pasting the Queen structure over the top.
I’m not saying that one is better than the other. Prince’s attention to detail is incredible, and his song writing is second to none. Not to mention his constant and obvious desire to explore, nourish and nurture not just his own creativity, but whole scenes. His creativity radiates outwards, infecting everything it touches with the colour purple. His impact is immense.
But it’s fascinating how iconic acts approach the notion of a sound differently.
You gotta, fight from the inside
Attack from the rear
Fight from the inside
You can’t win with your hands tied
Roger Taylor phones in this standard angry rock number. It sounds like his earlier teenage stuff, and not his excitingly odd stuff.
I don’t gel with it. It’s got some nice guitar crunches in it, and apparently Slash’s favourite guitar riff, but who the hell wants to have that on their tombstone?
Sorry Roger, I’d rather be with Prince Rogers Nelson.
At least right now.
Still love you, hun.
Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.
Illustration by Emma.