This was my friend Will’s favourite. I was never entirely sure why. But his enthusiasm quickly infected me.
Brian is ripping into the tabloid press after they stuck their oar into his love life, which makes the song part of a pretty traditional British celebrity rant, and not one without merit.
They’ll see the heart-ache, they’ll see the love break,
They’ll hear me pleading, I’ll say for God’s sake,
Over and over and over again,
Which also feels like a pretty understated way of saying it. Simply saying ‘for God’s sake’ over and over again.
But there’s very little about this song that’s understated. It’s got some of the vampiest synths on record, alongside some of the more traditional angry guitars. Scandal takes a broad and dramatic scale. Freddie’s performance is so over the top that it totally fits when he ends up writhing around on the floor in the video. Everything is over the top. Frankly, he revels in the scandal as much as the supposed target. It possibly undermines the message. It’s not subtle enough to actually be confused, but it does sound like Freddie is enough into the drama purely for the sake of the music.
Apparently both Freddie’s vocal and Brian’s guitar solo were done in single takes. Which is pretty impressive, as both are kind of perfect.
Anyway. This record has a weird place in my history of Queen fandom. I don’t know how I got it, but it was the only Queen album I ever had on CD, but it was one I owned at the same time as I was getting into dirty drum and bass and experimental electro and brooding post rock and weird ass metal. Oh, and lots of dope.
But it still got on the rotation. Still got played through the smoky haze, despite never fitting into anything else we were listening to.
But the whole record still passed me by. I’m pretty sure eventually we started just listening to Scandal, and then mostly for a chance to wail dramatically at each other. We could value the theatricality here in a way that felt useful. For whatever reason.
But I barely remember any other song on the record apart from the Greatest Hits numbers (of which, to be fair, there are four, so nearly half the album).
Scandal hooked on though.
I think it’s purely that vamping.
And if it wasn’t for this, I would’ve gone nearly a decade without actually being tied to Queen.
I mean, obviously they would’ve still been there. Queen are everywhere. And clearly lodged deep inside me. But I think I recoiled from it for a while. A desire for credibility. A desire to like the right things.
But don’t worry. It left eventually.
And here I am, re-evaluating every track, and my favourite track from this album doesn’t actually inspire me too much. It’s loud and rowdy, but actually feels like it lacks drama, in comparison. It’s always going to be part of my history, but it doesn’t necessarily grab me like it used to.
But I’ll still sing it out into the night, every now and then.
Because singing at Will will always be a part of me.
And so will this this song.
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.