Monday, 25 May 2009

Queen 'Radio Gaga'

Chart Peak: 2


Worryingly, this blog has now started costing me money: as the image below shows, I have invested the sum of 95p in a copy of Now II (as it's officially called - it remains "Now 2" in the tags for clarity's sake) for no better reason than to blog about it. My hopes of being able to quote from the sleeve notes haven't entirely come to fruition, since they are mostly not all that illuminating: the one for this track tells me merely that it "Charted on 31 January at No.4. Was No.2 the first two weeks of February." and gives the catalogue number for the album it came from. Thanks guys.

At least having the record does enable me to confirm that the version used is the full five minutes and 43, rather than the shorter version from the 7" single. And 'Radio Ga Ga' seems like a song that doesn't need much introduction. Although denied the top chart position by an even bigger hit that we'll come to later on this album, it remains one of the the more familiar Queen songs and it's certainly one that I remember very well from the time, although ironically enough considering the subject matter, I remember the video as much as the song. Of course, back then I didn't realise it was supposed to be a reference to Metropolis but the imagery was striking enough in its own right.

All this seems to hint at one of the many paradoxes that seem to surround Queen: the fact that an act who were so keen to embrace the possibilities of the pop video (and are sometimes even credited with inventing the form, although this is hard to justify) should find themselves having such a big hit with a song of nostalgia for the old way of doing things. All the more ironic, indeed, that this is a track where the band who used to write on their album covers that they hadn't used synthesisers capitulated to the drum machine and programmed basslines, to say nothing of the slightly annoying backing vocals where Roger Taylor sings "Ra-dio" through a Vocoder. None of these things is necessarily bad, but they make a confusing combination. Whilst it sounds rather like a filler shoved in to make for a rhyme, even the song itself seems to acknowledge this with the line "We hardly have to use our ears/Our music changes through the years."

To be fair to Taylor, the song is supposed to be about radio as a whole, not just music broadcasting. But it's still a bit difficult to tell whether the implication is that radio itself has gone wrong or merely that the public have abandoned it. It's just another layer of confusion. So much so that, as with many a Queen record, I can't really tell whether I like it or not.

Also appearing on:
Now 3, 4, 6, 7, 15, 16, 19, 21, 25 [with George Michael], 32, 33, 54 [with Vanguard]
Available on: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

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