#698: 1984, Queen, I Want To Break Free

by Ray_North on May 27, 2013


We’ve embarked upon a week of songs to celebrate the progress of the Bill to allow equality of marriage for gay and straight couples. And, I have to say, it’s been tough choosing my song – the temptation is to go for something so obvious that it’s practically wearing a pair of spangly trousers and mincing like John Inman.

Perhaps, there are two kinds of gay anthems – one type is the desperately tragic confession, in which the young artist tells the story of his/her own battle with their sexuality and the challenge of dealing with parents and loved ones who struggle to understand – songs such as John Grant’s Jesus Hates Faggots and Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy are beautifully poignant. The other kind, perhaps, are the celebrations of gayness, massive great big songs usually with pulsating beats and crashing choruses that allow gays and lesbians liberated by the dancefloors of discos and clubs to revel in simply being who they were born to be – I’m thinking, Erasure, Gloria Gaynor, Lady Gaga – great tunes.

Queen’s, I Want To Break Free is slightly different – Freddie Mercury was never particularly closeted about his homosexuality, but, with this song and the famous video, he left no one in any doubt, and it was significant; 1984 was the year in which AIDS and the hysteria surrounding it reached fever pitch, it was important that artists like Freddie Mercury sent out a message that they were out and that being gay was part of life, natural, and those who saw that as a problem should just learn to live with it.

As it happens, the song was written by bass player John Deacon, whilst Roger Taylor came up with the idea for the video. But, it is Freddie’s song – 1984 saw him at rising to his peak as an artist that would culminate in his tour de force at Live Aid a year later.

‘I want to break free,’ he tells us, ‘I want to break from your lies, your so self-satisfied, I don’t need you, I’ve fallen in love.’

It’s about time we had a Queen song, perhaps they would not be every trendy gay man or woman’s first choice (or indeed the contributors to this blog band of choice), because they are so mainstream, so middle of the road, and that, in many ways that makes the comments of people like Gerald Howarth even more ironic – because Queen were a band whose singer was a flamboyant homosexual, yet, Queen became so utterly mainstream that their guitarist played on the roof of Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s Jubilee – aggressive homosexuality? No, a clear statement that these days, for most ordinary people someone’s sexual orientation is a matter for them and no one else.

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