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Another one that didn’t bite the dust

First of all, God save the Queen. That’s right, folks ” 1970s glam-turned-pop rock superstars Queen are returning to tour the United States for the first time since 1982. The 23-date juggernaut includes a stop at the Xcel Energy Center on March 26.

After a dozen or so years of listening to, studying, writing about, playing and composing rock music, the fantastically creative dynamics of these four Brits remain the greatest of all the underrated overrated rock dynasties. Unconvinced? What other testimony could there be besides the first hits? Let’s look back to 1974. After eschewing London’s pub-and-club gigging circuit that most bands of the era slaved upon, it seemed this flashy, Zeppelin-esque college band called Queen just couldn’t catch fire. Lead singer, the late Zanzibar, Tanzania-born and Indian-educated Freddie Mercury, really just seemed like a Persian piano-playing version of David Bowie. Brian May, who built his guitar as a teenager and was finishing a doctorate in astrophysics, just seemed like a curlier-mopped Jimmy Page.

Drummer Roger Taylor was merely a blonder and better looking Rod Stewart, and bassist John Deacon ” well, who cares? The truth was Queen looked a lot like any other androgynous, glittery, pretty boy glam group.

What they had, was a degree of maturity and craftsmanship that gave their records an almost immediately classical quality. Their first big single, the aptly titled “Killer Queen,” was a sugary three-minute confection(seemingly about a high-class prostitute), quirky rhythm changes and a catchy-as-hell progression. All reasonably impressive, but what really dropped jaws was the three-part guitar solo.

Meticulously constructed by May while he sat in a hospital bed, the solo featured his thick, liquidly melodic guitar tone recorded three different times ” each time with a different countermelody ” cascading over Mercury’s simple, staccato piano plinking and Deacon and Taylor’s uptight, neat-as-pressed-trousers backbeat. The result is near-sonic perfection ” pure genius, and rendered with a flair that is as distinctly British as a Sherlock Holmes mystery or Monty Python sketch.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” often ranks among the greatest rock song of all time. This six-minute masterpiece begins with a mysterious Gregorian choral quality while seamlessly transcending into a simple murder ballad, which then gives way to a towering Zeus-like guitar solo of Beethovenian eloquence. As soon as we are settled into the next break in the action ” at about the three-minute mark now ” in comes this Rossini-esque Italian-style mock opera, which joins the piano and timpani-style drums backed by what sounds to be bombastic spurned men’s choir.

After the famous “Galileos” and “Mama mias,” the song soars into a headbanger’s ball ” a heavy metal blitzkrieg made ever more famous by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey rocking their craniums up and down in the front seats of their flame-painted ’76 Pacer hatchback.

After some more call-and-response Brian May guitar leads, Mercury brings us back to pop ballad nirvana with a grand piano run and some sweetly tinged “oooh yeahs” before we are led into a beautifully pastoral coda, featuring the famous “nothing really matters to me” close that winds down the greatest mind-blowing bum rush ever experienced by the Top 40 listener.

“Any way the wind blows,” the song’s protagonist coos, and we are sent home to our musical mommies with the lovely bash of a gong on the final beat.

If you get a chance, go out and see Queen, even though Mercury tragically died of complications from AIDS 15 years ago. They will still rock you, and they are still the champions.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected].

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