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Columns > Erica Lynn Gruenberg

Lost in Heaven

I’ve never really admitted this before, but the music I listen to now has a lot to do with a certain early-nineties movie that starred two SNL-famed comedians and a hot babe who fell two steps short of being a rock star.
In fact, I am sure Wayne’s World (1992) has been an influence on quite a few in this regard, but shamefully, we hide beneath such admissions, knowing full well that it’s actually quite laughable. Now, almost ten years later, I say you can laugh all you want.
No, really.
Wayne’s World‘s bizarre characters and ‘party time’ storyline was enough to hook any young audience, but what went straight to my soul was this too-weird-to-be-true tune that I swear, I had never heard before. Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was popular seventeen years before the movie rekindled its spirit, alerting the younger population that perhaps there was more to music than your normal run-of-the-mill crapola found on the popular stations. For whatever reason, (perhaps it was the headbanging or the very distinctively placed operatic section) almost everyone took to this song, and Queen was being pumped through the airwaves in almost an undercover tribute to the late Freddie Mercury, who had died the previous November of AIDS-related pneumonia.
In essence, whatever it was, I was immediately drawn to the uniqueness that was Queen. I had no clue whatsoever that they were also responsible for writing "Another One Bites the Dust" or even "We Will Rock You", which became apparent shortly after getting hold of a greatest hits album my father already owned. I went through this CD in one sitting; fourteen songs in all. It was an import from England, and I’ve since lost the CD and have never been able to replace it.
I remember it like it was yesterday: I was sitting downstairs in my house beside the only CD player we owned at the time — a big, old, dusty, silver monster looking thing that I think my father got in 1983 when it was supposedly the "next big thing". It played through each song and I sat there, mesmerized by what was coming through the speakers. Mercury’s voice, dramatic and almost satiny in nature, drew me into almost a trance state. Brian May’s guitar swiftly told its stories through crispy clean melodies and I could not believe the tremendous talent he had for multiple harmonies. Bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor, although always taking a backseat in my eyes to May and Mercury, provided the perfect fit, and at the age of fourteen, I had found what I thought was the most wonderful thing in the world.
It was the last track of that CD that brought me to tears on my very first listen: "The Show Must Go On"; which was actually the last track on their last album released while Mercury was still alive – Innuendo. The album, released in summer 1991, was recorded while Mercury was obviously succumbing to a horrible disease that he had tried to hide from the world. The song was what seemed to be Mercury’s admission that he may not win his battle after all; a far cry from his triumphant dances with love and life in the music of his former years in Queen.
As I sat there and listened to the final notes echo through the speakers, I realized that I had found my true calling. And for the next three years, I devoted myself not only to Queen’s music, but it was at that time that I found immense comfort in bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and bands of that nature. (Incidentally, my first bout with Phish came before Queen, back in 1990 at summer camp when a counselor owned Junta and I thought ‘Dinner and a Movie’ was practically the funniest thing ever; I came to love Phish again in 1993 when I took Rift off the shelf in a record store, recognizing the name. The rest, as they say, is history. . .) What I was finding was pretty interesting: my life had a soundtrack. Any events in my life — good, bad, or indifferent — could instantly be related to a song, a band, or a whole album.
I don’t know quite when it was when I stopped listening to Queen. I suppose I grew out of it; as my life changed, my tastes changed as well, and eventually, Queen did not serve as the proper soundtrack to the events unfolding in my life. This became all too apparent when I found myself shutting off the radio when "Somebody to Love" came on this morning, and, flustered, I shoved a Biscuits show into the CD player to relieve the silence. It did not even strike me as the least bit odd until, when putting away a Portishead CD today, I noticed that a whole row of my CDs are just Queen, and that they had probably been collecting dust for a number of years. I guess this was bound to happen, but a little part of me feels slightly guilty for leaving such an inspiration behind me.
I suppose that inspirations can be just that, though: a foundation for what is to come. And although I do not have any urges to pop Wayne’s World into my VCR these days, I certainly am grateful that Mike Myers saw fit to pay tribute to someone who had been an inspiration to him — and consequentially, to me in the long run. (Probably of some interest is to know that the royalties coming from the re-release of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ brought in so much revenue for the remaining members of Queen that they were able to have a tribute concert for Mercury at Wembley Stadium on April 20, 1992, one of the greatest concerts ever.)
Party on, Freddie…

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