Jazz, seduced me with Queen enigmatic charms, captivating my senses and leaving me in a state of rapturous uncertainty. As I grasped my very first Queen album, a question lingered in the air, teasing my curious mind: Would Queen, the illustrious rock ensemble, delve into the enchanting realm of jazz, or would they bestow their majestic musical tapestries upon the world of jazz itself?
Allow me to clarify the chronology of this tale. For this particular opus marked the seventh album in Queen’s discography, following their legendary creation, News of the Worlds. How intriguing it is, that in the regal domain of Queen, perhaps, to the cosmic dance between opposites, where duality intertwines with harmony.
Why did the title “Jazz” come to fruition? It is whispered that the appellation found its muse in the hallowed grounds of the Montreux Jazz Festival, an annual celebration of musical prowess. And, if the grapevine is to be believed, Freddie Mercury himself, that mesmerizing front man of Queen, held a special affinity for this melodic jubilee.
Intriguingly, Freddie, with a grand gesture befitting his extravagant persona, procured Mountain Studios for the collective. This humble acquisition of real estate became a shrine to their creative endeavors. And so it was that they ventured forth, guided by their muse, to a humble abode overlooking the shimmering Lake Geneva—a profound chasm that Freddie whimsically likened to the heavenly realm. “If you seek peace, my friends,” he jestingly proclaimed, “come forth to Montreux.”
Since 1996, a bronze effigy, immortalizing the mercurial presence of Freddie Mercury, graces the lakeside promenade of Montreux. It stands as a testament to his enduring legacy, while his devout followers, ever adorning themselves with resplendent blossoms, ensure that his memory is forever interwoven with the tapestry of this picturesque sanctuary.
In the realm of my existence as I embarked upon the uncharted territories of junior high school. Faint is the memory of the precise moment when the album, Queen’s “Jazz,” found its way into my possession.
Let me confess the profound affection that bloomed within my heart for this album. Its allure lay in its kaleidoscopic diversity, a sonic mosaic that resonated with my youthful spirit. Yet, I must confess, “Bicycle Race,” with its sketch-like quality and contrived air, provoked a vehement distaste within me. However, the opening tracks, ablaze with sudden walls of guitars and resonant bass, captured my imagination, igniting a sense of exhilaration. Truly, they were a testament to the boundless excitement that music can evoke.
“Let Me Entertain You,” with its captivating charm, emerged as yet another cherished favorite. And how could I overlook the weighty onslaught of “Dead On Time,” reminiscent of the thunderous splendor of the remarkable “Stone Cold Crazy” from early year the compositions of Roger Taylor, so often the subject of ridicule, found favor in my discerning ears. “Fun It” and “More of That Jazz,” bearing the weight of skepticism, emerged as treasured gems among my collection.
More of That Jazz
Open with the enigmatic “Mustapha,” ushers us into the realm of mysterious quasi-religious verses, evoking the very essence of a magical Arab bazaar. Though a certain publication boldly proclaimed it as “Muslim rockers with an upbeat twist,” leaving its mark on the listener’s imagination.
And then we encounter Brian May’s creation, the irreverently comical “Fat Bottomed Girls.” The very title hints at a lack of subtlety, and yet, Freddie Mercury’s heartfelt vocals. Unleashed as a tantalizing single in the autumnal month of October, this blues-infused rock anthem became an instant hit, drawing raucous laughter and applause from the delighted audience.
In the whimsical world of Queen, a song was birthed by the ingenious mind of Brian May, dedicated to none other than the charismatic Freddie Mercury himself. Legend has it that Brian, with a keen eye for detail, had observed the procession of “fat bottomed” individuals emerging from Freddie’s sacred dressing room. And thus, this cheeky composition came to be, a tongue-in-cheek ode that dances on the fine line between frivolity and seriousness.
Delve deeper into the labyrinth of lyrics, and you shall unearth a tale of a lad whose first encounter with a plump nanny set a peculiar preference in his heart. From that moment forth, he found solace and affection in the embrace of “fat, bottomed” lasses. Such is the nature of Queen’s melodic tapestries, adorned with innuendos and playful wordplay, where mischievous mirth abounds.
Let us cast aside the shackles of seriousness and embrace the jocularity of this composition. For in truth, it is a joyous celebration of the feminine form, a whimsical nod to the curves and contours that grace this mortal realm. Rather than cast it with the shadow of sexism, let us bask in the light-hearted revelry it bestows, paying homage to the beauty that lies within the very essence of womanhood.
In these enlightened times of wokeness, one may hesitate to conceive a song that imitates the idiosyncrasies of others. Fortunately, those champions of political correctness were yet to grace this mortal coil during those halcyon days.
“Bicycle Race,” born amidst the splendor of Nice, France. reveals itself as a multifaceted creation. Inspired by Freddie’s encounter with the Tour de France, particularly Bernard Hinault’s victorious ride, this composition possesses a complexity that sets it apart from its brethren. An intriguing interlude arises, where all four members of Queen lend their talents to the ringing of an old-fashioned bicycle bell.
It stands as a window into Freddie’s state of mind in that pivotal year of 1978, an internal dialogue encompassing myriad perspectives and narratives. Within its folds, one may detect veiled references to the allure of cocaine and the oppressiveness of British taxation, a tapestry of self-will intertwined with the author’s nonchalant disregard for the mundane politics of the era.
The song’s soaring popularity was further fueled by scandalous tales that piqued the interest of the bold and the famous. The accompanying video for the A-side “Bicycle Race” showcased the spectacle of 65 bare-skinned models pedaling through the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium. The original album’s gatefold sleeve boasted a poster featuring these daring maidens in their birthday attire. A tale, indeed, worth mounting one’s bicycle for!
Let us move on from the realm of embarrassment, for Freddie Mercury’s haunting composition, “Jealousy,” My favorite tune lies in stark contrast. It delves deep into the darkest recesses of the sexual green-eyed monster, baring the singer’s soul through profoundly personal lyrics. Brian May’s acoustic guitar brings forth a melancholic ballad that resonates within the deepest chambers of the heart. A peculiar effect is achieved by placing piano strings beneath the fret, creating a haunting buzz that echoes the themes explored.
And lo, we encounter John Deacon’s “If You Can’t Beat Them,” a beloved hard rock anthem that resonates deeply with the band’s faithful followers. It presents a divergent viewpoint, departing from Freddie’s approach, and dissects the perils of the entertainment industry and its propensity to squander one’s riches. It amalgamates cynicism with a touch of near-hysterical mirth, capturing the very essence of jazz’s duality.
Nestled closely by Freddie Mercury’s side, “Let Me Entertain You” unveils itself as yet another self-aware dissection of the music industry. It bites at the hand that feeds, descending into a numbing abyss of degraded smells and debased decadence. A practice, it seems, commonplace among the elite rock ensembles as they traverse the globe.
Brian May’s composition, “Dead On Time,” evokes memories of his debut offering on Queen’s inaugural album, “Keep Yourself Alive.” While it may not have graced the grand stages in its entirety, the ominous tone was fortuitously struck by the sound of recorded lightning, a serendipitous gift from the divine. The spiritual undertones that weave through this album often grapple with the pitfalls of fame, creating a compelling tapestry of introspection.
John’s exquisite creation, “In Only Seven Days,” showcases his mastery of the songwriting craft, skillfully delving into the realm of romance. Though he may not lend his voice to jazz’s melodic tapestry, the solemnity of his composition resonates, while Brian’s “Dreamer’s Ball” pays homage to the fallen icon of his childhood, Elvis Presley. In this tribute lies a message of universal loss, captured within the sweetest melodies, adorned with the spirited swing of New Orleans, forever maintaining the aura of the South.
The ubiquitous disco beats that pervaded the era find their reflection in Roger Taylor’s “Fun It,” a joyous anthem devoid of overt social commentary. A unique synthesizer sound accompanies the revelry, perhaps introduced by the esteemed percussionist Roy Thomas Baker, who, it is said, shared his newfound drum-boosting technique with Roger after collaborating with David Robinson, the illustrious skin expert of The Cars.
And then we come to Brian’s “Leaving Home Ain’t Easy,” yet another testament to the vagaries of the rock star lifestyle, received with resounding acclaim. It strikes a delicate balance, acknowledging the slumber of the tourism industry while enveloping it in an ethereal embrace.
“Jazz” is a testament to Queen’s ability to captivate listeners with their musical prowess and fearless exploration. From the whimsical to the introspective, the album showcases the band’s versatility and their ability to create songs that resonate deeply with their audience, leaving an indelible mark on the musical landscape.
Verily, I am compelled to express my belief that this album surpasses the mere realm of adequacy. Indeed, it is adorned with compositions of such brilliance that they rank among the finest offerings bestowed upon us by the illustrious band. Within these musical tapestries, one discovers the presence of timeless Queen classics, embodying the very essence of their artistry.
Yet, I cannot dismiss the notion that, perchance, a surfeit of styles were attempted, and perhaps an excessive penchant for experimentation unfolded. Nevertheless, when all is said and done, this album remains a magnificent opus that leaves an indelible impression upon the senses. To witness the convergence of four beloved tracks within the confines of a singular record speaks volumes of its magnitude.
In summation, While the band may have encountered a few swings and misses in their artistic endeavor, they have undeniably delivered a resounding and triumphant home run with the remainder. I perceive why critics may have harbored initial reservations, yet now, with the passage of over four decades, it becomes evident that this creation gleams with a renewed brilliance in the annals of time.