The last of Queen’s studio albums to be released within Freddie Mercury’s lifetime, Innuendo is somewhat of a hidden gem in the bands catalog, remaining – as it does – vastly unappreciated to this date. Of course, even casual fans will no doubt be aware of the albums title track and selections like ‘The Show Must Go On’, not least because these songs featured as high profile singles – with memorable accompanying videos – around the time of release.
Recorded in the period between the end of sessions for the bands 1989 ‘The Miracle’ and early 1991, ‘Innuendo’ was also used as a platform to relaunch the band in the United States. A multi million dollar deal with Hollywood Records in that year – and a subsequent media promotional tour on the back of the bands “20th Anniversary” generated a re-release of their (to date) entire back catalogue in the US including bonus remix tracks. Innuendo, did not, unfortunately receive such tracks.
The remix tracks themselves aren’t much to talk about, but have never been released elsewhere, and provide an interesting insight into the interpretation of Queen’s music. It’s hard to think many members of the band, especially Freddie, would have had much of a feedback in the development of those remixes. One of the more interesting things about the US promotion of Innuendo is general is whether Queen disclosed Freddie’s condition too their label, and therefore whether the label could have taken legal action for undisclosed information affecting future business. As it would turn out, Freddie’s death brought Hollywood Records more profit than it might have otherwise; an unexpected benefit for both parties perhaps.
Innuendo itself is an album of great experimentation. Realising it was highly likely the band would ever perform these tracks live, then it was a chance not to be limited by that atmosphere; one could also argue that while Freddie himself might have felt compelled to leave a legacy for his work, it was also unlikely he would live long enough to see the cultural impact of the albums strengths or weaknesses and so it was – as he once put it himself – a chance to do anything and everything and not give a damn, my dear.
The albums title track is a great place to start as its an almost 7 minute mix of classical rock, progressive and even a little Spanish thrown in. There is a chance for Freddie to excel, vocally, and for the entire song to be a fitting rock opera of its own; much like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ all those years beforehand. So single track could otherwise be the albums title track or the albums opener, and it’s first single. It’s therefore fortunate that this song was indeed – or is indeed – all three. Another track like ‘Headlong’ (used by Brian May on his later solo live tours in 1993) is also featured as part of the ‘We Will Rock You’ musical and, like ‘I Want It All’ before it, is a full stadium rocker which suffered only in that it wasn’t released some years earlier for inclusion on tour.
‘Delilah’ has always been a favourite track of mine. A song written by Freddie about his cat, lyrically its a playful and nonsensical song which – although funny – is plagued with sadness when one imagines that Freddie was so isolated at home due to his illness he needed to find inspiration crawling the four walls. Or the couch. In the same vein is ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’, another single for the album with an amazing video, rumoured to be written by Freddie about the effects of his pain medication. If the songs are a window to the artist then ‘Innuendo’ is arguably Mercury’s swansong and tells us more about the singer than any interview he wouldn’t have likely given.
Other tracks such as the Roger Taylor vocal ‘Ride the Wild Wind’ is somewhat forgettable, and doesn’t really ring true in the same vein as ‘I Can’t Live with You’ or even the instrumental ‘Bijou’. Some works on the album such as ‘The Hitman’ and ‘All God’s People’ are not of the standard you might expect, but do provide some filler. The song which many remember most fondly is ‘These Are The Days of Our Lives’ which talks about looking back, memories and nostalgic feeling. It’s video was the last project to be worked on by Freddie Mercury on camera and his illness apparent – it provides a startling new meaning in this light.
Looking back I think ‘Innuendo’ has aged incredibly well and still sounds very fresh and modern compared to the bands catalogue. The bands music itself does feel fresh, of course, but the over abundance of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Somebody to Love’ mean you’re less likely to hear cuts from later studio releases; and thus they feel younger (because, strictly speaking, they are) and more progressive (in the case of Innuendo, particularly) than the Punk/DIY attitude of ‘Spread Your Wings’ or the disassociation of ‘The Works’.
In their final few years together, music brought Queen together again, as it had brought them together in the first instance. And for this I’m very pleased to hear Innuendo blast out.