Queen‘s The Game will probably be best remembered for two things, “Another One Bites the Dust,” and the first album from the band that featured the use of a synthesizer. I remember it best because my family had the album on 8-Track and I played it incessantly.
I’m not sure when we got a copy of The Game or whether it was my mother or father who brought it into the house. But I loved “Another One Bites the Dust” from the radio, and absorbed the entire album once I could play it at will. The “nice” thing about 8-Tracks compared to records was that they would play forever until you hit “stop.” My parents might not have viewed this as a feature.
It was also a musical clue that I didn’t quite understand at the time. On the cover of the tape it had a one-liner about this being Queen’s first use of a synthesizer. I spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out the importance of this, but given that the band had used some of the very limited real estate on the cover to proclaim (or disclaim) this, it must have been important.
Indeed, The Game starts with synthesizer. “Play The Game” begins with a radial saw-like sound of a synthesizer, before settling into a piano and Freddie Mercury’s vocals. It’s clear pretty quickly that using a synthesizer hasn’t had a negative impact on Queen. (Also marvel at how the band’s immense musical talent failed to translate to their videos. What’s with the flames? No idea.)
“Dragon Attack” is mostly a guitar assault with some vocals and and admirable, but brief, bass and drum solos thrown in for good measure.
If you haven’t heard “Another One Bites the Dust,” in its entirety, you’ve almost certainly heard its bassline sampled in one of the more than fifty songs that have taken it on.
Queen have always been musical chameleons. Perhaps not to the extent of, say, David Bowie – but they’ve tinkered with a number of different musical styles through their career. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” may be their only go at an Elvis Presley tribute. I’d say they nailed it, and Elvis would have been proud.
In the late 70s and early 80s a lot of bands were feeling the need to proclaim allegiance to “real” Rock and Roll. (e.g. “Old Time Rock and Roll,” by Bob Seger; “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” made famous by Joan Jett; “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard; I could go on…) “Rock It (Prime Jive)” feels like it fits in this category, though it does feature plenty of the aforementioned synthesizer. Damn fine song, and I particularly love Mercury’s voice during the intro. Drummer Roger Taylor handles the vocal chores for the rest of the song quite admirably. The climbing and crunchy guitar solo on this one is another highlight.
Admittedly there’s one clunker on The Game, “Don’t Try Suicide.” I’ve always thought that Heathers was making a reference to this song with its fake band “Big Fun” and song “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)”. This one is about as subtle as the Heathers version, but even Queen have an off day now and again.
“Sail Away Sweet Sister,” and “Save Me” were written by Brian May. “Save Me” is in my, I dunno, top 20 or 30 favorite songs by Queen. It’s probably redundant to mention how much I enjoy May’s guitar work on this. Note that this one is probably closest to Queen’s “classic” sound.
If this album sparked my love of Queen, Flash Gordon cemented it when it was released late in 1980. I wanted to see The Empire Strikes Back again, but my uncle wanted to see Flash Gordon. My pre-adolescent petulance at not getting to see Empire again was quelled as soon as the movie started and I identified Queen in the soundtrack.
This is a solid album, if not Queen’s very best work, and it still gives me a lot of enjoyment more than 35 years later.