Many years away

One of the fascinating things about having a high school sophomore in the house is listening to what he’s listening to.

The sophomore has discovered Queen. He’s started — as you might expect — with “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the rest of “A Night at the Opera.” We heard most of that 1975 album on a trip last Saturday. By the end of the day, I’d had my legal limit of “Bohemian Rhapsody” for a while.

It got me to thinking about how we once listened to records.

In the fall of 1975, after “Bohemian Rhapsody” hit FM radio and blew us all away, I went out and bought “A Night at the Opera.” I didn’t have a lot of LPs then, so every new record was one to be played over and over. I read liner notes and lyrics as the LPs played, getting to know every groove.

So it was with “A Night at the Opera,” played night after night during my freshman year of college. It all came back in a rush when the sophomore plugged in his iPod.

There were many such records played over and over, night after night. Eventually, though, something comes along to push them aside. Then one day, they don’t get played at all. They sit in the stacks for years. So it was with “A Night at the Opera,” which I may not have played for 25 years before pulling it out again the other night.

The sophomore inspected that white record jacket with great care, then looked at the iTunes to see what I’d ripped from 36-year-old vinyl that to him is as new as if recorded yesterday. He likes the English dance hall numbers — “Lazing On a Sunday Afternoon,” “Seaside Rendezvous” and “Good Company.” I did, once.

It’s always a bit of a thrill to have the sophomore discover what I once discovered. It’s also a thrill to come along on that journey and rediscover a great song not heard in far too long.

That would be “’39,” Brian May’s tale of time travelers who believe themselves gone for a year and find themselves gone for decades, returning to find friends and family grown old and gone. I love the story. I love the harmonies. I love May’s guitars. Perhaps you will dig it, too.

“’39,” Queen, from “A Night at the Opera,” 1975.

Five years ago this week, I saw Queen with Paul Rodgers. Brian May didn’t play this one that night in Milwaukee. I didn’t miss it. I’d forgotten about it. That is, until the sophomore started playing “A Night at the Opera.”


Filed under March 2010, Sounds

7 responses to “Many years away

  1. Dane

    I remember when I discovered this album myself now. I was in college. I too loved the English dance hall numbers, and I too have not listened to the album (in my case, the format was cd) in a good 20 years.

    The sophomore has good taste and he’s learning quickly, it seems.

  2. J.A. Bartlett

    I was a sophomore myself when I bought my copy of “A Night at the Opera” in the spring of 1976, and I listened to it obsessively, over and over. I, too, dug “Seaside Rendezvous” and “Good Company.” “’39” sounded cool, but it wasn’t until many years later–after I’d been gone from being 16 for what didn’t seem like very long but was in fact decades–that it smacked me upside the head as the beautiful thing it is.

  3. I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” the other day and asked a friend what he thought the kids of today would make of the song.

    Good to know that some of them are discovering Queen.

  4. Jeff

    Neat story, my son who is a few years older than yours went through a similar phase. His big two were Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. It lasted a few months and then it was back to rap and screamo…unfortunately. He remains devoted to Van Morrison, so he has that going for him, which is nice.

  5. I’ve never owned a Queen album. (There — I said it.)

    So, based on the description, I thought this song would be in the weirdo/synth-drenched/Paul Kantner vein… and then when I played it I thought “this is Queen?” followed closely by “Wait, I know this song.”

    I remember hearing this on the radio (not a lot, but more than just occasionally) and thinking it was some Up-With-Peopleish group (like maybe the New Seekers after they’d had that Coke). Thanks for reminding me of a cool song I hadn’t heard in decades…

  6. Scott Thomson

    Wait until he becomes a senior in high school, like my daughter.
    She also sometimes amazes, just for the variety of music she listens to — more country than I care to hear these days, and way to much along the lines of hip-hop. But she also knows some music that I wouldn’t expect her to. And she was intrigued by the YouTube footage I showed her of “The Wall” concert. I’d like if she showed more interest in album rock from the early ’70s — just not Queen. Never was much of a fan, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of those over-FMed songs, like “Stairway to Heaven,” that I’ve heard enough times to last me the rest of my life!

  7. Amy E

    This was actually new to me. Despite my enjoyment of Queen I never actually owned any of their albums. Your description of vicarious enjoyment of the sophomore’s discovery is one I can identify with though. Several years ago we were given a car to use for the day while ours was being fixed and someone had left a CD of Queen’s best in it. My teenage daughter discovered it and we listened to it all day while running errands and by the time we turned the car back in she was a newly converted fan!

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