Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jocko Homo?

Queen Eye for the Straight Guy
Last night as I was watching the World Series go into extra innings (the White Sox won in the 14th, if anyone cares), the Houston Astrodome P.A. system started blaring out Queen's "Under Pressure." To my ears, this was a new twist on the fairly predictable jock rock soundtrack and a very appropos tune as the score was tied 5-5 and there was considerable pressure for the Astros, already down 2-0 in the Series, to pull this one out.

And, predictably, it involved Queen, a band with a big sound seemingly made for stadiums. Now, as everyone knows, there are two Queen songs that are staples of all sporting contests. One is the let's-get-pumped-up "We Will Rock You" and the other is "We Are the Champions," the obligatory post-game or post-Championship anthem played for any team anywhere after winning something. It's so obvious that even Homer Simpson has sung a not-so-modest refrain of "I am the Champions" after some self-congratulatory, rub-it-in-the-face-of-the-other-guy moment on The Simpsons. (Also in that rub-it-in vein is another Queen song, "Another One Bites the Dust," sometimes used after a baseball pitcher is given the hook.)

But it's always struck me as funny that Queen, who started out Glam Rock and were fronted by Rock & Roll's first superstar AIDS casualty, the flamboyantly gay Freddie Mercury, have always been associated with testosterone and sporting events. Equally perverse is the stadium soundtrack popularity of kiddie porn-felon Gary Glitter, whose "Rock & Roll Part 2" ("HEY!") is a fixture of sporting contests. Is alternative sexuality a prerequisite for anthemic jock jams?

I was never a Queen fan and really only knew a handful of songs before I met my girlfriend Amy, who is the world's biggest Queen fanatic. My ex-wife turned me onto "Killer Queen" from SHEER HEART ATTACK (which I liked and thought was similar to the quaint riffs and wordplay of Sparks), and I knew "Bohemian Rhapsody" from its highwater mark attained in WAYNE'S WORLD. But I loathed the stripped-down, foot-stomping banality of "We Will Rock You," which I always seemed to hear everytime I turned on 98 Rock and thus associated with the kind of bad, populist Album Oriented Rock that used to bore me to tears on that station, along with the constant playlist of Pink Floyd, Heart, and Heavy Metal. "We Are the Champions" left me neither hot nor cold, it was just expected after a championship or big game. To leave it off the P.A. playlist would be a sin of omission.

Now, thanks to my my girlfriend, I can appreciate the bigness, the campness, the pomp and circumstance, of Queen, a band that has made the world its stage and defines the term "Stadium Rock." But it still makes me smile to think that so-many red-blooded, beer-guzzling, Playboy-reading, homophobic All-American types who fill the seats at baseball, hockey, football and NASCAR events are getting pumped up and filled with sporting glory swagger from listening to Freddie Mercury, a guy who used to wear feather boas and leotards and sport The World's GAYEST Mustache back in the day.

For more on arena rock anthems, see Sports Illustrated scribe John Rolfe's The Original Soundtrack: Theme Song Suggestions for teams and Players


Blogger James Banner said...

I had a friend who beat his girlfriend that was a huge Queen fan. He used to blare "Brighton Rock" while smoking marijuana. I think this was in 1977 or 1978 and I was tired of stadium rock, having just discovered punk rock. I'll forever link beating women to Freddy Mercury's homosexuality.

11:25 AM  
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