God knows, God knows I want to break free, if only for this Music Monday.Week four of furlough and quarantine begins today for me. With a few exceptions, my husband and I haven’t really left our house – a trip to Wal-Mart and Lowe’s happened during week three, and prior to that, two separate trips to Walgreens in each of the two previous weeks. We’re now recommended to wear masks in public, so we made our first trip out with N95 masks on. It feels weird, being out in public with my face covered. I’ve never felt so covered up in my life, but knowing the reason, I would never argue.
In times like this, I just wanna break free from all of this, but reality always draws me back.
Today’s song isn’t about this kind of “breaking free,” but it is about rebelling and breaking free from something else – lies and another’s self satisfaction.
It also involves Freddie Mercury in a skirt.
“I Want To Break Free” is a 1984 single from Queen’s album The Works. Written by John Deacon, the song became an anthem about fighting against oppression, with music video conceived by Roger Taylor, and involving the band in drag. These parts of the video parody the ITV Soap opera Coronation Street, which has been airing since December 1960, and depicted life in a working-class neighborhood, as well as the recurring theme of cross-dressing in British comedies.
I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen in working-class neighborhoods, but what do I know?
Maybe this does happen?
“I Wanna Break Free” didn’t fare as well on charts in the United States as other Queen singles, reached #45 on the Billboard Hot 100 (it was received positively in the United Kingdom and South America). There’s three versions – album (3 minutes, 20 seconds), regular single version (4 minutes, 21 seconds), and extended (7 minutes, 16 seconds). The version featured in Bohemian Rhapsody was the album version, with the single introduction added.
While the humor of cross-dressing in the music video was praised in the United Kingdom, it was considered controversial in the United States, and received mixed reactions in other countries. The reference clearly went over the heads of American audiences, who believed the video was an open declaration of Freddie Mercury’s bisexuality, and an open declaration by the character he plays as transvestism. The video was played minimally on MTV, but received heavier rotation on Canada’s MuchMusic.
The song had the distinction of following the much more successful single “Radio Ga Ga,” and turns out to be a concept that created more misunderstanding than it deserved. It was a different time in 1984, because in 2020, I see this video and laugh. I had no idea this was parodying anything – before finding out it parodied a British soap opera, I just believed the message depicted was attempting to escape oppression, or expression of one’s self. Freddie clearly was comfortable in this outfit, and it makes me laugh that he looks better in that skirt than any woman wearing it would.
Even John Deacon seems to agree.
As I’ve said, we will get through this temporary situation. We wanna break free, and soon enough, we will!
Stay safe, stay healthy, have a great Monday, and enjoy the music!