Live Magic a.k.a My Life Has Been Saved! Fan Feature By Gavin Noble
Live Magic a.k.a My Life Has Been Saved!
By Gavin Noble
Picture the scene. 15 June 1996. A packed church (okay hardly rock and roll but bear with me, it does have some relevance to my tale!) with me standing at the altar in a near perfect replica of the suit worn by Brian May in the Headlong video – down to the black collarless shirt but sadly minus the long, black curly locks. I am waiting for my soon to be wife to make her entrance to the church. The seconds go by and eventually the middle part of Last Horizon is played over the speaker system. This is the tune my bride has chosen to walk down the aisle to. A perfect start to a perfect day.
Around 30 minutes later as we sign the wedding register in a separate room our guests are entertained by a musician friend performing You Take My Breath Away. Such has been the influence of Queen on my life that I could not let my/our wedding day pass without having some of their music featuring (in fairness my wife had picked Last Horizon on her own). At the reception my family comment on this and remind me that for the last ten years I had driven them crazy with my near constant playing of Queen and Queen-related music at home.
My younger brother is sick of the sound of I Want It All after I played it so much when it came out as a single in 1989 – indeed I played it so much that the grooves on the vinyl were worn away completely. They all commented that whilst once they had shared my view that Queen were the greatest band to have ever walked the face of the planet, they were glad to see me and my collection leave the family home for new pastures! I took the opportunity to remind them that this ‘musical torture’, as my younger brother referred to it, was the result of my older brother actions. It was he who introduced me to the band (not personally, I was never THAT lucky!) when he brought home the Live Magic album in December 1986.
Let’s take a Wayne’s World fade (wavy hands, ‘dilly de doop, dilly de doop etc) back to 1986. This author was then a stick thin, short-haired (I had short hair as opposed to being short of hair as I am now *sniff*) bored 12 year old rifling through my older brother’s tapes to find something to listen to. I was only just starting to listen to music at that time in my life and was not really aware of which bands were in vogue at that time.
Football had been the big passion in my life and so I had never watched Top of the Pops as I was out playing football and did not listen to the Sunday evening Top 40 rundown either. I have memories of my brother sat in front of the radio with a microphone recording whatever songs he fancied (okay completely wrong but try telling that an older brother without getting hurt in the process!) and getting stressed when one of his younger brothers spoke at some point! I certainly had no idea who Queen were at that point and for the record had not watched Live Aid a year earlier – I was out playing football probably.
Anyway, I digress slightly, so back onto the story. I found myself picking up the box for Live Magic and thought why not give it a go? Naïve as I was I had little idea that it was a ‘live’ album so was a little surprised when the first thing I heard was the sound of a crowd cheering as the opening chords of One Vision started to emanate from the tiny tape recorder speaker (well I say tiny but compared to an iPod the recorder was the size of two house bricks and the speaker (just the one in the middle) was the size of a Wagon Wheel when Wagon Wheels were wagon wheels. A few seconds letter the guitars and drums kicked in and it was in that moment that my life changed completely.
This cacophony of loud rock (the amps had been turned up to 11 I reckon) was then joined by the incredible voice of a singer called Freddie Mercury. Time seemed to fly by as side one of the album whirred away. From singing about fried chicken to tying someone’s mother down, promising to take someone to the seven seas of Rhye (somewhere in East Anglia I reckon) and then singing about a kind of magic I was instantly hooked.
I recognised that this was a band with musical ability and also a band that could write very different types of songs in the short time I have been listening to the tape. The crowd at their concerts – and judging from the photo inside of a helicopter flying over a sea of people there was a lot of them there – seemed to be lapping it up as much as I was. Whilst it would be some time before I heard the original studio version with some chap called David Bowie on it, Under Pressure became one of my favourite songs – not just by Queen but by anybody instantly. What a bass riff! This John Deacon guy was good – and so were Mr May and Mr Taylor!
Another One Bites The Dust (at the end of which I had to turn the tape over – we really lived in the dark ages back then!), I Want To Break Free and Is This The World We Created came and went before I had my first ever listen to Bohemian Rhapsody. At the time I gathered it was a song that was quite special to the crowd as they seemed to know all the words and the change in the middle from the end of the guitar solo to a hard rock section was interesting. At that time I had no idea that there was an acapella introduction to the song and an opera section missing but thought what a great change of pace to the song before it slowed down again at the end. The crowd seemed impressed too from their reaction and then my ears got a hammering (ahem) as “Hammer To Falllllllllll” ‘blasted’ out.
Radio Ga Ga seemed to have silly lyrics to me first –all that ga ga and goo gooing was babyish surely? I also had no idea that the weird noise in the chorus was the sound of the crowd clapping along and then the tape headed for its conclusion. At the time I thought We Will Rock You, Friends Will Be Friends (great segue between the songs) and We Are The Champions were very short songs. Indeed, Champions was the only song I recognised because I had heard it played at the Cup Final but I had no idea it was by this ‘new’ band called Queen. The tape finished with the national anthem and Mr Mercury telling the crowd they had been a really special audience and for me it HAD been a special experience hearing this wonderful music for the first time.
The next day I was out playing football with a friend when I suddenly started singing Hammer To Fall and he seemed shocked. “I didn’t know you were a Queen fan,” he said. “Yeah, they are this great new band I have just got into” I replied. After he picked himself up off the floor with laughter he said: “They aren’t new. They have been around a while. I’ve got some of their albums if you want to borrow them?”
Well, that was like offering candy to a baby and he gave me Queen, A Night At The Opera, Greatest Hits, The Works and A Kind of Magic to listen to. OH MY FAIRY KING! I HAD BEEN BLIND BUT NOW I COULD SEE! That live album had only gone and edited some of the most wonderful songs I had ever heard. How could they cut so much of Bohemian Rhapsody out of their live set? Why couldn’t they have played We Will Rock You, Friends Will Be Friends and We Are The Champions all the way through? Just how good were the songs Who Wants To Live Forever and Princes of the Universe and why hadn’t they been on Live Magic? Most baffling of all, why was Fried Chicken still the last line of One Vision on the ‘studio’ album?
Slowly but surely I bought every album and each first listen was always a hotly anticipated moment. I remember to this day the joy of buying my first completely new Queen album, The Miracle, knowing that there were millions of other people like me who had waited nearly three years for it.
Of course these days Live Magic is seen as an odd album. Unlike the 1979 album Live Killers it was only on one piece of plastic/CD and so for timing reasons it had to have tracks edited or left out completely – outrageous I know! At the very least sacrilegious!
However, for a brief moment in time it was the only audio record fans had of the Magic Tour. It was the only place to hear Under Pressure, A Kind of Magic and Friends Will Be Friends etc ‘live’. There was a VHS release of Live At Wembley in 1990 but it was not until 1992 that we had the complete audio to go with it, so Live Magic was important to that point to me. That and Live Killers was the only official way to hear the band in the live arena.
The last few years have seen more live performances released so thankfully Live Magic rarely gets played these days. Only if I am listening to Queen’s albums in chronological order does it get an airing – but it will always retain a special place in my affections. Whilst it was too late to ever see the band live I am grateful that it was not too late for me to have experienced the last years of their career as a four piece band.
Live Magic was the starting point of a wonderful musical journey for me. Along the way I have had some wonderful Queen related moments - and some not so great ones. Live Magic I salute you. I would not be a Queen fan without your influence and my life – and my families – would be quite different!
About our contributor:
How I discovered Queen: You have just read how!
Favourite Album: Innuendo
Favourite Track: The Millionaire Waltz
Favourite Single: Bohemian Rhapsody