“Queen The Greatest”: a celebration of 50 of the greatest moments from the Queen story so far.
A 50-week YouTube series celebrating key moments in Queen’s history reminding us why Queen and their music continue to be loved across the world.
Queen The Greatest Episode 32: Queen at The Movies - Take 2: Highlander
With just twenty minutes of rough footage to show, director Russell Mulcahy hoped it would be enough to persuade Queen to write one song for his new movie. He ended up with an entire soundtrack that included some massive hits.
“I thought to myself, the film needs not only a big orchestration score, but it needs a big rock score. I had twenty minutes of the film cut together, and I brought them in. I didn’t know how they were going to react. I only wanted them to do one song. They saw the footage and said ‘we’ll do five songs’.”
“I was dealing with various tragedies in my own life so I could immediately hear Who Wants To Live Forever in my head. It was almost completed in the car going home. I remember singing it to my manager as he drove me. He said, ‘where did that come from?’ and I said ‘I don’t even know where it came from, but I can just hear it in my head’.” Brian May
Queen The Greatest this week provides the second installment of Queen At The Movies, this time looking at the band’s musical contribution to “Highlander”.
Following the success of their first soundtrack album, “Flash Gordon”, Queen were not short of offers to be involved in other film projects. Nothing captured their imagination until 1986 when director Russell Mulcahy made a tentative approach with his new fantasy movie project, “Highlander”, to see if the band could be tempted…
Russell Mulcahy: “When it came to doing Highlander, I thought to myself, the film needs not only a big orchestration score, but it needs a big rock score. I had twenty minutes of the film cut together, and I brought them in, and I didn’t know how they were going to react. I only wanted them to do one song in the film. They saw the footage and they said ‘we’ll do five songs’.”
Queen would eventually end up writing and performing 6 new songs for the film as well as providing additional music.
Roger Taylor: “I don’t know what prompted Russell to get in touch with us, but he said ‘come down to a screening theatre and have a look at this and see what you like.’ And we went and we saw the opening scenes and then I think the love scene, in the Highlands, and we thought it was magnificent, visually.
“It was nowhere near finished by then, we just thought ‘that’s really great, we could do some good stuff on that. And that inspired Brian to write Who Wants To Live Forever, and then I wrote A Kind Of Magic off that, nicking the line from the film. And that was quite a nice experience.”
Brian May: “It depends how well you know the Highlander film, but it’s a film about a man who becomes conscious that he’s immortal, and he’s reluctant to accept the fact. He’s told that if he falls in love he’s in for big trouble, but of course, he falls in love anyway and the girl that he falls in love with eventually grows old and dies in his arms.
“That kind of opened up a floodgate in me, I was dealing with various tragedies in my own life, the death of my father, the death of the marriage etcetera, etcetera, so I could immediately hear this Who Wants To Live Forever song in my head. It was almost complete in the car going home, I remember singing it to my manager as he drove me home and he was pretty surprised. He said, ‘where did that come from?’ and I said ‘I don’t even know where it came from, but I can just hear it in my head’.”
Unlike “Flash”, Queen decided not to release a soundtrack album, but instead paired their six tracks which appeared in “Highlander” with other songs, such as One Vision, Friends Will Be Friends, and Pain Is So Close To Pleasure to create a full Queen album, 1986’s “A Kind Of Magic”, their first to be released since their acclaimed Live Aid performance. It was an immediate No.1 album in the UK and gave them hit singles with tracks from the film “A Kind of Magic” and “Who Wants To Live Forever”.
They teamed up with director Russell Mulcahy again to make the promo videos for the majestic “Princes of The Universe”, and the spellbinding “A Kind Of Magic”.
Roger Taylor: “I remember discussing it with the Director, Russell Mulcahy, saying how we want strange little things to happen, like I remember I sort of wanted gargoyles winking and things like that, and having this magic stuff flying all over the place. And I think it worked nicely, it’s unpretentious, and it’s rather nice.”
Over subsequent years, Queen songs have featured on and enhanced a number of films – but the next time the band would provide a full soundtrack just over thirty years later, would be for a movie they’d be making themselves – coming soon, to Queen The Greatest.
Credit: Photography by Peter Hince. © Queen Productions Ltd.
Next Week: 1986 - Queen: The Magic Tour Part 1