I bought this album in about 1985 on vinyl from Kavern records in Rhyl, North Wales. I still have it thirty years later – the original record and on CD. Given that this long running series of posts is supposed to be me going through my CDs in alphabetical order it seems odd for me to be listening to it on Spotify at the moment. But to satisfy my CD-OCD I did give it a good week or so in my car before I went off to Kos on holiday. Feels like I’ve been back months and so I thought it was about time I wrote about it. Especially since I already wrote about Flash.
“Play the Game”, the album title track if you ignore the word ‘play’, didn’t do very well in the charts when it was released in 1980 but is one of my favourites on Greatest Hits – the album that started my whole interest in Queen. This song and I guess the whole of The Game are a bit of a watershed for the band as the track contains some synthesizers, the album has less guitar than normal and is a lot less of a rock album with a bit of disco creeping in. It’s all very easy to say in retrospect that the warning signs for much maligned Hot Space album are there. That said “Play the Game” does have a rather satisfying guitar solo and some good rock drum beats.
The song was also an inspiration for a poem I wrote in high school, but I’m sure we can live without me regurgitating that (at least for now).
The next track “Dragon Attack” has got a great guitar loop, excellent syncopation and classic vocals from Mercury. Also the lead guitar work by May who wrote the track (about two minutes in) is awesome. ‘Mack’ who gets a mention is the band’s new engineer who helped forge the new funky Queen sound for this album. Here it is at Montreal (once Freddy gets through about 2min of crowd participation):
“Another One Bites the Dust” written by Deacon after hanging around Chic’s studio has an obvious disco vibe to it and it’s no wonder it was a massive hit in the US and has been used by a lot of rappers for samples. I have played the song backwards and I have heard it say ‘fun to smoke marijuana’ on whether this is just coincidental or purposeful is not really all that interesting these days given anyone can say anything they want on songs now without having to hide it. If people thought it would corrupt young minds they really don’t understand young minds. There were many easier ways of getting corrupted even back in the Eighties than playing your records backwards. Michael Jackson, who suggested that Queen release this track as a single, would know all about that.
Interestingly there’s a lot of production shenanigans and weird sounds on this track but no synthesisers used. Taylor drums, Mercury sings. Deacon does the rest. I don’t need to tell you how good this song is and it’s supposedly Queen’s most successful song ahead of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
“Need Your Loving Tonight” was also written by Deacon. It’s very much an American sounding rock song and for me pretty much sums up the vibe of the album (along with the very American looking cover shot). It’s a good lead in to the next track, but is a bit of a filler let’s be honest.
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was written by Mercury in a bath in 10 minutes as a tribute to Elvis. It’s a laugh live and the poppy guitar solo is pretty cool – it reminds me of some Wham! or George Michael stuff from further down the line. It’s pretty cheesy with its ‘ready Freddy’ lyric, but not silly enough to be embarrassing. It also wins the prize for the worst misheard lyric on the album ‘shakes all over like a jellyfish’ to my ear being something entirely different which I know can’t recall – I did such a good job of weaning myself off the incorrect words. Great story huh? Montreal again (ooh ooh):
“Rock It (Prime Jive)” was written and mostly sung by Taylor (Mercury does the intro). I have a major fanboy boner for Taylor’s vocal work for Queen [here’s a link to a Spotify playlist I did of his stuff] – but not so much his solo work. Weird huh? I also love May’s kinda stumbling trashy guitar solo at around 2:35min.
“Don’t Try Suicide” is another very American sounding track with a funky guitar hook, nice Mercury vocals and features the classic lines ‘baby when you do it, all you do is get on my tits’ and ‘you just can’t be prick teaser all of the time’. There’s some nice tempo changes and it’s all very happy sounding until you pay attention to the lyrics. It’s like something you might hear in a Broadway musical (I’m thinking Guys and Dolls although I’ve never seen it – I understand it features a lot of finger clicking). There’s also a major jazz hands moment at around 1:35min prompted by a blatant “A Hard Day’s Night” Beatles chord. I distinctly remember my sister telling me to ‘turn this shit off’ and telling me that ‘if this was by anyone else you wouldn’t listen to it.’ She might have a point, but I love it.
“Sail Away Sweet Sister” was written and mostly sung by May (Mercury sings a bit). It is awfully bloody depressing – which is just typical of May’s work for Queen. It’s quite an ‘old Queen’ sound to it and was written at the arse end of the Seventies before they went all disco. It’s the track that comes as close as any on this album to the multi-tracked vocals that Queen were well-known for creating. The guitar and sound of the sea are very emotive at the end of the track and there was a time where I couldn’t listen to this track for fear of releasing a little tear. No honestly.
“Coming Soon” was written by Taylor who shares vocal duties with Mercury, and might have ended up on Jazz if they didn’t already have a load of other stuff for that earlier album. It seems to fit in with that album rather than this one where it doesn’t seem to fit very well especially sandwiched by emotional may songs “Sail Away Sweet Sister” and “Save Me”.
“Save Me” was written by May, and released well ahead of the album. It’s not disco it’s rock; a corking power ballad about wasted love and a failed relationship. I have trouble with the lyric – ‘I have no heart, I am cold inside, I have no real intent’ or is it ‘feelings left’? The guitar solo is just amazingly massive, emitting the pain and torture of the story. Again this song had to be avoided by me for a while after splitting up with my first girlfriend. Talk about songs that say something to you and tug on your heartstrings. Listening to it on CD or now on Spotify makes me yearn for the sound of the stylus vibrating through the record deck’s plastic lid and the click every now and again from when I once knocked the needle off the track in a fit of despair.