He Made It On His Own (Gypsy Eye GE-144)
(56:29): Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, London, England – July 13th, 1985: Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Is This The World We Created? Rainbow Theater, London, England – November 19th, 1974: Son And Daughter, Stone Cold Crazy, Liar. BBC session, Maida Vale 4 Studio, London, England – October 16th 1974: Now I’m Here, Stone Cold Crazy, Flick Of The Wrist
In the intervening twenty years since Live Aid, Queen’s seventeen minutes has been singled out as one of the all-time greatest performances in rock history. On November 9th, 2005 the BBC wrote, “Queen’s iconic performance at Live Aid in July 1985 has been named the world’s greatest rock gig in an industry poll….More than 60 artists, journalists and music industry executives contributed to the survey, featured in a Channel 4 special to be screened this week. The judges lauded Queen’s ‘show-stealing performance’ at the Live Aid concert in Wembley Stadium, where singer Freddie Mercury had 75,000 people clapping in unison to ‘Radio Ga-Ga.'”
Part of the success can be attributed to the comparison with the other artists on the bill that day, although many of the older acts were well prepared. It is primarily because the significance of the event and the fact that Queen were able to pack their entire two hour concert into such a constricted time period. It has a short medley, Freddie’s vocal games, self-depreciating humor in “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and “We Are The Champions.” Add to that Freddie is one man with more charisma than anyone should be allowed to have, it’s no wonder the audience, who Brian May since said were not a “Queen audience,” did indeed turn into one.
He Made It On His Own is a 2000 release by Gypsy Eye which presents the entire Live Aid set in perfect stereo. They begin with the first third of the signature tune “Bohemian Rhapsody” which segues with “Radio Ga Ga.” Watching it on television at the time and seeing thousands of hands clapping in time was a beautiful sight, displaying music as an agent in community building. This is the only time they employed this particular arrangement and the latter song is shortened to only the verses with the guitar solo and dream section cut. Mercury spends about a minute playing his vocal call-and-response with the audience before “Hammer To Fall.”
“This next song is only dedicated to beautiful people here tonight. It means all of you. Thank you all for coming along and making this a beautiful occasion” Freddie jokes before “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Their set ends with a short, one verse run-through of “We Will Rock You” and a complete “We Are The Champions.” The final Live Aid track is “Is This The World They Created?” performed by Freddie and Brian. This was several hours after the Queen set and right before Paul McCartney would play “Let It Be” and the “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” finale. Actor John Hurt introduces them, but at about 2:50 a technician drowns out the music saying “you still can’t hear anything on the radio.” It messes up what is otherwise a great recording.
All this is in glorious, crystal clear stereo and even with the release of the of the set on DVD this is a good resource for the audio. Since the Live Aid material is scarcely twenty minutes long, Gypsy Eye include about a half hour of bonus material. Two songs are from the November 19th, 1974 Rainbow show (mislabeled April 14th, 1976 from Adelaide) and three from the October 1974 BBC session. These are rather strange choices since they occur more than a decade before Live Aid and are out of place. It would have been better to include bonus tracks from The Works tour or even some of the hard to find singles from the early eighties like “Thank God It’s Christmas,” “Human Body” and “Soul Brother.” But given the title’s virtues it is easy to overlook this strange fact and focus upon the songs that have been praised as one of the greatest performances in the history of rock and roll.