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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Album Art - Queen

This series of posts is all about what I consider to be the best album sleeves that I own (specifically on vinyl), and I'll also put the spotlight on some of the bad ones soon too. It's all about the aesthetics of the sleeve itself, but also how that links to the music on the record and the band itself. This sleeve, however, falls between two stalls, and I'd be the first to admit that.

I'll start right off by saying that I'm an enormous Queen fan - my Dad was and that's where I got it from. They're arguably a deeply uncool band now, with a solid original reputation now tarnished by the more recent activities, but I've done a pretty good job of shutting that crap out and just knowing the Queen that I want to. And The Game, the sleeve above, has a million nostalgic memories attached - all of them good, which I can't say about most things from when I was younger.

As a piece of music, there's not a minute's doubt in my mind that I'd put this record in my top ten favourites ever - that's right people, EVER. Don't worry - I'm not so blinkered as to try and claim that it's up there with the Sgt Pepper's / Pet Sounds / Dark Side Of The Moon etc etc for artistic merit, but as for personal favourites of mine, it's right up there.

The Game was released in 1980, when I was 3, so it's testament to its longevity that my Dad was still playing it a few years later when I was becoming musically aware. In the chronology of Queen studio albums it comes between 1978's Jazz, a pop record that featured the hits of Bicycle Race, Fat Bottomed Girls and Don't Stop Me Now, and before the spacefunk (and critically mauled) Hot Space of 1982 (the signs were there for the direction of that album because the soundtrack to Flash Gordon was actually Queen's next release after The Game). And if you know your Queen albums, you can easily spot The Game as the bridge between that rock and roll pop-ness of Jazz and the more funk and synth driven 80s-fest that is Hot Space. It's got hits - Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Another One Bites The Dust and Save Me, but it also has my favourite individual Queen track - Dragon Attack. There's something so brilliantly dirty about this track (it's probably about drugs - it sounds like it is) and it's got a better bass line than Another One Bites The Dust. It's a track that I'll regularly put on the decks when I'm DJing for a piece of unknown (to most) funk rock. And I'm also a massive fan of Roger Taylor's singing on Rock It (Prime Jive). And as for Don't Try Suicide - that blew me away as a kid. Not only did Freddie squeeze separate lyrics in that included both tits and prick (and neither were in a sexual context), but it was also a song about suicide. How mental is that??!! Well, it was for someone under ten.

Shit, sorry, I knew I'd massively digress when Queen were the topic. So, where was I? Oh yes - the sleeve, and all of the above is relevant.

Again, it was my Dad's record, just like this one was, and as it's an original, it's a bit battered around the edges, which just feels great. Actually, I've never thought of that before, but that's got to be one of the main differences between vinyl and CDs, and why people still cling to records, because even when they get rough around the edges (physically and metaphorically), they still look and feel great, but if a CD case gets a bit battered, it just looks plain shit and like someone's either sat on it or spilt something on it.

The silver's still shiny, and I like the idea of putting an image of the band on the cover, if it's the right image, and again, that combining of the modern (the silver in this case) with the retro (the leather and brylcreem of the band), just seems to sum up the record really well. Whether anyone could agree that it's got anything truly artistic going for it is doubtful (and I don't think that's what I'm claiming here), but for me it's a beautiful example of getting a sleeve just right, and when you're a kid, a band like that just look fucking cool, you know? Of course, it's only when I got older and found out more about Freddie that I realised that one man's cool is another man's really gay. I like to think this treads the line between the two pretty damn well, and that's something that's never left me, which is why it takes its place in this series.

Ha ha - Sail Away Sweet Sister's just come on the headphones (I've been listening to the album whilst writing this) and I remember writing the lyrics of that on a scrap of paper for my sister when she went away to university. Well, if you can't think of anything original to say, give someone some lyrics.

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