Queen II

White Queen (As It Began) by Queen

Making and reading lists is one of the Great Pursuits of music geekdom, and I’ve certainly indulged from time to time. But while I generally limit myself to finite, single artist lists, a list written by Bill Wyman (but not THAT Bill Wyman) seemed to bite off more than it could chew this week, ranking all 214 inductees to the rock and roll hall of fame.


As you can see, it’s a herculean task, effectively comparing apples with oranges – for example an influential trail blazer with a small discography like Buddy Holly against a less innovative but more prolific artist like Neil Diamond. Given the range of music, it’s probably a task that should have been given to a committee. To his credit, Wyman was upfront about his biases, and it’s evident without even checking that’s he an ageing American rockist, dismissing hip hop and progressive rock. It’s an interesting read, but has a lot of sentences that left me mildly outraged.

One act that Wyman wrote off, relegating to penultimate place, was Queen, referencing Rolling Stone’s famous diss of fascist rock band. They may be campy and an evolutionary dead end, but Queen are in danger of being reduced to a few hits like ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We Will Rock You’, and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, when they made some great albums early in their career.

My favourite Queen record is Queen II, from which guitarist Brian May’s gorgeous ‘White Queen (As It Began)’ is drawn. Like a lot of Queen’s early work, it has a healthy dollop of progressive rock, and it’s based around May’s beautiful acoustic and electric guitar work, and it feels akin to contemporary recordings by Led Zeppelin and Genesis.

So sad her eyes
Smiling dark eyes
So sad her eyes
As it began
On such a breathless night as this
Upon my brow the lightest kiss
I walked alone
And all around the air did say
My lady soon will stir this way
In sorrow known
The White Queen walks and the night grows pale
Stars of lovingness in her hair
Needing – unheard
Pleading – one word
So sad my eyes
She cannot see
How did thee fare, what have thee seen
The mother of the willow green
I call her name
And ‘neath her window have I stayed
I loved the footsteps that she made
And when she came
White Queen how my heart did ache
And dry my lips no word would make
So still I wait
My Goddess, hear my darkest fear
I speak too late
It’s for evermore that I wait
Dear friend goodbye
No tears in my eyes
So sad it ends
As it began


  1. I appreciate that the list was presented from 1 to 214 – but I reckon Queen ought to have been a lot closer to the silver medal rather than the penultimate position!

  2. Well, as inveterate listmakers ourselves, we know how subjective these things can be. It is always, always perilous when, say, Rolling Stone does one of their lists. Let the indignation fly! A few years back, long-time RS reporter David Fricke did his own one-man ‘100 Best Guitarists’ list. Howls of outrage! Then a few years later they did it by committee. Ditto. But at least it felt like there was a consensus. These one-man lists, on the other hand, tend to play up the listmakers’ personal tastes vs. what a band’s real contribution was. I didn’t really bother going through the whole list, only the Top Ten. I can see his point for most of them. But without question, I don’t believe either the Ramones or Nirvana belong in there. Both highly influential? Sure. Both good? Yeah, I like ’em. But more so than, say, Zeppelin? Or the Stones? Impossible. Literally impossible. But hey, it’s his listing so let him have a good time with it.

    • It wasn’t even the order that I was quibbling about mostly – even though I thought Queen were very low, I certainly wouldn’t mind them in the low 100s or something.

      It was more quotes like “I think the hall should push back on this point, and insist on the primacy of artistic value, but it will be difficult after the induction of bands like ABBA.” and his profile on NWA where he ignored the music and just talked about their misdemeanours. It was entertaining though, and I guess that’s what he was going for.

  3. Personally, I find it a bit strange to say there shouldn’t be a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and then go through the remarkable exercise to rank each of the inductees. I suspect Jim is right that at least part of the motivation was to get eyeballs for the site.

    While I primarily know Queen based on their popular songs and I’m less familiar with their albums, there is no doubt in my mind they were a unique band. Between Freddie Mercury’s incredible operatic voice and Brian May’s distinct guitar sound, they created a signature sound. Sure, it was perhaps a little bombastic at times, but there was simply no other band like them. They also were a pretty impressive live act.

    In fact, I haven’t listened to Queen in a long time. Reading about them makes me feel like revisiting some of their music, so thanks for the inspiration!

      • Thanks! In good old music geek fashion I had created a career-spanning playlist of Queen in iTunes several years ago, which I dug out yesterday. Based on that, I’m definitely drawn more to their 70s music than to their 80s and 90s material.

        In addition to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” one of my favorite tracks is “Tie Your Mother Down,” a nice rocker from “A Day At The Races,” their fifth studio album from 1976.

        I’m going to take a closer look at the three records you mentioned.

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