Friday, July 30, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: New Dark Ages

Since Dr. May got a special Queen Song of the Week in honor of his birthday on July 19 (click here and here), I thought it was only fair that RT got one this week in honor of his birthday on July 26 (click here).

RT's birthday coincidentally falls at the same time as I am finally gathering together all of the CDs by The Cross, his side band. I received Shove It, the band's 1988 release, for my birthday, I won Blue Rock from 1991 in a $15 ebay experiment, and am currently hunting for their 1990 release Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know.

Blue Rock is frequently the topic of hot conversation amongst Queen fans. It's widely praised as the best CD released by The Cross (which honestly isn't saying much as Shove It and Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know are rather dreadful in places) and for many fans, it's one of Roger's best, if not the best, "solo" CD. Here's where the controversy enters: RT didn't write most of the songs on Blue Rock. In 1991, he was dedicating most of his time to Queen and his family (his third child was born that year).

That said, is it fair to consider Blue Rock a RT CD? Without him, The Cross wouldn't exist and his songwriting on Shove It/Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know certainly set the tone for the band's songs. On the other hand, is it really fair to give RT credit when it was his band mates who penned the majority of these songs which are so good?

Then again, there's debate as to whether this album can even be considered a great album. Is the only reason anybody even knows it exists because of RT's affiliation? Would it be great when held up against other great albums? Or is it only great because an album like Shove It, for example, is in comparison so bad.

I'm of the mind that without RT, there is no band called The Cross. And honestly, though he didn't write many of the songs on the album, the band, either consciously or subconsciously, have very similar songwriting styles to his. On a few occasions I had to check the liner notes to see who had written a song and was surprised to find that certain songs were or were not written by RT.

I also don't think the album's low sales have anything to do with whether it's a good album. Blue Rock didn't sell well because it wasn't promoted. The Cross was already frustrated with their record label for failure to promote Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know. Then just as they were determining how to proceed with this release, Freddie Mercury died and RT pulled the album and its single resulting in the extremely limited release that the album had.

Regardless of how one feels about the album as a whole, it's generally accepted that New Dark Ages, the second track on the album, is one of the strongest songs that RT has ever wrote. So in honor of RT's 61st birthday, New Dark Ages is this week's Queen Song of the Week.

New Dark Ages was written by Roger Taylor. It was released as a single only in Germany in 1991 and did not chart.

The story goes that RT originally proposed the song to Queen during the Innuendo sessions in 1991. Upon reading the lyrics, bassist John Deacon basically threatened to quit the band if Freddie were made to sing the song. The lyrics are available here - I don't think I need to elaborate on why they may have upset John. Rather than press the issue, RT took the track to his band mates in The Cross and they recorded the song.

Not having ever spoke to RT or John personally, I obviously can't say whether this story is totally true. But I will say that it is a rumor that has floated around for some time and was confirmed by someone who I consider a very reliable source (who wouldn't have said something unless he felt convinced of it's accuracy). On his Soapbox, however, Dr. May has stated that he doesn't recall RT bringing this song to the band. I'm not aware of RT ever making a public comment about it so we'll likely never have the full story on the song's origins.

The song itself is great and treads the fine line between being a regular commercially popular song and a "Roger" song. I consider a "Roger" song one that no one else on the planet could have gotten away with writing - whether due to the lyrics or some studio sound effects or, in some cases, a combination of both. Sometimes, the song turns out to be a disaster and sometimes it's comes together beautifully. In this case, it's the latter. And frankly, I can't say I'm sorry that Queen didn't record it because RT's voice really adds a lot to the song.

Happy Listening!

And Happy Birthday RT!


  1. yeah i couldn't picture freddie singing that ---- i like roger's raspy voice with it

  2. I am amazed with all your knowledge!! I love that cardi you wore from J-Crew and wish I had not missed out on it! Oh, I am talking about the one from the post below!

  3. Suz - Agreed.

    Tricia - LOL Yes, this is the information that I have stuffed into my head. Ask me to balance my checkbook, you get a blank stare. Ask me to analyze why The Cross didn't sell more albums, you get a book report! LOL Thanks re: the cardigan. It went to sale so fast - I'm glad I snatched it up!