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Music / The Works

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"I don't want my freedom. There's no reason for living with a broken heart."

"All we hear is radio ga ga,
Radio goo goo, radio ga ga
All we hear is radio ga ga,
Radio blah blah,
Radio, what's new?
Radio, someone still loves you."
"Radio Ga Ga"

The Works is the eleventh album by Queen, released on 27 February 1984 through EMI in the UK and Capitol Records in the US. After the 1982 release and touring of the ill-fated Hot Space, Queen briefly went on hiatus as the members pursued side projects, which included Freddie Mercury's Mr. Bad Guy and Brian May's supergroup releasing Star Fleet Project. They reconvened on August 1983 in Los Angeles to start work on the new album, the first time that the band recorded in the United States. Ironically, due to their fall-off in popularity in America, they opted not to tour there for the first time. While continuing on with synthesized music and funk influences, there was also a return to the classical rock elements; as the recording began Roger Taylor made the comment "Let's give them the works!", thus the name. The album didn't sell as strong in the United States as their past output, but it remained popular in Europe, selling more than six million copies and spending a record 94 weeks in the UK Albums Chart.

Queen had just completed their tour in support of this album when they were called up to perform at Live Aid; as a result, two of their biggest hits from this album, "Radio Ga Ga" and "Hammer to Fall", were among the songs performed as part of their 20-minute set.


Side One
  1. "Radio Ga Ga" (5:48)
  2. "Tear It Up" (3:28)
  3. "It's a Hard Life" (4:08)
  4. "Man on the Prowl" (3:28)

Side Two

  1. "Machines (or 'Back to Humans')" (5:10)
  2. "I Want to Break Free" (3:20)
  3. "Keep Passing the Open Windows" (5:21)
  4. "Hammer to Fall" (4:28)
  5. "Is This the World We Created...?" (2:13)

Principal Members:

  • John Deacon – bass, guitars, synthesizer
  • Brian May – guitars, synthesizer, backing vocals
  • Freddie Mercury – lead vocals, backing vocals, piano, synthesizer, sampler
  • Roger Taylor – drums, percussion, backing vocals, sampler, synthesizer

God knows I want to trope free:

  • Aspect Ratio Switch: Most of the "Radio Ga Ga" video is in 4:3, but the crowd scenes during the choruses are in Cinemascope, with the bars at the sides of the screen moving back into the frame at the end of them. The aspect ratio also warps around during the bomb strike at the end of the video.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Roger Taylor in the "I Want to Break Free" video. He also grew a mustache before joining the band because men often mistook him for a woman due to his long hair and effeminate look.
  • Call-Back: The scrapbook sequence in the "Radio Ga Ga" video features brief clips from previous Queen music videos. In order, segments from "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Somebody to Love", "Tie Your Mother Down", "We Are the Champions", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Save Me", "Play the Game", "Flash's Theme", and "Back Chat" play before segueing back to the setting of Metropolis.
  • Character Development: "It's a Hard Life". It starts off with the singer dramatically announcing there's no reason to go on in life after a break-up, then within his mourning, he realizes how much effort lasting relationships take throughout the song. At the last chorus, the lyrics have changed to a more optimistic outlook, as he moves on without regret, instead reflecting back on the break-up as a lesson learned in life.
  • Continuity Nod: The clip to "Radio Ga Ga" features brief excerpts of several of their clips to earlier songs.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: The whole band in the music video for "I Want To Break Free". Special mention goes to Roger, though, since he was so convincing that many male fans probably had to take a second look before realising that's him as the schoolgirl.
  • Either/Or Title: "Machines (or 'Back to Humans')".
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The music video for "Radio Ga Ga" ends this way as the mid-20th century house is caught in a bomb strike.
  • Good Old Ways: "Radio Ga Ga" is a fond remembrance of radio as its relevance in face of the rise of TV as mass media fades.
  • Homage: The video for "Radio Ga Ga" is a love letter to Metropolis.
  • Longest Song Goes First: The album kicks off with the 5:48 "Radio Ga Ga".
  • Lost in Translation: The "I Want To Break Free" video was effectively lost in geographic translation. Virtually no one outside England knew what the hell they were looking at, as they would have been unfamiliar with Coronation Street.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "It's a Hard Life".
  • Protest Song:
    • "Radio Ga Ga" can be seen as a direct rebuttal to "Video Killed the Radio Star", calling for radio to stay viable in the face of MTV (which, in 1982, was nothing more than a visual radio station). The updated version used in the play We Will Rock You directly attacks the mass-produced, digital pop that appeared in the 2000's.
    • "I Want To Break Free" was also adopted as an LGBT anthem. In contrast, audiences in South Africa and South America appreciated it as an anthem against oppression.
    • "Hammer to Fall" describes the futility of war in the face of our ultimate mortality. This is amplified in the song's music video, where Roger Taylor prominently wears a "CHOOSE LIFE" shirt, which designer Katharine Hamnett described as a statement against war and other forms of human devastation. The song was interpreted by some as a Cold War protest song, though Brian May has vocally denied this.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The music video for "Radio Ga Ga" was based upon and featured actual footage from the Fritz Lang classic Metropolis, which Freddie supplied a song for in a modern overdub; the film itself is given a Special Thanks during the Freeze-Frame Ending. The supporting tour's stage setup was also based on the same film, with a cityscape in the background and large gears. The lyrics to the song also specifically mention Orson Welles' infamous The War of the Worlds broadcast.
    • The "I Want to Break Free" video is a parody of Coronation Street, with Brian and John's outfits in particular inspired by the "Pepperpots" of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Freddie himself pays Homage to ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev - even shaving his iconic mustache to play him! Then both Coronation Street and EastEnders repaid the favor separately by their characters dressing as Queen and singing the song themselves.
  • Special Thanks: The video for "Radio Ga Ga" features the caption "Thanks to Metropolis" during the Freeze-Frame Ending, in reference to the copious use of footage from the film.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: The band dons drag in a Coronation Street reference for the video to "I Want to Break Free". Roger Taylor makes a scarily convincing woman, but most of the rest are obvious. And then there's Freddie. Who by this point had grown that mustache. And winks at the camera. Long story short, by the end of filming the director was convinced he'd injured himself from laughing.


Video Example(s):


Queen - "Radio Ga Ga"

The music video for Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" is shot mostly in 4:3, but switches to widescreen during the choruses, with the display shifting back to 4:3 at the end of them.

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