The video I Want to Break Free by Queen needs no introduction. You will surely remember it for the female mise of the band members. If we read the text, it looks like an autobiographical song by Freddie Mercury but the singer just sang and interpreted it.
The song I Want to Break Free by John Deacon
The song’s author is not Mercury, but bassist John Deacon, who composed it in 1983. The following year the song became part of the album “The Works”. There are three versions of this song: one in the album “The Works” (3:20 minutes), one of the single (4:21 minutes) and one extended (7:16 minutes).
Even the idea of the video is not by Freddie but by Roger Taylor. The drummer in fact plans to make a parody of the famous British soap opera “Coronation Street” from ITV. The director of the video is David Mallett, the same of Made in Heaven, I Want It All, Who Wants To Live Forever, The Great Pretender, Barcelona.
The parody of the soap opera Coronation Street
The beginning of the video shows an industrialized English city from the second half of the ‘900, with rather modest and lugubrious terraced houses. It is a reference to the poster of Coronation Street, which depicts a cluster of English houses at sunset.
This soap opera started in 1960, includes 51 seasons, almost 10 thousand episodes and is still in production. It was born to tell a series of family events, where the protagonists are members of the working class.
In the 80s, the competition for this soap became fierce: another television series called Brookside was released (1982-2003). The latter puts the thriving middle-class white-collar worker close to the working class, also touching on social problems such as unemployment, labor exploitation, the evolution of industry.
Four women under a roof in the video I Want to Break Free by Queen
But back to the video I Want to Break Free by Queen. The opening scene makes us see Brian May sleeping; his alarm starts ringing. More than an alarm clock it looks like a tea kettle with a timer. Brian May gets up and he is dressed as a woman, with a pink nightgown and curlers on his head. He puts on two comfortable pink slippers with the rabbit-shaped fur and goes down to the kitchen.
Freddie Mercury is waiting for him in his iconic women’s clothing: pink tank top, leather skirt, cotton wig, showy pink earrings, black stockings and heeled shoes. His mustaches and fur under his armpits are not missing. He is cleaning the house with a red 1950 Hoover 119 Junior vacuum cleaner.
John Deacon is dressed as an old maid: he sits on the couch reading the Daily Mirror. Later in the video we see on the first page the title “rock‘ n ’roll earl weds the typist”. Who are you referring to? Perhaps the 1957 wedding of the 22-year-old Earl of Wharnclifee (nicknamed Earl Rock ‘n’ Roll because he played drums in a jazz group) and the 20-year-old typographer Aline Bruce. So is Deacon reading a 1957 newspaper in 1984?
In the kitchen, Roger Taylor prepares breakfast strictly in female schoolgirl clothes from a Japanese manga.
The Queen seem to be in another dimension where they find themselves to be four women living under the same roof: the landlady, the grandmother, the niece, the cleaning lady.
Freddie Mercury is crowdsurfing with the dancers
But don’t worry: the real Queen appear soon after. Freddie Mercury opens a door that looks like that of the closet or basement. From there we see another universe. Queen is surrounded by a multitude of people dressed as working class miners.
Metaphorical scenes follow. Freddie is dressed as a Greek faun, who plays the trumpet sitting on a rock surrounded by dancers. Shortly after he eats bunches of red and white grapes, as if he were the Roman god Bacchus. Together with the dancers he launches into a ballet in which he is crowdsurfing. This part was recorded at the Royal Ballet in London with the choreography of Wayne Eagling.
The meaning of the video I Want to Break Free by Queen
The interpretations on the song and on the video are multiple. At the beginning of this post we explained that the lyrics is not by Freddie Mercury nor the idea of the video.
Many fans, however, see in this video an outing about his homosexuality. From this point of view, the song and the video could be a message against the bigoted society that oppresses non-traditional behaviors, such as LGBT ones.
Another interpretation sees in the video a hymn to women’s freedom, too often segregated at home and forced to deal only with family care. In this sense, Queen wanted to tell women to pursue their career dreams and don’t believe in soap operas, still too tied to a traditional family vision.
I think the video and the song can have both meanings. In fact MTV in the United States has banned the circulation of this video for 7 years, because it considered it a vehicle of meanings related to disguises, homosexuality and drag.
In South America everything went differently and I Want to Break Free was praised as a hymn to the fight against gender discrimination and social oppression.