In our page dedicated to Freddie Mercury and company we could not forget the famous “Radio Ga Ga” by Queen. Here is a series of curiosities that you may not yet know.
This song inspired Lady Gaga for her name. In fact her name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta! A name certainly not suitable for a career as a non-conformist and avant-garde musician like her. The name came to the mind of Rob Fusari, who at the beginning was her music producer and her boyfriend. So Germanotta decided to use a song of her idols as an art name.
But back to our main topic: here are 5 curiosities that you didn’t know about Radio Ga Ga by Queen.
1. Radio Ga Ga was a “radio caca”
The most ardent fans of Queen surely know what the genesis of the song is. The song comes out in 1984 and the creator is Roger Taylor, even if the song was signed with the name of the band.
The son of Roger Taylor invented the name: one day he uttered confused words like “radio caca” listening to a radio song he didn’t like. From there the idea to remove the guttural aspirated letter C, which is too hard, and introduce the letter G, which gives a lighter but firm tone.
We can listen to this song live, unlike others that Freddie Mercury failed to perform due to his illness. Radio Ga Ga was the workhorse of many Queen concerts from 1984 until 1986. The video for their 1985 Live Aid received many hits. In this video, Queen manages to get the hands of over 70 thousand people (here is the YouTube link). This is also why the band really liked this song, because the audience could actively participate.
2. The meaning of the lyrics Radio Ga Ga
This song should also be the workhorse of this blog of mine, because it mainly talks about music videos and how they have upset the world of music. Radio Ga Ga treats just this, of how the auditory aspect of music is joined in an inseparable way from the visual aspect.
First the music was just listening via radio. However, an epochal change took place since the 1980s. Music on television could not be based only on listening but had to introduce the visual element. This is how the practice of producing ad hoc short films for each piece spread.
Music videos must be the natural completion of the song, they must bind tightly to it and make it better understood. They have become so important that they often declare the success of a piece.
The Queen has a certain polemical tone in the lyrics and they point the finger at the radios and the TV (including MTV) that often pass non-quality music content, for the purpose of making money (this is the “radio cacca”, as Roger Taylor’s son called it).
3. Famous quotations: the alien invasion and Winston Churchill
Radio Ga Ga lyrics also mentions two radio events that made history.
The quote “Through wars of worlds invaded by Mars” refers to the 1938 “The Mercury Theater on the Air” radio show, which aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System. Author and narrator was Orson Welles, who in the episode of October 30 (just before Halloween), entitled “The War of the Worlds”, generated chaos among the listeners. What happened? Initially the author announced that it was an adaptation of the novel “The War of the Worlds” (1898) by Herbert George Wells, which talks about the invasion of the Martians. However, the listeners believed that there was indeed an alien invasion on Earth!
“You’ve yet to have your finest hour” refers to the speech that Winston Churchill gave in the House of Commons on June 18 1940 and is titled “This was their finest hour”. This speech circulated on the radio on the radio and served to revive the souls of the British, prostrated by the Second World War still in progress.
It was the period in which Hitler was asserting himself powerfully. According to Churchill, Britain had to go to war and defend the values of Christian civilization. The fate of the world depended on it. With that sentence Churchill was referring to the thoughts of posterity, that one day, reading the story, they would have said “this was their finest hour” to enter the war and restore world order.
4. Scenes from the futuristic movie “Metropolis” of 1927
The director of the video is the British David Mallet, one of the first in the 1970s to understand the importance of music videos and to do business with them. In addition to Queen, he worked with Iron Maiden, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, The Rolling Stones, Scorpions, AC/DC and many others.
For Queen he also directed the video for “I Want to Break Free”.
The music video for Radio Ga Ga contains scenes from the silent science fiction movie “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang, dating back to 1927. In order to use these scenes, Queen had to pay a lot of money for the usage rights. Copyright was in fact still in the hands of East Communist Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall will take place in 1989, that is 6 years after the realization of Radio Ga Ga.
The film dates back to the Weimar Republic in Germany. This constitutional republic lasted from 1918 to 1933 and was only a window of democracy and hope before the tragic years of Nazism.
The film “Metropolis” shows us a futuristic city, in which the protagonist, Freder, tries to overcome the divisions of the social classes and bring the ruling class closer to the workers. But his projects break when he falls in love with Maria, the leaders of the working class. Freder’s father and his right hand are doing everything to hinder this feeling. They even kidnap Maria and create a robot similar to her, which interacts with Freder and creates confusion in the working class. The city of Metropolis plunges into total chaos.
At the end of the music video Radio Ga Ga you read the words “Thanks to Metropolis”.
5. The Queen as the rulers of a great musical empire
In the video Radio Ga Ga by Queen, in addition to the spectacular scenes of the movie “Metropolis”, we see scenes of Queen recorded in 1983 at Carlton TV Studios and Shepperton Studios in London.
The band is on board a flying car and in the background there are futuristic scenes. Freddie Mercury is in the passenger seat, Roger Taylor drives while Brian May and John Deacon are behind. These scenes are in black and white.
Then Freddie Mercury opens a very large white door: it is the door of the world after the advent of music videos! Here the scenes are in color. Freddie stands in front of a giant clock and starts to move the hands back and forth.
Later we see the Queen performing without instruments in front of the audience who claps their hands. The public wears white worker’s overalls and follows Queen’s moves. The band was criticized for this performance, which recalls a dictatorial regime. In my opinion the message is this: the world today is no longer moved by politics but by music! This is also a great premonition of the future of Queen and their great success.
Other scenes show us of a family wearing gas respirators. While they are at the table, they open a book called “Favorite – Years” and from there the scenes of previous videos of Queen start.
At one point the scenes of the movie “Metropolis” intertwine with Queen: this is the moment when the robot is transformed into Maria… but instead of Maria’s face, Freddie’s face appears on the robot!
The video ends with the images of Metropolis collapsing under the workers’ revolution. Is this also a premonition of the Queen? Which world will collapse? The music one? That of politics? The social one?