Music History

Published on September 10th, 2017 | by Brent Chittenden

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52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations), Chapter 37: Wayne’s World

If you’ve been following along with the various chapters in this story you will notice that I have a rule that I try to adhere to when purchasing an album. That rule is that I try to like at least three tracks on an album before I ask for it as a gift or buy it.

When I ignore this rule there have been some mixed results. Some albums have been amazing, some have been okay. But in the case of this chapter’s album, I asked for the soundtrack due to one song and one song only. It was a purchase that added a band to my collection that I weirdly hadn’t heard of and began a path for my mom’s own fandom.

Music from the Motion Picture Wayne’s World.

The song was “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

To this day, it mystifies me that Queen were not featured artists in my house growing up. I’m sure I must have heard “We Will Rock You” or any of the songs featured in the film Highlander, but for the life of me, I can’t remember it. Until one day, I saw the trailer for Wayne’s World and fell in love with the idea that some band had combined operatic sensibilities with a kick ass guitar solo.

The first part of the story is rather simple as I liked the song enough to ask my mom to get it. My mom liked the song too so she bought it. She soon picked up Classic Queen, a recently released greatest hits collection. After The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert, Mom asked for and pretty much picked up most of Queen’s discography.

The most interesting thing about all of this is, I’m not the only person that discovered Queen via Wayne’s World.

A movie based off of a Saturday Night Live skit.

In fact, there’s a good chance that many young readers of this column may not have any idea what a Wayne’s World is but know who Queen is which is partially a result of that song being used in the soundtrack.

The soundtrack itself is a weird artifact stuck between periods in music. Beyond Queen, you had a Eric Clapton, The Jimi Hendrix Experience on the classic rock side of things. You had a few older acts like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath (Ronnie James Dio had just returned) that were in their 80’s/early 90’s sound. You had some 80’s hair metal with Cinderella and Rhino Bucket. And you had a few of the upcoming wave of alternative heavyweights with Red Hot Chili Peppers and (depending on the version you bought) Soundgarden. It’s weird to listen to the album now as the classic rockers don’t sound dated at all, Cinderella and Rhino Bucket are definitely dated and RHCP and Soundgarden still sound fresh.

As for Alice Cooper and Sabbath… it’s definitely during their 80’s period so they sound of that time but at the same time, it isn’t quite as dated as the hair metal sounds.

When’s Wayne’s World decided to use “Bohemian Rhapsody” they had no idea how fortuitous the timing was. Freddie Mercury passed away while the film was in post-production and rock radio had sort of forgotten about the band up until he had passed away. With his death, Queen began getting more airplay of rock radio stations but “Bohemian Rhapsody” was still ignored, in part due to it’s length.

And then Wayne’s World hits and everyone goes nuts for the song. And I’m not exaggerating here, due to an unprecedented increase in sales, it re-entered the Billboard charts 16 years after it had left them.

This came as a great thing for the surviving members of Queen. They were in the process of putting together an all-star concert for their fallen comrade. Everyone from Elton John to Guns n’ Roses to Spinal Tap were playing the show and it was all in an effort to raise money for AIDS research and awareness.

Weirdly, due to Wayne’s World, the band suddenly had a few more platforms to promote the show. A couple more talk shows would book them, a couple more award shows were giving them awards. All of these places where they can tell people about the concert and in turn, hopefully raising more money for charity.

On the personal side, Queen became a band that my Mom and I could talk about. Keep in mind, Nirvana had arrived months before this soundtrack had appeared with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and shortly there after I fell down the well into the well of 90’s alternative and industrial. My Mom was not a fan of Ministry or Nirvana or Pearl Jam. She didn’t quite get why I liked them, she probably still doesn’t.

But we both liked Queen. It was go-to music for car trips or at the cottage because we both liked them.

The good thing is, we still both like Queen. My appreciation for the band has grown much deeper as I’ve gotten older. I’m still amazed at not only how talented that band was but the sheer showmanship of Mercury. Their performance at Live Aid is a masterclass in how charisma and a good frontman can control a crowd.

I’m also amazed at how experimental Queen could be. They could go from operatic rock like “Bohemian Rhapsody” to electronic sort of stuff with “Body Language.” To modern hard rock of the day in songs like “Stone Cold Crazy” to Elvis-like material in “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” there wasn’t much this band couldn’t do.

And I discovered them due to a film based on a Saturday Night Live skit.




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About the Author

Brent Chittenden is a freelance writer with a gift for the geek. Currently a writer with A Journal Of Musical Things and a podcaster with True North Nerds, he's also written for Comic Book Daily, Explore Music and a dozen other places. Currently, he is the co-host of the True North Nerds podcast. You can find out more at www.facebook.com/bcchittenden


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One Response to 52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations), Chapter 37: Wayne’s World

  1. Derek Stein says:

    I’m quite surprised at this. I guess many people first found Queen through that soundtrack, but I was very well versed in their catalogue by then. It was actually around the time of Wayne’s World that I stopped listening to Classic Rock and started finding Alternative more my style. Queen probably would have been considered alt/rock in the 70’s if the genre was around then. Along with Bowie & Roxy Music, Queen gave us that reason to believe in something a bit off center. More abnormal, shall we say. Look no further than “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I’m sure many radio execs had their WTF faces on then. “How are we going to get this played”? Love it! Love the band” R.I.P. Freddie!

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