The Queen of the Metropolis

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In January of 1984, British rock band Queen released the first single off of their latest album The Works; the song took the British charts by storm, but peaked at number two . . . that song was “Radio Gaga”!

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“Radio Gaga” was written by Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor in response to the rise of music videos, stating “That’s part of what the song’s about, really. The fact that they [music videos] seem to be taking over almost from the aural side, the visual side seems to be almost more important.” The song was originally going to be called “Radio Caca,” after Roger Taylor heard his son utter the words “radio ca-ca,” but that title was considered a bit too harsh.

queenradioThe music video, directed by David Mallet, features scenes from Fritz Lang‘s 1927 German expressionist science fiction film Metropolis. The band is seen in a car flying over the iconic city scape, and then rallying the oppressed working class of the city’s underworld. The inspiration for using Metropolis came from the release of the Giorgio Moroder‘s restored version of the film that same year and featured a sound track of contemporary rock music including Freddie Mercury’s solo song “Love Kills.” In exchange for Mercury’s song, Queen were granted the rights to use footage from it in their “Radio GaGa” video. However, Queen had to buy performance rights to the film from the communist East German government, which was the copyright holder at the time. At the end of the music video, the words “Thanks To Metropolis” appear.

The footage from Metropolis does not play a direct reference to the content of the song which expresses a deep nostalgia for the golden era of radio; the sequences with the World War II “Battle of Britain” family does the most to convey this theme. The flashbacks to past Queen music videos are somewhat ironic in that their music videos played a strong part in the popularity and rise of the music video, the concept against which “Radio Gaga” is being critical.

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Lady Gaga

“Radio Gaga” managed to serve two major purposes in addition to being a catchy song. In 1984, it help introduce a whole new audience to Fritz Lang’s classic silent film Metropolis, and decades later inspired the naming of performance art pop star Lady Gaga. There have been several cover versions of the song, the most shocking and amusing by Electric Six, but 31 years later (almost 32) the legend that is Freddie Mercury still manages to rock us like none other.


 

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