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23rd Dec 2019

BBC to dedicate tonight to Queen, featuring a behind-the-scenes documentary

Night sorted!

Paul Moore

An early Christmas present for Queen fans. It airs tonight.

While Netflix and Sky Atlantic (HBO) have cemented their reputations as the home of gripping true crime documentaries, you could argue that the best original music content has been aired by Sky Arts and BBC4.

In recent weeks, BBC4 has been showing Ken Burns’ excellent series on country music among other documentaries but this evening (23 December), they’re focusing on one of – if not the – greatest frontman of all time, Farrokh Bulsara.

Ok, we’ll admit that Freddie Mercury has a better sound to it but when it came to electrifying and captivating an audience, nobody did it better.

This is the time of year when we’re all deleting shows from our TV boxes in an effort to free up some recording space, but if you’re a fan of Queen, we suggest recording Queen: Rock The World and Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert when they air tonight on BBC4.

The behind-the-scenes archive documentary follows Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon as they record their sixth album, News of the World, and embark on a groundbreaking tour of North America.

By 1977, Queen had become a major headlining act in the UK, releasing chart-topping albums and singles as well as playing sell-out concerts in all the country’s major venues. However, they were facing an increasingly hostile music press, who had a new favourite in punk and had turned against the elaborate, multi-layered recording techniques that had become the hallmark of the band’s previous albums.

Queen remained unfazed because they had their sights set on greater things.

At the time, BBC music presenter Bob Harris was given exclusive and extensive access to the band to cover this period.

The documentary features interviews with all four band members as well as filming them at work in the studio as they were planning and rehearsing a North American tour. It then follows them on the road as they perform across the United States.

Curiously, the documentary that Harris set out to make was never completed and the footage lay unused in the archive. Coming full circle, this film is bookended by footage shot in the summer of 2017 as Brian May and Roger Taylor took Queen back to the US with Adam Lambert as lead singer.

Also on BBC4 tonight is a portrait of Queen in their pomp at their famous gig at at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on Christmas Eve, 1975.

The gig was the final one of their triumphant UK tour and it has since become a legendary event in Queen’s history.

Featuring stunning renditions of early hits ‘Keep Yourself Alive’, ‘Liar’ and ‘Now I’m Here’ alongside Brian May’s epic guitar showcase ‘Brighton Rock,’ a rip-roaring version of the then new ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and the crowd-pleasing ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley’, this hour-long concert shows Queen at an early peak and poised to conquer the world.

Queen: Rock The World starts at 10pm on BBC4 with Queen: The Legendary Concert airing on the same channel directly after at 11pm.