A Crowning Year for Queen; More Than a Decade after Freddie Mercury's Death, Queen Goes on and on. Is This Band Immortal? (Music)

Article excerpt

This year was Queen's jubilee--and we're not just talking about Queen Elizabeth II. In 2002 the legendary British musical act Queen continued to reign, even though the band effectively ceased to exist on November 24, 1991, when front man Freddie Mercury succumbed to AIDS complications.

These days surviving members Roger Taylor, Brian May, and John Deacon ably carry the torch--along with any number of testosterone-bursting heterosexuals who regularly stomp along to the refrain "We will rock you" at sporting events.

"One may not realize Queen is all around, but it is so all around," opines Stephin Merritt, puckish New York musician and closet Queen fan. "I was just reading a book in which all cassettes left in cars turn into Queen's Greatest Hits in two weeks, which is so true to my life experience. If it's not labeled, it's probably Queen's Greatest Hits."

This year the champions' presence practically spanned the media: A musical based on their songs had audiences staging. The band received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. A concert tribute to Mercury just came out on DVD. And, yes, Queen took part in that other British queen's jubilee pop concert.

What's the band's enduring appeal? Sheer virtuosity, for one thing. Queen's swoony, soaring sound is as thrilling today as when the songs were recorded. And Mercury's obvious, though never admitted, homosexuality also added spice to the mix. "Having a flamboyant gay front person allowed them to do all kinds of absurdly sexual music," says Merritt. "Queen was a triple entendre name. Whatever the name means, it ends up being interestingly sexual. …