This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #125: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen.
Farrokh Balsara was born in 1946 in the African principality of Zanzibar. As his childhood progressed, the region became politically unstable. Civil war erupted and the Sultan of Zanzibar was overthrown; paving the way for the creation of the country we now call Tanzania. Balsara’s family fled the fighting; heading first to India and then, a few years later, to England. By now, Farrokh was insisting that all who knew him call him “Freddie”. Once settled in England, Freddie Balsara led a life similar to that of many teenagers. He held a variety of odd jobs; such as baggage handler at Heathrow Airport and as a clerk in a retail store. In his spare time, he immersed himself in a new musical trend coming from the US called Rock n’ Roll. In particular, he was drawn to a charismatic singer named Elvis Presley, whose stage presence enchanted him. Balsara decided to try out for some local bands and, in doing so, met up with fellow music fans, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. Eventually, after playing with Deacon and Taylor in some small, local bands that achieved little success, the trio met up with guitarist, Brian May and, together, they decided to form a new band and name that band, Queen. It was with his new friends that Freddie adopted a new last name, “Mercury”, which came from the lyrics of a song he had written as a teen.
As we have stated previously in other posts, the band Queen achieved enormous success over the course of their careers. Freddie Mercury is, generally, regarded as one of the best (if not, THE best) frontman of all-time. His death due to complications from HIV and AIDS was a great loss that continues to be felt to this day. However, this post is not about the glory of the band, Queen. This post is about a song that pays tribute to two performers who helped shape the path that Freddie Mercury followed in becoming the iconic figure he became. It is a story of a song that, at first, some people thought was being sung by the ghost of Elvis. This is the story of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”.
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was written by Freddie Mercury for the album, “The Game”. It was written by Freddie Mercury on guitar, which was unusual for him because he did not, by his own admission, know how to play the guitar very well. But, while taking a bath in a German hotel one day, the chords to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” came to him so he jumped out of the tub, wrapped himself in a towel and worked the song out on an acoustic guitar that was in his room. He quickly got dressed and ran to share his tune with Taylor and Deacon and the three of them raced to the recording studio to record it. According to Mercury, the whole song was recorded in less than an hour. It was recorded in a rockabilly style because that was all Mercury could manage to play on the guitar. It was also felt that if they involved Brian May too early in the process that his superior guitar skills would have changed the nature of the song before it could stand on its own two legs, so to speak. So, the trio recorded “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and only presented May with a version that was, more or less, complete. His role then became adding his flourishes to the finished score which included a wonderful guitar solo just after the half way mark.
When “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was first heard on the radio, many people swore that it was Elvis singing the lead vocals. This pleased Mercury to no end because Elvis was one of the people who inspired him to create the song in the first place. It seems hard to believe that someone who commanded the stage as well as Mercury did, could have ever felt shy but, that was true of Freddie Mercury when Queen first started out. It was through his early experiences on stage, channeling the energy and presence of Elvis, that Mercury began to develop the self-confidence that helped shape his identity into what we know of him today.
The second person who inspired the writing of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was British singer, Cliff Richard. In 1958, Richard had a huge hit in the UK with a song called, “Move It”. For many in the UK, “Move It” was the first “American-style” Rock n’ Roll song. John Lennon has been quoted as saying that before Cliff Richard and “Move It” there was nothing on the BBC but mush. I will include a link to “Move It” below and, in it, you can clearly see why the press dubbed Richard as “The British Elvis”. He had a swagger and a stage presence that is obvious to anyone watching and listening. The song, “Move It” was constructed in a similar manner to Chuck Berry’s, “Roll Over Beethoven”, in that, it was a battle cry against, what Richards and other UK kids viewed, as the stodgy old music of the establishment at the time. In any case, it is Cliff Richards who is the answer to the trivia question: who is the biggest selling UK music artist of all-time? Richards has enjoyed a career that has seen him sell over 250 million albums (mostly in Europe and the UK) and have 67 Top Twenty singles in a career that still exists, over six decades later!
So, the story of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is, in essence, the story of how a young Farrokh Balsara from Zanzibar became the Freddie Mercury who was so adored by millions today. It is a tip of the hat to those who inspired him and who helped him establish the confidence to be the man he became. It is also, one of the very few Queen songs Mercury wrote with the guitar.
Without further delay, here are Queen with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Queen, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Move It” by Cliff Richard, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Cliff Richard, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.