Many years ago, when we were poor students, a friend and I had an amazing idea for getting rich. We realised that the media was lazy and lacked imagination and that they seemed to have a set playlist for events/incidents/occasions which rarely varied. Whenever the Olympics or any kind of major sporting event that involved medals came around they would play Spandau Ballet’s Gold (see that hasn’t changed!), whenever somebody did something heroic it would be David Bowie’s We Could Be Heroes, anything car related and it was Madness’s Driving in My Car. You get the picture. Based on our deep knowledge of the music industry and how PRS worked (mainly based on watching About a Boy where Hugh Grant lived on the royalties generated by his dad’s massive Christmas hit!) we realised that there was a money making scheme to be had in writing a song that fitted in with a commonly occurring event and then reaping in the royalty cheques every time it was topical – brilliant!
If you looked at my bank balance today you would see that this plan never quite came to fruition. Had we been music students, or just people with any kind of musical talent, this may have been a very cunning plan. However we were art students and simply in it for the money. Lacking in any kind of song writing ability, or even any kind of motivation to do anything with the idea beyond talking about it in the pub over pints of snakebite and dreaming of making our millions, our plan floundered. Despite this I still think about it whenever the News churns out the usual songs for the usual stuff and it occurred to me that we weren’t the first to have this particular brainwave.
I have come to realise that one band in particular were masters at this. This band is a highly revered rock band, often cited as one of the UK’s, if not the world’s, greatest rock bands with an inspirational front man, a guitar legend and a back catalogue that the Rolling Stones would envy. Yet I put it to you that this iconic band were not in it for the purity of the music, the expression through lyric or to push boundaries in rock; they were running it as a business – cynically producing event related music to boost their long term income way beyond when their records fell out of the charts.
The band that stands accused before you is……. Queen. Yes, I know that this may be a shocking statement to make – how could anyone doubt the talent and genius of Freddie and his pals? Well I am not doubting that, if anything I am confirming that they were indeed inspired. They created not one, not two but a whole back catalogue of songs produced for lazy news bulletin producers, ad execs and The One Show to exploit. If there was a genre on iTunes called ‘Songs off of the telly’, Queen would dominate it. I would even go so far as to say they planned it from the start, after all Queen, royalties – coincidence? I think not.
Let me explain. Below is a list of regularly occurring stories and events for which Queen songs are automatically played.
|Winning||We Are The Champions|
|Losing||Another One Bites the Dust|
|Obesity||Fat Bottomed Girls|
|Stress / expectation||Under Pressure|
|Endeavour||Don’t Stop Me Now / The Show Must Go On|
|Friendship||Friends will be Friends / You’re my Best Friend|
|Achievement||I Want it All|
|Freedom||I Want to Break Free|
|Insanity||I’m Going Slightly Mad|
|Focus / teamwork||One Vision|
|Sport||Play the Game|
|Death||Who Wants to Live Forever|
|Radio||Radio Ga Ga|
|Magic||It’s a Kind of Magic|
|Lightning / storms||Flash|
Now don’t get me wrong; I am in no way disrespecting the talents of Queen as artists – I am in fact admiring their entrepreneurial spirit (and, truthfully, slightly bitter that they fulfilled the plan I could only dream of). I also like their vision (cue One Vision on the soundtrack) and their confidence at throwing in a few curveballs for those events less likely to happen but still possible such as Killer Queen for when Her Majesty finally snaps with Philip at one too many embarrassing gaffs and sets the corgis on him; and The Invisible Man for when Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility becomes a reality.
Meanwhile I still entertain the thought that I could make my fortune in this way; I’m currently working on what I anticipate to be a number 1 hit entitled ‘Double Dip Recession (the Economic Downturn Blues)’. Look out for it on Newsnight soon.