Queen Posts Cleaned-Up, Recovered Footage Of The Band Performing A Showstopping Cover Of Jail House Rock

Most touring bands prefer to end their shows not with a whimper but with a bang. An anthem that leaves the audience satiated but wanting more, an earworm for them to sing as they exit the venue as if entering the world anew, that’s what is needed. If you’ve already played all your suitable songs, play a cover. Hey Joe. Something by the Stones. Bash out a Spice Girls Cover. Play a Queen classic. Hang on a minute. Our first video is a song Queen regularly played to close their early shows.

What Queen song do you think they played? There are so many anthemic showstoppers in Queen’s repertoire, that it is hard to guess unless you really know your Queen setlists and bootlegs. Actually, before 1988 (when Queen started closing their sets with either We Will Rock You or We Are The Champions) there was a good chance that they would sign off with a cover of Jail House Rock, the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller rock ‘n roll classic associated with Elvis Presley. Let’s give it a listen.

This cleaned-up video of Queen covering Elvis was posted on the Queen YouTube page on 1 December 2023. The video made waves on social media and achieved over 100,000 views in 10 days. What immediately strikes the listener about the cover is Freddie Mercury’s singing. Mercury covered Jail House Rock in his school band, the Hectics. At times he’s so comfortable in the the song that he seems to channel Elvis. Mercury’s voice is pitched lower than usual and his diction is a little crisper

Elvis Presley was important to Freddie Mercury. It is accepted that Mercury wrote Crazy Little Thing Called Love in honour of Elvis in 1979, though he denied that his vocals on the song were based on Elvis’s singing. “My voice does sound a bit like Elvis Presley’s on Crazy Little Thing Called Love. That wasn’t something I was trying to do, naturally, it was pure coincidence. It’s all sung rather low, so then you soon come close to Elvis, especially with such a 50s-type song,” he said.

That was a fun, relaxed run-through of the Queen hit from Live at Rock Montreal,1981. Clearly, this wasn’t the last song of the set or they would have revved it up. As Roger Taylor has said of the days when Queen finished with the Elvis cover, “On Jailhouse Rock, we could go a bit mad…”. This has led some commentators to quip that Freddie took it at as a license to sing the concert finale in his PJs, in our first video.

What do Queen fans make of the recovered footage of Queen ending their encore with Jailhouse Rock at Hammersmith Odeon, London, on Christmas Eve in 1975? Valerie Dalby is emphatic “Best version of Jailhouse Rock ever !! Love you all, my beautiful Queen boys!” Debra Moore writes: “Love Queen. Love Elvis. Freddie’s vocals are fantastic!!” Bruce Gwynn enthuses, “What did I see and hear, that was frigging awesome! The tempo was great and of course the killer lead guitar work, amazing man just amazing!”

Speaking of Elvis’s influence on Queen in 2021, Brian May said: “I think it’s impossible to have been a kid at that time and not been influenced by Elvis. Freddie in particular though, of course. He was one of Freddie’s great heroes. For me, his guitarists were a great inspiration. Scotty Moore was one, James Burton the other. So, yeah, Elvis was definitely an influence.”

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