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The Queen/Brian May Stereo Cards Contest

Readers told us what their favorite Queen songs are, and five lucky entrants have won London Stereoscopic Company OWL Stereoscopes and Astro Stereo Cards signed by Ph.D. astrophysicist, Queen lead guitarist, and Astronomy Editorial Advisory Board member Brian May.
Astronomy magazine is pleased to announce the five winners of the Queen/Brian May Stereo Cards Contest: Guillermo Abramson, Sam Geden, Nancy Archer, Michael Wells, Jr., and Larry Russo. Entrants responded to the contest by sharing what their favorite Queen song is and why.

For their fantastic essays, each will receive an OWL Stereoscope from May's London Stereoscopic Company. Each viewer comes with signed OWL 3-D Stereo Cards, Astro Series 2, which offer 12 stunning views of astronomical subjects in three dimensions, from the Moon and the constellation Orion to Comet Lulin and Jupiter’s impact scars from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. You can read their entries below.

Guillermo Abramson

"In the year of '39 assembled here the Volunteers ..."

I always thought it was World War II, which began in '39. I fumble
through the booklet for the lyrics.

They sail away; they are brave — never looked back, never feared, never
cried. They must be soldiers. But suddenly ...

"In the year of '39 came a ship in from the blue. The Volunteers came
home that day ..."

How could I never notice! The ship descends from the sky the same year
of departure. That cannot be the war. "The Earth is old and grey" is
not a metaphor of war desolation. It's actually old! They return from
interstellar travel at light-speed, experiencing time dilation. And
there it is, plainly written:

"For so many years have gone though I'm older but a year ..."

"Your mother's eyes in your eyes cry to me." Never got that verse. Now
it's clear: The Volunteer meets her grownup granddaughter, tears in
her eyes that resemble her mother's. A sad note, perhaps her mother's
dead by now. A century has passed! They traveled far away in space,
but also traveled in time. They left a world, a life, behind.

Yet, there is life still ahead. They traveled to the future! Would I
volunteer? For a trip to the future?


"Pity me."

Sam Geden

My favorite Queen song is “Mother Love” — the last song Freddie ever sang and perhaps Queen’s most poignant song. In it, Freddie directly addresses his imminent death and sounds worn down, while paradoxically having a slight resilience to himself in the tone of his voice. The most emotionally powerful portion of the song is the bridge, where Freddie belts out — in what seems like long-held frustration and sorrow — that he doesn’t desire sympathy or pity but merely “just a safe place to hide,” wishing for peace in his final days. It is well-known that Freddie was hounded by the press in the years leading up to his death over speculation of AIDS, and it is clear in this song that Freddie has grown physically and emotionally weary of it. Brian’s portion of the song (which he sung because of Freddie’s inability to complete the song while he was alive) channels that emotional weariness and the desire to find peace; a vocal performance that is perhaps Brian’s best, emotionally. The song is ambient and self-aware, not hiding behind a metaphor like “The Show Must Go On.” For its beautiful poignancy and courage, it is my favorite Queen song.

Nancy Archer

Out of the many great Queen songs, my favorite is “Somebody to Love.” When I think of Freddie Mercury’s life story, I feel like this song shares his desire to find love in this world. The song resonates with all people in the world. Along with the personal message, the song itself has such a massive sound. The beginning piano section gives me a thrill. The vocal depth, due to the rich harmonies, then gives the song a classic Queen feel, and I love that so much. The guitar solo in the middle gives Brian a chance to shine while the part with the repeating “find me somebody to love” has a great pulse from the drums. The vocals soar and inspire. The vocal runs and high notes are the crowning glory of the songs. The song has it all in one, and in my mind can’t be beat. I feel a strong connection thanks to more recent events as well. My kids also love Queen, and my daughter likes to sing this song after hearing it in Ella Enchanted. I am also a huge fan of F.U.N. Hearing Nate Ruess sing it with Queen brought tears to my eyes.

Michael Wells, Jr.

It’s not easy to name a “favorite” song by Queen. They never made a bad one. I was a kid during Queen’s heyday of the ’70s, but by the time I was in college, Freddie Mercury had just passed away, and I was a devoted fan of their music. I guess “Play the Game” would have to be my favorite song by Queen. This comes from their landmark 1980 album, “The Game.” Of all the music Queen made, I believe the lyrics to this one to be the most meaningful. The phrase “This is your life, don’t play hard to get,” is not just about romance. I believe they are trying to say something along the lines of take a chance in life and do what you want. You may not get another chance. Another line, “It’s a free world,” I believe is another message that we all have free will to make our own decisions in life and follow the path we choose. I’ve always thought that Queen was stating that if we throw that choice away, it would become lost.

I base some of my thoughts off the fact that Freddie Mercury lived his life to the fullest, never looking back. While some of his choices may have led to his own destruction, he could have never known that at the time. The fact that Brian May went back to finish his Ph.D. after so many successful years as a musician shows that he may have understood the same messages in the song “Play the “Game.”

I’m sad to see that powerful lyrics seem to be disappearing from modern mainstream music. Most young people can’t even tell you the lyrics of the songs they listen to. Even if they can, the lyrics certainly have no meaning to them. It seems as if people today have no emotional connection to the music they listen to. Queen seems to be one of the few “old” groups that young people at least recognize. This may be due to the powerful lyrics of their music. I’ve met a few members of Gen Y who are familiar with Brian May and consider him to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Many of today’s “alternative style” groups consider Queen to be their inspiration. Maybe there is still hope! Again, “Play the Game” is my favorite. The powerful lyrics and deep meaning push it over the edge. The awesome guitar on the song by Brian May definitely helps give it the top spot as well!

Larry Russo

Because of technology and history, Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga” resonates with me over the past 25–30 years, especially when you add the MTV music video layer meaning behind another song, " Video Killed the Radio Star," which story verse applies against the Queen’s verse "Radio – Everyone still loves you" lyrics — all the ironic twists apply at many levels of double meaning. It’s a great anti-technology–pro-technology love song. I don’t know how else to describe it, but cheers to Queen for the foresight back then to see the effect of radio now — in all it’s incarnations.

On top of the great writing, the song employs classic images of the future, made in the past — Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1928 visionary look into a utopian society gone horribly wrong unless the head and the hand work together with the heart. Amazing concept far ahead of the time – Queen sails through the movie on a flying car spreading the word of “Old Time Stars” and “Invaders from Mars”(another future foreshadowing of the War of the Worlds, which in Metropolis has not occurred yet, even though it’s set way into the future). How totally ironic and artistically wonderful – blows my mind every time. I am an astronomer and artist. I teach both vocations, and I apply my studies in everyday practice.

So, my answer for favorite Queen song (and I do love them all) is “Radio Ga Ga” for it’s nostalgic look back and ahead in time, it’s prediction of technology being disposable in the future, and it’s history embedded in a past generation that grew up only knowing radio as the medium to imagine the future with. Fantastic in any period of time.

Additionally, radio crosses all boundaries via radio astronomy, and I know that when all other media comes and goes, radio will still be the one. Its time will come, enabling us to communicate with intelligence discovered in the cosmos.




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