Pop Goes The Movies: FLASH - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Pop Goes The Movies: FLASH

Just a man with a man's courage...
The movies and music go hand in hand. After all, the original moving pictures from 100 years ago were often projected to a musical accompaniment that was either played live by an organist or, eventually, synced with one of those new-fangled 78rpm discs. As technology improved, composers were hired to score cinematic features. Musical movies of the 1930s and 40s had accompanying recorded discs to enjoy at home. Then, as the charts exploded with pop music in the 1950s, crossover single hits began to emerge, and the pop stars of the day - like Elvis Presely - took full advantage of moving pictures, meaning their songs featured in both the film and on the radio. As they were often performed in full as part of the film, this gave us, in hindsight, the first sorta music videos to ever exist.

After the musical made a comeback in the 1970s, thanks in part to the glory days of disco, the charts were set alight again with never ending hits from films like Saturday Night Fever and Grease, but arguably the crossover hit was used to maximum effect in the 1980s. Songs were often as big as the film itself. Take, for example, Back to the Future and The Power of Love, Top Gun and Take My Breath Away, Ghostbusters and, er, Ghostbusters. The movie and hit song are forever linked. In the form of the latter, it's hard to even mention the film title without doing so in song or adding "Who you gonna call?"

Of course, not every time a song was featured in a hit film did it equate to a hit single, and the same is true vice-versa. Remember the Michael McDonald song Sweet Freedom? Of course you do! Remember the film Running Scared? Anyone? Anyone? Nope, probably not. But today we're looking back at one which absolutely goes hand in hand with the film it was recorded for, thanks in no small part to the genius decision to sample many lines of the movie's script. That song is Flash, from the 1980 film Flash Gordon, written and recorded by Queen...

Just like Ghostbusters the movie and Ghostbusters the single, it's hard to even think of the 1980 Flash Gordon film without referencing something from the hit single by Queen.

The band had been offered movies before but had always declined. However, when approached to record the soundtrack for this feature film it was the sci-fi element that swung it for them. Queen's official website remembers of their maiden voyage into cinema that,
"The band was first approached in 1979, and as writing film music was something they had all thought about but had not yet got around to, their Manager arranged a meeting with [film producer] Dino De Laurentiis and mentioned Queen’s interest in scoring the film.

Rumour has it that De Laurentiis’ first reaction was simply, “Who are the Queens?” They were, as it turned out, the first rock band he had ever listened to, and the outcome was that the band was commissioned to write the music for the movie."
And they didn't just head into the studio to record a theme tune either, oh no! Queen scored the entire movie and released all 18 tracks on their 9th studio album - unsurprisingly titled Flash Gordon (Original Soundtrack).
The majority of that soundtrack album was recorded in the first half of 1980, from screenplay elements and rough-cuts of certain film scenes, but for the title track Queen had the movie in it's entirety for inspiration. They went in to the studio in October 1980 and soon came up with a novel idea, as the band's drummer Roger Taylor explained.
"The album was totally under our control and it was our idea to put dialogue on the album. That wasn’t the original idea [but] we thought we’d get little snippets to give some idea of what was happening in the film and some atmosphere of the story."
Gordon's alive! Just think, had Queen not come up with the idea of inserting quotes from the film would phrases like that or "Flash, Flash, I love you. But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth" have seeped into modern day pop culture? Probably not.

Titled "Flash's Theme" on the album, but released as a single under the title "Flash", it was one of only two songs on the soundtrack album to feature vocals. They were sung as a duet between Freddie Mercury and Brian May, with Roger Taylor adding the high harmonies. During the recording session, May played all of the instruments except for the rhythm section. He used an Imperial Bösendorfer Grand Piano (with 97 keys instead of 88, having an extra octave on the low range), Oberheim OBX synth (which he plays in the video) and his homemade Red Special electric guitar.

The movie debuted in December 1980, two weeks after the single Flash was released, peaking at #10 on the UK chart, #42 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #3 in Germany and #1 in Austria. The movie itself didn't perform quite as well, despite now achieving something of a cult status at the time it was panned in many territories and performed poorly outside of the UK and Italy. That didn't stop Queen from including the track within many of their live shows from here on out...

Queen would return to the movies to score the 1985 film Highlander, but that's a different Pop Goes The Movies for another day.

Check out all our Pop Goes The Movies articles here.

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