Video Breakdown: Queen – I Want To Break Free
A scene-by-scene guide to one of Queen's most iconic videos
This David Mallett-produced video for Queen's 1984 single cost an estimated £100,000 to make. It featured the band dressed as a family of women in a cramped terraced house, a ballet sequence, miners and an old knackered Hoover. It had all the ingredients of a mundane kitchen sink drama, yet it quickly became one of the band's most iconic promos. MTV took exception to the clip – probably dressing in drag – and banned it from being shown in North America.
Here then, is one of the greatest music videos ever made, scene by scene…
The video begins with a wide shot of chimney pots and terraced streets. It’s a blatant nod to the long-running ITV drama Coronation Street. But there's no sign of that ginger cat in the opening credits. A quick Google reveals that the cat's true identity was never known. It's probably dead now.
Remember when everyone in the 80s had a teasmade? They were basically a kettle with an alarm clock stuck on the side. And its bedside light was so bright, they could blind a pilot, if memory serves. Here, the teasmade looks like it's going to explode and shower everyone with refreshing hot water.
Brian May looks groggy. He's dressed as a dowdy middle-aged woman. Keep an eye out for the bunny slippers in a moment’s time. They look more comfy than those clogs he seems to enjoy.
Here’s the most iconic use of a vacuum cleaner in any rock video, ever. It’s a 1950 Hoover 119 Junior, if you’re bothered. You had to push these bastards around with a fair degree of effort. None of these lightweight, convenient machines that gently purr like a cat who's just won a hedge brawl.
Who's pushing the Hoover? It’s Freddie Mercury, dressed as a pointy-chested, glamorous housewife.
The camera cuts to John Deacon, playing a grandmother with the sort of glare reserved for people who really like boxing or indiscriminate attacks in crowded village pubs. Don't mess with Granny Deacon.
We’re guessing that Freddie is not happy with his lot in this video. Vacuuming around a miserable old woman in a cramped terraced house is not the stuff dreams are made of. Unless you harbour a niche ambition to do exactly that.
The video keeps cutting to a young student who seems to be washing up at the kitchen sink.
Why, it’s Roger Taylor who’s dressed up as a teenage schoolgirl. Shocking. When was the last time you saw a teenager lift a finger around the house?
Freddie opens the door to the cupboard under the stairs. It appears to be a portal to another universe.
It’s Freddie again, surrounded by his bandmates, singing in a room illuminated by miner’s pit helmet torches. Freddie throws in one of his sweeping victory punches. Was this a nod of solidarity towards the miners who went on strike the previous month?
Freddie starts dancing and singing in a coal shaft, probably breaking all sorts of health and safety regulations. The miners were a bit tied up at the time to deal with such matters.
A white box explodes to reveal a moustache-free Mercury sitting on top of a pile of bodies, playing a horn. He's got pointy ears as well. We've got no idea what's going on right now. Did the put upon housewife secretly want to be some sort of faun in a ballet production?
Freddie Mercury eats grapes in the way only a rock star would. We're talking several at a time. Hope they're the seedless ones.
This how people crowdsurf at the Royal Ballet.
He's now dusting the bannisters. Thorough.
The miners are starting to jiggle about now. It’s like they’re acting a bit pissed or doing an interpretative dance about Margaret Thatcher.
The video begins to fade to black. Will the housewife version of Freddie ever fulfil his dream of doing something different other than vacuum around John Deacon's feet? That's for us to imagine. We'd like to think so.
What did we learn from I Want To Break Free?
Freddie probably didn't clean his own house, if the vacuuming-then-dusting method is anything to go by. Disappointing.