In rock'n'roll, death has traditionally been good for business. From Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain, music's highways and byways are littered with artists who left much too early, only for entire industries to grow around their legacies.
This year was no different. With Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody the most successful music bio-pic ever produced, it seemed that Freddie Mercury became a bigger name 27 after his tragic demise than he was when alive and well and strutting the stage.
Classic Rock's 10 most-read features of 2018 reflect this: four of our 10 most popular stories are Queen-related, while our biggest feature focused on the Freddie behind the legend.
Elsewhere, there's a whimsical, not-entirely-serious look at the apparent bass-playing vacancy in AC/DC; a feature that's been popular since it was first published nearly four years ago; and – at number eight – a piece we would never have predicted would appear amongst our most widely-read articles of 2018.
Happy New Year.
10. If AC/DC are back in the studio, who's on bass?
In a year when AC/DC appeared to return to the studio, with both Brian Johnson and Phil Rudd seemingly returning to the fold, we wondered about the bass player. With no official confirmation nor unofficial sightings, who could it be? We examined the runners and riders.
9. 10 obscure but brilliant 1970s bands who should have been huge
They came, they rocked, they vanished without trace. The 1970s was when rock grew up, when bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult bestrode the globe like musical colossi. But there were plenty of who never had the impact they deserved, who never got to travel by private jet or soundcheck in a stadium. Here were ten great bands who missed out.
8. Manfred Mann's Earth Band: the story behind Blinded By The Light
“I made a list of three or four songs that I thought could make singles, and Blinded... was at the bottom,” says Manfred Mann. “Even when I got round to it I didn’t really see it.” Written by Bruce Springsteen, the song eventually hit number one in America despite – or maybe because of – some controversy over the lyrics.
7. Alice In Chains: the story behind Rooster
“I’ve been all around the world,” says Alice In Chains founder Jerry Cantrell, “and I’ve talked to combat vets from Desert Storm and the recent war in Iraq – and they have a deep affinity with that song. I just recently got a letter from a guy in Iraq who told me his unit had changed their call sign to Rooster. Obviously it’s unfortunate that guys still have to fight for political ends. But it’s cool that people connect with that song; for it to be part of them getting through.”
6. Queen albums, ranked from worst to best
Brilliant, flamboyant and preposterous, Queen lit up the 70s and 80s and remain a juggernaut today, with a catalogue frothing with songs which have become signposts for successive generations. Here are their 15 studio albums, covering two decades, ranked from worst to best.
5. Queen at Live Aid: the real story of how one band made rock history
The 17 minutes Queen spent on stage at Wembley Stadium in July 1985 were 17 minutes which would both make rock history and transform the band for good. Though they'd enjoyed continued success with their platinum-selling 11th album The Works in 1984, as the mid-80s beckoned, frontman Freddie Mercury found himself disillusioned and searching for something new.
4. The 50 Best Rock Albums Ever
When we asked people to vote for their favourite ever rock album, we didn't restrict the options to a pre-defined list of titles we'd come up with over pints in the pub. You could add any album you liked. A slew of old favourites popped up when we compiled the results, but there were a few surprises too, albums we probably wouldn't have assumed would make to Top 50. And it's made the results a lot more interesting.
3. The 50 best Queen songs of all time
From the Baroque-tinged hard rock that formed the bedrock of Queen's sound, to their explorations in funk, prog, opera and pretty well everything in between, when it came to their creativity nothing was off limits. That such an eclectic range of influences and passions were put through the Queen grinder and came out sounding like no other band is just one of the factors that have made them such an enduring and widely-loved proposition. Once again, this was a feature compiled by our readers.
2. The 40 Greatest Power Ballads Playlist
What is a power ballad? In its purest, most drenched? Hyper-emotional? Agonising? In short: it’s a ballad with power. And you’d have thought compiling a list of the Top 40 power ballads of all time would’ve been easy. You'd be wrong: the sessions we had to put this together almost led to fisticuffs, but it's clearly been worth it: this feature has been hovering around the top of our most-read articles since it was first published in February 2015.
1. 10 peculiar facts you might not know about Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury died on November 24 1991, aged just 45, and took most of his secrets to the grave. But this notoriously private man left his mark on most people that met and knew him: from his fellow art students in the 1960s to his bandmates in Queen and other rock stars in the 70s and 80s. So we presented 10 lesser-known Freddie titbits to quench any thirst for Mercury knowledge.