QUEEN CHANNELED ELVIS PRESLEY to earn its first No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which crowned the chart on Feb. 23, 1980.
The British quartet — Freddie Mercury, then 33; Brian May, 32; Roger Taylor, 30; and John Deacon, 28 — claimed hit albums in the 1970s with a blend of bold arena rock anthems, including 1978’s No. 4-peaking “We Will Rock You”/”We Are the Champions” and the positively baroque “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which hit No. 9.
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was a departure from the band’s trademark swagger, a rockabilly-style number in which Mercury crooned over an acoustic guitar. The song was “Freddie’s tribute to Elvis,” May told U.K. station Absolute Radio in 2011. “He was very fond of Elvis.”
In 1981, Mercury told Melody Maker magazine that he needed only “five or 10 minutes” to write “Crazy” in a bathtub in Munich. In a rare instance, he composed the tune on guitar, which he “couldn’t play for nuts … I couldn’t work through too many chords and, because of that restriction, I wrote a good song, I think.”
“Crazy” paved the way for a second Hot 100 No. 1 for Queen in 1980, “Another One Bites the Dust,” and the album that contained both singles, The Game, became the group’s only No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
The band continued to record regularly but stopped touring after 1986 due to Mercury’s deteriorating health. One day before his death on Nov. 24, 1991, the frontman confirmed long-standing rumors that he had contracted AIDS. The following year, the group returned to its highest Hot 100 rank since 1980 when “Bohemian Rhapsody” returned to the Hot 100 and flew to No. 2 after its use in a now-classic scene in the hit movie Wayne’s World.
Deacon retired in 1997, and after their own brief hiatus, May and Taylor have toured since 2005 with guest vocalists that have included Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert.
Queen’s legacy will next be commemorated in the film Bohemian Rhapsody, due in U.S. theaters on Dec. 25, 2018. The movie stars Rami Malik as Mercury and traces the band for a fifteen-year span, concluding with their famous performance at Live Aid in 1985.