Register Thursday | June 27 | 2019

God Save My Queen

Rock-poetry inspired by a 20-year obsession with the band Queen

The following are excerpts from God Save My Queen, a book I wrote about the author’s twenty-plus-year obsession with the rock band Queen. Nester wrote the first draft of this book listening to all the band’s albums in order of release on headphones, offering commentary to each song. “I put up all my old Queen posters in my writing room. You could say things got a little out of hand.”

Bohemian Rhapsody

As if in my own benediction ceremony, I would lay out all of the Queen albums, flush next to each other, in order of release, on my bedroom floor. The 45s from each album would lay on top of them, in the lower right-hand corner, also in order of release, from bottom to top.

I would then stand in front of this, drinking a wine cooler, as if I were Noah in the ten commandments movie, [1] congratulating myself, clasping my arms behind my back, as if this was my ark, my own creation; that I had, as if through my sheer accumulation and arrangement of these objects, some part of creating them.

Actually, back then, I am sure that I thought I had created them, at least in the form of the configuration I was looking at, and the Bartles & Jaymes tasted sweet going down my throat, and with my room clean and vacuumed, I would lie on my bed, jerking off. [2]

1 The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956).

2 London—Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” topped a British poll of the greatest songs of the last 50 years. John Lennon’s “Imagine” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” took second and third places, respectively, with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” in fourth place, and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” in the fifth spot. (Source: BBC News.)

Long Away

It was around this time I realized I might have been smarter than my father. [1] Once, sophomore year of college, I sent him a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow and he sent me a Jennings .22-caliber pistol.

“No white man should live in Camden unarmed,” he wrote. “If you need to use it, God forbid, call me collect, and I’ll send you another one.” Can this be the man who set up a telescope one summer so we could look up to the stars?

I didn’t understand the sky charts. He didn’t understand the book. [2]

1 Members, South Jersey chapter of Mensa, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 107, Pennsauken, NJ. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden campus.

2   Returned dented up to around page 112 (Viking third edition), the part where writer Thomas Pynchon reveals “it was all just Slothrop’s fuckin’ dream.”

Drowse

Let us speak of Dudley Moore now, [1] and, before he dies, celebrate him. The coming-of-age Good Bad Boy. I believe anything is wise with a lap steel, [2] the studio control Roger must have had, gnome-like, as they played.

Roger’s outro mentions Clint Eastwood, and last night, I was saying we should bring back the Monkey and Hero Format. What I mean is, sometimes we need another countenance to reflect our inner world. Play pool. Cry. Fight.

Small-town boys. Short men laughing. Outdoors with Beatle fans. [3]

1 Dudley Moore (1935-2002).

2 Larry Lurex (Freddie, Brian, Roger), “I Can Hear Music” (Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector), B-side of “Goin’ Back” (uncredited on record, Gerry Goffin and Carole King), (Anthem, 1973).

Referred to in the literature as covers of the Beach Boys and Dusty Springfield, respectively.

3  Every Which Way But Loose (James Fargo, 1978).

Mustapha

What comes through is that do-anything attitude. He’s simply untranslatable,

he’s sculpting fake Parsi, brow wiped down by servants. Purchase Tiffany,

purchase a koi pond. Where is your body? Where is your mind, Mustapha Ibrahim?

The pidgin controversy lingers. Nonsense, says another. [1] I like how those Canadians just went mad for the tune, chanting. And the reaction? To sing the introduction. Elvis recording practices.

Freddie Mercury—The Untold Story [2] begins in Madagascar. This is the B-roll background.

1 Mustapha Ibrahim, hey, gosh, blimey, by golly, peace be upon you, you’re a helluva guy, upon you be peace, you great man, man of Mohammed.—rough translations posted on internet (http://www.pemcom.demon.co.uk/queen/jazz/mustapha.trn.html) Mark Lamki, c. 1998.

Who is Mustapha Ibrahim? “Mustapha Ibrahim is just a name Freddie chose for his song. It’s not a real person.” —Richard Orchard, Queenzone.com.

2 Freddie Mercury: The Solo Collection (Rudy Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher, 2000).

HOT SPACE [1]

1 “How much better off is the philosopher,” William James writes in “The Sentiment of Rationality,” “when he has got his system than he was before it?” 

I’ve retained my eighth-grade journal, from 1981–1982. As I page through the entries, I look for hints to the beginning of my obsession with Queen. I’m distracted by other plot points of my life.

January 20, 1982: Father laid off from truck driving job. I’m worried about how we’re going to pay the bills. “I’ll work one more day at the school,” I write. I’m referring to my first job at Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary, where I’m vacuuming classrooms at $1.50 an hour.

And I constantly invoke the merits of “solitude,” which means I am spending too much time in my room. And it looks like I’m paying the price.

“Maybe I’m outright paranoid,” I confide on May 22, 1982 (part II), “but people are starting to treat me like an outsider.” 

This entry was written two days after I bought Hot Space, the day it was released.