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The iconic 80s music video MTV banned for showing drag-Pierra Willix-Entertainment – Metro

One of the band members said the snub caused ‘lasting damage’.

The iconic 80s music video MTV banned for showing drag-Pierra Willix-Entertainment – Metro

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It might be one of Queen’s most recognisable songs, but homophobia at the time of the release of I Want to Break Free ‘caused lasting damage’.

Released in 1984, the song from the British rock band was written by bassist John Deacon and appeared on the album The Works.

Although the song was massively popular, its accompanying music video faced some backlash due to the fact it showed the musicians dressing in drag.

The concept for the clip came from drummer Roger Taylor, who had the idea of parodying the long-running ITV soap opera Coronation Street.

In the video the four men dressed as female characters from the show, with Roger as Suzie Birchall, Brian May as Hilda Odgen, Freddie Mercury as Bet Lynch and John as Ena Sharples.

Although the music video was celebrated in the United Kingdom, it was far from the case in the United States.

Queen members have spoken about MTV banning one of their music videos in the 1980s (Picture: YouTube)

Instead, it was banned by MTV, with the song only reaching number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

This was despite the fact it soared to number three in the UK and was certified double platinum with over 1,200,000 copies sold.

Reflecting on the fallout, Brian and Roger have spoken to current frontman Adam Lambert about what happened at the time in the new ITV documentary Out Loud and Proud, which explores the experiences of gay performers in the music industry.

Roger Taylor and Brian May said the decision was a clear indicator of homophobia (Picture: ITV)

Speaking to his bandmates, Adam asked them about whether they witnessed any homophobia being directed at their frontman, who was gay, at the height of their fame.

‘The most obvious thing was MTV not playing the video I Want to Break Free,’ Roger said.

‘It was a joke and meant to be a parody of a very famous soap opera in the UK.

I Want to Break Free showed the band members in drag as part of a parody of Coronation Street (Picture: YouTube)

‘We were dressed as women which I thought was hilarious and I just remember laughing all day. I shaved one leg to get the stockings on and it was so much bother I couldn’t be assed to shave the other. It caused lasting damage.’

Brian then said they struggled to regain their popularity in the US after that decision.

‘There was a whole sequence of hits which were massive around the world that were not in the States,’ he recalled.

Roger said Mercury ‘didn’t want to tour in America’ after the video ban (Picture: PA)

‘We didn’t get a hit in the States until Freddie was gone. I remember he said, “we won’t get a hit in the States until I die”.’

Roger then shared their late frontman, who died from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS in 1991, felt ostracised for years after.

‘He didn’t want to tour in America. It was beautiful for a moment and then it wasn’t,’ he said of the lasting impact of the snub.

In a 2010 interview, Roger called MTV ‘very narrow minded’.

The singer died in 1991 following complications from AIDS (Picture: Richard Young/ Sotheby’s)

‘They decided they didn’t think that men in drag was “rock” enough, I guess. So they didn’t play the video,’ he told NPR’s Fresh Air.

He also remembered touring in the Midwest of America at the time and witnessing people’s faces ‘turning ashen’ when the band wanted to play the single.

‘They would say, no, we can’t play this. We can’t possibly play this. You know, it looks homosexual… I know that it really damaged our sort of whole relationship with certainly radio in this country and probably the public as well,’ he said.

The musician added it was a ‘tragedy because so many of our hits would have fitted very well into the life of the States’.

Adam Lambert: Out, Loud & Proud is streaming on ITVX.

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