The big selling point of “Days of Our Lives,” the exhaustive two-hour BBC documentary on epic rock quartet Queen, is the material culled from the band’s very early days and their very last days. There are live performances from Smile, the group guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor formed before Queen, and some video of future singer Fredde Mercury singing “Big Spender.” The later footage, shot on the sets of the last music videos Mercury would perform, his body slowly but surely being ravaged by AIDS, are at once heart-warming and devastating. Mercury was positively gaunt, yet he gathered every ounce of will he could muster to go out fighting.
May and Taylor are wonderfully candid in their interviews, as are fellow managers, producers, roadies, and side men they recruited. (They even brought in Ultravox’s Midge Ure to talk about the band’s legendary performance at Live Aid.) Everyone has good stories to tell, and there are no attempts at revisionist history. If an album didn’t work – say, 1982’s Hot Space – they own up to it, and May is the first to admit that some bad business decisions early on led rendered them financially destitute for years, and it was out of desperation from that that they made A Night at the Opera. Best of all, each album is given an equal amount of coverage, with the exception of the soundtrack to “Flash Gordon,” of which the title track is played but never discussed.
The one unfortunate aspect of “Days of Our Lives” is that bassist John Deacon did not come back to do an interview, so the producers were forced to rely on archive interview footage for half the band. Yes, he’s retired from performing, but this seems like as good an occasion as any to put the Queen hat back on for a day and talk shop. It’s a small quibble, though, because the documentary hits all of the highlights of a truly remarkable career…with one small exception: there is no mention of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene from “Wayne’s World.” We would have loved to see them talk about that. (Eagle Vision 2012)