In the summer of 1989, I made a decision that I would ultimately very much regret.
At the time, of course, It didn‘t seem the least bit significant.
I was just a 15-year-old kid on vacation with my family in Washington D.C. In the typical touristy tradition, we spent a week hitting all the normal historic hotspots — Mt. Vernon, the museums of the Smithsonian, Arlington National Cemetery, every monument ever created and various other important places named after important people which have long since vanished from my memory.
On the final day of the trip, I found myself standing in the music section of a local store. I had a $20 bill in my pocket and a CD in each hand.
With only enough cash to purchase one disc, I spent the better part of an hour trying to choose.
The two selections were amazingly dissimilar — the sophomore release from a pop-metal band with a terrifically cliché name and the latest album from rock’s most regal artist of all time, which featured fascinating (and incredibly bizarre) artwork on the cover.
In the end, it took a stern prompting from my parents to get me to put one CD back on the rack and proceed to the checkout line.
The album I left on the shelf I would own later in life and it would find a special, almost sacred place in my music collection.
The disc I took back with me to my home in Virginia Beach faded into obscurity relatively quickly, along with the band which recorded it.
I made a poor choice. I know that now.
But at that moment, “In Your Face” by the band Kingdom Come seemed much more interesting to me than “The Miracle” by Queen.
Seems so odd to say that, even almost three decades later.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing Kingdom Come.
Not at all.
I’ve always been a fan and I listened to “In Your Face” just a couple of days ago. It’s a solid album from a good (if not quite great) band that was absolutely unfairly labeled as a Led Zeppelin rip-off.
The reason I consider that decision to be somewhat tragic is that I missed an opportunity to explore the amazing catalogue of perhaps the greatest band in rock history.
I didn’t own a Queen album at that time. I knew plenty of their tunes, of course, just like anyone else who grew up on rock radio or ever went to a professional sports event.
That just wasn’t what I was into at that time.
I grew up listening to what has, unfortunately, become known as hair metal. Poison, Dokken, Warrant, Cinderella, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, BulletBoys, Tesla, Winger, Skid Row and Def Leppard were the bands that delivered the unforgettably cool (and yes, kind of cheesy) soundtrack for my teenage years.
It wouldn’t take that long, however, for Queen to come into my life again.
The renewed popularity of “Bohemian Rhapsody” following the release of the movie “Wayne’s World” grabbed my attention.
I wanted to hear more.
So, I purchased “Classic Queen” (aka, the Blue Album).
I was hooked.
I loved all 17 tracks. I couldn’t get enough.
I bought “Queen’s Greatest Hits” (aka, the Red Album).
Still, that wasn’t enough.
By the time I left for college in 1995, I owned almost every studio album the band had ever recorded. The ones I didn’t have — including “The Miracle” — I acquired shortly after I arrived at school.
I think I listened to almost nothing but Queen for the next few years,
“The Miracle” was one of the CDs that I played almost constantly and “I Want It All” — which featured the heavy, driving drums of Roger Taylor and the squealing guitar of Brian May — was one of those songs that always tested the limits of my speakers.
“The Miracle,” “Breakthru,” “Was It All Worth It,” “The Invisible Man” and “Scandal.”
All great songs for a great album.
Sadly, my new-found love affair was very much bittersweet. I had discovered all this wonderful music after the death of Freddie Mercury.
And even though Hollywood Records would repackage the band’s catalogue and release just about anything that had never been made available commercially, there was no more music.
Queen was gone.
Meanwhile, mostly in Europe, Lenny Wolf and a rotating cast of characters continue to record music, tour and have success as Kingdom Come.
They live on to this day.
And they still make good (if not quite great) music.
Queen’s music never died, though.
Two years ago, the band enjoyed an incredible rebirth with the release of the bio-pic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The entertaining — yet highly fictionalized — movie brought the wonderful music of Queen back to life and introduced new generations to the band.
My teenage daughter, Hannah, has heard all those songs almost since birth.
I’m proud to say she loves the band, too.
Almost as much as I do.
That’s something I never could have imagined when I was 15 years old, standing there with a CD in each hand.
The connection I share with my daughter through that music is something that’s hard for me to express in words.
Seeing her wear a Queen shirt brings more joy than almost anything else in the world.
She’s 15 now.
Just like I was in the summer of 1989.
All these years later, the words and music no longer come from a compact disc. They appear magically from an app on a phone.
It’s still the same songs, though.
Still the same meaning.
Still the same connection.
And that’s really nothing short of, well, of course, a miracle.