This Day in Music Spotlight: Queen Rock Eastern Bloc
When the Magic Tour, as it was called, began in Stockholm in June 1986, no one knew that this would be the last go-around for world conquerors Queen. The band had, by this point, reached a legendary status, particularly after stealing the show at Live Aid the year before. Now powered by a bevy of instant-classic material from the brand-new A Kind of Magic album, including the title track, “One Vision” and the Highlander heart-tugger, “Who Wants to Live Forever,” the band hit the road for a 26-date stadium tour across Europe. Over the course of the tour, Queen played to over one million people, making it their biggest tour ever.
Sandwiched between the somewhat benign destinations of Vienna, Austria and Fréjus, France was a rather intriguing and intimidating date in Budapest, Hungary. The world was a very different place in 1986. This wasn’t the quaint, Old World treasure of a Rick Steves travelogue. Budapest was firmly entrenched behind the Iron Curtain of Soviet control. Very few Western acts had managed to convince the authorities/authoritarians that they should be allowed to play, though Dire Straits and Elton John had managed to sneak in somehow. The Queen show, though, was much larger in scale. The band were fully prepared to lose money on the venture, but that wasn’t the point. Roger Taylor told the press that they were doing it for “a tremendous feeling of job satisfaction.”
The show itself went over like gangbusters, with the Hungarian fans in fine voice. The show opened, as it did for the rest of the tour, with “One Vision” and “Tie Your Mother Down.” The performance did depart from the expected when Freddie Mercury and Brian May played the Hungarian folksong, “Tavaszi Szél Vizet Áraszt.” The crowd was clearly moved by the gesture. Soon after, Freddie gushed, “I’m over the moon.”
The show concluded with “We Are the Champions” doing its familiar dissolve into “God Save the Queen.” The crowd was ecstatic and spent. Brian May was heard to utter, “It was the band’s most challenging and exhilarating gig.”
It would also be one of Queen’s final shows with Freddie Mercury, or John Deacon for that matter. In spring of 1987, Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS. He never toured with Queen again, and passed away four years later.
The Budapest show was recorded for posterity and released on VHS and laser disc. Brian May has expressed hopes in recent years of seeing the show get a proper release on DVD.
Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.