Queen in Birmingham, UK on 24.11.1979 (written by Mark)

I am now age 39, and the number "39 means so much to me after all of these years.

Age 15, my aunty bought me a Queen ticket for my Birthday for the Novemeber '79 concert at the NEC. This concert was in Hall 1 of the National Exhibition Centre, in the days before they built the arena. It was my first big concert, I was a mad Queen fan, and new nearly every word of every song up to and including "Jazz" at that time... every guitar riff, and wished I had a pair of leopard skins like Roger. Finally, I would get to see them live.

Somehow, after seeing many bands over the years, and Queen again in 1980 and 1986 at Wembley, I will always remember this night, for me, it serves as a yardstick for every other gig since.

The day started with me travelling to a friends house, where the three of us would set off by train to the NEC at about 12 noon. The conversation was mainly discussing Freddies change to the Leather Biker jacket image of "Crazy" from the Leotard days. Would we see the Live Killers show? What numbers would they do etc etc.

We arrived to merge in to an already formidable queue inside one of the adjoining halls, we stayed their squatted on the floor, the atmosphere grew - the queue became larger and larger, winding around inside the hall like a huge snake. I remember the only entrance to the Hall being a double door arangement that was quickly bursting at the hinges, bouncers were struggling to control the hoardes, you could see the sweat dripping off these guys. Finally at about 6PM, they opened the doors. Thousands of fans converged on the doors... eventually I made it through and ran along with hundreds of others to approximately midway down Hall 1, where I sat down and eyed the stage. A huge covered roof affair obscured the view of any instruments... no lights... no instruments. Looking up I could see huge plywood boards... baffles coloured red and blue.

For the next two hours we were subject to some classical music tracks - I have no idea what it was... who it was by... it seemed endless. Whenever the music faded a roar grew... deafening whistles... only to be subject to more of the classical music... the crowd boo'ed and jeered with impatience.

During this period I had decided to make my way toward the stage... pushing my way through... using the old "My Girlfriends over there" excuse... I was hot, squashed... confined... the crowd grew restless... more classical music... more jeering... more fading... more classical etc etc. This was the ultimate "whip 'em up" approach... not a support band playing similar music, but an old vinyl of some classical concerto.

I remember looking at my watch... it was 8PM... they were due on at 8 PM... more classical... more Jeers... then BANG!!... no lights.

The crowd were moving... I was swaying... cheers... whistles... A lightning bolt flash that scared me witless. The stage roof lifted slowly... dry ice everywhere... and right in front of me about 6 feet away stood Brian with a huge rhinstone encrusted cape, Freddie was prancing and we were into "Let Me Entertain You" (no, it wasn't the fast beat We Will Rock You - that came next). The stage roof had lifted to reveal what I had seen before as the front cover of "Live Killers". I looked back to the crowd and all I could see were banners and scarves: "We Are the Champions", "are you Ready Freddie".

I cannot remember the whole set list, although I do remember Mustapha, Bicycle race, Fat Bottomed Girls, Champions, Bohemian as well as Now I'm here / Brighton Rock, Spread Your Wings, Love Of My Life, and the little skiffle type show they put on at the front of the stage for '39.

'39 is memorable because Freddie threw his maracas out into the crowd and they landed just behind me, where there was the most raging battle for ownership, unfortunately I lost the battle, and picked up a nice "gash on the right cheek bone from someones wristwatch.

Although the '86 Wembley gig was superb and their swansong tour, Queen's career in '79 was in my opinion their peak, the smaller venues, indoors, all standing, the atmosphere for a 15 year old fan on the 24th November 1979 in hall 1 of the NEC can never be matched.


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