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Queen Revisit 1981 South American Tour On 50th Anniversary Series


Bruce Henne | 08-21-2021

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(hennemusic) Queen revisit a 1981 tour of South America in latest episode of the band's 50th anniversary video series The Greatest. On the road in support of their 1980 album, "The Game", the UK outfit - who were on a roll with global hits like "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Another One Bites The Dust" - wanted to break new ground with their touring strategy.

"They wouldn't let us into Russia; they thought we'd corrupt the youth or something...so we went to Latin America," explains Freddie Mercury. "We wanted to play where rock music had never been played before."

"South America reared its head," recalls Brian May, "and we heard rumors that we were the biggest thing ever in Argentina and Brazil, and they started to ask us to go down there. And they were saying, 'you can play football stadiums down there' and we went 'oh, you're joking."

Queen would become the first rock band to perform at football stadiums in South America; the 7-show spring series opened with five shows in Argentina and two in Brazil, before the group would return in the fall for three more nights in Caracas, Venezuela.

"In those days, under the dictatorship in Argentina, we were negotiating with the Army General," explains manager Jim Beach, "and he said to me 'how can I possibly allow 50,000 young people into a stadium when I can't control them. What happens if somebody suddenly shouts out "Viva Peron" in the middle of a Queen concert, and I have a riot on my hands?'

"And I tried to explain to him that, rather like Gladiatorial matches in Rome, this was panacea to the people. They never ever had this before, this would be an extraordinary experience.'

Queen's first tour of the region came with its own set of challenges for everyone involved.

"The travel arrangements were very scary," says Roger Taylor, "with, you know, driving the wrong way along a raised motorway with outriders, with guys in big jeeps waving their big guns and getting the cars coming straight towards them to pull over."

"All the shows done in Argentina were all at football stadiums," explains John Deacon, "and they were very worried about the pitch getting damaged because it's their sort of hallowed ground, the football turf. And we came up with this idea, covering it with plastic grass, and they agreed to it because that was something we really wanted was to have a lot of people on the pitch.

"We set the stage up down one end. They were quite happy to have people in the stands, but we insisted that we must have people on the pitch as well to give a good atmosphere for the show.

"Oh it was marvelous," he continues, "it was the closest really to ever actually going to a football match, it was that sort of reaction. They were tremendously enthusiastic, I mean they were quite ecstatic, and they were singing along in English as well, and doing 'woh, woh, woh, woh', all the chants and everything." Watch the episode here.

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