Welcome to week four of Totally Sounds Like, Steven’s Friday mashup of NBA legends and their musical counterparts, aimed at providing the perfect soundtrack to the playstyle of basketball’s all-time greats! To round out the month, we’re putting the spotlight on two marquee mustaches, two 80s icons who left supreme legacies far beyond their own generation.
Queen formed in London in 1970. Thanks to eternal hits such as “Another One Bites The Dust,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Don’t Stop Me Now,” they continue to be relevant. Despite the death of frontman Freddie Mercury in 1991, both their original jams and more recent rejuvenations have found success in today’s ever-changing musical landscape.
The core members Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon, crafted an array of styles and drew inspiration from fellow Brit rockers Led Zeppelin, Cream, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and The Beatles. Both Mercury and May heavily studied Jimi Hendrix with May attesting he “never stops” learning from Jimi and Mercury believing “he really had everything any rock ‘n’ roll star should have.”
Known for pushing the boundaries on what “rock music” can be, Queen conglomerated a presence of metal, glam, stadium, classic, and progressive rock (among many other genres) all at the same time. Of course, the track the best highlights their one-of-a-kind style is without a doubt “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which has been voted “The Greatest Song of All-Time” by at least three different polls and holds multiple records for achievement in songwriting.
It is the only single ever to sell a million copies on two separate occasions and it also set the standard for music videos in the pre-MTV era. The song originated with sonic pieces that Mercury wrote during his time in college. Despite the record company’s demands for a radio edit due to it being “too long,” the band was basically forced to release the track in entirety after radio DJ and close friend of Mercury, Kenny Everett, played the song 14 times in just one weekend on BBC Radio.
The song drew immense buzz, even though Everett received the single under the condition that he didn’t play it. After callers overwhelmed the switchboard demanding to know when the song would be released, fans got their wish, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” remained number one in the UK for nine weeks. Needing a visual to pair the 6-minute operatic ballad with, the band went with Bruce Gowers (who had shot multiple live shows for them) to direct the video. At the time, however, bands weren’t known to release full-fledged, professionally produced music videos for their singles.
May and Mercury, however, were hesitant to showcase the song on BBC’s “Top of the Pops” TV broadcast, knowing it would be difficult to mime the song’s more complex parts. They also had a separate gig to play as a part of their tour. So they elected to provide a completely new, artist-driven visual as the vehicle for proliferating the song.
The video was shot in four hours, edited in five, and aired less than a week later, in November 1975. After a few weeks at number one, an alternate edit was created, adding a few extra camera angles. The concept of the modern-day “music video” was born and the MTV-era was just beginning. Queen changed the landscape of music expression—and promotion—forever.
Larry Bird was born in West Baden Springs, Indiana in 1956 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Drafted 6th in the 1978 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, Bird elected to return to Indiana State University for his senior season instead. Despite Celtics’ GM Red Auerbach posturing that he would not pay Bird more than any other current Celtic, Larry’s agent, Bob Woolf, stood firm that Bird would just enter the 1979 draft (at which point the Celtics’ rights would expire) where Bird was already being projected as the number one pick.
Negotiations settled on June 8th, 17 days before the draft, when Bird signed a 5-year, $3.25 million contract with the Celtics. This made Bird the highest-paid rookie in sports HISTORY and resulted in the creation of the “Bird Collegiate Rule,” which altered NBA Draft eligibility requirements to prevent teams from drafting players who didn’t intend to sign right away.
Bird’s impact on the Celtics was astronomical—and immediate. In his debut season, the C’s won 32 more games than their previous campaign and Bird ran away with the Rookie of the Year award. He also earned an All-Star selection averaging 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. The Celtics reached the ECF that year, ultimately falling to the 76ers. Bird went on to be a 3X NBA Champion, 2X Finals MVP, 12X All-Star, and is one of only three players ever to win three straight league MVPs (1984-86), joining Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Bird concluded his career with averages of 24.3 PPG, 10 RPG, and 6.3 APG and is considered one of the greatest shooters and passers to ever lace it up.
Nicknamed “The Hick From French Lick” in reference to the small town he grew up in, Bird has said that growing up poor alongside his 5 siblings—while his mom worked two jobs to support them—is something that keeps him motivated to this day. That must also play a factor in why his accomplishments don’t stop with his playing career.
After retiring in 1992, Bird was named head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1997 and immediately earned respect (and Coach Of the Year honors) after pushing Jordan’s Bulls to the brink, ultimately losing the ECF in seven games. Promising just a three-year coaching stint, Bird led the Pacers to the ECF again in his second season, then came up just short of a championship the following year, losing in six games to the high-powered Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals.
He kept his promise, resigning at the close of that season, but in 2003 Bird became the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations. He remained in that role until 2012, when he stepped away briefly for health reasons, then resumed the position in 2013 before officially removing himself in 2017, in lieu of a more-limited advisory role. Bird earned the nickname “Larry Legend” and it’s not hard to see why as he’s the only man in NBA history to win NBA MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.
Larry wasn’t the fastest or the tallest and he did not have the highest vertical..but he played the game with a sixth sense and unique moxie while consistently making his teammates better. He is also widely regarded as one of the clutchest players ever, performing at an elite level in high-stakes, pressure-packed situations. No matter how much pain he was fighting through, Larry never gave up, never got out-worked, and never backed down.
The Celtics’ trio of Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish is considered one of the greatest frontcourts in NBA History, and their ‘86 squad (featuring Bill Walton) is widely accepted as one of the greatest basketball teams ever.
Queen’s Freddie Mercury is known as one of the greatest front-men of all time and absolutely earned that title. His self-confidence in his own capabilities and his determination in presenting his artistry in the way he felt was best—regardless of what “critics” said could or couldn’t work—is something that almost feels alien to the basic normality of our general human experience. It’s easy to exist in today’s world and look around and claim that deep originality and unique flare are missing “these days,” but, in reality, it’s NEVER been common to be uncommon.
In other words: It’s NEVER been cool to be the odd man out, sticking to your guns and defending your unique creation with no proof of a legitimate payoff, no matter what era you’re in. Something can only be reacted to, let alone accepted if it’s allowed to exist. Many, many artists make tracks that get to a record executive’s desk and get rejected because they need to be shorter or simpler or reworked to become more “universally appealing.” In many of those cases, the song is, in fact, made shorter or simpler or reworked before it ever gets released and exposed to your ears.
Now, I’m not saying every song is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” nor am I saying every release or artist is handled the same way… but I am saying that few artists (or humans, for that matter) are as locked in, self-aware, and confident in their craft as Freddie Mercury was while fighting for his exquisitely-written, elegantly-chaotic, operatically-thrashing masterpiece that Brian May referred to as “Freddy’s baby.”
The support from his bandmates was also essential for “Bohemian Rhapsody” to truly becoming what it did. May, Taylor, and Deacon had been given enough reasons to trust Freddy’s vision and that trust was more than rewarded in the form of massive worldwide success for all of them that remains constant for the three members left today. Nobody could have predicted, upon its release, that “Bohemian Rhapsody” would go down as one of the biggest songs to ever exist. Period.
Well, nobody, except Freddy, perhaps.
This is why when I watch Larry Bird perform his unique hardwood wizardry—seemingly seconds from falling over, yet, in total control of everything around him—I can’t help but hear Freddie’s impassioned vocals and the wide-ranging rock of Queen, taking me on a journey to where I have never been, while forcing me to discover where I am meant to be. Bird blew opponent’s minds and dazzled the basketball world in ways we had never experienced, much like Queen flipped “rock” on its head and changed the music industry forever. Both were once-in-a-lifetime, multi-dimensional artists that seamlessly fused a blazing (borderline reckless) style with unheard-of-elegancy, on the way to cementing their legacies as two of the best to ever do it.
Hope you have a fantastic end to month one of ‘21 and are able to get outside a bit this weekend! In the meantime, I truly cannot recommend watching the 4-minute highlight comp for this week’s edition enough – especially if you’ve never watched Larry highlights before. Plus, check out all of our past mashups in our TOTALLY SOUNDS LIKE playlist, right on our YT channel.
We are February bound and we are just getting started here at MMH! Lots of exciting news in store…no pun intended.
Appreciate you being here and, as always, stay Strong, friends!