I hated Queen in the '70s. I thought they were just a Led Zeppelin wannabe. The idea amuses me now, because the two bands could not be more different. Led Zeppelin is the ultimate heterosexual band. Queen is gay -- campy and gay. ("Fat Bottom Girls" is not how heterosexual men lust. Well, except maybe for Sir Mix-A-Lot.)
Led Zeppelin had no wit, godawful lyrics, and little care for formal tightness. They were the blues on steroids, and they managed to take everything too far. As Eric Clapton said, when he first saw them perform in 1969, "They overstated their point." Their live concert film, The Song Remains the Same, is tedious and unwatchable now, but at the time it was exactly what I wanted. Nobody else compared. I was, and still am, in awe of Jimmy Page's guitar prowess. He got sounds from his guitar that no one else gets to this day. He was also one of the few hard rock guitarists who could play intense jazz chords with distortion and make it sound good. (It's because he sold his soul to the Devil, dude! He lives in Aleister Crowley's house!)
Queen's homosexual sensibility completely eluded me in the '70s. But then, it was not until years later that I realized I was one of the few straight male high school thespians. All those other guys were flaming gays, and I never realized it.
Another thing I never realized was how sexual a lot of lyrics were. I'm stunned now that our parents let us listen to this music and play it in our garage band. For instance, take the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman."
I met a gin soaked, bar-room queen in Memphis,
She tried to take me upstairs for a ride.
I laid a divorcee in New York City
When I was a child it never occurred to me that Jagger was singing about sex.
Or take one of my favorite jamming songs, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" by Ten Years After.
Good morning little schoolgirl,
Can I come home with you?
Baby, I want to ball you
I want to ball you all night long.
Not only is that blatantly about sex, but it's perverted and sinister. The singer is, I presume, a grown man trying to pick up a schoolgirl. We used to sing this song in our band in high school, and our parents never said a word about it.
Before I went into the Air Force, my mother took me aside and told me not to linger in bus station bathrooms because homosexuals hang out there. I did as she instructed, and went in and out of the bathrooms as quick as possible, without making eye contact for fear that one of these mysterious homosexuals might seduce me with his secret powers. She gets terribly embarrassed when I tell this story now, but I always do tell it at family gatherings because it's just too hilarious.
We're more open about homosexuality now. It's out of the closet. This is probably a good thing: people fear what they don't understand. On the other hand, I suspect that with the rise of religion, parents are not as uncaring about sexual lyrics as they were back then.
I don't know if America is more puritanical now or then.
UPDATE: Slight revision.