November 24, 1983 – Queen completed their three day filming of ‘Radio GaGa’ promo video @ Shepperton Studios in London. It was directed by David Mallet.
The video for the track has since become a firm favourite among both casual and diehard fans alike, and was one of the most expensive Queen ever made. At a cost of more than £110,000, the epic piece was shot by David Mallet and paid homage to Fritz Lang’s 1926 expressionist masterpiece Metropolis.
At the time, famed disco producer Georgio Moroder was reworking what footage still survived of the heavily damaged film (its distributors had edited the film and much of the excised footage was lost until a chance rediscovery of sections of it less than a decade prior), and adding colour filters and a contemporary score – which Freddie had agreed to contribute to.
Freddie’s song, Love Kills, cowritten with Moroder and featuring an uncredited Brian May and Roger Taylor, became a hit single later in 1984, and featured in a key scene of the reworked film. The Radio Ga Ga promo included different scenes from Metropolis, and the rights to these were bought by the band and Jim Beach directly from the German government.
Much of the rest of the video used sets loosely based on those in the film: the machine the film’s hero Freder operates, for example, was recreated in vibrant colours for Freddie to work. Another set piece also required five hundred extras to become the faceless workers who stand before the band, their heads bowed, clapping their hands in a manner now familiar to every hardened Queen fan (particularly those who would later perform the same move whenever the band perform the song on tour). For this, David Mallet turned to members of the fan club, who once again found the required number of more than willing fans at incredibly short notice, spending all of 23rd November 1983 under very hot lights at Shepperton Studios in London with only a short break for lunch. Yet as ever, the fans were on top form, and outshone the band, who kept forgetting their timing!
Roger Taylor penned this fantastic song as a commentary on television overtaking radio’s popularity and how one would listen to radio in the past for a favourite comedy, drama, or science fiction programme. It also addressed the advent of the music video and MTV, which was then competing with radio as an important medium for promoting records.
At the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards the video for “Radio Ga Ga” would receive a Best Art Direction nomination. Roger Taylor was quoted:
“That’s part of what the song’s about, really. The fact that they [music videos] seem to be taking over almost from the aural side, the visual side seems to be almost more important.”
Originally, this was “Radio Ca-Ca,” which was something Roger Taylor’s son Felix exclaimed one day in trying to say the radio was bad (“radio, CACA!). The phrase stuck with Taylor and inspired the anti-commercial radio themes in the lyrics. Of course the band asked for a rewrite from Ca-Ca to Ga Ga.