A Kind of Magic

This article is about the album by Queen. For their song of the same name, see A Kind of Magic (song). For other uses, see A Kind of Magic (disambiguation).
A Kind of Magic
Studio album by Queen
Released 2 June 1986
Recorded September 1985 – April 1986 at Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland and Townhouse Studios, London, England[1]
Genre Rock, hard rock
Length 53:36 (EMI CD)
50:31 (Hollywood CD)
40:58 (LP and cassette version)
Label EMI / Parlophone
Capitol (1986) / Hollywood (1991) (US)
Producer Queen, Mack, David Richards
Queen chronology
The Works
A Kind of Magic
The Miracle
Singles from A Kind of Magic
  1. "One Vision"
    Released: 4 November 1985
  2. "A Kind of Magic"
    Released: 17 March 1986
  3. "Princes of the Universe"
    Released: April, 1986 (US, Canada, Australia, Japan only)
  4. "One Year of Love"
    Released: 4 June 1986 (France and Spain only)
  5. "Friends Will Be Friends"
    Released: 9 June 1986 (Europe only)
  6. "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"
    Released: August, 1986 (US, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia only)
  7. "Who Wants to Live Forever"
    Released: 15 September 1986 (Europe only)

A Kind of Magic is the twelfth studio album by the British rock band Queen, released on 2 June 1986. It was their first studio album to be recorded digitally, and is based on the soundtrack to the film Highlander, the first in a series directed by Russell Mulcahy.

Although Queen would release another two albums with Freddie Mercury (excluding posthumous releases), A Kind of Magic would turn out to be the band's last album promoted with a concert tour, because of Mercury's diagnosis with AIDS the following year, which subsequently caused his death in 1991. For the first time in their career, the band allowed filming of them while they were in the recording studio. The video for "One Vision" shows them in various stages of writing and recording the song.

A Kind of Magic reached #1 in the UK, selling 100,000 copies in its first week, and remained in the UK charts for 63 weeks [2] and sold about 6 million copies worldwide (600,000 in the UK alone). The album spawned four hit singles: the album's title track "A Kind of Magic", "One Vision", "Friends Will Be Friends",[3] and "Who Wants to Live Forever", which features an orchestra conducted by Michael Kamen, while the last track, "Princes of the Universe", is the theme song to Highlander.[4]

A Kind of Magic and Highlander

The album enjoys the status of an unofficial soundtrack for the 1986 film Highlander (for which no official soundtrack album was released). The title, "A Kind of Magic", derived from one of the lines Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) says to describe his immortality.[5] Six out of nine songs on the album appeared in the film, although in different versions. The three songs that did not appear in Highlander are "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure", "Friends Will Be Friends" and "One Vision" (which was featured a year earlier in the film Iron Eagle). Conversely, a recording of "Theme from New York, New York" made specifically for a scene in Highlander does not appear on A Kind of Magic, and in fact has never been released in album form to date. According to a statement by Brian May on the Greatest Video Hits 2 DVD (2003), at least at that point, he had the intention to work on a proper Highlander soundtrack in the future. In one scene, a snippet of "Hammer to Fall" plays on a radio, a song from the previously released The Works album.

Track listing

No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "One Vision"  Queen (Roger Taylor) 5:10
2. "A Kind of Magic"  Taylor 4:24
3. "One Year of Love"  John Deacon 4:26
4. "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"  Freddie Mercury, Deacon 4:21
5. "Friends Will Be Friends"  Mercury, Deacon 4:07
6. "Who Wants to Live Forever"  Brian May 5:15
7. "Gimme the Prize (Kurgan's Theme)"  May 4:34
8. "Don't Lose Your Head"  Taylor 4:38
9. "Princes of the Universe"  Mercury 3:32


Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]

Critical reaction to A Kind of Magic was mixed. Rolling Stone described the album as "heavy plastic", concluding, "This band might as well put some pomp back in its rock. Its members are never going to make it as dignified elder statesmen."[11] The Times described the album as one of "the most spectacularly successful releases this year", yet questioned its appeal, asking, "why does it not extend to those of us who are given the records to review?"[3] People Weekly wrote, "There's hardly a personal expression, let alone an intimate one, in this album... The group can be dazzling. In this case they're just overbearing."[12] In a retrospective review, Allmusic were more favourable, writing, "It may not have been as cohesive as some of their other albums, but A Kind of Magic was their best work in some time."[6] Kerrang!'s Paul Henderson wondered "how much of the album is the 'real' Queen and how much is the result of the costraints/musical slant imposed upon them by writing material to go with a movie", concluding that "only a band of Queen's stature (...) could put out an album of such diverse songs without disappointing a sizeable portion of their fans".[9]

In the 1994 edition of The Guinness All Time Top 1000 Albums, A Kind of Magic was voted #171 in the all-time greatest rock and pop albums.[13] In 2006, a national BBC poll saw the album voted the 42nd greatest album of all time.[14] In 2007, Classic Rock ranked A Kind of Magic the 28th greatest soundtrack album of all time.[15]

Song information

"One Vision"

Main article: One Vision

After Queen's contribution to Live Aid, Freddie Mercury was enthusiastic about the band and rang them up to go to the studio and write a song together, the finished product being "One Vision". All four band members were credited as songwriters, however Roger Taylor stated in an interview with Australian TV that originally it had been his song, with serious lyrics about men like Martin Luther King, but joked that "that rotter Freddie" had changed all his lyrics with additions like "one shrimp, one prawn, one clam, one chicken", and even name-checking John Deacon. Brian May played the opening synth section using a Yamaha DX-7. The sessions were filmed and later released on the 2003 DVD set Greatest Video Hits 2. The song does not appear in Highlander, but was used in the 1986 movie Iron Eagle.

"A Kind of Magic"

"A Kind of Magic" was written by Taylor. He has admitted writing down some lyrics, which proved to be the basis for both "One Vision" and "A Kind of Magic", something made obvious by the demo of the song appearing for the first time on the 2011 Universal Bonus EP, which mixes some lyrics. Later on, unbeknown to Taylor who was off to the US for a few days, Mercury took it over, "polished" the lyrics, added the bassline, some connectors and re-arranged the structure. Regardless, the new, more pop oriented version was still credited to Taylor. It was this version that was featured on the album, released as a single and included their auxiliary live musician, Spike Edney, playing some keyboards. The heavier, rockier alternate version, also making its official debut on the 2011 Universal Bonus EP, played during the credits of Highlander. The song was covered by Elaine Paige in 1988 on her album called The Queen Album. The song is technically the first true album title track in the band's discography, though the song "Sheer Heart Attack" written for the album of the same name would actually appear on a later album, News of the World, and songs such as "Play the Game" and "More of That Jazz" were variations on their respective album's title.

"One Year of Love"

"One Year of Love" is a song by Deacon. The album version features him playing Yamaha DX-7 synth, a string orchestra conducted by Lynton Naiff and a saxophone played by Steve Gregory. Deacon decided to substitute the guitar components with a saxophone solo after a discussion with May, who does not appear in the song. It was released as a single in France and Spain only, and appeared during the bar scene in Highlander. It was also covered by Elaine Paige in 1986 and later by Dutch singer Stevie Ann in 2006.

"Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"

"Pain Is So Close to Pleasure" began as a riff idea by May. Deacon and Mercury subsequently turned that into a Motown style song, with Deacon playing rhythm guitar. A slightly remixed and reworked version was released as a single in 1986, reaching #26 on the Dutch charts. The title also appears as a line in "One Year of Love". This would be one of the last times Mercury would sing a Queen song completely in falsetto.

"Friends Will Be Friends"

"Friends Will Be Friends" was written by Mercury and Deacon, with lyrics written by Mercury (which was confirmed by May on his website).[16] It is one of the last of Mercury's piano ballads, and in some ways is a musical similitude with older Queen material, such as "Play the Game" and "We Are the Champions". It is another song not featured in Highlander. It was noted as being a modern update of the 70's Queen rock anthems "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You" and reached #14 in the UK. During The Magic Tour, the song was played between "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions," the traditional ending songs of Queen live performances.

"Who Wants to Live Forever"

"Who Wants to Live Forever" was composed by May and sung in the album version as a duet between himself and Mercury. Synths parts are played on a Yamaha DX-7 by May, and the orchestra was arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen. Deacon did not participate, and Taylor played some drum-machine parts and contributed backing vocals. Percussion was taken over by the orchestra as well as bass (double bass in this case), in spite of Taylor and Deacon miming those parts respectively in the video. It serves as somewhat of a "love theme" of Highlander, as it adds to the sub-plot of the movie (in the film, Mercury sings the first verse as well, unlike the album version, which has May singing first).

"Gimme the Prize (Kurgan's Theme)"

"Gimme the Prize" was written by May. This song is featured in Highlander, and also samples various lines from the film, most notably "I have something to say: It's better to burn out than to fade away" and "There can be only one", spoken by actors Clancy Brown (The Kurgan) and Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod) respectively. Director Russell Mulcahy states in the DVD commentary that this was his least favourite of the band's songs used in the film because he does not like heavy metal. May also commented (to a Japanese magazine in 1986) that both Mercury and Deacon hated the song.

"Don't Lose Your Head"

"Don't Lose Your Head" was composed by Taylor and features Joan Armatrading in a vocal cameo. The song takes its name from a line spoken in Highlander, and is played for a short time when Kurgan kidnaps Brenda. The song then segues into a cover of "Theme from New York, New York", though it is only a small clip. An instrumental version of the track entitled "A Dozen Red Roses for My Darling" is featured as the B-side to "A Kind of Magic".

"Princes of the Universe"

"Princes of the Universe" is the film's theme song and the only song on the album for which Mercury received sole credit. It is quite a complex and heavy work, demonstrating Queen returning to their hard rock and heavy metal roots. The song is played in the opening credits of Highlander.[17] The music video uses clips and scenery from the movie, as well as a cameo by Christopher Lambert, who fights with Mercury at Silvercup Studios, which was a location from the film.



Additional personnel

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1986) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[19] 12
Austrian Albums Chart[20] 3
Canadian Albums Chart[21] 50
Dutch Albums Chart[22] 2
French Albums Chart[23] 6
Italian Albums Chart[24] 13
Japanese Albums Chart[25] 25
New Zealand Albums Chart[26] 9
Norwegian Albums Chart[27] 5
Swedish Albums Chart[28] 9
Swiss Albums Chart[29] 4
UK Albums Chart[30] 1
U.S. Billboard 200[31] 46
West German Albums Chart[32] 4

Year-end charts

Chart (1986) Position
Australian Albums Chart[19] 68
Austrian Albums Chart[33] 16
Italian Albums Chart[24] 62
Swiss Albums Chart[34] 18
UK Albums Chart[35] 8


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[36] Platinum 50,000*
France (SNEP)[37] Gold 206,000[38]
Germany (BVMI)[39] 3× Gold 750,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[40]
2008 Agora SA album reissue
3× Platinum 60,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[41] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[42] 2× Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[43] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[44] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Preceded by
So by Peter Gabriel
UK number one album
14–20 June 1986
Succeeded by
Invisible Touch by Genesis


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Queen.
  1. A Kind Of Magic queenonline.com Retrieved 26 September 2014
  2. A Kind Of Magic Chart Stats. Retrieved 15 August 2011
  3. 1 2 A Kind of Magic review. The Times. 21 June 1986. Archived at queenarchives.com
  4. Bartkowiak, Mathew J. (2010) Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film p.19. Retrieved 15 August 2011
  5. Highlander (1986) – Memorable quotes
  6. 1 2 Prato, Greg. "Queen A Kind of Magic review". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  7. Kot, Greg (19 April 1992). "An 18-record, 80 Million-copy Odyssey". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  8. Larkin, Colin (2011). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 2248. ISBN 0857125958.
  9. 1 2 Henderson, Paul (26 June 1986). "Queen 'A Kind of Magic'". Kerrang!. 123. London, UK: United Magazines ltd. p. 12.
  10. "Queen: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  11. Coleman, Mark (9 October 1986). "Queen – A Kind Of Magic". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  12. A Kind of Magic review. People Weekly. 25 August 1986. Archived at queenarchives.com
  13. Guinness: All-time top 1000 albums. 1994. Archived at rocklistmusic.co.uk
  14. Top 100 Albums. BBC Radio 2. Broadcast 28 August 2006. Archived at rocklistmusic.co.uk
  15. 49 Best Soundtrack Albums. Classic Rock. October 2007. Archived at rocklistmusic.co.uk
  16. Brian May (30 July 2006). "Bri's Soapbox". brianmay.com. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  17. Freestone, Peter (2001) Freddie Mercury: an intimate memoir by the man who knew him best p.96.Omnibus Press, Retrieved 1 September 2011
  18. Queen – Greatest Hits III Allmusic. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  19. 1 2 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  20. Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic" Archived 9 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. austriancharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  21. Queen – A Kind of Magic Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  22. Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Night At The Opera" Archived 16 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. dutchcharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  23. A Kind of Magic Archived 30 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine. infodisc. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  24. 1 2 "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1986" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  25. "Yamachan Land (Archives of the Japanese record charts) – Albums Chart Daijiten – Queen" (in Japanese). 30 December 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-08-14. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  26. Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic" Archived 2 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. newzealandcharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
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  28. Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic" Archived 26 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
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  31. Queen Billboard. Retrieved 1 September 2011
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  34. "Hitparade.ch – Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1986". Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  35. "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  36. "Austrian album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic" (in German). IFPI Austria. Enter Queen in the field Interpret. Enter A Kind of Magic in the field Titel. Select album in the field Format. Click Suchen
  37. "French album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
  38. "Les Albums Or". infodisc.fr. SNEP. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  39. "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Queen; 'A Kind of Magic')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  40. "Polish album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic" (in Polish). Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry.
  41. "Solo Exitos 1959-2002 Ano A Ano: Certificados 1979-1990". Iberautor Promociones Culturales. ISBN 8480486392.
  42. "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Queen; 'A Kind of Magic')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien.
  43. "British album certifications – Queen – It's a Kind of Magic". British Phonographic Industry. Enter It's a Kind of Magic in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  44. "American album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links

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