The Story Behind Good Omens And All The Queen References

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(Image credit: Amazon)

Spoilers ahead for Good Omens on Amazon.

When Good Omens premiered on Amazon as an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel of the same name, it proved three things: the apocalypse can be hilarious, the characters could not have been better cast, and the music of Queen makes everything better.

While all the Queen tunes came as no surprise to book fans, viewers who never picked up a copy of the novel were undoubtedly at least a little perplexed at all the Freddie Mercury. Well, there is a reason for all the Queen, and the answer lies early in the text of Good Omens.

Viewers probably noticed that the Queen tunes generally played in scenes featuring Crowley and/or the Bentley. The explanation comes in the first 15 pages of Good Omens, saying this:

Crowley was currently doing 110 mph somewhere east of Slough. Nothing about him looked particularly demonic, at least by classical standards. No horns, no wings. Admittedly he was listening to a Best of Queen tape, but no conclusions should be drawn from this because all tapes left in a car for more than a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums.

When Good Omens was published in 1990, tapes were the non-radio way to play music in cars. Neil Gaiman revealed to Vulture that the joke about metamorphosing Queen tapes started when he and Terry Pratchett concocted the theory "that any cassette left in a car long enough turned into the best of Queen."

If the joke had stopped with just the one Queen mention in the book, the Good Omens show probably wouldn't have been packed with Queen songs. Instead, the book continued to show Crowley (and Aziraphale, on one occasion) trying to play some non-Queen music, only to be blasted with the tunes of Freddie Mercury.

Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" turned into "Bohemian Rhapsody," The Traveling Wilburys turned into a rendition of "Radio Ga Ga," Aziraphale was dismayed to hear "Another One Bites the Dust" play from a tape labeled "Tchaikovsky," and the angel and demon's attempts to listen to William Byrd, Beethoven, and Vaughan Williams turned into "We Are The Champions," "I Want To Break Free," and "Fat Bottomed Girls."

Crowley briefly considered putting the tape on which he'd trapped Hastur into the Bentley and leaving it for a fortnight, turning him into Freddie Mercury. He decided against it because, in the immortal words of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, "He might be a bastard, but you could only go so far."

Now, the differences between book and television meant that the show had the freedom to use Queen more liberally than the book, which basically required Crowley to be in the Bentley on the page. The show could just blast a Queen classic over whatever scene seemed most fitting.

Given that technology in the past 30 years has definitely moved away from cassette tapes, the Good Omens adaptation was bound to get creative with including the running Queen joke from the book. So, let's take a look back at some of the most notable Queen sequences from the show!

Crowley's Arrival - "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Although Crowley technically made his debut earlier in the first episode at the Garden of Eden, his arrival in the Bentley to the tune of "Bohemian Rhapsody" to pick up the Antichrist was a real entrance. Could the show have done anything more perfect than blast the "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for meeeeeeee" line as he pulled up?

Crowley's arrival was actually only one instance of "Bohemian Rhapsody" used in the series, as he was listening to it again later in the episode when Satan broke in with some instructions for the Antichrist. The song would play again at the end of the fifth episode and beginning of the sixth, when Crowley made an epic entrance at the airfield, followed shortly by the flaming Bentley exploding.

So why does Crowley's arrival get special mention among the many uses of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the show? Well, not only was it the first Queen song in the series, but it also marked an instance of a song playing in-universe for Crowley in the Bentley and as part of the soundtrack. "Bohemian Rhapsody" became his anthem thanks to this scene.

Anathema Hitches A Ride - "Bicycle Race"

Another memorable Queen sequence came in the second episode after a collision between Crowley in the Bentley and Anathema on her bicycle. Despite Aziraphale's shocked statement that Crowley hit somebody, Crowley countered that somebody hit him. (For what it's worth, Anathema did plow into the side of the Bentley.) Crowley begrudgingly agreed to giving Anathema a lift home, and the drive back to her cottage was oh-so-perfectly set to "Bicycle Race."

This scene is an example of a completely on-the-nose use of Queen for a Good Omens scene, and it appeared not to be a song actually playing in Crowley's car. Even if Crowley would have been impassive about it, surely Aziraphale or Anathema would have had a reaction to Crowley blasting "I want to ride my bicycle!" after colliding with Anathema on her bicycle.

Aziraphale's Bookshop Burns - "You're My Best Friend"

Things were getting out of control by the time Crowley climbed into his Bentley and raced to Soho to find Aziraphale in Episode 5, having just escaped Hastur and Ligur. Queen's uplifting "You're My Best Friend" played as Crowley grimly drove to the bookshop, which he discovered in flames. Regardless of the inferno, Crowley entered the bookshop in search of his best friend. It was a heartbreaking and fiery scene contrasting with the cheerful song to great effect.

The use of "You're My Best Friend" was unique in a couple of ways. Although it began while Crowley was in the Bentley, it wasn't clearly playing in-universe until Crowley raced into the burning bookshop when it could be heard coming from Aziraphale's dying gramophone. Since I'm guessing Aziraphale didn't deliberately buy a version of Queen's Greatest Hits for his gramophone, I'm going to count this as a subtle nod to the cassette joke from the book.

Crowley Braves The Blaze - "I'm In Love With My Car"

It was a sign of Crowley's desperation that he was willing to drive his beloved Bentley into the inferno surrounding London. When Hastur escaped from the answering machine tape and popped into the passenger seat of the Bentley, Crowley popped a CD into the player and floored it into the flames... to the tune of "I'm In Love With My Car."

If the gramophone playing "You're My Best Friend" was a subtle nod to the Queen cassette tape joke from the book, then "I'm In Love With My Car" was a total shoutout. Not because the book mentioned this particular Queen song -- because it didn't -- and not because Crowley really is pretty much in love with his car.

No, before "I'm In Love With My Car" actually began to play, the fifth episode showed Crowley popping a Mozart CD into the player. Crowley must have left it in his glove compartment for too long!

Crowley Needs Directions - "We Will Rock You"

By the time Crowley arrived in Tadfield in Episode 5, he was holding the burning Bentley together by sheer strength of will and imagination. He also never looked more demonic than when he pulled up in a flaming car, dressed in all black, and showing his yellow snake eyes without any sunglasses. His demonic look was contrasted with his polite request for directions from a Tadfield resident

Why is this one of the most noteworthy uses of Queen in Good Omens? Well, it's such a great combination of comedy, absurdity, and urgency, and "We Will Rock You" really highlights the ridiculousness of the situation in the best way. It is a ridiculous situation, as were most of Crowley and Aziraphale's attempts to stop the apocalypse. Of course this is one of the best sequences!

It was also arguably the last big moment for the Bentley, which would be destroyed shortly after arriving at the airbase in Episode 6 when Crowley had to start focusing on things other than holding his car together.

Honorable Mention: "Under Pressure" Trailer

Amazon released two big trailers for Good Omens ahead of the premiere, and both used Queen to perfection. The first showcased the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale with "You're My Best Friend," but the second used "Under Pressure" to hype everything that was to come.

The right music can make a trailer completely unforgettable, as with Stranger Things' "Thriller" trailer for Season 2 and "Baba O'Riley" trailer for Season 3, and "Under Pressure" was guaranteed to get stuck in your head and make you remember that Good Omens was on the way. For folks who had never read the book and didn't really know what was in store, "Under Pressure" was a great way to build anticipation.

You can catch all six episodes of Good Omens (with all of these and more Queen songs) streaming on Amazon now. The finished product is a wild ride, made all the better for one hilarious scene that almost didn't happen.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).