Queen look back on the band's groundbreaking South American tour in 1981

Publish Date
Saturday, 21 August 2021, 9:08AM

Nowadays the incredible passion for rock music in South America is well known, but that fact was largely rumors until sometime around the early-'80s.

Of all of Queen's accomplishments in its career, from an industry standpoint, breaking into South America in 1981 has to be near the top. But it wasn't easy getting there.

Guitarist Brian May recalls on the latest installment of the Queen the Greatest YouTube series that sometime around the turn of the decade, the band began hearing whispers that it was "the biggest thing ever in Argentina and Brazil." Soon afterwards, the band started getting preposterous-sounding offers for tours booked in football stadiums.

The band was skeptical, and the geo-political climate of the continent at the time didn't make South America seem particularly inviting, but it was worth looking into.

Manager Jim Beach recalls: "In those days, under the dictatorship in Argentina, we were negotiating with the Army General, and he said to me ‘how can I possibly allow 50,000 young people into a stadium, when I can’t control them. What happens if somebody suddenly shouts out 'Viva Peron' in the middle of a Queen concert, and I have a riot on my hands?

“And I tried to explain to him that, rather like Gladiatorial matches in Rome, this was panacea to the people. They never, ever had this before, this would be an extraordinary experience.”

Drummer Roger Taylor recalls the sense of unease he felt after arriving in one of the police states, with a military escort.

On top of that, Queen was scheduled to perform before several of the biggest crowds of its career.

“I can remember being nervous the first night, the top tier [of the stadium] alone took 80,000, and we were in this sort of dugout which, I guess, the football teams would normally be in," Taylor recalled. "All the windows were broken and I remember thinking 'Hmm, this is going to take some balls to walk out there.”

When the band members did finally take the stage, they were treated to some of the most enthusiastic audiences of their lives. The South American tour was a massive success, and the band returned within four years for one of their most memorable performances ever, which will be covered on a future episode of Queen The Greatest.

Watch 'Queen Rock South America' via the player above!

This article was first published on iheart.com and is republished here with permission