“Breakthru” is a song by British rock band Queen. Credited as being written by Queen, it was released in June 1989 from the album The Miracle. The single reached #7 in the UK, and peaked at number 6 in the Netherlands and Ireland and at 7 in UK, but failed to chart in the US. The song is remarkable by its video where the group is performing the song on an open platform of a fast-moving steam train.
The album version of the song begins with 30 seconds of slow vocal harmony. It was apparently written by Freddie Mercury for a different song which ended up never being released, “A New Life Is Born”. It then abruptly changes to a fast-paced rocker, that was written by Roger Taylor. Other song versions were created by either extending or cutting the introduction. On the Queen for an Hour interview conducted in 1989, Mercury said that this was a great example of two separate bits coming together to make a final track. He commented on how the band had about 30 tracks to work with and only completed a handful, working on all of them at least somewhat.
A regular (demonstration) run of the 3822 train through the Network Rails Didcot East Curve from Oxford to Reading.
The video of the song was filmed within two days on the preserved Nene Valley Railway, near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, England. The group members mentioned in the interviews that despite the hot summer weather, the event brought a nice refreshment to their studio work. The steam locomotive No. 3822 and an open platform were rented by Queen from the Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire and repainted for the video. In particular, the group named the train “The Miracle Express”, and this name was reflected in large red letters on the sides of the locomotive. The idea of using a train in the video was suggested by Taylor and was inspired by the rhythm of the rapid part of the song. During the introduction (“new life is born”), the video features Taylors then-girlfriend Debbie Leng, with a black mask painted around her eyes, waking up and getting up on the rail track. She was the first choice of Mercury for the role of “enigmatic beauty”. The commencing of the fast part coincides with the scene of the train breaking through a polystyrene wall painted as a brick wall; the wall was constructed in a tunnel, under an arch of a stone bridge. The group was dissatisfied with this part because polystyrene could not stand the enormous air pressure buildup in the tunnel from the incoming train and the wall started breaking before the physical impact. The rest of the clip mostly shows the moving train with an attached open platform whereon the group performs the song. May, Deacon and Taylor are playing guitars and drums, whereas Mercury is moving around the whole platform with his trademark bottomless microphone stand while singing. Leng appears in some scenes on the platform and further in the clip. The train was reportedly going at a speed of between 30 and 60 mph (intermediate values were mentioned in interviews), and thus the group has insured itself for 2 million pounds against bodily damage. The clip cost 300,000 pounds to make.
Released June 19, 1989
Format Vinyl record 7″
Writer(s) Roger Taylor/Freddie Mercury (credited to Queen)
Producer Queen and David Richards
Chart (1989) Peak position Total weeks
Australian Singles Chart 45 1
Canadian Singles Chart 80 3
Dutch Singles Chart 6 14
German Singles Chart 24 12
Irish Singles Chart 6 4
New Zealand Singles Chart 45 1
Swiss Singles Chart 28 4
UK Singles Chart 7 8
It’s from The Miracle. It’s more of the slightly dated-sounding 80s Queen, but it’s still a great song. It’s a real get-up-and-go feelgood track. It’s a blatant rip-off of Boys Of Summer in terms of the melody and the chorus, but it’s got some amazing musical parts – that lovely vocal piece at the very beginning, John Deacon’s bassline, and the solo on it is amazing. And the video, I can definitely relate to that. If I was to come up with an idea for a video to a song like this, it’s exactly what I would have said: ‘High speed train blasting through a brick wall please.’