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Queen

 

Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, and one of the most commercially successful musical acts of all time. The group originally consisted of Freddie Mercury, (lead vocals), Brian May (lead guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). Queen’s initial works were chiefly glam rock, heavy metal and progressive rock orientated, however with time the band incorporated diverse and innovative styles in their music, exploring the likes of vaudeville, electronic music and funk. The band digressed from using progressive themes in their music in the mid-1970s, with more conventional and radio-friendly works bringing them greater success. Throughout the 1970s, Queen disclosed the absence of synthesisers on their albums, yet their style continued to evolve. They eventually started using synthesisers in the 1980s, reflecting their experimental approach to music.

Brian May and Roger Taylor had been playing together in a band named Smile. Freddie Mercury (then known by his birth name of Farrokh, or Freddie, Bulsara) was a fan of Smile, and encouraged them to experiment with more elaborate stage and recording techniques. Mercury himself joined the band shortly thereafter, changed the name of the band to ‘Queen’ and adopted his familiar stage name. John Deacon was recruited prior to recording their first album. Queen enjoyed success in the UK during the early 1970s, but it was the release of Sheer Heart Attack (1974) and A Night at the Opera (1975) that gained the band international success. The latter featured “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which stayed at number one in the UK charts for nine weeks. In 1991 Mercury died of bronchopneumonia, a complication of AIDS, and Deacon retired in 1997. Since then May and Taylor have infrequently performed together, including a collaboration with Paul Rodgers under the name Queen + Paul Rodgers.

The band has released a total of 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles and 10 number one DVDs, and have sold over 300 million albums worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists. They have been honoured with seven Ivor Novello awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

History

Early days (1968–74)

In 1968, guitarist Brian May, a student at London’s Imperial College, and bassist Tim Staffell decided to form a band. May placed an advertisement on the college notice board for a “Mitch Mitchell/Ginger Baker type” drummer; Roger Taylor, a young dental student, auditioned and got the job. The group called themselves Smile.

While attending Ealing Art College Tim Staffell became friends with Farrokh Bulsara, a fellow student who had assumed the English name of Freddie. Bulsara felt that he and the band had the same tastes and soon became a keen fan of Smile. In late 1970, after Staffell left to join the band Humpy Bong, the remaining Smile members, encouraged by Bulsara, changed their name to “Queen” and continued working together. When asked about the name, Bulsara explained, “I thought up the name Queen. It’s just a name, but it’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.”

The band had a number of bass players during this period who did not fit with the band’s chemistry. It was not until February 1971 that they settled on John Deacon and began to rehearse for their first album. They recorded four of their own songs; “Liar”, “Keep Yourself Alive”, “The Night Comes Down” and “Jesus” for a demo tape, no record companies were interested. It was also around this time Freddie changed his surname to ‘Mercury’, inspired by the line “Mother Mercury, look what they’ve done to me,” in the song My Fairy King.

Having attended art college, Mercury also designed Queen’s logo (also called the Queen crest) shortly before the release of the band’s first album. The logo combines the zodiac signs of all four members: two lions for Leo (Deacon and Taylor), a crab for Cancer (May), and two fairies for Virgo (Mercury). The lions embrace a stylised letter Q, the crab rests atop the letter with flames rising directly above it, and the fairies are each sheltering below a lion. There is also a crown inside the Q and the whole logo is over-shadowed by an enormous phoenix. The whole symbol bears a passing resemblance to the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, particularly with the lion supporters. The original logo, as found on the reverse-side of the first album cover, was a simple line drawing but more intricate colour versions were used on later sleeves.

In 1973, after a series of delays, Queen released their eponymous debut album, an effort influenced by the heavy metal and progressive rock of the day. The album was received well by critics; Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone said “their debut album is superb”, and Chicago’s Daily Herald called it an “above average debut”. It drew little mainstream attention and the lead single “Keep Yourself Alive”, a Brian May composition, sold poorly.

The group’s second LP Queen II was released in 1974. The album reached number five on the British album charts and became the first Queen album to chart in the UK. The Freddie Mercury-written lead single “Seven Seas of Rhye” reached number ten in the UK, giving the band their first hit. Their heaviest and darkest release, the album features long complex instrumental passages, fantasy-themed lyrics and musical virtuosity. Aside from its only single, the album also included the song “The March of the Black Queen”, a six-minute epic which lacks a chorus or song structure, bearing similarity to Queen’s later work, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The Daily Vault described the number as “menacing”. Critical reaction was mixed, the Winnipeg Free Press describing the record as a “monstrosity”. Allmusic has described the album as a favourite among the band’s hardcore fans, and it is the first of three Queen albums to feature in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Like its predecessor, sales of Queen II in the US were low.

Discography

Studio Albums

1973 Queen – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/queen-queen-i/

1974 Queen2 – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/queen-queen-ii/

1974 Sheer Heart Attack – coming soon 09/01/2013

A Day At The Races – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/queen-a-day-at-the-races/

The Miracle – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/queen-the-miracle/

Live Albums

Queen At The beeb – coming soon (09/01/2013)

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