ueen was formed by Brian May (guitar), Roger Meddows-Taylor (drums), John Deacon (bass) and Freddie Mercury (vocals). May started it all off when he left school in 1963 to join the teen group The Others and release one single, Oh Yeah in 1965. After meeting Meddows-Taylor, the pair set off to form Smile in 1969 and completed only one 45, Earth/Step On Me, under that name. The pair teamed up with vocalist Freddie Mercury and bassist John Deacon shortly after and formed Queen in 1971.
In 1972 they spent most of the year in the studio working on demos. Producer John Anthony sent one of these demos to 'EMI' who liked it so much they signed them up. Meanwhile Freddie Mercury, under the name of Larry Lurex released a one-off single with 'EMI' titled I Can Hear Music/Goin' Back (the former a re-make of a Beach Boys hit). After the failed debut single, Keep Yourself Alive, May and Mercury would emerge as the stars on the '60's and '70's Hard Rock Glam-influenced Queen self-titled debut. By late 1973 they launched a heavy tour schedule with Mott The Hoople. The album didn't set the charts aflame but that didn't cut their determination. The Seven Seas Of Rhye single got them the coveted top 10 chart position paving the way for their sophomore effort, Queen II, in 1974; the album made top 5 and secured them as a headline act. The track Killer Queen, as a single, pushed up the charts to #2.
Sheer Heart Attack (1974), their next effort, proved to be one of their best albums, displaying near endless killer hooks, dynamics, satin lyrics and Metal riffs, generating such tracks as Stone Cold Crazy (later re-done by Metallica) and Now I'm Here.
Queen came into their own with the 1975 single Bohemian Rhrapsody. Not only was it a huge smash hit, but also it featured many new innovations to the music industry. It condensed the "Rock Opera" and, one may even include enough content to be an entire concept album, into a 7-minute track without sounding compressed or lacking in content or quality. It also featured what many consider to be the first true music video, a concept that would re-emerge in the early 1980s with the likes of Much Music and MTV. The video was in the classic 1970s style of backdrops and filming with the appearance to match. Resembling the start-up sequence to a Doctor Who episode, it was used strictly as a promotional item in the UK, seen a limited number of times. All the same it gave them 9 weeks on the charts at number 1, became the only single ever to sell a million copies on two separate occasions, became the Christmas number one twice in the UK, the only single ever to do so. Bohemian Rhrapsody made the accompanying album, appropriately titled, A Night At The Opera (1975), taking its name from the popular Marx Brothers movie, a hit. The album, for its part, proved to be one of the most ambitious and expensive music projects taken to that date, and took their glam bombastics to new highs. Mercury's multi-tracked vocals set new standards in studio achievements, while his satin-clad stage persona marked him as one of the world's most noted showmen. Meddows-Taylor also stepped in for a bit of well-deserved ego stroking with his penned track You're My Best Friend, a beautiful, slower piece that helped to offset the album's excesses. Their stage show also redefined outrageousness, especially when it went to America that year and pushed the album to top 5.
A Day At The Races (1976), again taken from the title of a Marc Brothers movie and often seen as a sequel to A Night at the Opera, gave them another number 1 and another hit single Somebody To Love, as well as featuring some of their classic work in Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy. The We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions double header tracks, spun off as a single, gave them a number 2 the following year; its beat driven riff heavy metal and anthemic Rock style moving them beyond operatic artsy feelings to a basic stadium Rock sound. This was further expanded by the less innovative, but nonetheless hit follow-up albums, News Of The World (1977) and Jazz (1978). The track gone single, Fat Bottomed Girls, claimed its own hit status with the story of a man with a fetish for "full figured" women that probably wouldn't be considered as funny in today's PC-crazed world. A live effort, Live Killers (1979), would follow.
As the old Rock world was swept away by the spiked Mohawk of punk, Queen looked to new influences to stay fresh and found it in the form of 1950s Rockabilly with the single Crazy Little Thing Called Love, featuring Murcury on the accompanying video dressed in biker gear, complete with leather cap. Grandmaster Flash would later sample portions of Queen's next accomplishment; the Disco influenced Another One Bites The Dust. It gave them a number 1 in the US Both tracks were featured on The Game (1980), the first influential and consistently innovative album they did since the mid 1970s, and a trans-Atlantic chart topper.
Flash Gordon (1980) saw them dabble with soundtracks, but it was quickly followed by multi-platinum greatest hits set Queen's Greatest Hits (1981). The Greatest Hits pack nicely summed up the first half of their musical life. The single Under Pressure, in collaboration with David Bowie, got them a hit in the UK, and for the first time in many years they managed to sell more copies in the UK than the US The follow-up, Hot Space (1982), wasn't overly successful, but the lull was short lived for they returned after a flurry of solo efforts with The Works (1984).
The Works marked the beginning of a run of top tenner tracks whose club included the likes of Radio Ga Ga and I Want To Break Free. As impressive as they were, they lacked the pop pizzazz to maintain the staying power in the collective conscience of the consumer like their work a decade previous had, as the album failed in the US but went triple platinum in the UK.
The band made an appearance at the 1985 Live Aid concert, they were still a huge audience draw, and most believe they were the stars of the show. They appeared on-stage as confident, mature and professional, regardless of the accusations that they were hypocritical for breaking the boycott of Apartheid-era South Africa at an earlier show. Their next single One Vision, kept with the Live Aid idealistic feel. At this point in their career their music consisted of carefully spaced and carefully produced albums and singles. A Kind Of Magic (1986), and the follow-up live shot, Live Magic (1986), saw Queen descending into the lowly cellar of plodding stadium friendly, un-creative noise. Nevertheless, with their past hits still jamming the radio waves, the latter album made it to number 1.
The Miracle (1989) followed containing using a pop-rock sound mixed with heavier featured like A Kind of Magic, and European hits like I Want It All, Breakthru, The Invisible Man, Scandal and The Miracle.
As mentioned earlier, the Bohemian Rhapsody single made it twice to number one status and its second climb up the charts would be when it was featured on the Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure movie in 1989; it headed right to the top of the charts.
Innuendo (1991) followed, including the timely track The Show Must Go On, and like the predecessor offered a number 1 in the UK, same also with the "best of..." compilation titled simply enough Greatest Hits II (1991). In fairness, Mercury was suffering from the final stages of the deadly AIDS infection and the final album was probably difficult for him to complete for on the 23rd of November 1991 he succumbed and died.
The remaining members of the band held a tribute concert shortly later. It was a sell-out, and an international TV event. It served to raise awareness for the deadly AIDS epidemic that killed their flamboyant signer and was sweeping parts of the human population. It was held at Wimbley Stadium and featured fellow top-sellers Guns N' Roses, Elton John, George Michael and Def Leppard. A collaboration with George Michael, featuring many of their more recent hits, titled simply Greatest Hits, was released in 1992. The band decided that it was inappropriate to continue without their fallen comrade and split shortly later. A posthumous album was released in 1995 titled Made In Heaven, appropriately enough; featuring material Mercury had been working on before his Death. A further greatest hits album titled Queen Rocks was released in 1997, followed by Queen+ in 1999. These two compilations served to wrap up their career and bring it to a quiet end; the former featuring remixes of their songs by other stars that admired them. The band members then split up with Taylor forming his own solo act and then The Cross, while May started his own self-named act. In 2018 a documentary movie would arrive, and although the producers wanted it to focus on Mercury, the band refused to authorize it afraid it might be scandalous and insisted it be about the career of the band as a whole.
A 2001 survey discovered the existence of 12,225 websites dedicated to Queen bootlegs, the highest number for any band.
Often criticized as being pretentious and over-produced Queen has proven they had the talent to last.
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The famous faces of the Queen members from the "Bohemian Rhapsody" video, a song first featured on the 'A Night at the Opera' album (1975).
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Artists mentioned in this article:
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