Posts Tagged ‘Brian May’

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“Sheer Heart Attack” is the third studio album by the rock band Queen, released in November 1974 by EMI Records in the United Kingdom and by Elektra Records in the United States. Digressing from the prog rock themes featured on their first two albums, the album featured more pop-centric and conventional rock tracks and marked a step towards the “classic” Queen sound. It was produced by the band and Roy Thomas Baker and launched Queen to mainstream popularity in the UK and throughout the world. In the May of 1974, having completed their third concert at the Uris Theatre in New York City as support band for Mott the Hoople, Queen should have been moving on to the next of 20 additional dates booked on their first tour of the United States. But their guitarist Brian May had been diagnosed with hepatitis two weeks earlier, and his health was failing. (He  possibly contracted the disease from a contaminated needle when he received mandatory vaccinations before traveling for Queen’s one-off Australian festival date in January.) The American tour in support of their “Queen II” LP had been a rousing success, but all momentum had now ground to a halt.

Brian May say’s: “When I was in the hospital, I found plenty of time to read the press cuttings that some of friends of mine had been keeping for me, and that really depressed me,” he later told journalist Rosemary Horide. “It was about that time I began wondering whether it was worth going on with music and the group. The thing about hepatitis is that it takes away all your drive and I was left feeling as if I didn’t have anything to contribute, as if it just wasn’t worth it.”

Without May, singer/keyboardist Freddie Mercury, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon prepared new songs for a third Queen album, with rehearsals and initial recording sessions at Trident Studios in London. Mercury told Melody Maker’s Caroline Coon about his grace under pressure, with a two-week deadline: “Well, ‘Killer Queen’ I wrote in one night. I’m not being conceited or anything, but it just fell into place. Certain songs do. Now, ‘March of the Black Queen’ [from Queen II], that took ages. I had to give it everything, to be self-indulgent or whatever. But with ‘Killer Queen,’ I scribbled down the words in the dark one Saturday night and the next morning I got them all together and I worked all day Sunday and that was it. I’d got it. Certain things just come together, but other things you have to work for.”

In July, May was feeling well enough to join them at Rockfield Studios in Wales, The band would record ten backing tracks at Rockfield Studios, finishing on 28th July, completing most of the  tracks with producer Roy Thomas Baker and engineer Mike Stone. But when they moved to Wessex Sound Studios in London, May was hospitalized again and required surgery, for yet another serious ailment: “When they found out I had a duodenal ulcer, I really thought that was the final straw. You see, instead of getting better after the hepatitis I just got sicker and sicker, and eventually they found out what was wrong. I was very down then.” But he came back to the group more committed than ever.

The resulting album “Sheet Heart Attack”, released November. 8th, 1974, by Elektra in the U.S. and EMI worldwide, was Queen’s commercial breakthrough. “Killer Queen” became a hit single. Wildly theatrical, straddling the worlds of hard rock, pop, prog and Broadway, the album was an eclectic triumph. May later said it was the first album on which Queen sounded like a true band rather than four individuals; he felt the experience gained on tour in America made the whole sound gel. He hadn’t been able to write as much as usual for the sessions, but that didn’t matter, because, as he said in a 1975 interview, “I play my best guitar on other people’s songs.”

The opener “Brighton Rock” had been written by May during the Queen II sessions. It opens with the sounds of the holiday pier in Brighton before the band enters at a frantic pace, and Mercury at the top of his range screams the lyrics: “Happy little day, Jimmy went away/Met his little Jenny on a public holiday/A happy pair they made, so decorously laid/’Neath the gay illuminations all along the promenade.” Mercury then does an impressive sweep down to a lower octave, a trick he returns to several times during the track. A section of stacked vocals looks forward to “Bohemian Rhapsody” before May leads Deacon and Taylor into a swirling collage of metal-like chord slams and psychedelic ambiance. (How Baker and Stone captured the detailed sonic mayhem of Queen throughout their years of work with the band is amazing.)

At 2:40 of “Brighton Rock,” one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded begins. May’s use of Echoplex delay and his alteration of light and heavy touch is jaw-dropping, and sets the template for every hard rock guitarist to come (listen to Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” for Exhibit A). When Mercury re-enters for the concluding verse, May sings with him, and the guitar pyrotechnics end it all with a thunderclap.

“Brighton Rock” was written by Brian May during the Queen II sessions, but was not recorded at that time as the group felt it would not fit with the rest of the album. Lyrically, it tells the story of two young lovers named Jenny and Jimmy meeting in Brighton on a public holiday.  Mods travelling to Brighton on bank holidays was a popular narrative at the time, such as The Who’s Quadrophenia.  Jenny cannot linger because she is afraid her mother will find out “how I spent my holiday”, but afterwards “writes a letter every day”; Jimmy, eager on the day, is not so happy with her “nothing can my love erase”: now he is the one afraid of discovery by “my lady”.

The song includes an unaccompanied guitar solo interlude, which makes extensive use of delay to build up guitar harmony and contrapuntal melodic lines. It grew out of May’s experimentation with an Echoplex unit, as he had been attempting to recreate his guitar orchestrations during live performances of “Son and Daughter”. He had made modifications to the original unit so that he could change the delay times, as he felt that it wasn’t the length he needed, and ran each echo through a separate amplifier to avoid interference. The studio version only contains one “main” guitar and one “echoed” guitar for a short section, but live, May would usually split his guitar signal into “main” and two “echoed”, with each going to a separate bank of amplifiers.

The guitar solo on this song has been performed live at most concerts by Queen or May, either as part of this song, in a medley with another, or as a standalone piece. May also performed some of the solo at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  It is considered to be one of Brian May’s finest solos,

The song was notably used in the 2017 film Baby Driver, being one of the favourite songs of the main character Baby and played during the film’s final action scene.

A bigger contrast to the next track, “Killer Queen,” can hardly be imagined. Finger-snapping and tack piano begin, with a stately mid-range Mercury vocal that owes its hybrid sangfroid to the British music hall and French chanson traditions. Expertly designed backing vocals swoop, “caviar and cigarettes/well-versed in etiquette/extraordinarily nice” is done in falsetto, and then the super-catchy chorus arrives.

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Mercury revels in his tale of a high-priced prostitute who is “dynamite with a laser beam,” throwing in fancy words that rarely make it into pop lyrics: insatiable, gelatine, baroness. There are occasional phasing effects on the vocals, and May tries out a half dozen different guitar tones, with a middle overdubbed section that is a marvel. This is where Mercury’s fascination with the “spirit of extravagance” that is “camp” blossoms. It is one of the few songs by him for which he wrote the lyrics first, which are about a high class prostitute. 

Another change of pace is Taylor’s folky “Tenement Funster,” which he sings very much in the style of Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter. Deacon played the acoustic guitars in May’s absence, but May added electric parts later. It segues into Mercury’s “Flick of the Wrist,” which perhaps echoes Alice Cooper in its opening bars, and has a wonderfully unhinged middle section where frenetic drumming, multiple guitars and stacked vocals collide.

The joyful over-the-top antics yield to the third part of the medley, “Lily of the Valley,” a short, tender Mercury ballad that he sings the hell out of. This is another example of Baker’s production expertise: listen how the “sound of the room” caresses May’s guitar lines and keeps Mercury’s piano in front of your ears. (Queen albums, like Pink Floyd’s, pay dividends with good headphones.)

May closes out the first LP side with the massive “Now I’m Here,” which he wrote in the hospital. His chunky guitar riff is worthy of Led Zeppelin, even if it yields to a chugging feel that owes something (again) to Mott the Hoople. Mercury really sells it, and at 3:15 Deacon, Taylor and May give a master class in how to lock in a groove and wail. As it ends, May goes into a fervid Chuck Berry-style solo, which Mercury verifies by singing “go, go, go little Queenie” before the fade.

The second side of Sheer Heart Attack is a mixed bag with some real clunkers. “In the Lap of the Gods” starts it off with an operatic scream, stacked guitars and heaps of harmony vocals (by Taylor and Mercury) sputtering in the mix before a very arch, highly-processed Mercury lead vocal emerges. He absolutely revels in the nuttiness, while May again pulls out a wide variety of sonic colours and combinations.

“Stone Cold Crazy” was one of the earliest tracks that Queen performed live, and had several different arrangements before being recorded for “Sheer Heart Attack”. No band member was able to remember who had written the lyrics when the album was released, hence they shared writing credit, the first of their songs to do so. The lyrics themselves deal with gangsters, making a reference to Al Capone. The track has a fast tempo and heavy distortion, presaging speed metal. Music magazine Q described “Stone Cold Crazy” as “thrash metal even before the term was invented”. The song was played live at almost every Queen concert between 1974 and 1978

The two-minute blast of “Stone Cold Crazy” is next, sounding like the bastard child of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” and Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.” The song had been kicking around the band for years, in various arrangements, and nobody could remember who wrote the lyrics by the time they tried it again for Sheer Heart Attack, It was also the first album in which all four band members contributed songs; “Stone Cold Crazy” was the first song in which all four band members would receive a writing credit. It’s magnificently goofy. (A cover by Metallica won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1991.)

May’s short ballad “Dear Friends” is beautifully sung by Mercury and leads into Deacon’s only solo writing credit, “Misfire,” which seems to have escaped from a Doobie Brothers album, “Misfire” was John Deacon’s first individual composition for the band, and featured him playing most guitars.

“Bring Back That Leroy Brown” had 70 vocal tracks and had to the mixed down to accommodate with the 24-track mixer. Deacon’s on double bass and May strums a banjo-ukulele, an instrument popular in the 1920s that fits Mercury’s retro lyrics and rhythm. In concert, the tune was most often treated as a throwaway instrumental; maybe it ultimately exceeded Mercury’s quotient for silliness. 

“Bring Back That Leroy Brown” is a Charleston that was written by Mercury and features him playing grand piano and jangle piano, as well as multiple vocal overdubs. May played a short section on ukulele-banjo and Deacon played a line on the double bass. DRUM! Magazine commends Taylor’s drum work, calling it a good example of his versatility. “It really shows off Taylor’s versatility. He nails dozens of kicks throughout this fast and tricky song and proves that he could’ve been a big band drummer or ably fit into any theatrical pit band if Queen hadn’t worked out so well for him. Honky-tonk piano, upright bass, ukulele-banjo, and a smokin’ drummer all add up to a rollicking good time.” The song’s title alludes to the then-recent hit “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” by American singer-songwriter Jim Croce who had died in a plane crash the previous year. The song was played live in an arrangement that shortened the song and was, except for the very end and one other line, purely instrumental. May’s ukulele-banjo was brought onstage especially for this song. An a cappella version was released as part of the 2011 remaster of the album.

“She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)” is written and sung by May, with Deacon on acoustic guitar along with him. There are echoes of the Who, the Association and the Eagles, and not a lot of Queen. There’s not much of interest here; the tempo drags, and the track really overstays its welcome at 4:08. There are some “New York nightmare” sounds, sirens and heavy breathing, that are just weird. Thankfully, “In the Lap of the Gods…Revisited” concludes the album in high style, a fantastic showcase for Mercury and May. It was Mercury’s first try at writing a melody line that audiences would enthusiastically sing along to, and he placed it as a show closer for many gigs in the next three years. Its role as a sing-along eventually was supplanted by a little ditty called “We Are the Champions.”

“Sheer Heart Attack” established Queen as a major force in most parts of the world and Mercury as one of rock’s most flamboyant frontmen. They did a world tour of 77 dates, and audiences loved them, from Manchester to Munich, Trenton to Tokyo. Most critics praised the album’s recording dynamics and the audacity of the conception, and admitted no matter how pretentious or bombastic, Queen were consummate entertainers. The triumphs of A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera were still to come, but they have their roots in Sheer Heart Attack’s total bravado.

NME wrote, ‘A feast. No duffers, and four songs that will just run and run: “Killer Queen”, “Flick of the Wrist”, “Now I’m Here”, and “In the Lap of the Gods…Revisited”. The Winnipeg Free Press commended ‘Brian May’s multi-tracked guitar, Freddie Mercury’s stunning vocalising and Roy Thomas Baker’s dynamic production work’, calling the album ‘a no-holds barred, full-scale attack on the senses’. Circus Magazine referred to the album as ‘perhaps the heaviest, rocking-est assault on these shores we’ve enjoyed in some time’. Rolling Stone wrote, ‘If it’s hard to love, it’s hard not to admire: this band is skilled, after all, and it dares.’  As 1974 drew to a close, the album was ranked by Disc as the third best album of the year. 

From 30th October 1974 to 1st May 1975, the album was promoted on tour. The tour consisted of three legs and 77 individual shows, and was the band’s first world tour.

Released November 1974

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Queen and Adam Lambert have shared a live performance video of “Somebody To Love” from Isle of Wight Festival at Seaclose Park on June 12th, 2016. The performance initially appeared on the collaborator’s first live album and concert film, “Live Around the World”, which saw worldwide release on October 2nd.

While Queen has rocked festivals for decades, this 2016 performance marked the first time the band had played with Adam Lambert in such a setting, and the vastness of the crowd cannot be understated. Sitting at the midpoint of their set, between “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Love of My Life”, this high-energy rendition of “Somebody To Love” was impressive. Though nobody can compete with the raw showmanship of Queen’s original frontman Freddie Mercury, Lamberts stage presence is notable in this performance. He worked the crowd well, even having fun with a brief call-and-response section, while also proving his vocal prowess on some of the more difficult sections of the song.

Adam has the ability to sing anything and everything we throw at him,” said drummer Roger Taylor in a press statement, “There’s nothing he can’t handle. Our songs are big and theatrical and Adam fits that easily. I think he’s the best singer around. His range is staggering.” Explained Lambert , “Some of Queen’s songs are just so vocally athletic and physically demanding. For example, ‘The Show Must Go On’ is certainly demanding, ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ goes from zero to 99. ‘Somebody to Love’ is really intense and big.

Their first ever Live album; Queen + Adam Lambert , ‘Live Around The World’

Queen A Night At The Opera album cover with border web optimised 820

As the 1970s became the 1980s and all four members of the rock band Queen blossomed as songwriters, their albums started to sound like musical tugs-of-war. In fact, Freddie Mercury compared the group’s competitive streak and overall dynamic to “four cocks fighting”. However, the feathers were already flying on 1975’s ground-breaking, six million-plus selling fourth album, “A Night At The Opera”.

The UK tour to support the release of Sheer Heart Attack got underway during the autumn of 1974, and after taking in Europe and America, it finished at the Budokan in Tokyo, Japan, on 1st May 1975. Between the band’s return and the start of another UK tour on 14 November 1975, Queen recorded the album that would turn them from big stars to superstars. Work on Queen’s fourth album, another co-produced by the band along with Roy Thomas Baker, began in August 1975, and it was only finished shortly before the opening date of their tour at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre on 14th November. A Night At The Opera, as we all now know, is a masterpiece.

John, Roger, Brian and Freddie took much needed holidays before work on the new project began in earnest with a three-week writing and playing session in a rented Herefordshire house. They then decamped over the Welsh Marches once more to Rockfield Studio. The band later worked in five more studios (Roundhouse, Sarm East, Scorpio, Lansdowne, and Olympic) in their pursuit of perfection, and in so doing, their own self-belief was fully justified.

Everything about Queen’s fourth LP sounds big. The production. The performances. The sheer scope of the songs. You can boil it all down to the hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” if you want, but all of ‘A Night at the Opera’ is on this scale. It was their fourth studio album, and almost 45 years later the iconic “A Night At The Opera” is still one of the most talked about albums of all time. Queen’s discography spans over two decades, with 15 albums total, but “A Night At The Opera” is the masterpiece that made the band legendary.

“A Night At The Opera” set the forefront for rock albums to come. With its intricacies and surprising twists and turns, this album is anything but boring. And there is never a wrong time to review and talk about it.

The timeless and beloved hit song “Bohemian Rhapsody” changed how we listen to music today. With praise from big names from the ‘60s (The Beach Boys) and names from today (Panic! At The Disco), this song still is relentlessly covered, loud and relevant. Featured in movies like the famous scene in “Wayne’s World” and still one of the most played songs of all time, “Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t your average album single. It’s what made Queen one of the most famous bands of all time.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” challenged all preconceived notions of what it meant to record a rock song. The song itself was never made for radio, clocking in at nearly six minutes long. It’s filled with obscure allusions and an inconsistent pace that should’ve sent fans running, but instead sent them to No#1 in the charts.

Though “A Night At The Opera” has one of the famous songs of all time, the album, overall, is full of incredibly organized chaos. Kicking off with a sneering “Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To…)” that’s followed by a less serious “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon.”

The album isn’t complete without Roger Taylor’s tongue-in-cheek “I’m In Love With My Car,” a rock song that Taylor felt was more important and better quality than Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“A Night At The Opera” explores various genres within itself. From the ragtime “Seaside Rendezvous” to the folky “‘39,” there is everything in the nearly 45-minute long, showcasing Queen’s ability to explore various genres, emotions and stories.

The ballad “Love Of My Life” was written by Mercury for his ex-fiance and close friend, Mary Austin. Mercury pleads in the song for his love to not leave him, a very different feeling than the seeming indifference he showcases at the beginning of the album. An orchestral feel with strings, piano and Mercury’s poignant vocals, that later progresses into a rock song with a brief Brian May solo, “Love Of My Life” reinforces Mercury’s lyrical vulnerability and songwriting expertise.

“A Night At The Opera” is a complete collection of everything good that’s ever come out of Queen’s songwriting. It’s intricate, in-depth, it has multiple layers. It’s to be taken very seriously and not seriously at all somehow at the same time. It’s incredibly detailed and has somehow managed to land among the greats. It is Queen’s career-defining LP, and to be taken seriously by many more generations to come.

The 12 tracks that make up A Night At The Opera comfortably broke the 43-minute mark, and like its predecessor, the sequencing of this record creates its own dynamic. This is an album that should be listened to in its entirety.

12) Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon

Rock, pop and vaudeville – it was all fair game to Freddie Mercury. As fun as it is, the trouble with Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon is that Mercury had already written one vaudeville pastiche, Bring Back That Leroy Brown on Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack album. The world didn’t need another. Freddie’s ‘Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon’ continued to showcase his piano playing skills and his growing confidence on keyboards helped to make the whole album so much better.

11) Good Company

Brian May has always been a one-man guitar orchestra, and rarely more so on this homage to Dixieland jazz, in which he sang a charming When I’m 64-style lyric while his guitar mimicked a ukulele-banjo and a clarinet. Once heard, rarely played again, though (unless it comes up unexpectedly on iPod shuffle and you can’t forward it quickly enough). Brian’s ‘Good Company’ is one of his wise family pieces – a song full of sound values and mature reflection. Recorded with the ukulele and his trusty Red Special to hand, their overlapping mimics a traditional Dixieland jazz band feel; the poignant narrative has a twist in the tale.

10) God Save The Queen

Queen’s version of the National Anthem closes A Night At The Opera album – and quite rightly so. Where else should it go? Still a testament to Brian May’s regal guitar skills, the most surprising thing about God Save The Queen is that it took the band four albums to get around to recording it.

9) Seaside Rendezvous

More old-time musical japes from Freddie. But preferable to Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon thanks to Mercury and Roger Taylor’s pin-sharp harmonies, some imaginative use of kazoo and the singer’s final payoff ‘Give us a kiss!’ which, unusually for Freddie, is delivered with all the grace and panache of driver Stan Butler leering at a buxom ‘clippie’ in the 70s TV comedy On The Buses.

8) Sweet Lady

Even Brian May’s tidy Zep-meets-Free riff can’t save Sweet Lady from obscurity. True, there’s a nice Communication Breakdown-style guitar dust-up at the end, but May would do it better in the years ahead (see: Tie Your Mother Down, Hammer To Fall…). Also contains one of the worst Queen lyrics ever: ‘You call me sweet, like I’m some kind of cheese…’ Brian’s ‘Sweet Lady’ accentuated the almost wilful diversity of Queen at this point in their career, with its live rhythm section and heavily distorted rock thrash in ¾ time. Mercury’s ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ is another track that shows the band’s inventiveness, since Freddie and Roger provide a woodwind section performed by just their voices, along with a tap dancing sequence they performed on the mixing desk with thimbles over their fingers.

7) The Prophet’s Song

On paper this Brian May-composed pomp epic should be one of Queen’s finest hard rock moments. But it struggles to match past gems such as Brighton Rock and Father To Son. Instead, it’s an oddly sluggish affair – like Jethro Tull on Night Nurse – but salvaged by that insane a cappella vocal mid-section. Brian’s lengthy, ‘The Prophet’s Song’, that was inspired, if that is the right word, when he was feverish with hepatitis during the Sheer Heart Attack sessions. A heavy, moody piece, ‘The Prophet’s Song’ was the ideal centrepiece for the forthcoming tour. Its Biblical atmosphere being accentuated by the guitarist’s use of the toy koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument more usually associated with experimental classical music.

6) ‘39

Brian May once described 39 as “sci-fi skiffle”. But while he does set a Robert Heinlein-inspired lyric to a Lonnie Donegan guitar thrashalong, its sing-song campfire melody and simple charm make it May’s best song on A Night At The Opera. Brian May’s ‘39’ is his first composition to appear on this album and it is a science fiction come space travel number that is a reminder of his learned interest in astrophysics and astronomy in general. Given the song’s weird skiffle arrangement, Brian asked Deacon to play double bass, and the number was included in Queen’s set-list by 1976, becoming an instant crowd favourite.

5) I’m In Love With My Car

Some would give Roger Taylor points on his licence for I’m In Love With My Car, the B-side to Bohemian Rhapsody. But why? The 1975-vintage Taylor, with his blonde girl’s hair and fine line in self-aggrandising, laddish rock songs (see also: Tenement Funster), captures the essence of Queen’s barefaced cheek and grandeur. Plus, any song that rhymes ‘forget her’ with ‘carburettor’ can’t be all bad, can it?

4) Love Of My Life

It says much about Queen’s embarrassment of riches that this romantic ballad (reputedly written for Mercury’s soon-to-be- ex-girlfriend Mary Austin) was dropped from the set in the mid-80s despite becoming an audience singalong at shows in the late ‘70s. Other, lesser bands would have clung on to it for dear life – and forever.

3) You’re My Best Friend

Freddie Mercury nicknamed Queen bassist John Deacon “the ostrich”. Deacon’s songwriting moments were rare, but he laid some golden eggs (the most golden being Another One Bites The Dust). However, You’re My Best Friend, a slightly twee pop song dedicated to Deacon’s missus Veronica, came first. Not that his bandmates liked it: Taylor thought the lyrics too soft and Mercury refused to play electric piano, making The Ostrich play it instead. But what did they know?. More new ground is broken by John Deacon’s ‘You’re My Best Friend’, which in 1976 became the eminent bass man’s first composition to be released as a Queen single, and a hit at that. Very much John’s baby, he even supplies the Wurlitzer organ.

2) Death On Two Legs

For all his charm and wit, Freddie Mercury could be a vicious sod. And the opening track on A Night At The Opera, apart from being close to its best, is certainly its most vicious. Lyrics such as ‘You suck my blood like a leech’ were aimed at Queen’s ex-co-manager Norman Sheffield, and were so vituperative the now late Sheffield threatened Queen with a lawsuit. From its Hammer Horror movie intro through May’s scything guitar solo and Mercury’s impassioned ‘You’re tearing me a-p-a-r-t’, this is Queen at their rococo rock finest.

1) Bohemian Rhapsody

Over-familiarity, over-exposure and hearing that terrible version in a recent TV ad for a well-known holiday company, has truly taken the shine off Bohemian Rhapsody. Yet to put Queen’s mini-symphony anywhere other than at number one seems churlish and, worse still, fake. More than 40 years on, its daring fusion of heavy metal, show-tune balladry and light opera remains the high watermark on A Night At The Opera, and a tribute to 70s Queen’s collective imagination and sheer bravado. Composed in six sections, mostly by Mercury in his Holland Park home, this was the song that divided opinion even within the ranks. Surely they couldn’t expect to get away with this? Mercury was certain of its merits, but seldom gave much away concerning the lyrical structure and the references to classic opera, Old Testament seers and the principal characters Scaramouche and Galileo.

Ironically, prior to releasing it as a single, one senior EMI executive was convinced that it was too long and he tried to convince the band that it needed to be edited if it was to stand any chance of getting any radio plays.

Mixing the gloriously bombastic with the sweetly simple, May’s guitar solo is bang on the money. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was very much “Freddie’s thing” and also his tour de force, containing as it did elements of works in progress from earlier ventures.

As if the song wasn’t visual enough, it was accompanied by a ground-breaking video, and while it was said to be the most expensively constructed single made to that point in time,

And that wasn’t the end of the affair, and there was only one way to follow it. A revisit to May’s arrangement of the National Anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’ (surely that didn’t go unnoticed in Sex Pistols circles either); it was something they’d been using as a tour finale for some time. Instrumental, multi-layered and strangely affecting, May would achieve a kind of lifetime ambition many years later when he performed it from the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002; it was also a kind of homage to Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

And so the album was released on 21st November 1975 and as a result, that Christmas belonged to Queen. The sold-out tour that had begun a week before the album’s release culminated with a Christmas Eve concert at Hammersmith Odeon that was videotaped and broadcast by the BBC on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Queen - A Night At The Opera

A Night At The Opera, as we all now know, is a masterpiece. Everything from its title (borrowed from The Marx Brothers 1935 movie) to the music, the album’s artwork and the whole pomp and circumstance of the entire package is majestic.

In early March of 1974, Queen did something that they’ve now done 54 times to date. They made the UK singles chart for the very first time, as ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ took its bow at a modest chart place No. 45. It was the first of what currently stands at 440 weeks overall on the British bestsellers or, to put it another way, nearly eight and a half years.

The song has, of course, taken its rightful place in Queen history, both for being their chart breakthrough and for representing the band at the height of their rocking powers. But when Roger Taylor spoke to Record Mirror in 1975, he revealed that he hadn’t expected it to do well, and that he had thought their earlier, debut single, which wasn’t a chart item, would perform better.

“Apart from ‘Killer Queen” he said, “which was obviously catchy, I don’t think of our singles as being immediately commercial. For instance, when ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ was a hit, I was very surprised. It was only intended really to draw attention to the album. I thought that ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ was a much more commercial song. I think it is probably an advantage not to know exactly what will sell, “because then you are not inhibited in your choice of a single.”

As ‘Rhye’ made its chart debut, the album it was on, Queen IIwas new in the shops, and the single and LP would climb the UK charts in tandem. After that No. 45 entry, ‘Seven Seas’ climbed to No. 30 and then No. 15, where it seemed to have stalled before it rose again, peaking at No. 10 in mid-April. Queen II would within two weeks it was in the top ten, for a No. 5 peak. Queen’s sales momentum was now well and truly under way.

Seven Seas of Rhye” was primarily written by Freddie Mercury, with Brian May contributing the second middle-eight. The song is officially credited to Mercury only. A rudimentary instrumental version appears as the final track on the group’s debut album Queen with the final version on the follow-up Queen II , The completed version served as the band’s third single, It was publicly premiered when Queen were offered a sudden chance to appear on Top of the Pops in February 1974, and was rushed to vinyl two days later in February. It became their first chart entry after gaining airtime on BBC Radio 1.

Stop The Press! Queen Announce Five-Disc ‘News Of The World’ Box Set

In 1977, Queen were the champions. They came to rock you. While much of the music press was getting in a lather over punk and predicting the death of classic rock (wrongly, as it would turn out), the real headlines were these: Queen had a new album out. They’d penned two juggernaut songs – alongside a host of other genre-hopping tracks – and, in News Of The World, they were poised to break America.

Forty years after Queen truly elevated themselves to arena-filling live act, “News Of The World” is set to reappear in a 40th-anniversary box set edition spanning one LP, three CDs and a DVD, and featuring previously unheard recordings that will rock you all over again.

Due for release on 17th November, the original News Of The World album is bolstered with a whole CD of previously unheard takes from the recording sessions, making up an alternative Raw Sessions version of the album. Among the surprises on this disc are a recording of Brian May’s ‘All Dead, All Dead’, sung by Freddie Mercury and only ever heard by the band’s closest confidants; an unedited version of ‘Sheer Heart Attack’, with its intro and ending fully intact; and another unreleased full-length recording in the shape of one of the album’s indisputable classic cuts, ‘We Are The Champions’.

With a host of other differences between the Raw Sessions and the released News Of The World album versions, this disc marks one of the first times that Queen’s archives have been opened to such an extent – and it reveals plenty more jewels in the band’s crown.

One of the most stylistically varied albums in Queen’s wide-ranging body of work, News Of The World itself appears in the box set as both the 2011 CD remaster and also a band new Pure Analogue LP cut, taken direct from the unmastered analogue tapes and housed in a replica of the original 1977 artwork. A third CD offers further rarities, among them a seven-song BBC radio session, instrumental backing tracks and live recordings, while a 60-page booklet and a DVD of the unreleased Queen: The American Dream documentary take further in-depth looks behind the scenes of a phenomenal year in Queen’s truly regal history. Tracking the band both on tour and in the recording studio, Queen: The American Dream in particular captures the group as they were poised to take over the US – and further stake their claim as one of the world’s greatest rock bands.

Queen’s News Of The World: 40th Anniversary Edition box set is due for release on 17 November. A limited edition print is available for orders placed through Queen’s online store

The 40th anniversary News Of The World box set is issued next month and the band have just made available a couple of previously unreleased outtakes from the ‘Raw Sessions’ disc (CD 2 in the box), namely We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. 

Decades ago, Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” posed an existential question: “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” So, what better soundtrack for a cool new virtual reality interactive called the Bohemian Rhapsody Experience?.
Queen have paired with Google Play and Enosis VR to create this 360-degree 3D journey, which runs on both iOS and Android. Check it out at the official site, where it can be downloaded via Google Play or at the App Store. You can also watch the interactive through Google Cardboard or as a 360-degree video on your mobile device.
“It’s fully interactive, where most of the things are triggered by your gaze,” Enosis founder Vangelis Lympouridis told the Creators Project. “As you view it, a lot of things pop up in front of your eyes. You don’t necessarily feel that you trigger them, but you do. Where your attention goes, that’s where action unfolds.”
Want to find out more? The above video takes fans on a behind-the-scenes tour to see how the Bohemian Rhapsody Experience was created.
Audiophiles will notice something too. Dolby laboratories took the original master tapes for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which date back to the Queen sessions for 1975’s A Night at the Opera, and gave them a sparkling new remix. “Brian May said it’s unbelievable how immersive the mix is and that we a great job,” Lympouridis added. “Having the band proclaim that the audio is superior is obviously really great.”

Take a behind the scenes look at a virtual reality experiment from Google Play and Queen. The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience offers a journey through Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s subconscious mind and recreates the sensation of being onstage with the band, with visual and audio elements that respond to your movements. The content is also available as a 360 degree video for you to experience even if you do not own a Google Cardboard.

Queen

Queen in concert at The Hippodrome, Golders Green, recorded on October 20th, 1973 by BBC Radio 1 for their weekly In-Concert series. Queen came along at a time when seemingly everything in Rock was up for grabs – changes were all over the place. The 70s were the decade of Prog, Hard Rock, Country-Rock, Glam, 50s Revival, Disco, Punk and New Wave (and probably several more that flew by).

A lot of musical changes were crammed into the space of 10 years, and the business itself was changing considerably during those ten years. Rock had grown up – was now a huge business; it was something that entertained corporate stature. And even though it was still a bunch of kids getting together in a garage and working on music and struggling to make it, it was now big business – very big business.

Queen came along, following in the footsteps of David Bowie, Mott The Hoople and Glam in general. However, they represented a different approach as to how music and bands were looking at business and their careers. In the 1970s many bands were setting up their own production companies and in some cases their own labels. It was a way of maintaining artistic vision and retaining control over what they were putting out. Quickly fading were the days when an artist or band would be signed to a label and have three songs cut; one for the a-side of a single, one for the b-side and one extra in case neither worked out. Based on sales and how that single did, they would go on to the next step and record an albums worth of material (sometimes quickly, which meant a lot of “filler” was involved). It was pretty much to the dictates of the label – and some labels were unscrupulous (and still are, according to quite a few). The business was now evolving into an atmosphere where Managers and Production companies were beginning to call the shots.

In the case of Queen, they were aligned with producer Roy Thomas Baker and Trident Studios; a relationship which was the catalyst and model for many other artists to follow later on. Baker and Trident negotiated what at the time was barely heard of – especially for a new act – leasing masters and negotiating with labels in other territories to release their albums. Baker, Trident and Queen were in a position, not only to call the shots, but to preserve their artistic direction and vision – something previously known in the world of Music as a crapshoot.

But the fact that Queen were high-energy and coupled with excellent production, made them an instantly accessible band. I remember when their debut album was issued in the U.S. via Elektra (they were on EMI in the UK), it succeeded in dropping jaws and creating a lot of excitement. This concert comes just about two months after that debut album was issued and you get the unmistakable feeling something is starting to happen.

By 1975 however, Queen had become major. And thanks to their 3rd album Sheer Heart Attack, they were became international successes. Remember, this is all before A Night At The Opera, the pivotal album which turned them into superstars and filled arenas to overflow. This concert finds them heading in that direction. Propelled by the soaring vocals of Freddie Mercury and the virtuosic efforts of Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.

The story of Queen is not unknown to fans – the story of Freddie Mercury and his battle with AIDS took a ravaging disease and brought it closer to home.

But that’s all in the future – here we are, and it’s 1973. The Hippodrome is playing host to Queen and BBC Radio 1 are preserving it all. You get to listen to it now and be reminded or become introduced to one of the extraordinary bands of the 1970s and hear why they became household names.