Queen burst onto the Rock ‘n’ Roll scene in 1973 with the
release of this self-titled debut album in 1973. As soon as they arrived it
seemed like they had always been superstars. Limousines everywhere, huge
entourage, Freddie’s fingernail polish, and the vague similarities to ‘The
Beatles’. They had a dorky looking drummer in Roger Taylor to compare to
Ringo; a quiet one in John Deacon to replace George Harrison; a flamboyant
pretty boy out front in our Freddie to fill the Paul McCartney spot; and a
slightly menacing one, Brian May, who even looked a bit like John Lennon.
But in fact Queen had paid their dues and had all been in a
few bands before this lineup was stabilized in 1971. (Freddie used to be in a
band called ‘Larry Lurex’. I wonder if that would have caught on as well as
‘Queen’?) It wasn’t till 1973 that they released their first album, which
eventually crawled up the charts to reach #18 in the U.K.
Mysteriously this album was not released in the USA until
1975, by which time Queen were international superstars and had already released
three other albums. So it is not really surprising that the songs from this
album are not so well known on that side of the Atlantic. A real shame as the
first three Queen albums remain this Dog’s favorites. The second album
released in 1974 as Queen 2 (a little more imagination please, boys, very
Chicagoish) and the wonderfully hard rockin’ ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ also
released in 1974.
Also in 1974 Queen released ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. At
almost six minutes it was considered way too long for a single. Defying all the
predictions it went straight in at #1 and stayed there for nine weeks, all over
Christmas and New Year. Queen had a number one before in ‘Killer Queen’ the
previous year, but this was the big one. Its promotional video was
groundbreaking in so many ways that there would be no ground left to break for
others for years to come.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was the inspiration for M.T.V. and
all the other music stations. This was followed early in 1975 by ‘A Night at
the Opera’, Queen’s first platinum album.
I know it’s only an old Dog talking, but by now longtime
producer Roy Thomas Baker (who was to become almost a fifth member of the band
in the studio), had them so polished that it all became a bit to slick for an
old rocker. However, millions of folk obviously disagree as each following album
sold more than the last.
Queen also toured constantly. Their British Jubilee tour of
the States in 1977 with Thin Lizzy (‘Queen Lizzy’ - geddit?) broke box
office records everywhere it went. Then on July 13, 1985, Queen played at the
Live Aid Concert, the largest ever broadcast of a Rock ‘n’ Roll show with
all the most famous acts in the world on the bill (some specially reforming for
the gig), and simply stole the show. Queen’s finest hour.
After this they could print their own ticket, and could do no
wrong. Until of course, on November 23, poor old Freddie announced he was
suffering from the dreaded AIDS virus and quietly passed away the following day.
Fittingly the finale of Freddie’s life was the largest tribute concert in
living history at Wembley Stadium the following April, the scene of many of
Freddie’s previous triumphs.
Queen’s debut album is glorious. As soon as Brian May plays
the opening licks of ‘The Who’ influenced (yes, everybody has influences)
‘Keep Yourself Alive’, you know you have something special in your ears.
‘Liar’ is the first ever Queen epic, and it stands as proud now as it did
then. At the end of the album you even get a snatch of ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’,
which was to be completed by the time of the next album and become Queen’s
first hit single.
The new re-mastered version of this album has three bonus
tracks tacked onto the end, two are alternate versions - in each case the
original is superior, and one unreleased song that perhaps should have stayed on
the cutting room floor.
Taylor and Deacon are a marvelous rhythm section and sing
glorious harmony vocals that were to become the trademark of the ‘Queen’
Roger Taylor also made his writing debut here with ‘Modern
Times Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Unfortunately not the strongest song on the album.
So? He was to make up for it later.
Brian May contributes four songs and establishes his sixpenny
guitar sound. (Brian May used an old English sixpenny piece as a plectrum giving
him a sound all of his own.)
But where Queen is concerned you can never get away from the
man with the big teeth and enormous talent. The world needed Freddie Mercury and
no matter what other genes of music came along, don’t forget punk was just
round the corner and blew most of the old school bands away, Freddie and his
boys rode the crest of the wave. Freddie contributed four songs. ‘Liar’ is
probably still the best known of the songs, but I have always had a soft spot
for ‘Great King Rat’. The first lyrics that ever came from the pen of
Freddie for a Queen song were.
“Great King Rat died today,
Born on the twenty first of May,
Died Forty Four on his birthday,
Every second word he swore,
Yes, he was the son of a whore,
Always wanted by the law.”
Ah, Freddie, we will always miss you. One of the great
talents. You came and conquered, and then was whisked away from us. No, the
irony of the lyrics are not wasted on this dog. Freddie Mercury, a genuine star,
we are not likely to see his likes again.