Queen was formed out of the wreckage of a smile in 1971.
Brian May (lead guitar with a penchant for playing with a sixpenny piece
instead of a plectrum) and Roger Taylor (a young jazz drummer with an inkling
for funk and rock) had just found themselves out of any form of entertainment
due to the demise of their band ‘Smile’. They met a certain flamboyant buck
toothed kindred spirit in Faroukh Bulsara (from here on known by his stage name
of Freddie Mercury, in part named after the puppet hero in the Gerry
Anderson’s Television show ‘Fireball XL5’), who, too, had just split up
his own band ‘Wreckage’.
After a bit of a Spinal Tap situation with bass players, the
trio finally managed to acquire John Deacon to fill in the lower notes. You
could not imagine four more unlikely people to form a band, but success was
only a kiss away.
After 18 months of constant rehearsal and very few actual
paid gigs, the group now known as Queen was signed on a small budget by EMI
Records in early 1973. Such was EMI’s disregard for their newly acquired band
that they did not even book them any studio time. This Queen’s debut album
was actually recorded in down time at London’s Trident Studio’s in-between
other - considered more important - acts doing their own recording. According
to legend, Queen found themselves spending 90% of their time sitting outside
recording studios waiting for the old pros to get fed up with their 30th
overdub and go home. Then the fledgling Queen could rush into the studio and
lay down their debut masterpiece.
It was not quite glitter all the way though. The only
release of Queen’s that did not instantly hit pay dirt was their first single
‘Keep Yourself Alive”. Amazingly, this did not even dent the British Top
Fifty, but it still remains this dog’s favorite single from the band. Yes, I
know about Bohemian Rhapsody, etc., but I implore you listen to the vibrancy of
their first single, indeed the whole of their debut album. ‘Keep Yourself
Alive’ and ‘Liar’ were to remain stage favorites with the fans right till
Queen’s debut album kicks off with their aforementioned
single and carries on in ground breaking fashion. Fortunately, right from the
first album the fifth member of Queen was behind the mixing desk. John Roy
Baker was to become as essential to Queen as George Michael had been to the
Beatles, funneling their natural talents into the perfect sound and working as
judge and jury in inter band conflicts. Rock ‘n’ roll was built on anger
and you cannot have such a multitalented band without the odd clash of ego.
In many ways life in Queen was much simpler in the early
days when they were scrambling their way to the top, with Freddie Mercury
writing the more flamboyant storyteller songs and Brian May being responsible
for the serious heavy metal side of things. John Deacon and Roger Taylor were
later to write many of Queen’s classic songs, but on this their debut album
John Deacon is confined to playing the strong silent bass player, while Roger
Taylor plays drums and is only given writing credits for the throw-away, under
two minutes twelve bar rocker ‘Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Queen’s debut album peaked at number 18 in the U.K.
Charts, although it was to re-enter the charts again in 1976, on the back of
Bohemian Rhapsody’s nine week year spanning run at number one, when all four
of Queen’s albums were in the British Top Thirty. ‘Queen 2’ originally
released in March 1974, reached number 5; ‘Sheer Heart Attack (1975) reached
number 3; and, of course, the icing on the cake, the first of many number 1
albums, ‘A Night At The Opera’, released at Christmas of 1975.
After the release of their debut album, Queen went out on
the road with Mott the Hoople for two tours of Europe and one of the United
States of America. Hopple was the only band they ever played support to. By
1976 they were playing to 200 thousand people in Hyde Park, London, and were
the biggest band in the world, where they remained until Freddie’s untimely
death in 1991.
But it all started here with a debut album that even
contained the demo track ‘The Night Comes Down’. Such were the original
time constraints on the band. Just kop a look at the cover for signals of what
was to come.
Queen has been re-released with over fifteen minutes of
bonus tracks and for once the added extras are actually a plus to the
collection. Sit back and listen to a dream coming true.