Queen’s first album was well on the way to being completed in 1972 – they already had Keep Yourself Alive, Liar, Jesus and The Night Comes Down finished – when they went searching for a record deal. All they had to do was put down a few tracks and find a record company A&R man who got what they were trying to do. They had met a young up-and-coming producer, Roy Thomas Baker, who liked what he heard, and soon afterwards, the band signed to EMI. No big hits, but the stage was set.
The follow-up, Queen II, displayed an immense maturity and portrayed a band that had plenty to say, with five Brian May compositions,five by Freddie Mercury and a solitary track by Roger Taylor. Mercury and May were no normal rock songwriters. Their material drew on mysticism and other-worldly imagery. Mercury’s Liar, My Fairy King and Seven Seas of Rhye, the band’s first hit, were neatly juxtaposed against May’s Keep Yourself Alive, Son and Daughter and Doing Alright, and managed somehow to show themselves as two sides of the same coin.
Queen’s progress was not without its challenges. As the band prepared to record their third album, Sheer Heart Attack, they were faced with a major challenge – recording a crucial, career-defining album while Brian May recovered from a serious bout of hepatitis. They rallied and their work took a new turn, a series of short, sharp shocks to the system, brimming with commerciality and yet retaining the special something that made Queen so special as well as continuing to define their identity. According to Brian May, “I regard Sheer Heart Attack as the most polished album, the most finished product.” The double “A” side single Killer Queen and Flick of the Wrist was a big hit.
“We have always been able to think on our feet, collectively and individually,” Brian May once explained. “And when we go into the studio, it all comes together magically.” A Night At The Opera forced audiences and critics to give them credit for a wider musical perspective, something closer to the diversity of the Beatles rather than just hard rock. Recorded across four studios, A Night at the Opera would boast of a range of musical flavours performed with typical Queen panache, and of course, Bohemian Rhapsody was a piece of genius no-one expected. And as if to blatantly state that there were four writers in this band, Deacon came in with You’re My Best Friend, and Taylor sang and wrote the spine-tingling rock hymn, I’m in Love with My Car, only two of the many great songs written by the two throughout the years.
Queen were well on their way to becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world when the time came to start recording their fifth album, which would very much prove to be the sister album of A Night at the Opera, even down to the title, once again neatly nicked from another Marx Brothers movie – A Day at the Races.
The album featured many of the signatures created on its predecessor, including the rollicking rocker Tie Your Mother Down, by Brian May, while Mercury, again, continued to shine as a contemporary writer, with Somebody to Love the lead single.
By this stage, Queen pretty much ruled the rock world (they had headlined a free concert in London’s Hyde Park to 150,000 people), so News of the World (named after the UK Sunday newspaper, a veritable scandal sheet) was an apt title, and presented a couple of timeless anthems: We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You. “I think that’s when we established ourselves as a rock anthem band,” May said years later. “We should have done an album called Anthems really.”
Jazz, Queen’s seventh album in just under six years, was somewhat overshadowed by the legendary launch that accompanied it in New Orleans on Halloween Night, October 31, 1978. But Jazz was another album that featured three tracks – Bicycle Race, Fat-Bottomed Girls and Don’t Stop Me Now - that would go on to become Queen classics. Worldwide success and tax avoidance led Queen to record at Mountain Studios, Montreux, in a luxurious location overlooking Lake Geneva in Switzerland, and at Superbear Studios in Nice. Jazz was a solid if unspectacular Queen album.
Queen’s reputation on stage was equal to that in the studio. With all this commotion about their scintillating performances, Queen were under increasing pressure to come up with a live album. Band and management were painfully aware that bootleggers were amply fulfilling that need, and wanted to do something about it. The first live album, Live Killers, was recorded on their European tour between January and March 1979; and was the band’s first double album. It was released in June 1979 and made No.3 on the UK charts and peaked at No.16 in America. Fans that attended any of those wonderful performances in Europe in 1979 will tell you that Live Killers truly captures the sheer power, unparalleled energy and excitement Queen generated on stage during this time.
Queen went into the summer of 1979 with the intention that the next twelve months as tax exiles would be a different sort of recording year, one that would reenergise the creative batteries. An admirable plan… but, as it happened, the year turned into a recording feast, and the result was The Game.
“We wanted to get out of a rut, that laborious routine of recording, touring, promotion, etc,” said May. They also wanted new experiences, and that was how they landed at Musicland Studios, Munich, and came out with more hits – the funky Another One Bites the Dust and the typically anthemic Save Me.
And yet Queen wanted more… to be all things to all men. Their penchant for cinema first became apparent when they were commissioned by Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis to provide the music for the over-the-top Sci-Fi movie, Flash Gordon. Recording for Flash Gordon took place at the same time as the sessions for The Game, recorded by legendary producer Mack in Munich and Advision Studios, London, the musical vignettes having been put together by Brian May at some London studios before they decamped to Germany. The music was overly dramatic, dynamic and perfectly suited to the over-the-topelements of Queen.
The band’s first Greatest Hits compilation album was released in November 1981. It was an instant hit worldwide, reaching the No.1 slot in numerous countries. Its UK sales are in excess of 5.6 million copies, making it the UK's biggest selling album of all time. The UK album comprises Queen's hit singles output from Seven Seas Of Rhye in 1974 to Flash in 1980, and every other single to make the top 20 over the previous seven years.
The first album of the next era was Hot Space… a Queen album very different in sound, tone and approach to any other recorded to date. For this album, Queen would adopt a much sparser sound, letting music resonate alongside space.
The first example of this came in November 1981 when Queen released Under Pressure, a collaborative single with David Bowie. The music on the album was very different, with Freddie Mercury leading the way into new territories that were very foreign to the history of Queen – disco, pop, r’n’b, funk soul, everything but the signature Queen sound, it seemed, apart, typically, from Brian May’s Put Out the Fire and plaintive Los Palabros de Amor.
Not surprisingly, Hot Space was met with confusion by many Queen fans when it was eventually released on May 21, but still reached number 4 in the UK charts, although in both the UK and USA, it was awarded Gold status, a drop from the platinum discs the band were used to.
As Queen convened to record the next album, John Deacon said in a radio interview: “We were disappointed with Hot Space too, so we really did talk about how we were going to attack the next album. With The Works, we decided to go towards the things people actually associate with Queen.”
The Works title was derived from the fact that Queen felt that everything was working for them again, and a comment from Roger Taylor: “Let’s give them the works!” And indeed they did! Recorded with Mack at the Record Plant and Musicland between August 1983 and January 1984, the album had a wide range of diversified killer tracks and marked a return to Queen’s rock roots, led by Taylor’s own pop classic, Radio Ga Ga.
Having reached a new high with their mindblowing performance at Live Aid on July 13 1985, Queen were indeed ready to rock. In January 1986, Queen were mapping out their future after what was a truly invigorating 1985. The band’s major drive though the year would be a project-cum-album, starting with the Highlander movie soundtrack which would evolve into what would be the new album, A Kind of Magic.
Six of the nine tracks appeared in the movie Highlander, but they were longer and alternative versions.Tracks such as A Kind of Magic, Who Wants to Live Forever, One Vision and Friends will be Friends marked this as a true return to form.
Live Magic, Queen’s second live album, was recorded at Wembley Stadium and Knebworth Park in England, and in Budapest Hungary, during the Magic Tour of Europe, in July and August 1986. Live Magic’s 1979 predecessor Live Killers had been a double album, but this time the band wanted only a single disc and thus the necessity to abbreviate certain performances. Some fans were unimpressed by the shortened edits and would have preferred a double disc set to better represent what many of them considered to be some of the best concerts Queen had ever played.
With a working title of The Invisible Man, the band went to work on the next studio album. Most importantly to fans, this was a typically creative Queen album, with rock music at its core; and it spawned five singles in the UK: I Want It All, Breakthru, The Invisible Man, Scandal and The Miracle, which would become the album’s new title just three weeks before its release (May 22, 1989, in the UK and a few weeks later in the USA).
Queen had been aware of Freddie Mercury’s illness for some time, but a decision had been made within “the band family” that this dreadful news would not be confirmed. Freddie was insistent on this: “I don’t want people buying Queen music out of sympathy,” he told his compatriots.
Innuendo certainly had the creative spark apparent in all of Queen’s best music. It had variation and the brilliance of the clash of talents that occurred when the band were at the height of their powers, as shown in the overblown title track, the zaniness of I’m Going Slightly Mad and straight ahead rock of Headlong. And then there was the confessional These Are the Days of Our Lives, which took on real emotional poignancy once Freddie’s condition was confirmed.
The band's second Greatest Hits compilation album was released in the UK on 28 October 1991. Like the first Greatest Hits album issued a decade before, this one was another instant hit reaching the No 1 position in the UK for 5 weeks and in numerous other countries around the world. Since its release in the UK it has reached at least 12 times platinum, and combined with the first Greatest Hits, it represents the definitive Queen collection, jointly selling an incredible 40 million copies worldwide.
With a wealth of live footage, Queen’s third concert album, Live at Wembley ‘86, was recorded at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 12th 1986 – on the second of two nights - during the mighty Magic Tour of Europe. Released in May 1992, this was the first Queen album release after Mercury’s death on November 24th 1991. It reached No 2 in the charts. Unlike the earlier live album, this set comprised the entire show.
All of Queen were aware that there was unfinished recording business with regard to Freddie. He had insisted on working until his final days. Tracks had been recorded and when he died they were left in the studio. It wasn’t until Spring 1994 that Queen felt comfortable enough to work on that material. Made in Heaven was the title chosen by the Queen Fan Club. It turned out to be a perfectly valid Queen album, with thrilling cuts such as It’s a Beautiful Day, You Don’t Fool Me and the title track.
After compilations of their hit singles, Queen took a harder look at their status as an “albums’ band” in the traditional sense. They had many popular tracks that did not fit the single mode, and so Queen Rocks was released in 1997, a selection of songs from Queen's heavier side. It also contained one new track, No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young). It was the last original studio recording from the 1990s featuring Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon (and the first Queen recording without Freddie Mercury).
And still there was room for another greatest hits package. Greatest Hits III was released in the UK in November 1999. It was released as the band had entered their Queen + phase – singles with guest vocalists. Although the first two tracks were not released as singles, further confusing the idea of the album, both had been previously unreleased before. The Show Must Go On performed live with Elton John taking on the lead vocal role, was taken from their live performance at the Theatre National De Chaillot in Paris on January 17 1997, while Under Pressure (Rah mix) was a specially remixed version and included fresh recording work by Roger and Brian.
Originally released in November 2000, the 3 CD Platinum Collection set includes all three volumes of the original Greatest Hits albums. This special package was made to combine Greatest Hits, Greatest Hits II and Greatest Hits III in a triple CD case in one unique package with a 48 page booklet and an outer slipcase.
And there was still no shortage of Queen live performances. Queen on Fire: Live at the Bowl was recorded at a show in Milton Keynes, England, on June 5, 1982, during the Hot Space tour. Another double album, the album took in 25 songs from the set, starting off with Flash, into the Hero and then the fast version of We Will Rock You. Queen have always excelled at getting out of the traps fast, and this was a superb example of it..
Queen also did something they said they would never do, go back on the road without Freddie and, more significantly, record without Freddie. But even Freddie might have agreed with their choice of singer: Paul Rodgers, from Free, who were a great influence on Queen. May and Taylor had played with him at their induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame and heard him singing We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. They tested the temperature with a few gigs under the name Queen+Paul Rodgers, and this blossomed into a world tour. They took an even bigger step when they decided to record an album together. Many fans were very dubious of the project.
“Strangely enough, we probably think less about the Queen legacy than you would imagine,” May added. “We just do what we do and what feels right.”
This live album released under the Queen + Paul Rodgers banner was recorded at the Hallam FM Arena in Sheffield England in May 2005. It was released as a double album in September that year and was a modest success in the UK.
Over the next few years, The Cosmos Rocks was recorded at Roger Taylor’s home studio and released in September 2008. It was different, but quite classy. Not quite Queen. Not quite Free, but a convergence of both. “I think of it as a Queen album with a twist,” Taylor commented. The album sold well around the world, peaking at 6 in the UK and 47 in the USA. A major world tour followed its release, including a return to South America, and included a massive free concert, released on DVD, in Kharkov’s Freedom Square in front of 350,000 Ukrainian fans. This was no pale imitation, but after the tour and five years together, Queen and Paul Rodgers decided that the project had reached its natural conclusion.
Released in November 2009, the Absolute Greatest compilation features 20 of the band’s best loved and most famous hits from throughout their career on one CD for the very first time. It was available on a standard single disc CD and a double CD special edition with an extra CD featuring an audio commentary by Brian May and Roger Taylor, reminiscing about the songs on the album. The album reached No 3 in the UK going double platinum, and topped the charts again worldwide.
So this is what has helped define Queen’s unique place in rock history, a legacy that is ever-evolving and finding new audiences from all age-groups. Who wants to live forever? We know that Queen will.
A Night at the Opera is the fourth studio album by British rock group Queen, released in November 1975. Co-produced by Roy Thomas Baker and Queen, it was the most expensive album ever recorded at the time of its release. A commercial success, A Night at the Opera has been voted by the public and cited by music publications as one of Queen's finest works.
The Platinum Collection is a box set by British rock band Queen which comprises their three greatest hits albums, Greatest Hits, Greatest Hits II and Greatest Hits III. The album was originally released on 13 November 2000 on the Parlophone label.
The Game is the eighth studio album by British rock band Queen released on 27 June 1980. It was the only Queen album to reach #1 in the US and became their best selling studio album in the US with four million copies sold to date, tying News of the World's US sales tally. The album received very favourable reviews. Notable songs on the album include the bass-driven "Another One Bites the Dust" and the rockabilly "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", both of which reached #1 in the US. The Game was the first Queen album to use a synthesiser (an Oberheim OB-X).
Sheer Heart Attack is the third album by British rock band Queen, released in November 1974. It was produced by the band and Roy Thomas Baker and distributed by EMI in the United Kingdom, and Elektra in the United States.
The album launched Queen to mainstream popularity both in the UK and internationally: the first single, "Killer Queen" reached No. 2 in the British charts and provided them with their first top 20 hit in the US, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard singles chart. Sheer Heart Attack was also the first Queen album to hit the US top 20, peaking at No. 12 in 1975. Digressing from the progressive themes featured on their first two albums, this album featured more conventional rock tracks and marked a step towards the classic Queen sound. In recent years, it has been listed by multiple publications as one of the band's best works.
Jazz is the seventh studio album by British rock band Queen, released on 10 November 1978. Roy Thomas Baker temporarily reunited with the band and became their producer; it was three years since he co-produced their 1975 album A Night at the Opera, but this album also was the last he co-produced for the band. The album's varying musical styles were alternately praised and criticised. It reached #2 in the UK Albums Chart and #6 on the US Billboard 200.
Queen II is the second studio album by British rock group Queen, released on 8 March 1974. It was recorded at Trident Studios, London in August 1973 with co-producers Roy Thomas Baker and Robin Cable, and engineered by Mike Stone.
The two sides of the original LP were labelled "Side White" and "Side Black" (instead of the conventional sides "1" and "2"), with corresponding photos of the band dressed in white or in black on either side of the record's label face. It is also a concept album, with the white side having songs with a more emotional theme and the black side almost entirely about fantasy, often with quite dark themes. Mick Rock's album cover photograph was frequently re-used by the band throughout its career, most notably in the music videos for the songs "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975), and "One Vision" (1985).
The Miracle is the thirteenth album by British rock band Queen, released in 1989.
It was recorded as the band recovered from Brian May's marital problems and Freddie Mercury's AIDS diagnosis (which was, though known to the band, not publicised at the time). Recording started in January 1988 and lasted twelve months.
The album was originally going to be called The Invisible Men, but three weeks before the release, according to Roger Taylor, they decided to change the name to The Miracle.
Flash Gordon is the first soundtrack and the ninth studio album by British rock band Queen, and is one of the two film soundtracks they produced, along with Highlander. It is the album to the science fiction film Flash Gordon, and features lyrics on only two tracks. "Flash's Theme" was the only single to be released from the album, under the title "Flash". The album reached #10 on the UK charts and #23 in the US.
News of the World is the sixth studio album by British rock group Queen, released in 1977. Containing the hit songs "We Will Rock You", "We Are the Champions" and "Spread Your Wings", it went 4x platinum in the United States, 2x platinum in the United Kingdom and achieved high certifications around the world.
News of the World was the second album to be produced solely by the band (the first being A Day at the Races) and recorded at Sarm West and Wessex Studios, London and co-produced and engineered by Mike Stone.
A Kind of Magic is the twelfth album by English rock band Queen, released in 1986. It was their first studio album to be recorded digitally, and is based on the soundtrack to the film Highlander, the first in a series directed by Russell Mulcahy.
Although Queen would release another three albums with Freddie Mercury (including the posthumous Made in Heaven), A Kind of Magic would turn out to be the band's last album promoted with a concert tour, because of Mercury's diagnosis with HIV the following year, which subsequently caused his AIDS-related death in 1991. For the first time in their career, the band allowed filming of them while they were in the recording studio. The video for "One Vision" shows them in various stages of writing and recording the song.