Queen

  • British rock band, formed in London England in 1970. Members of the band were Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh “Freddie” Bulsara, frontman, lead vocals, piano, songwriting), Brian May (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals, songwriting) and John Deacon (bass guitar, songwriting).
  • In 1968, May formed a band named Smile, and Taylor was a member of that band. Bulsara was a fan of the band, and in 1970, when another member of Smile left, he joined the group. They decided to change the name of the band to Queen, and they played their first gig in July 1970. They tried several bass players before settling on Deacon in early 1971. They recorded 4 of their own songs for a demo, but no record company was interested. Around this time, Bulsara adopted his stage name Mercury, inspired by a line in the song My Fairy King that he wrote for their first album: “Mother Mercury, look what they’ve done to me.” Mercury wanted a stage name to help him separate his stage personality (which he referred to as “extroverted monster”) from his private introverted personality.
  • In 1972, they were discovered by a talent scout from a record label, and the following year they signed a recording deal. They released their debut album that year, the self titled Queen. It was largely a heavy metal, progressive rock album, featuring the song Keep Yourself Alive. At the time, it did not sell well, though as the band became famous, sales increased. Keep Yourself Alive is considered one of the greatest guitar songs of all time, according to Rolling Stone.
  • Their second album, Queen II, was released in 1974. It charted at #5 in the UK, but only peaked at #49 in the U.S. The single Seven Seas of Rhye reached #10 in the UK – it did not chart in the U.S.  With this album, they evolved to a glam rock sound – lots of big sound, powerful vocals by Mercury, and complexity in instrumentation (particularly guitar) and lyrics.
  • Their momentum continued to grow – their third album, Sheer Heart Attack, released later in 1974, had their first hit single with Killer Queen. It peaked at #2 in the UK, and at #12 in the U.S. The band started to perform grandiose concerts, wearing costumes and utilizing special effects in their shows.
  • Their next album became their defining effort – A Night At The Opera. At the time, it was the most expensive album ever produced. It included many unique elements that were signatures of the band – overdubbed vocal harmonies, diverse musical styles, use of orchestration. The album includes one of the most key events of rock music history – Bohemium Rhapsody. The song is the third best selling song of all time in the UK. A music video for the song was created – it is considered the first true music video ever, released 7 years before MTV went on the air. The song peaked at #6 in the U.S., despite its 6 minute length. In 1992, after it was featured in the film Wayne’s World, it re-entered the charts in the U.S., peaking at #2. In 2004, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. One other single from the album also did well – You’re My Best Friend reached #9 in the U.S.
  • Queen’s next 4 albums, released from 1977 to 1980, each were certified platinum in the U.S., with News Of The World and The Game going 4x platinum. Top 10 songs from these albums are classic rock anthems – Somebody To Love, We Are The Champions (another Grammy Hall of Fame song), Crazy Little Thing Called Love (their first #1 song in the U.S.) and Another One Bites The Dust (also a #1 song).
  • As popular as they were in the U.S., they were absolute rock gods in Europe. They released 6 more albums between 1980 and 1991. In the U.S., the highest they charted was at #22, while in the UK, they all were top 10 albums, with 3 of them topping the chart. Notable singles during this period were Under Pressure (a collaboration with David Bowie – it was not originally planned, Bowie just happened drop by the studio the day that they were recording it), Body Language, and Radio Ga Ga (Lady Gaga credits her stage name to this song).
  • Mercury started looking ill as early as 1988. AIDS was often cited as the cause, though Mercury denied it. In fact, he was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987, but he kept it hidden. They released 2 albums during his illness. For 1991’s Innuendo, he could barely walk, and they recorded an hour or two at a time when he felt up to coming to the studio. It includes the song The Show Must Go On, which chronicles Mercury’s efforts in performing despite his illness. On November 23 that year, he confirmed that he had AIDS, and he died within 24 hours of releasing the statement.
  • The band continued to survive, though Deacon chose to retire in 1997. After Mercury’s death, they played several concerts with guest vocalists, and released compilation albums. In 2004, Paul Rodgers joined as vocalist for 5 years for several concert tours. In 2012, they began to tour with Adam Lambert handling the vocals, and Lambert continues to tour with them today.
  • Queen’s legacy is remarkable. It was announced earlier this month that Queen will receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award later this year. The were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Record sales estimates put them at #11 on the list of the best selling music artists of all time. Rolling Stone ranks them at #52 on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.
  • Music fans in Europe debate whether or not Queen is the greatest band of all time. I don’t go there, but they were groundbreaking, and the music was amazing. Here’s the famous video – the first music video ever – Bohemium Rhapsody. 

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