Queen





One of Britain's most consistently successful groups of the seventies and eighties began life as a glam rock unit in 1968, when Brian May and Tim Staffell, both students at Imperial College, decided they wanted to form a band. Brian placed an advertisement on the college notice board for a "Ginger Baker type" drummer, and a young medical student named Roger Taylor auditioned and got the job. They called the group "Smile". The band was signed to Mercury Records in 1969, and had their first experience in a recording studio in Trident Studios that year. Staffell had been at Ealing College of Art with Freddie Bulsara, and introduced him to the band.

When "Smile" decided to call it a day in 1970, Staffell went off to join a band called "Humpy Bong", (featuring former Bee Gees drummer Colin Petersen) and Freddie left his band "Wreckage" to join up with Brian and Roger. Freddie not only legally changed his name to "Mercury", he also changed the band's name to "Queen". John Deacon was asked to audition as their bass player (they had three temporary ones so far in their short history), and in February 1971, Deacon signed on as the fourth member of Queen.

The band rehearsed tirelessly and played several small gigs at Imperial College. Eventually, they were offered the chance to 'test' a new recording studio called "De Lane Lea". In return for trying out the new equipment, they could also make free demo tapes. The demos went well enough that they signed a recording contract and publishing and management agreements with Trident in 1972. They were paid a weekly salary of just £60, and were given time in the studio during off peak hours, to record.

Soon after the failed single, 'Keep Yourself Alive', they issued a self-titled album, which was an interesting fusion of 70s glam and late 60s heavy rock (it had been preceded by a Mercury 'solo' single, a cover of the Beach Boys' 'I Can Hear Music', credited to Larry Lurex). Queen toured extensively and recorded a second album, which fulfilled their early promise by reaching the UK Top 5. Soon afterwards, 'Seven Seas Of Rhye' gave them their first hit single (UK number 10), while "Sheer Heart Attack" consolidated their commercial standing by reaching number 2 in the UK album charts.

In January 1975, Queen left for the USA on their very first headlining tour. Quite a few shows on that tour had to be cancelled, as Freddie had developed a severe throat problem, but he soldiered on and performed as many as possible, although doctors had advised him against it. Also in January 1975, Queen engaged the services of a music business lawyer, Jim Beach, to negotiate them out of their Trident agreements, as Trident were no longer being as supportive and the band were unhappy with the situation.

As fan support grew, the concert scenes where reminiscent of Beatlemania in the sixties, as Queen's live act was embodied in the outrageous theatrics of the satin-clad Mercury, who was swiftly emerging as one of rock's most notable showmen. In May of '75, the single "Killer Queen" reached number five in the U.S. and number one in the U.K.

After touring the Far East, they entered the studio with their producer Roy Thomas Baker and completed the epic "Bohemian Rhapsody", in which Mercury succeeded in transforming a seven-minute single into a mini-opera. The track dominated the charts in the UK, remaining at number 1 for an astonishing nine weeks. The power of the single was reinforced by an elaborate video production, highly innovative for its period and later much copied by other acts.

The follow up album, "A Night At The Opera", was, at the time, one of the most expensive ever recorded, and when it was released in November 1975, it was a massive hit, and gave them their first platinum album. Freddie had designed a band logo for the "Queen" album, which was re-worked and used as the cover for "Night At The Opera". The now-famous 'crest' features the band's star signs - two fairies for Virgo, a crab for Cancer and two lions for the two Leos.

"A Day At The Races" continued the hit streak, while the catchy "Somebody To Love" and "We Are The Champions", both reached number 2 in the UK. Although Queen seemed in danger of being stereotyped as over-produced glam rockers, they successfully brought variety to their singles output with a '50s rock 'n' roll style single called "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and the disco-influenced "Another One Bites The Dust" (both, U.S. number 1 hits). Despite this stylistic diversity, each Queen single seemed destined to become an anthem, as evidenced by the continued use of many of their songs at U.S. sporting venues, especially "We Are The Champions". Meanwhile, "The Game" gave Queen their first U.S. number 1 album in July, 1980. The group's soundtrack for the movie 'Flash Gordon' was another success, but was cited by many critics as typical of their pretentious approach. By the close of 1981, Queen were back at number 1 in the UK for the first time since 'Bohemian Rhapsody' with 'Under Pressure' (a collaboration with David Bowie ).

After a flurry of solo ventures, the group returned in 1984 with the satirical 'Radio Gaga' (UK number 2), followed by 'I Want To Break Free'. A performance at 1985's Live Aid displayed the group at their very best.

Queen's record output lessened during the late 80s, as the members concentrated on other interests. The band released their sixteenth album on May 22nd 1989, entitled "The Miracle". It entered the UK chart at Number One and went on to become a massive worldwide success, reaching Number One in most European countries.

The space between releases did not affect the group's popularity, as was proven in 1991 when 'Innuendo' gave them their third UK number one, and the album of the same name also topped the UK charts. By this time they had become an institution. Faultless musicianship, held together by May's guitar virtuosity and the spectacular Mercury, made Queen one of the great theatrical rock acts.

On November 23rd, 1991, Freddie announced to the world that he had AIDS. The very next day, his fight was over, and he died peacefully at his home surrounded by friends and family. The music world was in shock. Freddie had kept his illness very private, and only those closest to him had been aware of just how close to the end he really was. Fans from all over the world sent flowers and cards, and many even travelled to London to be at Freddie's house. A quiet family cremation service was held three days after his death, conducted in the Zoroastrian faith that Freddie's parents followed so strictly.

'Bohemian Rhapsody' was immediately re-issued to raise money for AIDS research projects, and soared to the top of the British charts. The song also climbed to U.S. number 2 in March 1992, after being featured in the movie "Wayne's World" (it had originally reached number 9 in January 1976). A memorial concert for Mercury took place at London's Wembley Stadium on May 20 1992, featuring an array of stars including Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Guns N'Roses, George Michael, David Bowie and Annie Lennox.

Even though Freddie was gone, Queen never announced an official break-up, so it was with nervous anticipation that a new Queen album called "Made In Heaven" was issued in 1995. Freddie Mercury's vocals were recorded during his last year while at home in Switzerland, and the rest of the band then filled in the instruments. While Mercury must be applauded for the way he carried his illness with great dignity, it is fair to say that May, Taylor and Deacon performed wonders in crafting an album from slightly inferior material. The album carries a dedication to the 'immortal spirit of Freddie Mercury', in recognition of his request that the material be completed and be heard by the public.

The members of Queen were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001 and were awarded the 2,207th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002.

At the end of 2004, May and Taylor announced that they would tour in 2005 and 2006 with Paul Rodgers, founder and former lead singer of Free and Bad Company. John Deacon, who retired from the music business in 1997, did not join them. The first Queen + Paul Rodgers album, titled "The Cosmos Rocks", was released in the Fall of 2008. The band continued to perform throughout Europe and officially split up without animosity on May 12th, 2009. On May 29th, of '09, May and Taylor performed "We Are the Champions" live on the season finale of U.S. TV's American Idol with winner Kris Allen and runner-up Adam Lambert providing the vocals.

March 14th, 2011 marked the band's 40th anniversary, and Queen's first five albums were re-released as re-mastered deluxe editions. The second five albums of Queen's back catalogue were re-issued over the Summer and early Fall and the final five hit store shelves in September.

In October 2011, it was announced that a new Queen album, featuring forgotten demo tracks of Freddie Mercury, was in the works. Brian May confirmed that he and Taylor were going through the band's old material to complete the forthcoming album. May also revealed that a series of duets that Mercury recorded with Michael Jackson are to be released in 2012. Queen was slated to headline at Sonisphere at Knebworth on July 7th, 2012 with American Idol's Adam Lambert. On August 12th, 2012, Brian May appeared at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics where he performed a ripping guitar solo, after which he was joined by English singer / songwriter Jessie J to perform "We Will Rock You".

In early March, 2014, Roger Taylor and Brian May announced that Adam Lambert would join them for a 19-date North American tour starting June 19th in Chicago, with stops in Los Angeles and New York. A few weeks later, Brian May revealed that the band would be releasing a new collection of music toward the end of this year that will include previously unreleased songs sung by Freddie Mercury. The album will probably be titled "Queen Forever".