Innuendo (album)

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Innuendo
Studio album by Queen
Released 4 February 1991
Recorded March 1989 – November 1990 at
Metropolis Studios
(London, England)
Mountain Studios
(Montreux, Switzerland)[1]
Genre Rock
Length 53:44
Language English
Label Parlophone
Hollywood (North America)
Producer Queen and David Richards
Queen chronology
The Miracle
(1989)
Innuendo
(1991)
Made in Heaven
(1995)
Singles from Innuendo
  1. "Innuendo"
    Released: 14 January 1991
  2. "I'm Going Slightly Mad"
    Released: 4 March 1991
  3. "Headlong"
    Released: 13 May 1991
  4. "I Can't Live with You"
    Released: 1991
  5. "These Are the Days of Our Lives"
    Released: 5 September 1991
  6. "The Show Must Go On"
    Released: 14 October 1991
  7. "Ride the Wild Wind (only in Poland)"
    Released: 1992
  8. "Delilah (only in Thailand)"
    Released: 14 December 1992

Innuendo is the fourteenth studio album by British rock band Queen. Released in February 1991, it was the final studio album to be released in Freddie Mercury's lifetime and is the last to be composed entirely of new material. It reached No. 1 on the UK album charts (two weeks) as well as in the Netherlands (four weeks), Germany (six weeks), Switzerland (eight weeks), and Italy (three weeks). It was released in the United States one day after its release in the United Kingdom. It was the first Queen album to go gold in the US upon its release since The Works in 1984.

The album was recorded from early 1989 until late 1990. In the spring of 1987, Mercury was diagnosed as having AIDS, although he was keeping his illness a secret and denied countless media reports that he was seriously ill. The band and producers were aiming for a November or December release date in order to catch the crucial Christmas market, but Mercury's declining health meant that the release of the album did not take place until February 1991. Stylistically, Innuendo is in some sense a return to Queen's roots,[2] with its harder rock sound, complex musical composition (title track), psychedelic effects ("I'm Going Slightly Mad"), and strong vocals from Mercury ranging over four octaves.[3] Nine months after the album was released, Mercury's AIDS claimed his life in the form of bronchial pneumonia. Current estimates at the worldwide sales of the album stand at around eleven million copies.

The album cover was designed by Queen and Richard Gray. The booklets and single covers from the album are by Grandville, or are inspired by his illustrations. Innuendo was voted the 94th greatest album of all time in a national 2006 BBC poll.[4]

Background[edit]

Queen released their thirteenth studio album, The Miracle, in May 1989, but unlike their previous albums, they did not conduct a live tour. Freddie Mercury conducted an interview with BBC Radio 1, where he said that he wanted to break from the "album – tour – album – tour" routine. During this time, he was diagnosed with AIDS (having been diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987), which was not yet publicised and was only known to the rest of the band;[5] however, rumours were spreading about Mercury's health and of the possibility that he had the disease.[6] While he kept quiet due to his personal rule not to talk to the media, the other band members denied the rumours; at one point, band member Roger Taylor told reporters that "he is healthy and working".[6] In 1990, Queen won the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.[7] While Mercury accepted the award for the band at the Dominion Theatre, Brian May spoke for the band. Mercury's increasingly gaunt appearance at the ceremony sparked further speculation from the public about his health.[6] The 1990 BRIT Awards would be Mercury's final public appearance.[8]

Mercury did not speak publicly about his health, saying that he did not want to sell his music out of the people's sympathy. He was determined to continue working on music with Queen for as long as he could, saying that he would "keep working until I fucking drop".[6][9] Mercury was persistently bothered by reporters at his London home, making it difficult for the band to record music. As a result, the band relocated to Mountain Studios in Montreux, where the safer and more peaceful atmosphere allowed the band to concentrate.[5] Early in Innuendo's recording, the band decided again that all work would be credited to Queen as a whole instead of to individual contributing members; May said that the decision made a significant impact in the recording process, while Taylor said that it helped eliminate much of the egotistical struggles that would normally cause bands to break up.[10]

The album was released in the US under a new label, the Disney-owned Hollywood Records, in an effort to garner greater exposure there.[11] After Mercury's death, Hollywood would also later gains the rights to Queen's Elektra and Capitol back catalogs.

Song information[edit]

Innuendo would be the last album that lead singer Freddie Mercury would work on before his death just nine months after its release.

"Innuendo"[edit]

Main article: Innuendo (song)

"Innuendo" began as a jam session in Switzerland amongst Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon in spring 1989. Freddie Mercury was upstairs and heard them playing the beat, and turned it into a song, creating the melody and starting off the lyrics. From then on all four worked on polishing the track and Taylor took over the lyrics (which were written as a tribute to Led Zeppelin and their song "Kashmir"). The middle section, written by Mercury, was included later and it featured a synth-orchestra programmed by producer David Richards and a flamenco interlude played by Yes guitarist Steve Howe, who had come to visit them and was asked to play.[12] "Innuendo" was released as a single in January 1991, debuting at No. 1 in the UK.[13]

"I'm Going Slightly Mad"[edit]

"I'm Going Slightly Mad" was begun in Mercury's London house, after he'd got the idea of writing a song about madness, inspired by Noël Coward's camp one-liners. Most of the lyrics (like "banana tree" or "one needle") came from both him and his friend Peter Straker, who stayed up all night in Mercury's kitchen, devising ever more outlandish lines. The music is Mercury's as well and it is one of the earliest songs the band were working on in Montreux when Steve Howe came in. The video that accompanied the song saw Mercury dressed in a costume suit with wild hair, white gloves, long pointing shoes and extremely heavy make up, filmed in black and white. Whilst Queen fans were thoroughly amused by the band in the video, in the documentary, Champions of the World, Taylor confessed, from the band's perspective, the video was marred by Mercury's appearance having to be camouflaged by costume and make-up, as Taylor admitted Mercury looked "pretty ill, at that point."[14]

"Headlong"[edit]

Main article: Headlong (song)

"Headlong" came from May at the studio they'd got in Switzerland. He recorded it for the solo album he was doing at the same time. May heard Mercury singing it and instantly decided that it worked better as a Queen track. Then the band took it over and they all made modifications.

"I Can't Live with You"[edit]

Main article: I Can't Live with You

"I Can't Live with You" was also written for May's solo album. He gave it to the band as well since Taylor, Deacon and Mercury were fond of the track. Drums were programmed on synth by May, and the keyboard-pads were added by the producer. An alternative version of this song appeared on the 1997 compilation album Queen Rocks, billed as the "'97 Rocks Retake". It was said to be more along the lines of how May and Taylor originally wanted the track to sound, with a harder, guitar-driven rock edge. May has stated in an interview, that most of the original demo is in the recording, making the song "Impossible to mix".

"Don't Try So Hard"[edit]

"Don't Try So Hard" came from Mercury.[15] The intro "rain" is actually the pre-set sound of the Korg M1, which appears when it is switched on ("00: Universe"). Mercury sings most of the song in falsetto, but sings up to a D5 in full voice in the chorus. The song's middle section is written in a style reminiscent of Queen's early 1980s-songs such as "Play The Game".

"Ride the Wild Wind"[edit]

Main article: Ride the Wild Wind

"Ride the Wild Wind" was composed by Taylor, who recorded a demo with his own vocals. The definitive version is sung by Mercury with Taylor on backing vocals. The song is a sort of sequel of Taylor's A Night at the Opera composition, "I'm in Love with My Car", which focused on Taylor's passion for cars and race. This time, the song involved all of the other members, that gave life to a fast song with beating drums and rhythmic bass line, eerily note-for-note similar to The Smiths' "Shakespeare's Sister", which create the sensation of speed and engine's roar. In the mid-part, a May solo, which accentuates the sense of high velocity, and also gives the song a heavier sound. In some parts, a racing car can be heard. It was released as a single in Poland, peaking at No. 1.

"All God's People"[edit]

"All God's People" started off as part of Mercury's Barcelona project under the title "Africa by Night" (hence the co-writing credit with Mike Moran). He'd asked May to play guitar, then one thing led to another and the entire band played. Piano was recorded by Moran. The song features Mercury singing a chest-voiced F5, his highest sustained full-voice note, as well as some very low notes.

"These Are the Days of Our Lives"[edit]

"These Are the Days of Our Lives" was written by Taylor. It is harmonically and structurally one of the simplest songs of the band's catalogue. Keyboards were programmed by all band members in the studio, and conga percussion was recorded by David Richards. The music video for this song was Mercury's last appearance in a video medium, and with his knowing farewell look straight at the camera, Mercury whispers "I still love you" at the end of the song.[16][17] By the time the video was made, it had become impossible to disguise that Mercury was seriously ill. The video was filmed in black and white and this helped somewhat to minimise Mercury's frail appearance. At a later date, colour footage of the band making the video was released, revealing just how ill Mercury was at the time.

"Delilah"[edit]

Main article: Delilah (Queen song)

"Delilah" is a song Mercury penned for his favourite female tortoiseshell cat, which was called Delilah. May recorded his solo using a talk box. Reportedly, Taylor was not fond of the song and agreed to let it be included in the album only at Mercury's insistence.

"The Hitman"[edit]

The fly-away rocker "The Hitman" was started by Mercury as well. The original version was apparently on keyboards and in a different key. May took Mercury's riff (not un-common), changed the key and recorded a demo of the heavy version. Deacon then re-arranged the structure and they all filled the gaps in lyrics and recorded it. All of the backing vocals were done by May. The demo version is sung by May, with Mercury making spoken comments (like "Bite the bullet baby!"). The finished product features Mercury's vocals peaking at an E♭5.

"Bijou"[edit]

"Bijou" was an idea Mercury and May had of making a song "inside-out" (having guitar doing the verses and the vocal doing the break). Mercury put the chords, title and lyrics, and the two of them worked on the guitar parts. Mercury sang the first line and then May transferred the melody to his Red Special. The song was finished without any input from Taylor or Deacon. The idea was not new and already used by Yes on their song "Soon". May later credited Jeff Beck's 1989 song "Where Were You" as the inspiration for 'Bijou'. In 2008, Queen + Paul Rodgers performed this song in their shows of the Rock the Cosmos Tour by May playing the verse live and then having Mercury's studio vocals play while a screen showed footage from the band's famous Wembley concert in 1986, with the visuals put in sync with the tape. Afterwards the Mercury part would fade out and May would lead into "Last Horizon".

"The Show Must Go On"[edit]

"The Show Must Go On" was written primarily by May. The initial idea was a chord sequence Taylor and Deacon were working on. The rhythm of the refrain is similar to the Queen's 1989 song, "I Want It All". May decided to use the sequence, and both he and Mercury decided the theme of the lyrics and wrote the first verse together. From then on May finished the lyrics, completed the vocal melody and wrote the bridge, inspired by Pachelbel's Canon. Some keys and ideas were suggested by the producer too. The song chronicles the effort of Mercury continuing to perform despite approaching the end of his life.[18] The song was initially not released as a single as part of promotion for the Innuendo album, but was released in October 1991 as the band launched their Greatest Hits II album. The video for the song featured a compilation of clips from all their videos since 1982, in support of the Greatest Hits II album. Due to Mercury's critically fast fading health at the time of its production, a fresh appearance by the band in a video was not possible. A live version featuring Elton John on vocals appeared on the Greatest Hits III album. A personal favourite of Elton, he performed the song at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert with the remaining members of Queen, and Tony Iommi playing rhythm guitar.[19]

Promotion[edit]

Singles[edit]

"Innuendo" was the lead single from the album in most countries save the US where "Headlong" was released to radio as a promo before the album's release. The single was released on 14 January 1991 in Europe and in March 1991 in the US as a promo single, becoming Queen's twelfth No. 1 single. The song also achieved modest success in the US, charting at No. 17 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Still, the length and style of the track limited its appeal, and it only spent one week at No. 1 in the UK and quickly slid down the chart, spending only six weeks in the top 75. (B-side on 7 inch release: "Bijou").

"I'm Going Slightly Mad" was released on 4 March 1991. It reached No. 22 on the UK charts. (B-side on 7 inch release: "The Hitman" in some countries, in others it was "Lost Opportunity" which was a non-album cut). The song reached No. 1 in Hong Kong.

"Headlong" was released as a promotional single in January 1991 in the US and as a single on 13 May 1991 in the UK. It entered the UK charts at No. 14, and reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. (B-side on 12 inch release: "All God's People" in some countries, in others, "Lost Opportunity" and in a few, "The Hitman". The 12" and CD also feature "Mad the Swine").

"I Can't Live with You" was released as a promo single to radio stations in the US. This two-track promo single, completely remixed by Brian Malouf, uses slightly different lead vocal tracks by Mercury, louder and tighter harmony tracks, and reprogrammed synth drums, resulting in a much more punchy and "over the top" poppy version than included on the album. It reached No. 28 on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

"Ride the Wild Wind" was released as a single but only in Poland.

"These Are the Days of Our Lives" was first released in the US on Mercury's birthday, 5 September 1991 on cassette and to radio. In the UK it was released in December 1991 following Mercury's death, as a double A-side with "Bohemian Rhapsody". The single was the UK's Christmas No. 1 of 1991.

"The Show Must Go On" was released on 14 October 1991 in the UK. The single was taken from the album, although it had not been released as a single from Innuendo, and released as promotion for the Greatest Hits II album (Classic Queen in the US/Canada), and peaked at No. 16 on the UK charts. After Mercury's death in November, the song re-entered the British charts and spent as many weeks in the top 75 as it had upon its original release. This single was released just six weeks before Mercury died. In 1992, the song was released as a double A-side with "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the US and reached No. 2 in the US. (The original B-side in October 1991 was "Keep Yourself Alive").

"Delilah" was released as a single, but only in Thailand, it reached number 1 on the Thailand Singles Chart.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[20]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[21]
The Times (unfavourable)[22]
The Orlando Sentinel (favourable)[23]
The Cincinnati Post 3/5 stars[24]
Los Angeles Times (mixed)[25]
The San Francisco Chronicle (unfavourable)[26]
St. Petersburg Times 4/5 stars[27]
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (unfavourable)[28]
Entertainment Weekly (C-)[29]

Critical reception[edit]

Innuendo was initially released to mixed reviews. The Orange County Register wrote "'Innuendo' is a mixed bag, but it's precisely the weaker, least quirky songs that will ensure Queen gets radio airplay. Queen is a figurehead these days – its brand of progressive rock is hardly progressive any more – but it looks as if it will clamber back on the album-rock radio throne." The Cincinnati Post stated "The boys are back with a lot less pomp this time. Freddie Mercury still has a taste for luridly melodramatic vocals, but rockers like "Headlong" and "Ride the Wild Wind" make up for it. For old fans, there are plenty of the group's trademark chorale vocals and headphone-mixed sounds, but Mercury's ballad, "These are the Days of Our Lives," actually sounds restrained."

The Advocate wrote "Lead vocalist Freddie Mercury still wails and camps things up. Guitarist Brian May remains a highly creative player. Bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor are around, too, providing additional vocals and keyboards. All that's missing are the songs. Sure, they toss in some of the choir-like harmonies which graced one of Queen's most memorable albums. Despite some stabs at full-tilt rockers, like "Headlong," the lyrics are vacuous and the melodies don't exactly keep you humming, either." Rolling Stone stated "Innuendo is so lightweight you'll forget it as soon as it's over – which, with this band, should go without saying anyway – but there's nothing cynical about it. Unlike most fortyish rock relics, the boys in Queen are still too kooky and insincere to settle for any of that "well-earned wisdom of middle age" bunk. They just throw food at the wall, and if it sticks, fine. And if it doesn't stick, well, that's fine too."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote "Innuendo isn't likely to turn around Queen's decade-long downward spiral of popularity, but the album has a few semiprecious gems: Freddie Mercury singing a love song to his cat on Delilah, lead guitarist Brian May kicking in with unrestrained axing on the hard-hitting The Hitman and serving a brisk metal set on Headlong, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon jolting a spirit of abandon into Ride the Wild Wind. But the remaining tracks are disappointing, and generally Innuendo is yet another misfire in the group's slumping output." VOX Magazine wrote "Lyrically and thematically, 'Innuendo' fails to live up to its title (that is, there was nothing here that struck me as particularly oblique or allusive). A few more hooks and harmonies as well wouldn't have gone amiss, 'cause seldom have such positive messages been delivered so drably."

The San Francisco Chronicle stated "Suffice it to say the latest Queen opus is lavish and lush, thick with pomp and guitar, heroic strutting cadences and, in general, exactly what one might expect from a ballyhooed return to form by Freddy Mercury and the boys. Whether anybody cares or not remains to be seen, but either way, "Innuendo" hardly represents the distinguished initial splash Hollywood Records obviously hoped to make." People Weekly wrote "If this is cartoon rock and roll, at least it's good and brazenly cartoonish." Allmusic wrote "Innuendo was a fitting way to end one of rock's most successful careers."[20]

Track listing[edit]

CD[edit]

All songs written and composed by Queen, except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Innuendo"   6:29
2. "I'm Going Slightly Mad"   4:22
3. "Headlong"   4:39
4. "I Can't Live with You"   4:35
5. "Don't Try So Hard"   3:39
6. "Ride the Wild Wind"   4:41
7. "All God's People" (Queen, Mike Moran) 4:19
8. "These Are the Days of Our Lives"   4:12
9. "Delilah"   3:32
10. "The Hitman"   4:52
11. "Bijou"   3:37
12. "The Show Must Go On"   4:24
Total length:
53:44

LP[edit]

All songs written and composed by Queen, except where noted. Due to the length of the original album, several tracks had to be shortened in order to fit on the disc without excessive noise reduction or compression. The tracklisting is also slightly different from the CD version. Some of the shortened tracks can be found on the B-sides of concurrent 12" singles, and the double LP of Greatest Hits II. 

Side one
No. Title Primary song writer(s) Length
1. "Innuendo"   Freddie Mercury (music), Roger Taylor (lyrics) 6:29
2. "I'm Going Slightly Mad" (Queen, Peter Straker) Mercury (music, lyrics), Straker (lyrics) 4:04
3. "Headlong"   Brian May 4:31
4. "I Can't Live with You"   May 4:04
5. "Ride the Wild Wind"   Taylor 4:41
Side two
No. Title Primary song writer(s) Length
1. "All God's People" (Queen, Mike Moran) Mercury (music, lyrics), Moran (music) 3:53
2. "These Are the Days of Our Lives"   Taylor 3:55
3. "Delilah"   Mercury 3:32
4. "Don't Try So Hard"   Mercury 3:32
5. "The Hitman"   Mercury, May, John Deacon 3:43
6. "Bijou"   May, Mercury 1:19
7. "The Show Must Go On"   May 4:31

Personnel[edit]

Additional personnel
  • Steve Howe – classical guitar, shared with May on "Innuendo", (credited as the "Wandering Minstrel")
  • Mike Moran – piano, synthesisers, programming on "All God's People"
  • David Richardsproducing, engineering, synthesisers, programming
  • Brian Zellis – programming
  • Noel Harris – assistant engineer
  • Justin Shirley-Smith – assistant engineer
  • Richard Gray – sleeve design
  • Grandville (1803–47)illustrations
  • Angela Lumley – additional illustrations
  • Simon Fowler – photography

Charts[edit]

References[edit]

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  58. ^ Solo Exitos 1959-2002 Ano A Ano: Certificados 1991-1995. Iberautor Promociones Culturales. ISBN 978-84-8048-639-2. 
  59. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Queen; 'Innuendo')". Hung Medien. 
  60. ^ "British album certifications – Queen – Innuendo". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Innuendo in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  61. ^ "American album certifications – Queen – Innuendo". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Doubt by Jesus Jones
UK number one album
16 February – 1 March 1991
Succeeded by
Circle of One by Oleta Adams
Preceded by
The Soul Cages by Sting
Swiss Music Chart number-one album
17 February – 7 April 1991
Succeeded by
Joyride by Roxette
Preceded by
The Soul Cages by Sting
Dutch Mega Chart number-one album
23 February – 16 March 1991
Succeeded by
Grease (soundtrack)
by Various artists