|Studio album by|
|Released||21 May 1982|
|Recorded||June 1981 – March 1982|
|Studio||Mountain, Montreux, Switzerland and Musicland, Munich, Germany|
|Singles from Hot Space|
Hot Space is the tenth studio album by the British rock band Queen. It was released on 21 May 1982 by EMI Records in the UK and by Elektra Records in the US. Marking a notable shift in direction from their earlier work, they employed many elements of disco, funk, rhythm and blues, dance and pop music on the album. This made the album less popular with fans who preferred the traditional rock style they had come to associate with the band. Queen's decision to record a dance-oriented album germinated with the massive success of their 1980 hit "Another One Bites the Dust" in both the UK and US.
"Under Pressure", Queen's collaboration with David Bowie, was released in 1981 and became the band's second number one hit in the UK. Although included on Hot Space, the song was a separate project and was recorded ahead of the album, before the controversy over Queen's new disco-influenced rock sound. The album's second single, "Body Language", peaked at number 11 on the US charts, and estimated sales of the album stand at 3.5 million copies. In July 2004, Q magazine listed Hot Space as one of the top fifteen albums "where great rock acts lost the plot".
Before 1979, Queen had never used synthesisers on their albums. Beginning with The Game, Queen began using Oberheim OB-X synthesisers on their songs, including "Play the Game" and "Save Me", and continued to do so. On Hot Space, the band went even further, introducing the drum machine for the first time. A departure from their trademark seventies sound, most of Hot Space is a mixture of rhythm and blues, funk, dance and disco, while the rock songs continued in a pop rock direction similar to their previous album (an exception is the song "Put Out the Fire"). Disliking the new sound, Brian May and Roger Taylor were very critical of the influence that Paul Prenter, Freddie Mercury's personal manager between 1977 and 1984, had on the singer. Recalling the recording process in 2011, Taylor openly criticized the direction in which Prenter was taking Mercury (and thus the rest of the band), stating that "[Prenter] wanted our music to sound like you'd just walked in a gay bar...and I didn't". May also noted that the making of the album in Munich took much longer than usual and that all of the band got into "deep emotional trouble" in the city, blaming a mixture of drink, drugs and partying as the reason for the relatively lengthy recording sessions. Prenter allegedly denied the other members access to Mercury.
The horn arrangement for Mercury's "Staying Power" was added by Arif Mardin (who also produced Chaka Khan and added horn sections to Bee Gees and Aretha Franklin records). "Staying Power" would be performed on the band's accompanying Hot Space Tour, albeit much faster and heavier, with real drums replacing the drum machine and guitars and keyboards replacing the horns. (This arrangement contained no actual bass guitar, as John Deacon played guitar in addition to May.) It was also played on Queen's The Works Tour, albeit less frequently than on the Hot Space Tour. In Japan, the band released "Staying Power" as a single in July 1982. The song was also issued as a single in the US in November 1982 but failed to chart in either country. Mardin's contributions were recorded at Record Plant Studios in New York. The original demo of the track featured a guitar instead of horns.
The bassline of May's "Dancer" was played on an Oberheim OB-Xa synthesiser by him. The song itself – a fusion of rock and disco – is something of a follow-up to "Dragon Attack" from the band's 1980 album The Game in that it fuses heavy elements of music with danceable ones, as Led Zeppelin did. The phone message at the end of "Dancer" ("Guten Morgen, sie wünschten, geweckt zu werden.") is in German, and was recorded in a hotel room in Munich; it translates as "Good morning, you wanted to be woken up.". The lyrics of "Dancer" are also notable for being the only ones on the album that make reference to the album title itself.
"Back Chat", written by John Deacon, is the track most influenced by black music. In addition to normal bass duties, Deacon also plays rhythm guitar and synthesiser on the song. As a single, it stalled at number 40 on the UK charts.
"Body Language" is atypical among Queen songs, being the sole single released by the band that does not include guitar. Mercury, who composed the song on synth bass, had previously explored the instrument's potential with his contributions to the Flash Gordon soundtrack. The "Body Language" video, featuring scantily clad models writhing around each other in a bath-like setting, proved somewhat controversial and was banned in a few territories. The song also appeared in the 1984 documentary film Stripper, being performed to by one of the dancers. Whilst the video was restricted to late-night showings on MTV, it nonetheless helped the song become the album's biggest hit in America, reaching number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1982.
"Action This Day"
"Action This Day", one of two Taylor songs that appear on the album, was clearly influenced by the new wave movement/style current at the time; the track is driven by a pounding electronic drum machine in 2/4 time and features a saxophone solo, played by Italian session musician Dino Solera. "Action This Day" takes its title from a Winston Churchill catchphrase that the statesman would attach to urgent documents, and recapitulates the theme of social awareness that Taylor espoused in many of his songs. The band performed "Action This Day" live on the Hot Space Tour with a more conventional arrangement, replacing the drum machine and bass synth with a rock rhythm section and an actual synthesizer replacing the saxophone solo. The verses are duets between Taylor and Mercury, while the chorus is sung by both.
"Put Out the Fire"
"Put Out the Fire" is an anti-firearm song written by May, featuring lead vocals by Mercury, with May singing lead vocals in falsetto at the end of each verse. May recorded its guitar solo under the influence of alcohol (after many unsuccessful attempts).
Though never released as a single, "Put Out the Fire", the album's most traditional Queen song, later appeared on the Queen Rocks compilation in 1997. A new video was also produced for the accompanying video compilation, featuring a live performance of the song intercut with footage of fire and explosions.
"Life Is Real (Song for Lennon)"
Mercury wrote "Life Is Real" as a tribute to John Lennon, whose murder in 1980 had also previously prompted the band to perform his song "Imagine" on tour. It is also one of the few Mercury songs whose lyrics were written before the music.
"Calling All Girls"
The first Queen song written by Taylor to be released as a single (albeit in selected countries, including the US and Australia, but not the UK), "Calling All Girls" failed to create much of an impact on the charts where it peaked at number 60 in the US and number 33 in Canada, despite its music video based on the George Lucas film THX 1138. Taylor composed "Calling All Girls" on guitar and played the feedback noises during the song's break. Queen never performed the song in Europe, and a live recording from Japan in 1982 is commercially available on the Queen on Fire – Live at the Bowl DVD, where "Calling All Girls" accompanies the photo gallery. The single was released in July 1982.
"Las Palabras de Amor (The Words of Love)"
May's lyrics for "Las Palabras de Amor" were inspired by Queen's close relationship with their Latin-American fans, and have been interpreted as an allegory for the Falklands War. A top 20 hit in the UK, "Las Palabras de Amor" marked the band's fourth appearance on Top of the Pops, the first, second and third being for "Seven Seas of Rhye", "Killer Queen" and "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy". For this mimed performance, May is seen playing a grand piano, although he only played synthesisers on the recording. May also sang lead vocals for the harmonised line "this night and evermore".
"Cool Cat", written by Mercury and Deacon, originally featured David Bowie on backing vocals and a few lines of spoken word to a rhythm during the middle eight. According to Mercury in a 1982 TV interview, Bowie was unhappy with the results and requested that his vocals be removed days before its parent album was slated to be released. With the exception of the electric piano (which was played by Mercury), all the instruments are played by Deacon, including drums, guitars, and synths. On the album version, Mercury sings the entire song in falsetto. The alternate take with Bowie's vocals still intact is widely available on various bootleg recordings and surfaces from an early 1982 vinyl Hot Space test pressing from the US. Deacon can be heard using the slap bass technique throughout the track.
A famous duet with Bowie, "Under Pressure" was the result of an impromptu jam session in the band's studio in Montreux. When it was released in 1981, "Under Pressure" reached number one in the UK singles chart. Although it was credited to the entire band and Bowie, Mercury was the primary director of this track, with he and Bowie being the main lyricists (each writing the lines they sang). John Deacon came up with the bass riff. Part of the chord progression is based on a rough demo of an unreleased song, "Feel Like". The songwriting is credited to all five participants.
The 1982 Hot Space Tour was Queen's last tour of North America until the Queen + Paul Rodgers Tour in 2005. The band did not tour North America for The Works tour in 1984, nor The Magic tour in 1986, after which they ceased touring, due to Mercury's ill-health with AIDS.
Release and reception
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Due to its dance-pop sound, Hot Space is widely considered by both fans and critics to be one of Queen's most artistically disappointing albums. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic said of the album that "the band that once proudly proclaimed not to use synthesizers on their albums has suddenly, dramatically reversed course, devoting the entire first side of the album to robotic, new wave dance-pop, all driven by drum machines and colored by keyboards, with Brian May's guitar coming in as flavor only on occasion." Alex Petridis of The Guardian gave the album two stars and said: "Like Queen, disco was melodramatic, unrepentantly camp, extravagantly arranged and omnivorous in its influences. Or at least it had been. By the time of 1982's Hot Space, disco had mutated into the weird, skeletal, dubby electronic sound pioneered by DJ Larry Levan, which really didn't suit Queen at all." Despite this, "Under Pressure" remains one of the band's staple songs.
Michael Jackson, who was close friends with the band during the time, later cited Hot Space as an influence for his own album Thriller. In a 2015 interview with Greg Prato of Songfacts, Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt described how Hot Space was an important album for him as a musician. "I think it's interesting because that album taught me two things. It taught me that even if you're in a band as a guitar player, music doesn't have to be driven by guitar - it's about the song, first. But I think the main thing is that Queen actually did an album like that - it was the fans' least favorite, but it was one of my favorites because it took a risk and branched out. All those synth parts they did and horns, I could always hear them with guitar in my head somehow. But quite oddly enough, or coincidentally enough, the title Hot Space is exactly what it meant: it's all the space between the music. That's what makes it funky and that's what makes it have a pocket."
All lead vocals by Freddie Mercury unless noted.
|1.||"Staying Power"||Freddie Mercury||4:11|
|3.||"Back Chat"||John Deacon||4:35|
|5.||"Action This Day"||Roger Taylor||Mercury and Roger Taylor||3:32|
|6.||"Put Out the Fire"||May||Mercury with Brian May||3:19|
|7.||"Life Is Real (Song for Lennon)"||Mercury||3:32|
|8.||"Calling All Girls"||Taylor||3:51|
|9.||"Las Palabras de Amor (The Words of Love)"||May||Mercury with May||4:31|
|11.||"Under Pressure" (with David Bowie)||Mercury and David Bowie with Taylor||4:06|
|1.||"Body Language" (1991 bonus remix by Susan Rogers)||Mercury||4:44|
|1.||"Staying Power" (Live at Milton Keynes Bowl, June 1982)||Mercury||3:57|
|2.||"Soul Brother" (B-side)||Queen||3:36|
|3.||"Back Chat" (Single remix)||Deacon||4:12|
|4.||"Action This Day" (Live at Seibu Lions Stadium in Tokorozawa, November 1982)||Taylor||6:25|
|5.||"Calling All Girls" (Live at Seibu Lions Stadium in Tokorozawa, November 1982)||Taylor||4:45|
|6.||"Las Palabras de Amor" (Top of the Pops, 1982)|
|7.||"Under Pressure" (Rah Mix, 1999)|
|8.||"Action This Day" (live in Milton Keynes, June 1982)|
Track numbering refers to CD and digital releases of the album.
- Freddie Mercury – lead vocals (all tracks), backing vocals (all tracks), keyboards (1, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11), drum machine (1, 4), synth bass (1, 4)
- Brian May – electric guitar (all but 10), backing vocals (2, 6, 9), co-lead vocals (6, 9), acoustic guitar (7-9), drum machine (2), synth bass (2), keyboards (9)
- Roger Taylor – drums (all but 10), backing vocals (2, 5, 6, 9, 11), percussion (2, 6, 8), co-lead vocals (5,11), synthesizer (5), electric guitar (5), acoustic guitar (8)
- John Deacon – bass (3, 6-11), electric guitar (1, 3, 10), drum machine (3, 10), synthesizer (3, 10)
- David Bowie – vocals and synthesizer (11)
- Arif Mardin – "hot and spacey" horn arrangement and production on "Staying Power"
- Reinhold Mack – production, synth bass (5)
- Dino Solera – saxophone (5)
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- Songfacts Interview with Nuno Bettencourt Retrieved 15 July 2016
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- Queen official website: Discography: Hot Space: includes lyrics of all non-bonus tracks except "Put Out the Fire" and "Under Pressure".
- Other lyrics at Queen official website: "Put Out the Fire" (from Queen Rocks), "Under Pressure (Rah Mix)" (from Greatest Hits III)
- on YouTube