Queen (Queen album)
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|Studio album by|
|Released||13 July 1973|
|Recorded||December 1971, June–November 1972|
|Studio||De Lane Lea and Trident Studios, London|
|Singles from Queen|
Queen is the debut studio album by the British rock band Queen, released on 13 July 1973 by EMI Records in the UK and by Elektra Records in the US. It was recorded at Trident Studios and De Lane Lea Music Centre, London, with production by Roy Thomas Baker, John Anthony and the band members themselves.
The album was influenced by heavy metal and progressive rock. The lyrics are based on a variety of topics, including folklore ("My Fairy King") and religion ("Jesus"). Lead singer Freddie Mercury composed five of the ten tracks, lead guitarist Brian May composed four songs (including "Doing All Right", which he co-wrote with his Smile bandmate Tim Staffell), and drummer Roger Taylor both composed and sang "Modern Times Rock and Roll". The final song on the album is a short instrumental version of "Seven Seas of Rhye," the full version of which would appear on the band's second album, Queen II.
- 1 Background
- 2 Recording
- 3 Songs
- 4 Release
- 5 Reception
- 6 Track listing
- 7 Personnel
- 8 Charts
- 9 Certifications
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Queen had been playing the club and college circuit in and around London for almost two years when the band received a chance opportunity to test out the new recording facilities of De Lane Lea Studios. They put together a polished demo tape of five songs: "Keep Yourself Alive", "The Night Comes Down", "Great King Rat", "Jesus", and "Liar". The group sent their demo to various record labels, but only received one offer: a low bid from Chrysalis Records, which they declined as, according to their friend Ken Testi, they feared they "would always play second fiddle to Genesis and those other bands.”
They were finally given a break when producers John Anthony and Roy Thomas Baker visited De Lane Lea while the band were recording and were impressed by what they saw. They recommended Queen to Barry and Norman Sheffield, who ran the successful Trident Studios. The Sheffield brothers arranged for Queen to record at Trident; however, because the studio was very popular, Queen mainly recorded during the studio's downtime but were given free use of everything after the paying artists had left; including the latest technologies and production team. Trident also agreed to oversee the group’s management, recording and publishing interests while they searched for a record deal. One day, while waiting to use the studio, Mercury was asked to record vocals by producer Robin Geoffrey Cable, who was working on a version of "I Can Hear Music" and "Goin' Back". Mercury enlisted May and Taylor to record the tracks. These recordings were released on a single under the name Larry Lurex, a parody of Gary Glitter.[nb 1]
The arrangement of recording only during downtime lasted from June to November 1972. The group would usually only record during nighttime and late evenings, during which, as Taylor recalled, “You could see the working girls at night through their laced curtains. So while we were mixing, we would have a little bit of diversion.” The limitations their arrangement imposed led the band to focus on completing one track at a time, but problems arose almost immediately. The band had thought highly of their De Lane Lea demo tracks, but producer Roy Thomas Baker asked them to re-record the songs with better equipment. "Keep Yourself Alive" was the first song to be re-recorded, and Queen did not like the result. They recorded it once again, but during the mixing sessions, no mix met their standards until engineer Mike Stone stepped in. After seven or eight failed attempts, Stone's first try met with Queen's approval. Stone would stay on to engineer and eventually co-produce their next five albums. May later commented that “Between Roy [Thomas Baker] and I, we were fighting the whole time to find a place where we had the perfection but also the reality of performance and sound.”
Another track that proved problematic was "Mad the Swine", which was recorded for the album but then derailed by Baker and Queen disagreeing on the quality of the percussion. The song was meant to be the fourth track on the album between "Great King Rat" and "My Fairy King". With the issue unresolved, the track was left off the album. It re-surfaced in 1991 as both the B-side to the "Headlong" CD single in the UK, and on the Hollywood Records re-release of the album.
Other recordings from this period, such as two Smile tracks ("Silver Salmon" and "Polar Bear"), "Rock and Roll Medley" (a live encore staple from the era), and the infamous track "Hangman" (whose existence was long denied officially, beyond live concert recordings), have surfaced in the form of a studio acetate disc.
Queen has been described as hard rock, progressive rock, heavy metal and glam rock. The album showcased the influence of contemporary rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull, while the lyrics were reflective of "mystical sword 'n' sorcerers themes" with "medieval landscapes." Michael Gallucci of Ultimate Classic Rock noted how "mostly Queen is a product of its time, bringing together prog, metal and even a little bit of folk music" and felt that the album "did little to separate the group from others exploring similar territory in the early '70s." David Chiu of Medium opined that Mercury's songs were similar in style to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, whereas May's songs "were also baroque-sounding at times, albeit more introspective."
"Keep Yourself Alive"
Brian May wrote "Keep Yourself Alive" after the band had been formed, but before John Deacon joined, as confirmed by former bass player Barry Mitchell (on an unofficial Q&A session held on an online forum). According to what May said in a radio special about their 1977 album, News of the World, he had penned the lyrics thinking of them as ironic and tongue-in-cheek, but their sense was completely changed when Freddie Mercury sang them. Roger Taylor and May sing the vocal bridge of the song.
Mercury might have helped on the musical arrangements based on the fact that (as it has been recalled by former bassists and the band themselves) they were in a more collaborative period in the pre-studio days and he was usually the one getting his way with structural ideas. While it is highly possible that he contributed ideas to the song (the modulation types and the expanded form are closer to his style than to May's), the bottom line is that even in that case Mercury would be more a co-arranger than a co-writer per se (like George Martin on The Beatles' songs).
"Doing All Right"
"Doing All Right" was written by May and Tim Staffell while in Smile. This is one of the few Queen songs to feature May on the piano. He also played his old Hallfredh acoustic guitar on this track and on later tracks such as "White Queen (As It Began)" and "Jealousy". The band played this song as early as 1970, and it was notable as the band's first song Mercury played live on the piano. Staffell sang it when it was a Smile song, and Mercury tried to sing in the same manner when it became a Queen song.
"Great King Rat"
"Great King Rat" was written by Mercury. This song is an example of Queen's earliest sound, with lengthy, heavy compositions with long guitar solos and sudden tempo changes. Despite it not being released as a single, it remains hugely popular among the Queen fanbase.
"My Fairy King"
"My Fairy King", written by Mercury, deals with Rhye, a fantasy world he created and which features in other Queen songs, most notably "Seven Seas of Rhye". "My Fairy King" is the first song on the album to feature Mercury's piano skills – as the piano on "Doing All Right" was played by May, who was quite impressed by Mercury's piano playing on the track. From this point on Mercury handled most of Queen's piano parts.
Mercury was born Farrokh "Freddie" Bulsara, but the lyric "Mother Mercury, look what they've done to me" inspired him to change his surname. May said that after the line was written, Freddie claimed he was singing about his own mother. Subsequently, Freddie Bulsara took the stage name Freddie Mercury. This was another attempt to separate his stage persona, as Mercury once described, "When I'm performing I'm an extrovert, yet inside I'm a completely different man."
The song was written while the band was in the studio, and contains many vocal overdubbed harmonies, which Mercury was fond of. Taylor also displays his vocal skills, hitting some of the highest notes in the composition. The vocal overdubs technique would later be used in many Queen songs, most notably "Bohemian Rhapsody". Mercury borrowed some lines from Robert Browning's poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin".
"Liar" was written by Mercury in 1970 while he was still known as Farrokh "Freddie" Bulsara, and before Deacon joined the band the following year. It is one of the band's heavier songs. As mentioned on the transcription on EMI Music Publishing's Off the Record sheet music, this is one of the band's few 1970s tracks to feature a Hammond organ. "Liar" was a staple of early concerts, but its inclusion was intermittent in later years, before returning in a shortened form for The Works Tour. For the Magic Tour, it was shortened to just the opening guitar section as a segue into "Tear It Up".
"The Night Comes Down"
May wrote this song shortly after the band's formation in 1970, following the break-up of Smile. It was first recorded at De Lane Lea Studios in December 1971, when the band were hired to test the studio's new equipment in exchange for being allowed to record proper demos for their attempt to find a label. The agreement was mutually beneficial and Queen took full advantage of the state-of-the-art equipment to put five of their tracks to tape.
In 1972, Trident Studios signed Queen to a recording contract which limited them to only down-time studio access (when paying artists were not recording) and they began working with Roy Thomas Baker. He and Studio owners/management Norman and Barry Sheffield insisted on re-recording the five De Lane Lea demos. A new studio version of "The Night Comes Down" was recorded, and this was the version which appears on the album. The early remains unreleased.
With the release of the original De Lane Lea demos as bonus tracks in 2011, the difference in the mixing of "The Night Comes Down" is quite noticeable when compared to the original LP and digital remasters. The demo is roughly the same mix that appeared on the album except that there is a distinct difference in the drum sound.
The song follows what would become trademark May themes such as coming-of-age, nostalgia over the loss of childhood to the past, and the difficulties of life as an adult. There is also what could be an ambiguous reference to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", in the lyric: "When I was young it came to me; And I could see the sun breaking; Lucy was high and so was I; Dazzling, holding the world inside." May is admittedly a Beatles fan and has commented in numerous interviews on their impact on him.
"Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll"
Taylor wrote and sang the song, which was re-recorded on two occasions for the BBC. The first dates from December 1973 and was broadcast on John Peel's show. This version was eventually released on the 1989 Queen album At The Beeb, and sounds similar to the album version. The second re-recording dates from April 1974 and was first broadcast on Bob Harris's show. The later version, only available on bootleg recordings prior to the release of On Air, differs from the original album version in its slower tempo and additional vocals from Mercury.
In the concert versions included in Live at the Rainbow '74, lead vocals were handled by Mercury.
"Son and Daughter"
"Son and Daughter" was written by May and was the B-side for the single "Keep Yourself Alive". The song was played in the very first concert under the name of Queen in 1970. It was a regular feature in Queen's live set until well into 1976, the song originally housed his famous guitar solo. The album version of the song does not feature the guitar solo. The solo would not be properly recorded until 1974, with "Brighton Rock" from Sheer Heart Attack. Until this time, and occasionally afterward, the guitar solo would take over the middle of "Son and Daughter" during concerts, allowing the rest of the band a bit of a rest and costume change.
Unlike other songs from Queen's early period which crept back into circulation in the live set of their 1984-86 tours, such as "Liar", "Keep Yourself Alive", "Seven Seas of Rhye" and "In the Lap of the Gods...Revisited", "Son and Daughter" stayed off the setlists after Queen's hit singles began to dominate their live show. The song is indicative of their very earliest sound, influenced by blues rock and heavy metal.
The lyrics tell part of the story of Jesus of Nazareth. Mercury, credited with writing the song, was a Parsi Zoroastrian. The track features a two-chord rhythm section during the verses with a long instrumental break toward the end of the song. Because of the effects created by May's Red Special guitar, among other things, many early followers of Queen viewed the band as something of a psychedelic rock band.
"Seven Seas of Rhye"
"Seven Seas of Rhye..." was written by Mercury, who had half-written what would become Queen's first hit single. On this album it is only a short instrumental to finish the album. The full version of the song was completed by Mercury on the next album, Queen II.
Though the album was completed and fully mixed by November 1972, Trident Studios spent months trying to get a record company to release it. After eight months of failing that, they took the initiative and released it themselves in a license deal with EMI Records on 13 July 1973. During this time, Queen had begun writing material for their next album, but they were disheartened by the album's delay, feeling they had grown past that stage, even though the record-buying public was just getting wind of them. They recorded two BBC sessions during the interim. The first single, "Keep Yourself Alive" (the Mike Stone mix, now considered the standard album version) was released a week before the album (UK dates, 6 and 13 July respectively). The track length was edited for release in the US, from 3:47 to 3:30. The US single was issued in October. All countries had the B-side "Son and Daughter". The album was released in the US on 4 September.
Elektra Records released a single of "Liar" in a heavily edited form on 14 February 1974, with the B-side "Doing All Right". Elektra later reissued the edited version of "Keep Yourself Alive" in July 1975, this time with the rare double B-side (rare for a 7" single) of "Lily of the Valley" and "God Save the Queen". Both versions are unique compared to the album versions.
Hollywood Records released a CD single featuring five versions of "Keep Yourself Alive" to promote the forthcoming Crown Jewels box set (1998). The versions on the CD are: "Long Lost Re-take", "BBC Session No. 1 Version", "Live Killers Version", "Album Version (Unremastered)", and "Album Version (1998 Remastered Version)".
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|Rolling Stone Magazine|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Rolling Stone Magazine wrote, "There's no doubt that this funky, energetic English quartet has all the tools they'll need to lay claim to the Zep's abdicated heavy-metal throne, and beyond that to become a truly influential force in the rock world. Their debut album is superb." The Winnipeg Free Press opined that Queen borrowed from other artists, but also compared it favourably to Led Zeppelin, writing, "the band manages to inject such a fresh, energetic touch to most of it that I don't mind a bit... With its first album, Queen has produced a driving, high energy set which in time may be looked upon with the same reverence Led Zep 1 now receives." Illinois' Daily Herald also commended the record, writing "Good listening is guaranteed in songs like 'Keep Yourself Alive,' 'Great King Rat' and 'Doing All Right'."
In later years, AllMusic awarded the album three out of five stars, calling it a "patchy but promising debut from a classic rock group". In 1994, Guitarist Magazine ranked Queen the 19th most influential guitar album of all time. The album placed at number 54 in NME's "100 Greatest Albums You’ve Never Heard" in 2011. In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked "Keep Yourself Alive" number 31 in the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs Of All Time", describing it as "an entire album's worth of riffs crammed into a single song". It has also been cited as heavy metal journalist Martin Popoff's favorite record of all time.
Writing for Classic Rock in 2016, Malcolm Dome ranked Queen as the band's second greatest album. He described it as a "glorious hard rock marathon unlike anything else around at the time", and commented on the "unmistakably unique sound of Brian May’s home-made guitar", the "panoramic production of Roy Thomas Baker" and the "soaring voice of Freddie Mercury", adding "the record was just too powerful, too multi-dimensional and too stunning to sit happily and contentedly in the grooves. The performances were all virtuoso."
We like some of the stuff on it, but we sometimes fell into the trap of over-arrangement. You know, the songs changed over the years and some of them probably evolved too much. You can get so far into something that you forget what the song originally was. On a personal level, it was frustrating for me to take so long to get to this point. I wanted to record things with, for instance, tape echoes and multiple guitars five years ago. Now I've finally done it, but in the meantime so have other people! Which is a bit disappointing. But you have to get away from the idea that playing music is a competition. You should just keep on doing what you think is an interesting thing to do.— Brian May
There are a lot of things on the first album I don't like, though, for example the drum sound. There are parts of it which may sound contrived but it is very varied and it has lots of energy ... but then I think one of the best albums last year was the "Mott" album and that had loads of inconsistencies and rough bits...— Roger Taylor
And quite a lot of the songs on that first album were songs that we had had for a long while, and songs that we just used to play together, songs like Keep Yourself Alive, Liar, Great King Rat, and other numbers. They're songs that we just used to play. And we just went in and recorded them. And there were one or two numbers on that first album which were more sort of that first sort of sign of getting interested in doing things in the studio. My Fairy King was a number Freddie wrote when we only wrote while we were in the studio and it was built up in the studio. Whereas, you know as I said, there's other numbers where essentially live songs, basically just the track and then just a few ... backing vocals and guitar solos over the top and that was it.— John Deacon
The band included on the album sleeve the comment "And nobody played synthesiser", a purist principle of May's, as some listeners had mistaken their elaborate multi-tracking and effects processed by guitar and vocal sounds as synthesisers. Bass guitarist John Deacon was credited as "Deacon John", but after its release, he asked to be referred to by his real name. Similarly, Roger Taylor was credited as "Roger Meddows-Taylor", but that lasted one further album before he dropped that name.
|1.||"Keep Yourself Alive"||Brian May||Freddie Mercury with Roger Taylor and Brian May||3:46|
|2.||"Doing All Right"||4:10|
|3.||"Great King Rat"||Freddie Mercury||5:41|
|4.||"My Fairy King"||Mercury||4:07|
|6.||"The Night Comes Down"||May||4:24|
|7.||"Modern Times Rock 'N' Roll"||Roger Taylor||Taylor||1:48|
|8.||"Son and Daughter"||May||3:24|
|10.||"Seven Seas of Rhye..."||Mercury||instrumental||1:10|
|Bonus tracks (1991 Hollywood Records reissue)|
|11.||"Mad the Swine" (previously unreleased)||3:20|
|12.||"Keep Yourself Alive" (long lost re-take)||4:04|
|13.||"Liar" (1991 bonus remix by John Luongo and Gary Hellman)||6:25|
|Disc 2 : Bonus EP (2011 Universal Music reissue)|
|1.||"Keep Yourself Alive" (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)||3:51|
|2.||"The Night Comes Down" (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)||4:24|
|3.||"Great King Rat" (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)||6:09|
|4.||"Jesus" (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)||5:06|
|5.||"Liar" (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)||7:54|
|6.||"Mad the Swine" (June 1972 (Mercury))||3:22|
Taken from the sleeve notes. Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases.
- Freddie Mercury – lead vocals (1-6, 8, 9), piano (4, 7, 9, 10), Hammond organ (5) (uncredited), backing vocals
- Brian May – guitars, piano (2), backing vocals
- Roger Taylor (credited as "Roger Meddows-Taylor") – drums, percussion, lead vocals (7), backing vocals
- John Deacon (credited as "Deacon John") – bass guitar
- John Anthony – production, backing vocals (7)
- Roy Thomas Baker (credited as "Roy Baker") – production, engineering
- Mike "Clay" Stone – engineering
- Ted Sharpe – engineering
- David Hentschel – engineering
- Louis Austin – engineering
- John Harris – equipment supervisor
- Douglas Puddifoot – photography
- Douglas Puddifoot, Freddie Mercury, Brian May – cover artwork
|Chart (1973)||Peak position|
|US Billboard 200||83|
|Chart (1974)||Peak position|
|UK Albums Chart||47|
|Chart (1975)||Peak position|
|UK Albums Chart||24|
2009 Agora SA album reissue
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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In 1973, their British glam wasn't so refined, and all the things that made the band so identifiable were barely concepts at this point. But there's glimmer in the glam...
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- Early Queen recordings