Roger Taylor (Queen drummer)

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Roger Taylor
Taylor performing with Queen + Adam Lambert in December 2017
Taylor performing with Queen + Adam Lambert in December 2017
Background information
Birth nameRoger Meddows Taylor
Born (1949-07-26) 26 July 1949 (age 71)
King's Lynn, Norfolk, England
GenresRock
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • record producer
Instruments
  • Drums
  • vocals
Years active1968–present
Labels
Associated acts
Websiterogertaylorofficial.com

Roger Meddows Taylor OBE (born 26 July 1949) is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the drummer for the rock band Queen.[1] As a drummer, Taylor was recognised early in his career for his unique sound.[2] He was voted by radio listeners as the eighth-greatest drummer in classic rock music history in a poll conducted by Planet Rock in 2005.[3]

As a songwriter, Taylor contributed songs to Queen's albums from the beginning, composing at least one track on every album, and often singing lead vocals on his own compositions. He wrote or co-wrote three UK number ones ("These Are the Days of Our Lives",[4] "Innuendo" and "Under Pressure") and contributed to a further five major hits ("Radio Ga Ga", "A Kind of Magic", "Heaven for Everyone", "Breakthru", and "The Invisible Man").[5] He is also the main writer on the international top-ten hit "One Vision", although the track is credited to the whole band.[citation needed] He has collaborated with such artists as Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Genesis, Jimmy Nail, Kansas, Elton John, Gary Numan, Shakin' Stevens, Foo Fighters, Al Stewart, Steve Vai, Yoshiki, Cyndi Almouzni, and Bon Jovi. As a producer, he has produced albums by Virginia Wolf, Jimmy Nail, and Magnum.

In addition to his drum work, Taylor is well known for his falsetto vocal range. He sometimes played keyboards, guitars and bass on his own songs. During the 1980s, in addition to his work with Queen, he formed a parallel band known as the Cross, in which he was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. During the early 1980s, Taylor was also a panellist on the popular UK quiz show Pop Quiz, hosted by Mike Read. In 2014, he appeared in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern as himself.

Early life[edit]

Roger Taylor was born on 26 July 1949 at West Norfolk & Lynn Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk. The new maternity ward was opened by Princess Elizabeth (the future queen, Elizabeth II), where she was introduced to 16 new mothers including Winifred Taylor, his mother. Taylor first lived at 87 High Street in King's Lynn and later moved to Beulah Street in the town. Taylor's first school was Rosebury Avenue school.[6] Taylor moved to Truro, Cornwall, in south west England, with his mother Winifred, father Michael and younger sister Clare. When he was seven years old, he and some friends formed his first band, the Bubblingover Boys, in which he played the ukulele. He briefly attended Truro Cathedral School; at the age of 13, he joined Truro School as a day boy.[7] At the age of 15, Taylor became a member of the Reaction, a semi-professional rock band formed mainly of boys from Truro School. Taylor had originally learned guitar, but became a drummer when he realised he had a more natural aptitude for it. Taylor taught himself to tune his drums, inspired by Keith Moon of the Who because of the "great drums sounds" on the early Who records.[8] Another key influence on Taylor was drummer Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, who Taylor stated was his early role model.[9]

In 1967, Taylor went to London to study dentistry at the London Hospital Medical College,[10] but he became bored with it and changed to biology obtaining a BSc at East London Polytechnic.[11]

Career[edit]

1968–1970: Smile[edit]

Taylor met Brian May and Tim Staffell in 1968 after a friend saw an advert on a noticeboard at Imperial College for a drummer. Smile included May on lead guitar, Staffell on lead vocals and bass, and later Taylor on drums. The band lasted for two years before Staffell departed to join Humpy Bong, leaving the band with a catalogue of nine songs.

Smile reunited for several songs on 22 December 1992. Taylor's band the Cross were headliners and he brought May and Staffell on to play "Earth" and "If I Were a Carpenter".[12]

1970s–present: Queen[edit]

Taylor performing with Queen in 1979.

In 1969, Taylor was working with Freddie Mercury at Kensington Market (they were sharing a flat at around the same time). Mercury, then known as Freddie Bulsara, was an avid fan of Smile. The band split up in 1970. In the same year, Taylor turned down the chance to become drummer for Genesis, which led to Phil Collins joining instead.[13] Bulsara convinced the remaining two members of Smile to continue and he eventually joined the band, which he renamed Queen. In 1971, they recruited bass guitarist John Deacon, before going on to release their self-titled debut album in 1973. Taylor is the third most credited songwriter for the band, usually contributing one or two tracks per album.

1977–present: Solo career[edit]

Taylor has had a productive solo career, releasing five albums. His first single was his 1977 "I Wanna Testify". He recorded it during Queen's sessions for the News of the World album. The A-side, although a cover of the Parliaments song of the same name, was completely different from the original. The B-side was a self-penned song "Turn on the TV".

Taylor's first solo album, Fun in Space, was released in 1981. Taylor performed all vocals and played all instruments aside from about half of the keyboards, which were contributed by engineer David Richards. With Queen still touring heavily and recording at the time of Kensington Market, London release, Taylor was unable to promote the album to its fullest extent, only appearing on some European TV shows to promote the single, "Future Management", including Top of the Pops. A second single from the album was titled "My Country". The only US single released from the album was "Let's Get Crazy".

Taylor's next solo venture, Strange Frontier, came in June 1984. The three singles from the album were the title track, "Beautiful Dreams" (in Portugal only) and "Man on Fire", the latter becoming a live favourite for him in later years. No attempts to promote the singles were made since Queen was touring to promote The Works, with Taylor not even performing on any TV shows. Strange Frontier included guest appearances by bandmates Freddie Mercury, Brian May and John Deacon. Mercury sang backing vocals on "Killing Time", Deacon remixed the B-side "I Cry For You" and Rick Parfitt co-wrote and played on "It's An Illusion". David Richards, Queen's engineer and producer at the time, also co-wrote two of the tracks. The album includes covers of Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Street" and Bob Dylan's "Masters of War".

In 1986, Taylor co-produced Vigilante, the sixth studio album by rock band Magnum.[14]

After Queen finished their 1986 Magic Tour, Taylor started a new band, the Cross, which released three albums over their six years of existence. In 1993, the band split up, after performing one final gig at the Gosport Festival.[15]

In 1994, Taylor worked with Yoshiki, drummer and pianist of X Japan and released the song "Foreign Sand" and a reworking of the Cross's "Final Destination". The album Happiness? was "Dedicated to the tasmanian tiger – thylacinus cynocephalus, but most especially... for Freddie". "Nazis 1994" from this album became Taylor's first hit single in England and was followed by two other top 40 UK hits, "Happiness" and "Foreign Sand".

In 1998, Taylor released his fourth solo album Electric Fire.[16] He supported it with a small tour in the spring of 1999, on which Brian May joined him at the gig in Wolverhampton.[citation needed] Taylor also performed one of the first Internet-gigs – for which he got a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.[17]

In 2010, after nearly twelve years between solo albums, Taylor planned to release a new studio album titled The Unblinking Eye.[citation needed] The first single, of the same name, was released on 23 November 2009 as a digital download, but due to popular demand it was released as a limited edition single.[18] Originally leaked to the official Queen fan club's website for members only, it still managed to be on YouTube within hours of the early bird release. It was announced in late 2012 that fans would be able to vote on which songs appeared on the new album, with the album itself slated for release that year.[citation needed]

The album is called Fun on Earth,[19] and was released on 11 November 2013. On the same day, Taylor released his compilation album The Lot, which includes all of his work outside of Queen.[20]

The Cross[edit]

The Cross were a side project of Taylor's that existed from 1987 to 1993 and released three albums. While still the drummer for Queen, Taylor fronted the Cross as rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist. On its debut release, The Cross incorporated dance influences which they dropped on their remaining two albums. The band never enjoyed much commercial success, except in Germany.[citation needed]

Shove It[edit]

Taylor performing with the Cross in 1990

After Queen's 1986 Magic Tour, the band members went their separate ways to do various solo work. Taylor decided to form a new band with whom he could tour. He had already written and recorded Shove It before finding a band to play the songs with. He eventually placed an ad for band members in a national newspaper, hinting he was a famous rock musician. The position of keyboard player was duly offered to Spike Edney after he had played in two successful Queen tours. When the auditions were over, the line-up was completed by Peter Noone on bass, Clayton Moss on guitar and Josh Macrae on drums. Taylor himself would take on the responsibility for lead vocals and rhythm guitar.

Shove It was released in 1988.[21][22] In Europe, 'Heaven for Everyone" (later a Queen song) contained Freddie Mercury on lead vocals and Taylor on backing vocals. However, on the single version and American album version the roles were switched. The European CD contained an extra track (compared to cassette and LP) in the 2nd Shelf Mix, the US version having "Feel the Force" as its extra track. The band promoted hard (especially in Germany), with many TV performances of singles including an appearance at the Montreux Golden Rose festival in 1988. The tour took in dates in the UK and Germany. Three singles were released from the album: "Cowboys and Indians", "Heaven for Everyone" and "Shove It". Another single, "Manipulator", was released in 1988, but it was not included on any album. It was also the only song from the time that had joint writing credits, Taylor sharing them with Edney and Steve Strange.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know[edit]

Taylor performing with the Cross in 1990.

After finishing Queen's 1989 album The Miracle, Taylor went into the studio with the rest of the Cross for the first time to record Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know. The band composed the opening track "On Top of the World Ma" with a riff bearing a resemblance to the Led Zeppelin track "Whole Lotta Love". The rest of the album consists mainly of individually written songs, except for "Power To Love" which was the result of the combined effort of Macrae, Noone and Moss. Clayton Moss sang lead vocals on his own track "Better Things", and Spike Edney played mandolin on "Final Destination", which was written by Taylor. "Final Destination" was released as a single, as were "Liar" and "Power To Love", the latter being the last single to be released in the UK by the band. "Final Destination" came with a live rendition of Taylor's song "Man on Fire" as a B-side, and "Liar" (Noone) had a brand new track, "In Charge of My Heart", which was also penned by Taylor. The 12" single and CD of "Liar" also included extended remixes of both "Liar" and "In Charge of My Heart". The instrumental section at the beginning of "In Charge of My Heart" was used as the opening to concerts on the accompanying tour. "Closer To You" (Edney) had been planned to be released in America but never was. The group, having seemingly given up on the UK market, only included tour dates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Ibiza. Unusual for such tours, every song from the new album was played live.

Blue Rock[edit]

Made at a time when Taylor's efforts were concentrated on Queen and Mercury himself, Blue Rock gave the other members of the band a chance to take control of the upcoming album. It was in fact mostly written by Edney, who contributed three of his own tracks and contributed to four more. Once again the opening track was penned by the entire band, "Bad Attitude" was written (although not completely) by the Christmas fan club party of 1990. The album itself contained a lot of vocals, mainly by Edney and Noone. Examples of this can be heard in "Put It All Down To Love" (Edney), "Life Changes" (Moss, Noone, Edney and Macrae) and "Heartland"—the B-side to "Life Changes", penned by Noone. Blue Rock was only released in Germany (although promo copies were released in Italy and Japan), so copies are somewhat rare. "New Dark Ages" (Taylor) was released in Germany with another live version of "Man on Fire", whilst "Life Changes" was released with the B-side "Heartland". It was, however, immediately withdrawn due to Mercury's death. The tour was in support of Magnum, so the concert lengths were short (45 minutes) and very few bootlegs have survived. The tour pace was rapid, covering 20 dates in one month.

Break-up of the Cross[edit]

The band broke up in 1993 after performing a final show. Taylor continued working with Queen and produced solo albums. Drummer Macrae accompanied Taylor on his solo tours and also played percussion at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Both Taylor and keyboardist Edney participated in the Queen + Paul Rodgers tours, while Macrae worked behind the scenes as co-producer, sound engineer and Pro Tools engineer for them. In the late 1990s, Edney formed the SAS Band ("Spike's All Stars"), a group with an ever-changing line-up of popular '80s musicians.

21st century[edit]

Taylor has appeared along with May for various other events and promotions, including Queen's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001[23] and the "Party at the Palace" in 2002, celebrating the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.[24] In 2004, Taylor, May, and Mike Dixon received the Helpmann Award for Best Music Direction for the musical We Will Rock You.[25] At Live Earth in 2007, Taylor opened the concert with Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters and Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Taylor and May, performing as Queen, also appeared three times on the American singing contest television show American Idol. The first appearance was on 11 April 2006, during which that week's contestants were required to sing a Queen song. Songs performed included "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Fat Bottomed Girls", "The Show Must Go On", "Who Wants to Live Forever", and "Innuendo". The second time Queen appeared was on the show's season 8 finale in May 2009, performing "We Are the Champions" with finalists Adam Lambert and Kris Allen. The third appearance was during the eleventh season on 25 and 26 April 2012, performing a Queen medley with the six finalists on the first show. The following day, they performed "Somebody to Love" with the Queen Extravaganza band.[26]

In November 2009, Taylor appeared on the reality TV show The X Factor with May as Queen mentoring the contestants and performing "Bohemian Rhapsody". That month Taylor confirmed he was planning to tour with Taylor Hawkins, which Taylor described as a "quick tour".[27] At the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards on 6 November, Queen received the Global Icon Award, and Taylor and May closed the awards ceremony, with Adam Lambert on vocals, performing "The Show Must Go On", "We Will Rock You", and "We Are the Champions".[28] In 2011, Taylor, along with Steven Tyler and Roger Daltrey, joined the advisory board of Edge Music Network. Taylor performed in the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London on 12 August.

In 2013 and 2014, Taylor served as an executive producer of the film Solitary, directed by Sasha Krane. In addition to those duties, he provided original music, including the song "When We Were Young" and three instrumental songs which serve as incidental/background music in the film and during the closing credits. Taylor also appeared as a special guest for Welsh Rock artist Jayce Lewis and his project Protafield providing drums on the track "Wrath".[29][30][31] On 15 November 2014, Taylor joined the charity group Band Aid 30, playing drums alongside current British and Irish pop acts on the latest version of the track "Do They Know It's Christmas?" at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, to raise money for the 2014 Ebola crisis in Western Africa.[32]

On 5 and 6 September 2015, Taylor, along with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, joined Foo Fighters on stage in Milton Keynes to perform a cover of the Queen and David Bowie song "Under Pressure".

Taylor released a new single called "Gangsters Are Running This World" on 1 April 2019, and on 8 April released a more rocking version of this song called "Gangsters Are Running This World-Purple Version". Both versions became available for streaming on 8 April 2019.[33] On 10 May 2019 he and Czech Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Čech released a song called "That's Football" which Čech wrote for his retiring football career.[34]

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor released a new single "Isolation" on 21 June 2020.[35] The song debuted on the top of the UK iTunes Rock chart.[36]

Influences and favourite drummers[edit]

Taylor has stated that his early role model as a drummer was Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He said: "I still think listening to Mitch Mitchell, especially the early stuff with Hendrix, is just fantastic. This fusion of jazz technique and wonderful riffs but with this rolling ferocious attack on the whole kit, it had lots of jazz influences I think. In fact for me he played the kit like a song, it was just wonderful. Total integration into the song. Not just marking time".[9]

Taylor has also expressed great admiration for John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Speaking of Bonham, Taylor said, "The greatest rock and roll drummer of all time was John Bonham, who did things that nobody had ever even thought possible before with the drum kit. And also the greatest sound out of his drums – they sounded enormous, and just one bass drum. So fast on it that he did more with one bass drum than most people could do with three, if they could manage them. And he had technique to burn and fantastic power and tremendous feel for rock and roll".[9] However, for just sheer technique, Taylor described the jazz and big band drummer Buddy Rich as "the best I've ever seen".[9]

Speaking to Modern Drummer in 1984, Taylor also described Keith Moon, the drummer of the Who, as "absolutely brilliant...he had a total unique style; he didn't owe anyone anything."[8]

Tributes[edit]

In 2013, a newly discovered species of the genus Heteragrion (Odonata: Zygoptera) from Brazil was named Heteragrion rogertaylori after Taylor, in honour of his "powerful sound, wonderful lyrics and raspy voice " – one of four Heteragrion flatwing damselflies named after the bandmates, paying tribute to the 40th anniversary of Queen's founding.[37]

In 1999, Taylor became the second living person, other than members of the British Royal Family and Sir Francis Chichester in 1967, to appear on a Royal Mail stamp, being seen behind Freddie Mercury as part of a "Great Britons" issue. This caused controversy as it was an understood rule that the only living people allowed to appear on British stamps could be members of the Royal Family.[38][39]

In 2002, Taylor appeared on the "Twelve Drummers Drumming" Christmas card in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" set sold at Woolworths to raise money for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – alongside Duran Duran's drummer of the same name.[40]

Taylor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to music.[41]

Discography[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

Albums made with the Cross[edit]

Year Title UK
[42]
DE
[43]
1988 Shove It 58 -
1990 Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know - 48
1991 Blue Rock - -

Portrayal in film[edit]

He was portrayed by Ben Hardy in the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody.[44] Taylor, along with bandmate Brian May, were musical producers on the film.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey. "Roger Taylor interview: The Queen drummer has written the soundtrack for British film Solitary". The Independent. Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  2. ^ Rolling Stone – Issue 149 – 12 June 1973
  3. ^ "Zeppelin voted 'ideal supergroup'". BBC News. 10 July 2005. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  4. ^ "These Are the Days of Our Lives". Bechstein Debauchery. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  5. ^ "The Invisible Man". Bechstein Debauchery. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  6. ^ Trevor, Heaton. "Rock Star's Norfolk Childhood". Queen Archives. Eastern Daily Press. Archived from the original on 7 February 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Roger". themarchoftheblackqueen.piczo.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Roger Taylor Interview". Queen Zone. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d "Roger's Drum Master Class (Music Works - BBC World Service, November 28, 1993)". Queen Online. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Roger Taylor". Queen official website. Archived from the original on 19 January 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  11. ^ Rose, Frank. "Heavy Meddows Kid". Queen Archives. Eastern Daily Press. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017.
  12. ^ [1] Archived 8 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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  14. ^ Patrick Lemieux; Adam Unger (2013). The Queen Chronology: The Recording & Release History of the Band. Across the Board Books. p. 54. ISBN 978-0991984046.
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  16. ^ Gregory, Andy (2002). The International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. Psychology Press. ISBN 9781857431612.
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  19. ^ "Roger Taylor To Release Solo Album | Rock News | News". Planet Rock. 22 November 2012. Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
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  25. ^ "Past nominees and winners Helpmann Awards". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  26. ^ "'Somebody to Love' on 'American Idol' – Video". Rolling Stone. 27 April 2012. Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  27. ^ "Queen And Foo Fighters Drummers To Team Up For 2010 Tour". Gigwise. 17 November 2009. Archived from the original on 16 October 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  28. ^ Penny Newton (6 November 2011). "Katy And Adam Honour Queen! | Queen | News | MTV Australia". Mtv.com.au. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  29. ^ "Roger Taylor of Queen guest appearances discography". Rogertaylor.info. Archived from the original on 9 August 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  30. ^ "He will, he will, rock you! Jayce Lewis is granted an audience with Queen star – Wales Online". walesonline. Archived from the original on 25 September 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  31. ^ "Queen drummer Roger Taylor agrees to play on Welsh rocker Jayce Lewis' new album". walesonline. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  32. ^ "Band Aid 30: One Direction among celebrity line-up". Telegraph. 11 November 2014. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  33. ^ "Gangsters Are Running This World Available Now - Inc. New 'Purple Version'". Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  34. ^ "Out Today! 'That's Football' - Petr Cech ft. Roger Taylor". Queenonline.com. Archived from the original on 20 May 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  35. ^ "Isolation". YouTube. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  36. ^ "@rogertaylorofficial on Instagram: "Wow! #isolation #number1 #rockchart Link in bio"". Instagram.com. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  37. ^ Lencioni, F.A.A. (9 July 2013). "Diagnoses and discussion of the group 1 and 2 Brazilian species of Heteragrion, with descriptions of four new species (Odonata: Megapodagrionidae). Zootaxa 3685 (1): 001–080" (PDF). Zootaxa. Magnolia Press – Auckland, New Zealand. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  38. ^ Rohrer, Finlo (14 October 2008). "The politics of stamps". BBC News. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  39. ^ Alex Spence. "Royal Mail unveils Beatles album cover stamps (Times Online)". The Times. UK. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  40. ^ [3] Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ "No. 62866". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 2019. p. N15.
  42. ^ QueenOnline Message Board :: View topic - Queen / Solos UK & US (Y MORE) Chart History Archived 29 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ "Charts-Surfer". Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  44. ^ December 2019, Scott Munro. "Ben Hardy: It would be amazing to work with cast on Bohemian Rhapsody sequel". Classic Rock Magazine. Retrieved 19 November 2020.

External links[edit]

  • Roger Taylor on IMDb
  • Queen in Cornwall – includes an extensive description of Roger Taylor's early career
  • RogerTaylor.info – includes most detailed discography of Roger Taylor as a solo artist, member of the Cross, as well as his numerous guest appearances