Roger Taylor (Queen drummer)
Taylor performing with Queen + Paul Rodgers in Vienna, 2008.
|Birth name||Roger Meddows Taylor|
26 July 1949 |
King's Lynn, Norfolk, England
Roger Meddows Taylor (born 26 July 1949) is an English musician, singer and songwriter. He is a multi-instrumentalist, best known as the drummer for the rock band Queen. As a drummer, Taylor was recognised early in his career for his unique sound. He has been acclaimed by Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins as one of the most influential rock drummers of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as being voted by radio listeners as the eighth-greatest drummer in classic rock music history in a poll conducted by Planet Rock in 2005.
As a songwriter, Taylor contributed songs to Queen's albums from the very 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 1s ("These Are the Days of Our Lives", "Innuendo" and "Under Pressure") and contributed a further five major hits ("Radio Ga Ga", "A Kind of Magic", "Heaven for Everyone", "Breakthru", and "The Invisible Man"). He is also commonly known to have been the main writer on the international top-ten hit "One Vision", although the track is credited to the whole band. He has collaborated with such artists as Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Genesis, Jimmy Nail, 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 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.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List, Taylor was worth £80 million or around $127 million as of 2011. In 2014, he appeared in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern as himself. Taylor is also well known for his falsetto vocal range.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Influences and favourite drummers
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Tribute
- 6 Stamps
- 7 Discography
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Roger Taylor was born in the West Norfolk & Lynn Hospital, Exton's Road King's Lynn, Norfolk, on 26 July 1949. The new maternity ward was opened by the (then) future Queen Elizabeth II where she was introduced to 16 new mothers including Mrs. Winifred Taylor, his mother. Taylor first lived at 87 High Street in King's Lynn, but later moved to Beulah Street in the town. Taylor's first school was Rosebury Avenue school. Taylor moved to Truro, Cornwall, 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; then, at the age of 13, he joined Truro School as a day boy. At the age of 15, Taylor became a member of the Reaction, a very busy semi-pro 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. Another key influence on Taylor was drummer Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, who Taylor stated was his early role model.
In 1967, Taylor went to London to study dentistry at the London Hospital Medical College, but he soon became bored with dentistry and soon changed to Biology and obtained a BSc at East London Polytechnic.
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 only lasted for two years before Staffell departed to join Humpy Bong, leaving the band with only a catalogue of nine songs:
- "Earth" (Staffell)
- "Step On Me" (Staffell/May) originally from May and Staffell's band 1984.
- "Doin' Alright" (Staffell/May) (later remade for Queen's self-titled debut album)
- "Blag" (Taylor)
- "Polar Bear" (May)
- "Silver Salmon" (Staffell)
- "See What A Fool I've Been" (May, based on the song "That's How I Feel" by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee)
- "If I Were a Carpenter" (Tim Hardin) a cover regularly featuring in their live set.
- "April Lady" (Lucas) a song presented to the band by Mercury Records during their second studio session.
In 1969, Taylor was working with Freddie Mercury at the Kensington Market (they were living in an apartment 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. Bulsara convinced the remaining two members of Smile to continue and he eventually joined the band, which he renamed Queen. In 1971, they found bass guitarist John Deacon and brought him into the band, 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 record, and he is considered a prominent songwriter. His compositions for Queen include:
- "Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll" (Queen)
- "The Loser in the End" (Queen II)
- "Tenement Funster" (Sheer Heart Attack)
- "Stone Cold Crazy" (Co-written with John Deacon, Brian May and Freddie Mercury, Sheer Heart Attack)
- "I'm in Love with My Car" (A Night at the Opera)
- "Drowse" (A Day at the Races)
- "Sheer Heart Attack" (News of the World)
- "Fight From the Inside" (News of the World)
- "Fun It" (Jazz)
- "More of That Jazz" (Jazz)
- "A Human Body" (Non-album B-side of "Play the Game") (Single)
- "Rock It (Prime Jive)" (The Game)
- "Coming Soon" (The Game)
- "In the Space Capsule (The Love Theme)" (Flash Gordon)
- "In the Death Cell (Love Theme Reprise)" (Flash Gordon)
- "Escape From the Swamp" (Flash Gordon)
- "Marriage of Dale and Ming (And Flash Approaching)" (Co-written with May) (Flash Gordon)
- "Action This Day" (Hot Space)
- "Calling All Girls" (Hot Space) and (Single)
- "Under Pressure" (Co-written with Deacon, May, Mercury and David Bowie) (Hot Space) and (Single)
- "Soul Brother" (Co-written with Deacon, May and Mercury) (Non-album B-side of "Under Pressure") (Single)
- "Radio Ga Ga" (The Works) and (Single)
- "Machines (or Back to Humans)" (Co-written with May) (The Works)
- "Thank God It's Christmas" (Co-written with May) (Non-album single)
- "One Vision" (Principal songwriter, co-written with Deacon, May and Mercury) (A Kind of Magic) and (Single)
- "A Kind of Magic" (A Kind of Magic) and (Single)
- "Don't Lose Your Head" (A Kind of Magic)
- "Heaven for Everyone (Made in Heaven) and (Single)
- "The Invisible Man" (The Miracle) and (Single)
- "Breakthru" (intro written by Mercury) (The Miracle) and (Single)
- "Innuendo" (lyrics written by Taylor) (Innuendo) and (Single)
- "Ride the Wild Wind" (Innuendo)
- "These Are the Days of Our Lives" (Innuendo)
- "Let Me Live" (co-written with Deacon, May and Mercury) (Made in Heaven) and (Single)
- "Untitled Hidden Track" (Co-created from Mercury's "It's a Beautiful Day" song, with May and David Richards (uncredited)) Made in Heaven)
Many of these feature Taylor on vocals. His voice was very recognisable, for both its high range (he would often reach an E5 in full voice during live performances) and raspiness. His extremely high falsetto, sometimes going above an A5, was characteristic of Queen's vocal harmonies, and was often thought to be a woman's voice, or a synthesiser effect (most notably his screams on "In the Lap of the Gods", written by Mercury). His vocal range spans four octaves (E2-E6). Taylor's lead and partial vocal credits include:
- "Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll" – Queen (1973)
- "Keep Yourself Alive" – Queen (Vocal bridge sung with May, rest sung by Mercury)
- "Father to Son" – Queen II (1974) (This contains his highest range ever recorded, from G4 to A5).
- "Loser in the End" – Queen II
- "March of the Black Queen" – Queen II (Lead vocals on one line: "My life is in your hands/I'll foe and I'll fie", rest sung by Mercury)
- "Tenement Funster" – Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
- "In the Lap of the Gods" – Sheer Heart Attack (Falsetto screams)
- "I'm in Love with My Car" – A Night at the Opera (1975)
- "'39" – A Night at the Opera (High falsetto parts during instrumental bridges)
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" – A Night at the Opera (High-falsetto vocals, such as the "let me go" lines and the final "for me ... " during midsection)
- "Drowse" – A Day at the Races (1976)
- "Sheer Heart Attack" – News of the World (1977) (Lead vocals on chorus and second verse)
- "Fight from the Inside" – News of the World
- "Fun It" – Jazz (1978) (lead vocals shared with Mercury)
- "More of That Jazz" – Jazz
- "Rock It (Prime Jive)" – The Game (1980) (Lead vocals, except for the intro, sung by Mercury)
- "Coming Soon" – The Game (Lead chorus vocals)
- "A Human Body" – B-side of "Play the Game" (1980)
- "Action This Day" – Hot Space (1982) (Octave-lead vocals on verses, normal on chorus)
- "Don't Lose Your Head" – A Kind of Magic (1986) (Lead chorus vocals)
- "The Invisible Man" – The Miracle (1989) (Lead chorus vocals)
- "Hijack My Heart" – The Miracle (B-side to "The Invisible Man")
- "Ride the Wild Wind" – Innuendo (1991) (Additional vocals)
- "Let Me Live" – Made in Heaven (1995) (Lead vocals on second verse and bridge)
- "No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)" (1997) (Lead vocals on second verse and outro)
1977–present: Solo career
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 of about half of the keyboards, which were done by engineer David Richards. With Queen still touring heavily and recording at the time of release, Taylor was unable to promote the album to its fullest extent, so he appeared on some European TV shows to promote the single, "Future Management", including Top of the Pops. The only other single to come from the album was "My Country". The only US single released from the album was "Let's Get Crazy".
Taylor's next 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 toured to promote The Works, and Taylor did not perform 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".
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.
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. He supported it with a small tour in the spring of 1999, on which Brian May joined him at the gig in Wolverhampton. Taylor also performed one of the first Internet-gigs – for which he got a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.
In 2010, after nearly twelve years between solo albums, Taylor planned to release a new studio album titled The Unblinking Eye. 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. 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.
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.
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 the album himself 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 two successful Queen tours in which Edney had played. 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 the responsibility on lead vocals and rhythm guitar.
The first album, Shove It, was released in 1988. 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
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 consisted 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, the accompanying tour only included dates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Ibiza. Unusual for such tours, every song from the new album was played live.
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 complete) by the Christmas fan club party of 1990. The album itself contained a lot of vocals not from Taylor, but mainly of 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 itself 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 Freddie Mercury's death. The tour was in support of Magnum, so the concert lengths were short (45 mins.) and very few bootlegs have survived. The tour pace was rapid, covering 20 dates in one month.
Break-up of the Cross
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.
Taylor has appeared along with Brian May for various other events and promotions, including Queen's 2001 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the "Party at the Palace" in 2002, celebrating the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. In 2004, Taylor, May, and Mike Dixon received the Helpmann Award for Best Music Direction for the musical We Will Rock You. 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.
In November 2009, Taylor appeared on the popular reality TV show The X Factor with May as Queen mentoring the contestants, then later performing "Bohemian Rhapsody". Also in that month, Taylor confirmed he was planning to tour with Taylor Hawkins, which Taylor described as a "quick tour". 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". 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 movie 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 special guest for Welsh Rock artist Jayce Lewis and his project Protafield, with Taylor providing drums on the track "Wrath". 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.
Influences and favourite drummers
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".
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". However, for just sheer technique, Taylor described the jazz and big band drummer Buddy Rich as "the best I've ever seen".
By the time News of the World was released in 1977, Taylor had met his future girlfriend, Dominique Beyrand. She had been working for Richard Branson at the time, who was at the helm of Queen's free concert at Hyde Park. They lived together from 1980 to 1987, raising their two children: Felix Luther, who would release the single "Woman You're So Beautiful" with his father under "Felix & Arty" in 2006, and Rory Eleanor. In January 1988, although the couple's relationship had broken down, Beyrand and Taylor decided to marry in order to protect their children's interests in the future. At the time, Taylor was seeing another woman, Debbie Leng (seen in the "Breakthru" video); whom he moved in with a month after his marriage of convenience to Dominique. Before Freddie Mercury's death, Taylor and Leng had their first child, Rufus Tiger, born in March 1991, also a drummer for The Darkness and a touring musician for Queen + Adam Lambert. The couple went on to have two more children; Tiger Lily (1994) and Lola Daisy May (2000), before separating in late 2002. Taylor remarried on 3 October 2010, to his partner of six years Sarina Potgieter.
A new species of the genus Heteragrion (Odonata : Zygoptera) from Brazil was named Heteragrion rogertaylori in honour of him, with the etymology: "I name this species after Roger Taylor, drummer and songwriter, whose powerful sound, wonderful lyrics and raspy voice have enchanted the world for over four decades."
In 1999, Taylor became the first living person, other than members of the British Royal Family, 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.
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 NSPCC – alongside Duran Duran's drummer of the same name.
- Fun in Space (1981)
- Strange Frontier (1984)
- Happiness? (1994)
- Electric Fire (1998)
- Fun on Earth (2013)
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