Saturday, 18 April 2015

Q is for Queen

I couldn't continue the A to Z Challenge without writing about one of the most successful hard rock bands in history.  Its original incarnation, "Smile" was formed in 1968 by guitarist Brian May and fellow students Tim Staffell and Roger Taylor.  Staffell left join another band in 1970, so after a few member shuffles the band was renamed "Queen" and set to work on their first album.  Their early demo songs didn't attract much interest but they did perform on few times on local stages which attracted the attention of Trident Recording Studios.

Their debut album was released in 1973.  Although it didn't do well in the mainstream it was well received by critics and rock fans alike, and went on to be certified gold.  Their second album would do just as well.  Despite Brian May's bout with hepatitis while performing a series of shows in New York, the band was gaining international success as they experimented with a variety of musical genres in their subsequent works.

After a world tour in 1975 they had a dispute with Trident and negotiated themselves out of their contract.  It didn't take them long to find a new manager in John Reid (who was also manager for Elton John at the time).  The album "A Night at the Opera" went triple platinum in the U.S. and contained one of their most enduring hits, "Bohemian Rhapsody".  The band had attained super-stardom.  They didn't let this go to their heads though, and continued to produce music at a rapid pace through the remainder of the 1970s.  Their video of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is considered to be the first "true" music video every produced.

In 1980 it was Michael Jackson who suggested that the song "Another One Bites the Dust" be released as a single, and the idea worked: it spent three weeks at Number One and won a Favorite Pop/Rock Single Award for that year.  The next year Queen became the first rock band to tour Latin America, where they drew record crowds.  During the 1980s the band would collaborate with many other popular artists, notably David Bowie in "Under Pressure".  A stint in South Africa in defiance of the UN Apartheid boycott in 1984 caused outrage among British fans and the band was blacklisted.  However all seemed to be forgiven at their sold out appearance in the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley.

In the late 1980s, rumours began circulating that vocalist Freddie Murphy was dying of AIDS, which the band denied as they were about to sign a new contract.  Despite his deteriorating health he continued to make contributions to the band until his death in 1991.  The comedy film Wayne's World in 1992 that featured "Bohemian Rhapsody" as part of the soundtrack revitalized the band's popularity and urged them to release the "Made in Heaven" album in Mercury's honour.  Bassist John Deacon chose to retire in 1997, and the remaining members performed several times with guest singers before winding down their appearances.

The surviving duo of Brian May and Roger Taylor still perform regularly with guest artists at awards ceremonies and commemorative concerts.  During the band's heyday they earned many achievements, such as entry into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a star on Hollywood Boulevard.  They've also been credited with inspiring many other musicians from Def Leppard to Trent Reznor.

Here's a recording of Queen's tribute to all artists who have died too young.
No One But You (Only the Good Die Young)

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing career they had. So many great songs!!