Queen - the Music
Created | Updated Jul 25, 2013
Unusually for a band, all the members of Queen wrote songs; although Freddie Mercury and Brian May probably averaged more than the others, John Deacon wrote 'You're My Best Friend' and 'Spread Your Wings' and 'Another One Bites the Dust', amongst others.
Because the writer got paid more when a song was released as a single, it is believed that there were arguments amongst the band as to which songs got released. Around the time of 'The Miracle', probably when they knew Freddie was HIV Positive, they put these differences aside, and all songs thereafter were credited as 'written by Queen'.
Between 1973 and 1980, the band made ten albums - at least one a year, but this dwindled in the 1980s.
1973 - Queen
Seminal stuff. Contains the material they practised and toured with before they got a recording contract. Highlights are the songs 'Liar' and 'Keep Yourself Alive'. The final track is an embryonic version of 'Seven Seas of Rhye'. Destined to be their first hit single, it hit the number ten spot in March 1974.
1974 - Queen 2
One for the heavy rockers - quite strong fantasy elements also - 'The Fairy Feller's Masterstroke', 'Ogre Battle' and 'March of the Black Queen' are songs included, and it contains the final version of their first hit single 'Seven Seas of Rhye'.
This album completes, largely, their song catalogue prior to getting a recording contract. The first two albums are the original Queen, some songs even containing material written with pre-fame band member Tim Staffel. The album cover of Queen 2 was brought to life later on in a little known video of the song 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.
1974 - Sheer Heart Attack
A true classic, highlights are the songs 'Killer Queen', 'Brighton Rock' (Brian May at his best), 'Now I'm Here' and 'In the Lap of the Gods'. This album really put them on the map; Killer Queen was their first really big hit from this album - it got to number two in October 1974.
1975 - A Night at the Opera
Named after the Marx Brothers film of the same title, it begins with a bitter track called 'Death on Two Legs' where their original management and recording contracts are demonised. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is of course there and propelled the band to worldwide fame and fortune.
It features some ground-breaking recording studio techniques with multilayered guitars and vocals giving Queen their characteristic sound on record.
1976 - A Day At The Races
Again named after a Marx brothers film, this album contains the classic tracks 'Somebody to Love', 'Good old Fashioned Lover Boy' and 'Tie Your Mother Down'. Again heavy duty multilayered guitars and vocals give this album a lavish feel.
1977 - News Of the World
Fed up with the intensive studio time required to produce their previous two albums this is a much simpler feast of music with several tracks recorded in one take and has a very different sound to previous works.
Classic tracks are of course 'We Are the Champions' and 'We Will Rock You'. These anthems still make the band millions as they have been adopted by sports teams and even some political movements as their theme tunes.
1978 - Jazz
Again this album entirely changes their style whilst retaining strong Queen identity. It begins with the song 'Mustapha', almost a Muslim call to prayer. Other well-known songs are 'Bicycle Race' and 'Fat Bottomed Girls'.
1979 - Queen Live Killers
Double Live album taken from a World Tour.
1980 - The Game
Features the first use of synthesisers in a Queen album. Previous works had a statement saying that no synths had been used - an accusation they always refuted. It seems they had decided that technology had now caught up with their sound and synths now sounded good enough to be employed. This departure turned off some fans to their future work, but despite this, again a classic album. Hits included 'Another One Bites the Dust', 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', 'The Game' and 'Save Me' - the latter being a ballad was unusual in their single releases.
1980 - Flash Gordon
Soundtrack to the cheesy (but still entertaining) film remake of the classic 1930s movie serial.
1982 - Hot Space
An acquired taste and probably their most impenetrable album for non-hardcore fans. It has a very disco-funky style and features the classic duet with David Bowie 'Under Pressure' (their second UK number 1 hit). Other tracks that are highlights are 'Body Language', 'Staying Power' and 'Action This Day'.
1984 - The Works
Probably their best 80s album, 'Radio Ga Ga' penned by Roger Taylor was the biggest hit and meant that every member of the group had now had a smash hit single - this evened out tensions within the band on royalty payments (Roger received 50% of the royalties on 'Bohemian Rhapsody' because he wrote the B side - something that always rankled Freddie).
Other classics are 'I Want to Break Free' (although the video turned off the USA - big time. It featured the band members dressed in drag, which UK audiences thought was great, but unfortunately Americans didn't get the joke. Not growing up with pantomime dames and drag queens on Brighton pier meant that they just didn't understand it.), 'It's a Hard Life' and 'Hammer To Fall'. The final album track 'Is This The World We Created' could have been written especially for Live Aid, the seminal famine relief concert held the following year. Brian and Freddie performed as a duet at the end of the British show.
1986 - A Kind of Magic
Most of the tracks on this album formed the sound track to the Christopher Lambert/Sean Connery film Highlander. Classic songs that feature are 'A Kind of Magic', 'Who Wants to Live Forever' and the Live Aid inspired 'One Vision'. The live tour that followed this album was their last. It is now well known that Freddie began to succumb to AIDS-related conditions at this time.
1987 - Live Magic
Live album from the Live Magic tour.
1989 - The Miracle
The final three studio albums are considered by some to not up to the standard of previous albums - yet still are worth listening to and there are still great tracks. Listening to them post-Freddie's death one can see they thought this was their last album together. Songs that feature are 'Was It All Worth it' - a now obvious testament from Freddie, the classic rocker 'I Want It All', 'Invisible Man' and 'Breakthru'.
1991 - Innuendo
Their last true album together - yes Freddie made it for another one. 'Innuendo' the title track is great - another number one single for the band in January 1991. 'I'm Going Slightly Mad' is brilliant and 'These Are The Days Of Our Lives' is a desperately sad song in which Freddie says goodbye to us all. This album is the final true Queen album and retains some of their true majesty. It ends with the truly majestic 'The Show Must Go On' - an air guitar classic.
1995 - Made in Heaven
This final album was made after Freddie's death with the remaining recordings of his voice and the revamping of a few of their solo tracks. Worth listening to and a great tribute to Freddie but not a classic.
1981 - Greatest Hits
Featuring their most successful tracks up to and including 1980 this is a true classic and one of the most successful album charting records of all time in the UK - it spent literally years in the charts and is probably their biggest seller.
1991 - Greatest Hits 2
Features their greatest hits up to and including the album Innuendo. It features what you would expect - great stuff.
This is where this researcher loses interest in further albums. Many are now in existence with a Greatest hits 3, live material, pre-recording contract work and bootleg stuff. I leave others to add to my list.
Despite their phenomenal success, Queen only reached the number one spot five times; 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (1975), 'Under Pressure' (1981),'Innuendo' (1991), 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (1991) and 'We Will Rock You' (2000).
'Bohemian Rhapsody' initially reached number one in the UK charts in 1975. It had not been meant for release as a single, as the record company was convinced that it was too long at a duration of five minutes and 52 seconds and that no-one would buy it. Luckily, DJ Kenny Everett heard it, and was such a big fan that he regularly played it on his show. Fans clamoured to buy it, and so Queen were able to change EMI's mind and it was released.
When it got to number one the video helped it stay there - it was established as the first music video to be used as a promotional tool to sell the single, and a lot of the effects were created at the time of making the video. The video itself cost £8,000. It then reached number one on its re-release after Freddie's death. It was, for many years, the only number one hit to be reissued and return to number one... then George Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord' did the same thing when it was reissued after his death. Elvis Presley's many number ones are also being reissued and are making their way back to the number one spot.
While he was alive, many people asked Freddie Mercury what 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is all about; they expected a really great answer but truthfully he didn't know what it was about himself.
A version of the song was also recorded for Comic Relief in 1993, starring the casts of Big Breakfast, London's Burning, Brookside, Jeeves & Wooster, Wayne's World, Red Dwarf and Harry Enfield and Chums singing line by line. It was not released as a single.
Bad News, the Comic Strip's spoof heavy metal band, also recorded a version (introduced by Brian May), which is available on the Bad News album and was released as a single. It reached number 44 in the UK charts in 1987.
Nearly every Queen song has become an anthem in its own right, and many have been used in films. Most notably Flash Gordon, for which they wrote the entire soundtrack. One of the sayings Brian Blessed (who played Prince Vultan) is most known for is the line used in the title song 'Flash's Theme'.
The film Highlander also contained many of their tracks - 'Who Wants To Live Forever' was the title track, but it also included 'Princes of the Universe' and 'It's a Kind of Magic'. Queen also contributed to the soundtrack on Highlander II, although this was really just a reprise of the songs from the first movie.
Members of the younger generations know 'Bohemian Rhapsody' because of Wayne's World where the video is parodied. However, in more recent years films like Shaun of the Dead ('Don't Stop Me Now') and A Knight's Tale ('We are the Champions', sung by Queen and Robbie Williams) have brought the band back into the limelight.
'One Vision' from the A Kind of Magic album was used in the film Iron Eagle. Giorgio Moroder's re-edit of Metropolis included 'Love Kills' on the soundtrack. Interestingly, the video for 'Radio Ga Ga' uses clips from Metropolis.
The Star Fleet Project
Brian May worked with Eddie Van Halen on the theme tune to a Japanese puppet series, Star Fleet which was favoured by his kids. The pair didn't actually write the theme, but rather they took the theme tune and jazzed it up a bit, just for fun.
One Researcher had this to say about the 'mini-album':
I managed to get a copy off eBay. While the theme itself is good enough, the reason I wanted it was for the 12- minute blues jam that made them decide to release the whole thing as a mini-LP in the first place. It's a bloody good session, and certainly worth a listen.
A very rare single now, 'I Can Hear Music' was in fact Freddie Mercury and was released in 1973, shortly before the first Queen album was released. A cover of a Beach Boys track, it also featured Brian May on guitar.