“Liar! I have sailed the seas
Liar! From Mars to Mercury
Liar! I have drunk the wine
Liar! Time after time”
One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was in 1975, it didn’t cost much but its impact has stayed with me down the years. What was it? “A Night at the Opera” by Queen. Bought for me at the last minute by my parents it not only opened my eyes to the merging of musical styles it also led to the greatest fashion faux pas of my life!
I fell in love with the music and image immediately. I decided that I wasn’t going to cut my hair, argued with my Uncle about whether black nail varnish was ‘girly’ and knew I was going to be a rock star. Unfortunately I had no talent, was still at school and had a hairdresser for a mother who practised her ‘short back and sides’ on me – so the rebellion didn’t go far. I did however manage to scrounge enough money to buy their previous LPs and then sat in my room playing them day after day.
By the time “A Day At The Races” came out I knew that I had to see them live and managed to get tickets to see them in London. A friend’s dad agreed to take us and all seemed to be going well until my parents got involved. They knew I was going to a concert and insisted that I dressed up smart for the occasion as concerts were ‘posh’ and I shouldn’t ‘let them down’. Eventually after many arguments I talked them into letting me wear jeans and they even agreed to buy me a denim jacket! The day of the concert arrived and my parents presented me with a new denim jacket and jeans for the concert – but they were light blue brushed denim and more of a safari suit than a rock rebel outfit!! My parents wouldn’t let me go unless I wore them so I ended up going to my first ever gig looking like ‘boy at C&A’ and having my mates refuse to be seen with me……………….it was still a damn good gig though.
Queen were formed from the ashes of ‘Smile’ in 1970 by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury. After running through a number of bass players they were joined by John Deacon in 1971 giving the group the line-up that would last for 20 years. They performed numerous gigs around London and, having been given the run of Trident studios out of hours, they released their first album, ‘Queen’, in 1973. Despite being full of ideas and styles that, in retrospect, are classic Queen the album did poorly. The last track on the album however gave a hint of future success being a short instrumental intro to “Seven Seas of Rhye”.
“Seven Seas of Rhye” was eventually completed and became Queen’s first chart hit when it reached number 10 at the start of 1974. The associated album “Queen II” did better, reaching number 5, and again showcased Queen’s mix of styles and ‘over the top’ production techniques.
Live Queen were building a reputation, not least due to Freddie’s flamboyant stage presence, and this was underlined when they supported Mott the Hoople on tour. When their support slot had to stop due to Brian catching hepatitis the group turned this downtime into their third album “Sheer Heart Attack”. With an even more diverse mix of styles than before the album received both critical and commercial acclaim as well as producing two hit singles – “Killer Queen” (No. 2) and “Now I’m Here” (No. 11).
However all of this was to be dwarfed by their next release, 1975 saw them deliver the (then) most expensive album ever produced, the longest hit single and the first rock video in “A Night At The Opera” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Seemingly overnight Queen became a worldwide success.
Where many groups would fail Queen spent the rest of the 70s following up this success with further hit singles and albums – “Somebody To Love”, “We Will Rock You”, “We Are The Champions” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” to name but a few. Their last album of the 70s was the double “Live Killers” that caught the group at their majestic best.
After the 70s Queen’s style changed and moved away from their rock beginnings, the spirit of Queen however remained and led them onto many further hits – the group would continue to record and score commercial success until Freddie’s death caused the group to disband.
In recent years Brian May and Roger Taylor have teamed up with Paul Rodgers and Queen have once again toured. I caught them in Cardiff and while it can never be the same without the classic line up they still put on a damn good show!