Queen, along with ELO, are my two favourite bands out of the many bands and artists I enjoy listening to. I have been a fan of Queen since first seeing their classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ video on ‘Top Of The Pops’ back in 1975 at the tender age of seven! It would be a few more years until I got my hands on some vinyl by the band and this came in the shape of 1980’s ‘The Game’ which I eagerly opened on Christmas Day and have played regularly ever since. For me this is my favourite Queen album and the band’s first to use synths, something they were always proud of stating they didn’t use on pervious albums. There are the obvious hits ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ but for me tracks like ‘Save Me’, ‘Play The Game’, ‘Rock It (Prime Jive)’ and ‘Dragon Attack’ (with a great Roger Taylor drum solo) that make this album classic to these ears.
Of course Queen started way earlier than 1980 and after the pre-Queen band Smile folded (click here for an interview with Smile member TIM STAFFELL) the band unleashed their self-titled debut album in 1973. Some cracking hard rockers on here like ‘Liar’ (again some neat drumming form Roger Taylor on this one) and ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. By ‘Queen II’ with its White and Black side the band start to hit their stride – listen to ‘March Of The Black Queen’ or ‘Ogre Battle’, big guitar riffs and some of the heaviest songs the band have recorded. There is some light relief though in the beautiful ‘Father To Son’.
‘Sheer Heart Attack’ is after ‘The Game’ my next fave Queen album. Check out Brian May’s guitar orchestra on ‘Now I’m Here’ or the pomptastic ‘Lap Of The Gods’ (both parts). As ever Queen will tackle any genre they fancy and ‘Bring Back Leroy Brown’ recalls the 1930’s in the US. ‘A Night At The Opera’ followed and features the classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. But again the delights lie in Queen’s ability to cross genres with the blissful ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ and ‘Good Company’ with Brian May on ukulele. ‘A Day At The Races’ (like its predecessor ‘ANATO’ getting its title from a Marx Brothers film) is a mixed bag – ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and ‘Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy’ are classics and listening again to ‘Drowse’ it has grown on me over the years – never liked it much when I first heard it.
‘News Of The World’ has the two crowd anthems ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’ plus the almost punk like ‘Sheer Heart Attack’. ‘Jazz’ sees a slight dip although ‘Bicycle Race’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ make it worth getting. ‘The Game’ and a soundtrack to ‘Flash Gordon’ came next, the latter is for fans only bar the hit single ‘Flash’ and ‘The Battle’ just to hear Brian Blessed’s voice! One to avoid is ‘Hot Space’, an ill advised attempt at funk although ‘Put Out The Fire’ and ‘Action This Day’ are good but ‘Cool Cat’ is frankly shit.
1984 saw ‘The Works’ with the band back in the top 10 singles thanks to ‘Radio Ga-Ga’. ‘Keep On Passing The Open Windows’ and ‘Hammer To Fall’ are classics – lots of guitar, the band’s layered harmonies – superb stuff! ‘A Kind Of Magic’ was part soundtrack to the excellent fantasy film ‘Highlander’ but ‘Pain Is So Close To Pleasure’ is quite possibly the worst thing the band have ever recorded – imagine Freddie Mercury fronting the Supremes! ‘The Miracle’ has its moments with the title track, ‘I Want It All’ and ‘Invisible Man’. But a few too many fillers on here like ‘Scandal’ and ‘My Baby Does Me’. ‘Innuendo’ the final studio album released before Freddie Mercury’s death saw the band return to their epic, pomp rock in the title track which along with ‘Headlong’ and ‘Days Of Our Lives’ (which always brings a tear to my eyes, a very heartfelt goodbye from Freddie) see Queen back on top of their game. ‘Made In Heaven’ saw the band complete songs Freddie had started including ‘Heaven For Everyone’ and ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’. A very mellow and reflective album and a fitting end to the Freddie Mercury years.
Brain May and Roger Taylor have continued with Paul Rodgers (FREE/BAD COMPANY) on vocals. Some Queen fans don’t like this especially as Paul Rodgers sings some Free and Bad Company songs when the band play live. Now they have US singer Adam Lambert fronting them, a much more flamboyant character and certainly matches Freddie in the showmanship stakes. Roger’s son Rufus (also a member of the Darkness) joins him on drums when they play live. No new material has been released with Lambert, although never say never…
Quick mention to their live releases – buy any with confidence bar ‘Live Magic’ which is edited and not worth getting unless you are a completist. ‘Live Killers’ is the one for me though – I still remember school lunch hours spent air guitaring to this one along with two fellow Queen nutters, one of whom loved to launch himself off a desk during the heavy bit in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…