Queen is a British rock band that formed in London in 1970 and, surprisingly, is still active. Like all bands, the beginning of Queen was humble. It all began with Brian May (guitarist) and Tim Staffell (bassist) posting a flyer on the bulletin board at Imperial College seeking a “Ginger Baker Type” drummer. Roger Taylor who was a dental student responded, auditioned, and came on board. They called their group “Smile.” Freddie Mercury, then named Farrokh Bulsara, was a fan of the group. He encouraged the band to try new things that were more extravagant in 1970 after Staffell left. Soon after this, Freddie left his band “Wreckage” and joined May and Taylor. This sparked the true formation of “Queen.” He not only revamped the name of the band, but changed his name to Freddie Mercury. The next year John Deacon became the fourth member of Queen. The band is now formed, but many barriers would be faced in the next two years.
The band was given the opportunity to test equipment at a new recording studio called De Lane Lea. In return, they were allowed to use the studio free to create demos. This proved to be unsuccessful for Queen. In 1972, Trident Studios signed Queen and allowed them to record in their studio during down time; very early and extremely late. The band was paid £60 per week. This was the equivalent of $90.34 (USD). Minimum wage was $1.60 in the US, so each member made roughly $22.50 USD per week or $0.56 USD per hour based on a forty hour work week. Talk about low wages! Their hard work finally paid off in 1973 when Queen released their self-titled debut album, Queen. This landed them their first UK tour. Queen II was produced in 1974 and they headlined in UK this go round. In November of ’74, Sheer Heart Attack was out and the band finally got a US tour.
This brings us to the 1975 release of A Night at the Opera under the management of John Reid. Their track Bohemian Rhapsody received harsh criticism due to being 5:55 in length. Queen was told it was too long and would never be a hit. Mercury gave a personal friend who was a DJ in London a copy. Kenny Everett was given strict instructions by Mercury to NEVER play it on air. Fortunately, his friend didn’t listen. He played it 14 times in two days. The criticized 5:55 song was a hit and no shortened versions were played. Other major radio stations followed and Bohemian Rhapsody remained at number one on the charts for nine weeks. This established Queens’s place on the music scene.
Band Members on Night at The Odeon: Hammersmith 1975:
Freddie Mercury - lead and backing vocals, piano, operatic vocals (middle register)
Brian May - electric guitar, operatic vocals (low register)
Roger Taylor - drums, timpani, gong, operatic vocals (high register)
John Deacon - bass guitar
This album has been interesting to review due to the rich history of Queen. The band remained intact for almost 21 years with four members; Mercury, Taylor, May, and Deacon. May and Taylor are still active members, Mercury tragically died of AIDS in 1991, and Deacon retired in 1997. The longevity and dedication of all members demonstrates why Queen has a recognizable name and most know at least a few of their songs due to film and television.
I would first like to discuss Bohemian Rhapsody. This track, written by Freddie Mercury, was recorded at six different studios in London and was overdubbed 120 times in the 70 hours it took to complete. Recording the vocals required 12 hours a day for 3 weeks to perfect. In ’75 Bohemian Rhapsody was one of the most expensive recordings ever. When I heard this song on A Night at the Odeon it felt more real; as if I were there. The band’s introduction of the song, the sound of the crowd layered into the music, and the amazing quality of the recording drew me in more than simply listening to the song or watching the official video. I could hear the heartfelt vocals of Mercury who wrote this song.
The live guitar solo depicts the instrumental talent of Queen. At over 6 minutes in length, it takes you back to that December night in 1975. It is a great example of May’s ability to compose music and play guitar. A guitar solo may not sound like a top pick for an album, but this is a must hear to appreciate the history of Queen.
1. Now I'm Here
2. Ogre Battle
3. White Queen (As It Began)
4. Bohemian Rhapsody
5. Killer Queen
6. The March Of The Black Queen
7. Bohemian Rhapsody (Reprise)
8. Bring Back That Leroy Brown
9. Brighton Rock
10. Guitar Solo
11. Son And Daughter
12. Keep Yourself Alive
14. In The Lap Of The Gods... Revisited
15. Big Spender
16. Jailhouse Rock Medley
17. Seven Seas Of Rhye
18. See What A Fool I've Been
19. God Save The Queen
Night at The Odeon: Hammersmith 1975 is available for preorder in a variety of options. The official release date is set for November 20, 2015.
The Super Deluxe Box Set includes everything a Queen fan would appreciate with many bonuses. Nothing is left out of this set! It is also available on Blu-ray, DVD, Audio CD, and vinyl. UK versions are ready for preorder as well.
In summary, despite the challenges Queen faced in the beginning, the band is very renowned for their contribution to music and the rock genre. The band has received approximately 70 awards throughout their career with around 10 of the 70 awards for Bohemian Rhapsody alone. The 40th anniversary release of Night at the Odeon: Hammersmith 1975 is a celebration of Queen’s contributions to music, the talent of the living members, and a celebration of the life and abilities of Mercury.
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