The beginnings of Queen can be traced to 1968, when Brian May and Roger Taylor formed the trio Smile, at Imperial College, London, where they were both students. After their bassist and lead singer Tim Staffell's departure in spring 1970, they formed a new band — Queen — with Freddie Mercury as lead vocalist in April 1970. In 1971 John Deacon completed the lineup as Queen's bassist.
MembersThough Freddie Mercury's personality always dominated in the press, all five members of the group actually wrote huge hits:
- Freddie Mercury ("Bohemian Rhapsody")
- Brian May ("We Will Rock You")
- Roger Taylor ("Radio Ga Ga")
- John Deacon ("Another One Bites the Dust")
Queen LiveQueen's live performances were truly groundbreaking, employing massive lighting rigs, pyrotechnics, and other special effects to make their shows into engaging theatrical events. Along with their contemporaries KISS, they changed live concerts forever from the staid, stodgy events that had prevailed since the time of the Beatles, where performers would merely stand around and play their instruments.
Queen embarked upon many popular tours, with memorable shows (including the historic Live Aid concert) held at Wembley Stadium in England, and Maracană, for the Rock N' Rio festival in Brazil, although only the group's final tour, in support of the album "A Kind of Magic", ever actually made any money.
The Wembley concert, part of a UK tour in 1986, attracted 150,000 people over two nights. A memorable and prophetic moment occurred when Freddie Mercury told the audience: "There's been a lot of rumors lately about a certain band called Queen... the rumors are that we're gonna split up. What do you think?" Audience: "No!" Freddie: "Forget those rumors, we're gonna stay together 'till we fucking well die, I'm sure!". At this point Freddie did not know he had AIDS.
Musical progressionQueen's musical style changed every few years, sometimes rather drastically. They started off with what may be called Medieval metal moving in the direction of glam rock.
The A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races albums (named after Marx Brothers movies) are perhaps best described as opera metal. News of the World and Jazz are fairly eclectic.
Throughout the 1970s, Queen enforced a strict no-synthesizer policy, as evidenced by the famous "No Synthesizers were used on this Album" sleevenote included on their early LPs. The first album to feature a synthesizer was 1980's The Game, although the change in policy came about during the earlier recording of the music for the movie Flash Gordon which was released as an album after The Game.
The band lost many fans with the Hot Space album, which used funk and synth-driven disco beats rather than the Glam or Hard rock styles of earlier albums, a move intended by Freddie Mercury to target the American radio audience. The Hot Space album's opus, "Under Pressure", co-written by and performed with David Bowie, was a hit, but the change in direction never really caught on with the band's guitar rock fan base.
With The Works and A Kind of Magic Queen gave up experimenting, making sure the fans got what they wanted.
With The Miracle Queen returned to their hard rock roots.
Still, most Queen albums contain songs that do not fit into these descriptions.
The End Of Queen?In 1991, rumors started spreading that Freddie Mercury was suffering from AIDS. Even tabloids worldwide got in on the news. Mercury flatly denied these rumors, but knowing the actual truth as his other bandmates did, they decided to make an album free of conflict and differences. That album became Innuendo. Although his health began to deteriorate, Mercury was courageous in handling his contributions. Highlights of the album were the anthems "The Show Must Go On" and "These Are The Days Of Our Lives".
On November 23, 1991, in a prepared statement made on his deathbed, Freddie Mercury finally acknowledged he had AIDS. Within 12 hours of the announcement, Mercury was dead at the age of 45. His funeral services were private, held in accordance with the Zoroastrian religious faith of his family.
On April 20, 1992, the public shared in the mourning of Mercury's passing at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, held at London's Wembley Stadium in Mercury's honor. Musicians such as Annie Lennox, Elton John, W. Axl Rose, George Michael, and Liza Minnelli (along with the three surviving members of Queen) perfomed most of Queen's major hits.
Queen never actually disbanded, although their last album (not including compilations) was released in 1995, ironically titled Made In Heaven, put out four years after Freddie Mercury's death, and constructed in part from leftover sessions for their previous studio album Innuendo. The band, minus John Deacon, still appears from time to time, making "Queen+" projects with various guest musicians. However, in this era of tribute albums such as those to Carole King and Elton John, there has yet to be an official one for Queen.
- "Killer Queen" from Sheer Heart Attack featured May's virtuosity on the guitar and first brought attention to the band.
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a classic song that was the focus of one of the first music videos ever.
- "We Will Rock You" is a staple at sporting events around the world; audience members will stomp and clap along to the rhythm of the song and chant the chorus line of the song, in support of their team.
- "We Are the Champions" is a favorite post-game song for obvious reasons.
- "Another One Bites the Dust" was a huge crossover hit when it was released, topping both the pop and R&B charts. It was inspired by the bass guitar riffs of the disco group Chic, and ironically released at the tail end of the disco era. It has been one of the songs rumored to have a backwards message, supposedly
- "It's fun to smoke marijuana." The title phrase of the song does sound vaguely like that when played backwards, but it is most likely a coincidence, since there is nothing about the song that suggests that the lyric was contrived to sound a particular way when played backwards.
- "Barcelona", although a solo endeavour by Freddie Mercury, was featured on Queen's Greatest Hits III and was an anthem during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.