Authors: Georg Purvis
Queen: Complete Works
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd.
144 Southwark St.
First published in 2007. This updated edition: October 2011
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Queen: Complete Works
copyright © 2007, 2011 Georg Purvis
Front cover © 2011, Getty Images
Freddie Mercury (photograph by Ilpo Musto © Rex Features)
John Deacon (photograph by Andre Csillag © Rex Features)
Brian May (photograph by Chris Foster © Rex Features)
Roger Taylor (photograph by Richard Young © Rex Features)
Did you enjoy this book? We love to hear from our readers. Please e-mail us at:
or write to Reader Feedback at the above address. To receive advance information, news, competitions, and exclusive offers online, please sign up for the Titan newsletter on our website:
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
Printed and bound in the UK by CPI William Clowes, Beccles NR34 7TL.
This book is dedicated to
Donald Hartman Hawk, Bruce Hedrick,
and Roger Bennett.
“And then from all this gloom
Life can start anew
And there’ll be no crying soon.”
“I think that’s one of the positive things a rock band can do, generate that feeling of being together ... We do have a lot of power. We just hope we can divert it in the right direction. I know it looks like a Nüremberg Rally, but our fans are sensible people, they’re creating the situation as much as we are, it’s not that we’re leading them like sheep ... It’s very simple really, you just play music which excites people, which interests them. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, there’s no philosophical reason why we should be there.”
– Brian May,
In the 1970s, once the hippie dream of Woodstock was shattered by the nightmare of Altamont within the short span of four months, the rock world took a drastic turn, splitting in several directions, all under the broad and bloated term of “rock music”. Heavy and loud was the order of the day, with bands like Free, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple driving their point home with all of the subtlety of a jackhammer, while others skated that trend entirely by putting more stock into image, creation and presentation – and so music suddenly became art. Quirky names became the new standard: Roxy Music, T. Rex and the New York Dolls; and the boys looked like girls and the girls looked like boys and the general public who had grown up on “clean” music were outraged because they couldn’t tell the difference. This wasn’t music meant to shock and awe, but to make the audience reflect and visualize.
In the middle of all this, Pete Townshend of The Who wrote and then abandoned a concept album that would have had band and audience joining together to become one. Even with the failure of this concept a new philosophy was born: involve the audience in every aspect of the live show. This feeling of togetherness was to make the fans feel special and connected with their idols, and through this, the live show would take on a new energy.
To say that one man perfected this sounds hyperbolical, but one man did indeed pioneer this tactic, and became a legend in the process.
The word “legend” is hyperbole itself, and is a status that is both limiting and scary all at once. But ask a million people who is the best vocalist in the history of rock music, and the answer will almost overwhelmingly be Freddie Mercury; his status as a legend has transcended his eccentricities and human frailties, and he is held only with the highest regard nowadays. Unfortunately, it took his untimely death for the world to finally see him for who he actually was: a paradox of warmth and standoffishness, of power and shyness, of strength and romance. He was a tragic figure from the outset, destined for greatness but wanting only normality, acceptance and love.
In the early days of Queen’s heyday, Freddie rarely connected with the audience. He remained a public enigma, offering fickle quotes in the press, such as “I’m as gay as a daffodil!”, and littering these mercurial statements with “dears” and “darlings”. Live, he exuded darkness, storming on stage dramatically and growling, “The nasty Queenies are back! What do you think of that?” Resplendent in black velvet and makeup, he insisted on enjoying the luxuries of a star but with the budget of a vagabond.
Then, a seismic shift took place in the mid-1970s; glam rock came to an end and, while Roxy Music and David Bowie consistently reinvented themselves to fit the trends, Queen combined their love of the grandiose with the style du jour:
News Of The World
, for example, was royal punk, nitty, gritty and dignified all at once. And an amazing thing happened: Freddie Mercury finally found his confidence, and added a fourth quality to his hat-trick of singer, songwriter and pianist: he became an entertainer, determined to involve the
audience and ensure maximum enjoyment. Concerts weren’t simply events to listen to music; they were now presentations, visual experiences that were designed to wow. In the middle of an overactive dry ice machine and flash bombs, Freddie stood tall and proud, ensconced not in velvet but leather, affectionately addressing the audience as “tarts” and “fuckers” and using his own powerful voice as a catalyst for the spectators to join in the singing. Some audiences needed encouragement, but most were thrilled to be a part of the show and entered in with gusto.
That’s not to say that Queen was Freddie’s backing band; each member was a cog in the well-oiled machine. Witness Brian May, with his homemade guitar, lovingly crafted by father and son in 1963 over the course of 18 months, that has become one of the most recognizable instruments in the rock world. But what good is a guitar without an amp? A little homemade device, fondly known as the Deakey Amp and named after its creator (more in a moment), that gives off a warm, orchestral sound, as if a quartet of violins was rocking away instead of a guitar. The shy guitarist found his voice after awhile, and even though he couldn’t quite believe all of the hype that surrounded his band and fellow bandmates, he still bounced out on stage every night, determined to give his all. While Freddie entertained, Brian was the consummate perfectionist, refusing to hide his displeasure if he played a bum note – even if the audience was blissfully unaware that anything was amiss. His own high standards helped keep Queen on track, even when they lost their direction as success overshadowed creative invention.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Roger Taylor, the archetypal drummer in search of fast cars, loose women and good times. But to label him as a drummer would be superficial; the man is outspoken, lovably gruff and one talented musician, handling all of the instruments with remarkable adeptness and redefining the meaning of the word “solo” on his first two albums. While he may look on stage as if he is simply trying to get through the show for the inevitable afterparty debauchery, he’s among the top drummers in the world: rock-steady and flashy at once, combining the lunacy of Keith Moon with the inventiveness of John Bonham. He suits the needs of the song without being heavy-handed or showing off too much. These days, his contentious views on politics, religion and c-lebrities have gained notoriety among the fan base, but he’s as good for press fodder as Freddie was, throwing in a good-natured jab at his best friend Brian’s obsession with perfection or his band’s occasional lapses in judgment.
Then there’s John Deacon, the underrated and understated bassist who, in keeping with the tradition of bass guitarists, rarely spoke. Only when he took the microphone at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in April 1992 did fans actually realize he had a voice. But behind his silence (and self-professed inability to sing) lay the secret weapon to Queen’s success: while Freddie went off on several stylistic jaunts, and Brian and Roger were the eternal hard rockers, John’s loyalties were in the pop world. His second-ever song was a wise choice as the follow-up to Queen’s massive worldwide hit, and when he introduced funk to Queen’s rock sensibilities, he was once again rewarded with the biggest-selling single in their American record company’s history. Yet one look at this unassuming bassist and the feeling can’t be hidden that he was a million miles away from it all; barely cracking a smile on stage, he played with inventive precision. Unlike his idols John Entwistle and Chris Squire, he wasn’t a show-off, and, like his partner in rhythm, his playing suited the song instead of acting as a showcase for his abilities. However, under all of the trappings of success was a man who yearned for normalcy, and being the father of a half dozen kids was all the more reason to walk away from the spotlight. Not a peep has been heard from him since 1997, though Brian and Roger maintain that he’s happier now than ever before.
Freddie’s vision of audience participation started in the mid-1970s, but it came to fruition in 1985, at the legendary Live Aid concert. Amid a sea of 72,000 spectators, Freddie secured his position as the world’s best showman by getting them all to sing along in a spontaneous moment of elation. The set was tightly structured so that Queen could get all of their hits in without running over their time allotment, but he still stopped the show briefly to engage in a bit of vocal banter. The audience – some Queen fans, most not – played along, singing back every word and phrase he threw at them. With a defiant grin and an enthusiastic shout of “All right!” (shouted back at him, of course), he helped Queen attain the position as the highlight among highlights.
And to think how they transformed from a wannabe, second-rate Led Zeppelin rock band into a barnstorming act that defied classification. Their albums were all over the stylistic map, shifting gears carefully without throwing the listener too violently
into change. Each band member adapted to the others’ needs while providing to each song a remarkably unique trademark; only through disagreements and tension did they discover their own limitations, but as a unit, they were an unstoppable force, a distinction that Brian and Roger had to face following Freddie’s death and John’s retirement. Though they were replaced, Brian and Roger discovered just how irreplaceable the other two were. The fans still ate it up, enjoying every morsel no matter who the singer or bassist was – just as long as the guitarist and drummer were there – but the magic of Queen was Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. It was a once-in-a-lifetime joining of forces, never to be repeated, and while each quarter was a giant in his own way, it was the combination that turned Queen into a legendary phenomenon.
Part Three lists songs by Queen, and individual solo songs, in alphabetical rather than chronological order. This is advantageous since it discards the necessity for an index and also allows one entry for songs recorded in different versions, creating a more cohesive and understandable format.
Part Three uses the abbreviations listed below. Also included are single release dates (month/year) followed, where applicable, by the highest UK chart placing in [square brackets]. Instead of presenting both US and UK singles, only the UK singles are given since Queen statistically were always in the upper reaches of their home country’s charts. An in-depth (but certainly not comprehensive) singles discography in Part Eight explores both UK and US releases. ‘Compilation’ listings are only given if this was the first official release of the track, or if the version in question was appearing for the first time and differs drastically from the standard version. Likewise, soundtrack albums are only cited in Part Two if they contain exclusive material (as in the case of Brian’s
soundtrack) or if it was the first release of the song (as in Freddie’s ‘Love Kills’ single). Note that Queen’s
album is considered a band album and not a soundtrack. ‘Bonus’ listings refer to the extra tracks included on Hollywood Records’ 1991 US CD reissue campaign, and, more currently, the 2011 Universal Records worldwide CD reissue campaign.