Personalities | Queen | Seventies | Rock

The gorgeously flamboyant Queen were formed in 1970 in London by singer Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 5 September 1946), guitarist Brian May (born 19 July 1947) and drummer Roger Taylor (born Roger Meddows-Taylor, 26 July 1949), with bassist John Deacon (born 19 August 1951) completing the line up in 1971.

They spent two years developing their style while they remained at college, playing few gigs. But once they started touring after the release of Queen (1973) their live performances – and Mercury’s extrovert personality – quickly won them a loyal following.

Operatic Epics And Rock Anthems

Queen II (1974) gave the band their first UK hit with ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ but it was the tight harmonies and dynamic playing of ‘Killer Queen’ from their third album, Sheer Heart Attack (1974) that really caught the band’s character and marked them out from the fading glam rock wave.

Queen delivered the coup de grace in 1975 with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a six-minute epic that blended operatic vocals with metal guitars. The single, boosted by a ground-breaking video, stormed the British charts, staying at No. 1 for nine weeks. The equally extravagant album A Night At The Opera (1975) also topped the UK charts and was a big international success. A Day At The Races (1976) maintained the momentum with the bombastic ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and the compressed ‘Somebody To Love’ – while News Of The World (1977) featured two of rock’s greatest anthems: ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’.

Jazz, Pop, Rock And Disco

By now Queen concerts were stadium rallies with the audience playing its part, conducted by the ever more flamboyant Mercury. Live Killers (1979) caught the full force of Queen’s show. It followed the ambitious Jazz (1978) that ranged from metal to pop and included the playful ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and the sporty ‘Bicycle Race’.

The Game (1980) was a deliberate pop album. It was a UK No. 1 and their biggest US success, topping the charts for five weeks with two No. 1 singles – the jaunty ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and the feisty ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. Greatest Hits (1981), featuring their latest triumph, ‘Flash’, the theme song to the Flash Gordon movie, was a massive worldwide success, not least in the UK where it stayed in the charts for nearly eight years. 1981 also saw the band tour South America, opening up the continent as a rock market. But concerts in apartheid South Africa caused problems when the band found themselves on the United Nations cultural blacklist.

Band members took time out for solo projects before the next Queen album, Hot Space (1982), which flirted with disco and funk and featured a collaboration with David Bowie, ‘Under Pressure’. The Works (1984) was a broader musical sweep embracing synth pop (‘Radio Ga Ga’), hard rock (‘Hammer To Fall’) and pop (‘I Want To Break Free’). The following year they were one of the highlights of Live Aid. A...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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