White Queen (as it began)
White Queen (as it began) Biography (The early years) Freddie who always thought the band had the basis of what he wanted to do, leaves wreckage to go and join Brian and Roger - and it seemed obvious to all of them to get together.
In 1970 Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and Mike Grose become QUEEN. The name was Freddie's idea and originally Roger, and particularly Brian didn't like it. They were slowly persuaded however...
Years ago I thought up the name Queen... It's just a name, but it's very regal, and it sounds splendid. It's a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.
Other names that the band had discussed was the "Grand Dance" - derived from a C.S. Lewis Trilogy of books "Out Of A Silent Planet" that Roger and Brian had both read. Roger also quite liked the name "The Rich Kids".
Mike was an old friend of Roger's who had played in "Reaction" and PJ's club in Truro. Mike also owned a Volkswagon van as well as a huge Marshall amp. He seemed perfect.
Queen spent a great deal of time rehearsing. Brian was highly respected at Imperial College and as such they were allowed to use empty lecture theatres for their rehearsals. They rehearsed some cover songs, but Freddie and Brian managed to salvage some of their songs from the Ibex, Smile and Wreckage - so there were quite a few original numbers as well.
Back in Truro Roger's mother was organising a Red Cross charity event in Truro City hall. Roger had previously agreed that Smile would play at the event. Smile though was now defunct, but Roger, not wanting to let his mother down, took Queen.
Saturday 27th of June became the date of Queen's first public appearance. They opened with a reworked Wreckage numbers called "Stone Cold Crazy". The concert went quite well considering that it was their first one. They even got paid fifty pounds!
Around this time Freddie changed his last name from Bulsara to Mercury. Freddie felt that the last name of Bulsara was not befitting that of a star - which is what he was going to be. He chose Mercury after the mythical messenger of the gods. I guess Freddie believed he had something to tell us...
Queen then play to a number of gigs. Notably one of them is in a lecture theatre at Imperial College to an number of invited guests - mainly friends of the band. On the 25th of July they play PJ's in Truro. This was to be Mike's last gig, as he felt that the time had come for him to get a proper job.
Queen hurriedly look around for another bass player. Roger recommends Barry Mitchell, a friend of a friends, and an audition is arranged. All goes well and he becomes Queen's next bass player. They rehearsed religiously and perform a few gigs. Even at this early stage their costumes are quite elaborate - and for a small band they had a lot of lights. They were certainly going against the what most musical acts of the time were doing, as most of the bands just trundled on stage in jeans and a t-shirt, played and left the stage. Queen was different though - they wanted to give the audience a real show.
On the 18th of December Jimi Hendrix, a hero to all the band died. In showing their respect, they play Voodoo Chile at that nights rehearsal.
Freddie in particular was a manic Hendrix fan. I remember him going on about him. Then I saw him at one of Brian Epsteinís shows where he supported The Who and I remember thinking this guy is so far in advance of everyone else. It was like he was on the same road that we were, but he was almost out of sight. It was frightening and a bit upsetting for us other guitarists. People are still trying to work out how he did all that stuff
Around this time Freddie and Roger decide that they are sick of living in a flat with ten other people. They look around of a flat that they can share. Freddie eventually finds one in Shepherd's Bush - complete with a grand piano owned by the elderly land lady.
Nearing the end of the year Queen's reputation as a solid live act pays of with the band playing every week. Queen play at the Cavern Club in Merseyside - made famous by the Beatles.
In January Barry decides that he no longer fitted in the band and leaves. Things were moving to slowly for his liking and he needed to earn some "real money". Queen audition for a new bass player and settle on a guy named Doug - mainly because he already has some equipment. Rehearsals begin in order to initiate Doug into the band.
In February Queen play a show at Kingston Polytechnic - near Doug's home. Doug encourages all of his friends to turn up to the gig. Not far into the set Doug got carried away attempting to impress all of his friends ad did his own "special show" - stealing any attention the rest of the band might have been given. The next day Doug was 'politely' told to find another band...
The band was getting through bass players like no-bodies business - and this was having the effect of depressing the bands normally positive spirits - however the answer was just around the corner...
John Harris, a friend who helped the band out with their lights and equipment took Roger and Brian to a disco at the Maria Assumpta Teaching College. There he introduced them to a friend of his - John Deacon. John was a bass player and the conversation eventually led to music. John who wasn't in a band at the time was offered an audition for bass player of Queen.
John Deacon becomes Queen's bass player for the rest of their career. Throughout John's audition he hardly says a word - but the rest of the group realise his talent. He presents the ideal ingredients of intelligence and musical solidity that will blend into the Queen camp. He is quite a few years younger than the rest of the band, being only twenty, but his quiet willingness not to upset the already sparkling chemistry more than makes up for his tender years.
After the debacle with Doug, the band are most probably relieved that John is unlikely to upstage them...
Freddie designs a logo for Queen based upon their star signs - Leo, Leo, Cancer and Virgo - and armed with their regal back drop, the band head of for their first serious gig with their new bass player.
John's first gig with the band is in Surrey in July. Not long afterwards they play another gig at Imperial College. Queen treat their audience to free popcorn.
They play a show at St Helen's girls school, where the bottom of Freddie's microphone stand falls of half way through - Freddie, the consummate professional, carries on and a trademark is born.
Using his contacts in Cornwall Roger organises a tour for Queen. The tour posters all read "Roger Taylor and Queen" or words to that effect - as Roger was very well known from the days of Reaction.
A friend of Brian's, Terry Yeadon, was involved in setting up a new recording studio in Wembley call De Lane Lea. The studio needed musicians to try out the new equipment. They were particularly looking for a band that could play LOUD. Also the band would be on hand to show potential studio users how the equipment worked. In return for this, the bad would be able to record demo's for free. Queen were luckily enough to be chosen and set about making the best, high quality demo's they could. They record four of their own songs "Liar", "Keep Yourself Alive", "The Night Comes Down" and "Jesus".
With demo tapes in hand Queen began to do the rounds of the record companies - but to no avail. No one was interested.
We had quite a difficult genesis. It was very difficult for us to get a contract, to be accepted in any way. But many groups went through that, and it does engineer a kind of 'backs to the wall' feeling in a band. So we felt very strong together.
In January John organised a gig for Queen at Bedford College. Some friends of his at Bedford told him that it would be good. That night Queen played to just six people...
Queen were still an unsigned band - and were beginning to get a little frustrated with their lack of progress. A glimmer of hope materialised with Chrysalis Records. They showed a great deal of interest and even went as far as offering the band a deal. After much contemplation though the bad decided that the terms were not good enough, and turned the offer down.
A constant stream of established production personnel pass through the studio's everyday, checking out the new facilities and listening to the recording quality. Amongst these are two staff engineers from Wardour Street's Trident Studio's, Roy Thomas Baker and John Anthony. John is impressed with the Band and remembers Brian and Roger from Smile - he produced their single "Earth". Roy and John both return to Trident convinced they have discovered a hotbed of talent. They persuade their employers, Barry and Norman Sheffield to investigate the band further.
After Barry Sheffield watches the antics of Freddie Mercury and his colourful friends at the Forest Hill Hospital Dance, he is convinced that John and Roy are not exaggerating. It is decided that Queen should be signed to Trident as soon as possible. As soon as possible turns out to be quite a loose term, and the band are finally signed later in the year after a showcase gig at the Pheasanty in the Kings Road.
The Trident deal was made up of three separate agreement - the publishing rights, recording deal and management deal. Queen were really pushing their luck as Trident may have not thought it was worth the trouble. However, in the end Trident realised that Queen were worth keeping and complied with their wishes. Queen were so particular about the contract because of Brian and Roger's experience with Mercury when they were in Smile. They had been badly burnt and dismayed by the Record industry. The Trident contract was written to protect them from that happening again.
Upon the signing, Trident furnish Queen with a new PA system and new instruments. Brian though still keeps his 'home made' guitar. The Sheffield brothers also realise that Queen will need a full time manager to look after there day to day affairs. They approached Jack Nelson, who had given Norman advice in the past. He agreed to come to England to help with Queen.
Jack proceeded to take Queen's tapes to all of his personal contacts. They all thought he was mad. They just couldn't see what was so great about Queen. Jack also took it to EMI - who were interested. Trident though wanted to sell EMI Queen plus another two acts. EMI only wanted Queen and negotiations came to a sudden halt.
Even though no company had been found to press and distribute a Queen album, the Sheffield's ushered Queen into their 24-track studio to record their first album. However were only given down time, that is time when no-one else were using it, which proved to be quite a haphazard way of recording. In the end the original demo of "A Night Comes Down" was used instead of the one recorded at trident because the quality was so bad.
In another studio in the Trident complex Robin Cable was playing around with an old Beach Boys song "I Can Hear Music". Robin had heard Freddie sing and asked him if he would like to sing on this song. Freddie said yes as it was a lot more fun than waiting around for someone to finish using a studio. After the initial recording, Robin felt that the song needed something extra - and Roger was enlisted to add some percussion. Brian also ended up playing a solo - as the original solo break was played by a terrible sounding Moog synthesiser. Freddie also sang on another song "Goin' Back" - an old Dusty Springfield classic.
In September Trident agreed that they should be paying Queen - even if no product was available. The band were given twenty pounds a week. By no means was this a vast some of money - however it was better that nothing.
The end of November saw the first album being completed - not that it was known when it was going to be released, as a record company had yet to be found. Roger also moved out of the flat he was sharing with Freddie and moved to Richmond. Mary later moved in with Freddie. In February Trident arranged for Queen to do a special recording session for the BBC program "Sounds of the Seventies". It was a good opportunity for the band. As the end product would be broadcast on Radio One the national radio station. Potentially millions of people would have the chance to hear Queen.
Jack Nelson attended the annual MIDEM Festival - the event for the music industry, held in the South of France. Roy Fetherstone, an EMI record company executive is there. He had spent all day listening to demo's, with nothing really catching his ear. Then jack passes him a tape of Queen. Which immediately gets his attention. Using a bit of bluff, Jack told Roy that a few other companies are interested in Queen. Roy sends a telegram to Queen via Trident to hold of signing anything with anyone else.
When Roy got back, the wheels were in motion to sign Queen. An initial contract was sent to Trident - which they rejected because they wanted more money. Negotiations continued like this for a while. A major sticking point was the fact that Trident wanted to sign all three acts to EMI - whereas EMI only want Queen.
Finally in March, Queen went to the EMI offices to sign a contract. They now had a recording deal.
Jack Nelson arranges for Queen to play a showcase gig at the Marquee for visiting Elektra managing director Jack Holsten. From this Queen get signed to Elektra in North America.
The songs that Brian, Freddie and Roger had recorded with Robin Cable were now released. They were released by EMI. The name Queen couldn't be use due to the imminent release of their own album and instead the name "Larry Lurex" was used - a play on the then popular "Gary Glitter". The single though was a complete flop in the UK.
Queen were involved in every aspect of the album. The back cover features a collage of photos. The band invited their friends around to Freddie's flat to pick out the best photo's from the one they had. After picking out the best ones, Freddie and Brian spent weeks gluing them all together.
A photographer friend of theirs, Doug Puddifoot who had taken many on their early shots helped them with the collage as well as the album cover. The cover consisted of a picture of Freddie on stage, backed with two spotlights. The purple effect was given by covering the camera lens with some plastic.
After a seemingly unnecessary wait, the first single, "Keep Yourself Alive", and the first album, "Queen" are released. The single is rejected by Radio one play-list five times. It doesn't get any airplay anywhere else - except Radio Luxembourg.
A white label copy of the album (one which doesn't have a cover) was sent to the BBC program "The Old Grey Whistle Test". Mike Appleton, the producer loved the album, particularly the song "Keep Yourself Alive" and asked his friend to make up a film with some footage that would go well with the song. It was broadcast on 24th July 1973.
The album was released on 13th July. It was simply titled "Queen". Roger had wanted to call it "Top Fax, Pix and Info" but this wasn't accepted. Another title name that was discussed was "Deary Me". The album notes also contained the immortal phrase "No-one played Synthesisers" - no doubt in anticipation of what people were likely to think. All of Queen special sounds though were coming from Brian's guitar something that took some people a while to understand.
So called 'music critics' dismiss the album and Queen, "Britainís answer to the New York Dolls". This 'hostile' relationship with the press was to remain throughout Queen's career - it has little effect though, Queen are to become one of the biggest bands on the planet, no matter what the inadequate people at NME or the like have to say.
August sees the band spend some time on their next album. This time they are booked in as the main act and don't have to fit in between everyone else's schedule. They used this time to experiment with new sounds and techniques...
Brian decided to take a part-time job teaching at Stockwell Manor Comprehensive School. On his days of he was analysing the destructive effect of fragmentation bombs at EMI electronics. He was certainly keeping very busy.
In October the band first major tour as support to Mott The Hoople is arranged. Jack Nelson new Mott's manager Bob Hershiman, and with a bit of persuasion and money he got Queen the support slot on Mott's tour.
November 12 sees Queen perform their first show as support to Mott the Hoople at the Leeds Town Hall. As the tour progressed the band grew in confidence. Some of the people in the audience were there to see Queen just as much as they were to see Mott - so Queen weren't playing to a terribly hostile crowd.
The whole tour went well and managed to generate respectable sales for "Queen". Mott were very impressed with Queen and the two bands got on very well. So well in fact Mott invited Queen to support them on their US tour - an offer that Queen could not refuse.
Roger: They (Mott) were great. A real 'sex, drugs and rock and roll band
By the end of the year EMI were getting so many demands for information for the band that it was decided to set up a fan club. Pat and Sue Johnston - two friends of Roger's from Cornwall, were asked to run it.
That year Queen featured well in many magazines "Best New Group" polls. This no doubt up set the magazine journalists as they hadn't been very supportive of Queen at all. This situation was never to really change throughout Queen's 25 year period.Queen have their first concerts in Australia planned for early that year and therefore undergo the usual set of preparations, including injections. Brian's goes wrong though with his arm swelling up and developing a high fever, caused by a dirty needle.
The Australian experience though was a complete disaster. The band had taken their own lights and road crew with them - so things would be just right, which didn't please the local roadies very much. A lot of their equipment was sabotaged. Also, many people couldn't understand how a group of British unknowns could headline over established Australian acts. The MC particularly was of this nature, introducing them as a bunch of "Stuck-up Pommy bastards".
The crowd didn't warm to them either. However as Queen got into their set they began to win them over. When Queen left they were being asked back for an encore - however the MC had other plans. He asked the crowd if they wanted more of the "stuck-up pommies" or a good old "Aussie band". His powers of persuasion one over and they called for an Australian band.
The next day the papers didn't treat Queen very kindly. Brian's arm was still hurting quite a lot and Freddie had developed an ear infection. It was decided that they pack up and return home. When they got of the plane they were greeted by the paparazzi all waiting for Her Majesty The Queen, not the band Queen.
Even though they had had a less than brilliant start to the, 1974 was going to be the year Queen really began to take off.
The head of the promotional department at EMI, Ronnie Fowler, had taken a special liking for Queen. He had spent 20 000 pounds in expenses to promote Queen to everyone he could think of. All this attention meant that his friends were becoming a bit thin on the ground... However it paid of when Robin Nash the producer of Top Of The Pops (a very influential music show) approached him to ask him if he new anyone who could appear on the show.
On 21 February 1974 Queen appeared for the first time on Top Of The Pops and performed "Seven Seas of Rhye". The day after the appearance Jack Nelson was in full promotion mode rushing out the single to all the radio stations. EMI rushed released the single on 23 February. It was backed with a non-album b-side called "See What A Fool I've Bee". The single made it to a solid number 10 in the UK chart.
The album, "Queen II" was ready for release also - but the band spotted a spelling error on the sleave that they insisted was fixed. Britain was also hard hit by the oil crisis, which meant that there was in place a three day week - which held up the album release further. Unlike other albums having a side one and a side two, this album had a black and a white side.
It's very difficult to choose one album I prefer out of all of them. But I do like a lot of the work on the second album, second side. It all runs into one, very epic. Musically it's quite daring because we did lots of counter seven part harmonies and things.
With the success of the single and the growing popularity of the album, Queen embarked on their first headlining tour of the UK. Freddie was very much in his Sandra Rhodes period and really did love dressing up.
When I look back on all that black nail varnish and stuff, I think, 'God, what did I do?'. I used to feel a need for all that on stage. It made me feel more secure.
The tour goes terrifically well, with the band facing hysteria at every venue. At Stirling University the Scottish audience refuses to let them go after three encores. In the ensuing riots, two people are stabbed and two of Queen's road crew are carted off to hospital.
During the tour, Queen are notified that "Queen II" had reached number 5 in the UK chart.
Late in the year they embark on their first North American tour as support to Mott The Hoople. This tour though is cut short due to Brian contracting hepatitis. It is presumed by doctors that his contraction of he virus was from the dirty needle from the injection he had been given when going to Australia. Mott replaced Queen with the Canadian band Kansas, while Queen returned to England and consoled themselves by writing songs for the next album. The songs are written with Brian adding his guitar as and when he is able to.
In September Queen II had sold over 100 000 copies. Queen are presented with silver discs by a Her Majesty the Queen look-a-like.
In October 11, their next single was released. A double A-side of "Killer Queen" and "Flick Of The Wrist'"
Killer Queen in 1974 was the turning point. It was the song that best summed up our kind of music, and a big hit, and we desperately needed it as a mark of something successful happening to us. We were penniless, you know. just like and other struggling rock 'n' roll band. All sitting around in London bed sits, just like the rest.
The single became a big hit for Queen, reaching number two in the UK chart. By this time even the dismissive press were having to come to terms with Queen, and the reviews for the single weren't that bad.
Queen embarked on another British Tour. This time they were armed with an even bigger lighting rig and with the intention of giving their audiences a real show. The tour went swimmingly, with none of the riots of the first tour - however Freddie did get dragged into the crowd and had to be rescued by security guards at one venue.
The last dates on their British tour was at the Rainbow Theatre. Originally only one night was planned, but the demand meant that an extra night. Both nights were recorded with the intention of releasing a live album, which in the end never appeared.
After their successful British tour, Queen went on to tour Europe. Their shows were all sell outs, and in an issue of "Music Week" the head line "Queen Conquer Europe" was run. This was pretty close to the mark.
At around this time the relationship that Queen had with Trident started to deteriorate. They had had some real success but were still being paid a pittance, whilst their managers were out buying Rolls Royces. Queen approached Jim Beach, a music lawyer, to negotiate their way out of the Trident deal.
Queen begin the year with a relaxing holiday in Teneriffe. On January 17th their next single "Now I'm Here" is released, and eventually reaches number 11. On the 18th John gets married to Veronica Tetzlaff.
They commence their first headline tour of the USA, with massive support from Elektra. Tickets are in such demand that matinee performances have to be scheduled at certain venues. Unfortunately Freddie is stricken with a throat problems and rest is ordered. Several shows are cancelled, however Freddie soon gets back into the swing of it and continues touring.
After the arduous US tour the band go on holiday to Hawaii, before heading of to Japan for their first tour there.
On 18th April Queen arrive at Tokyo airport for their first Japanese tour; they find the airport besieged by thousands of fans. The band are totally overwhelmed by 'Queen mania'. The band proceed to tour the country - selling out everywhere they go. The whole of Japan is caught up in Queen mania.
Whilst there, Freddie falls in love with the country and becomes (overnight) a fanatical collector of Japanese art and antiquities
When Queen arrive back in the UK they find themselves at the top of many 'readers polls' in music magazines. As well as this, Freddie is presented with an Ivor Novello award for "Killer Queen".
The band start work on their next album. A lot of time is spent experimenting to see what sounds they can create, and the best way to display their music. Freddie also finds time to produce a single for Eddie Howell. Freddie hadn't produced anybody else before and found the experience quite interesting. In the end Freddie sang backing vocals and played the piano. He also roped Brian into playing guitar. Not surprisingly the final product sounds very "Queenie"...
At long last Jim Beach had managed to negotiate Queen out of Trident. One sticking point was that there was a planned US later in the year. Unfortunately this was cancelled in order to resolve any internal problems. The group now signed their own deal with EMI and Elektra directly.
As far as Queen are concerned our old management is deceased. They cease to exist in any capacity with us whatsoever. One leaves them behind like one leaves excreta. We feel so relieved!
Queen were now left without a manager though, and instigate a search. They had a number of options. First was Led Zeppelins manager, Peter Grant, however he wanted the band to sign with Led Zeppelins own production company, Swan Songs, however this was unacceptable to the band. They also Peter Rudge but were unable to contact him. John Reid, Elton John's manager, was contacted. At first he was uncertain if he could manage another band, however his mind quickly changed when he heard the band was Queen.
John Reid set to work organising Queen's affairs. He assigned Pete Brown to be Queen's day to day manager and threw a huge party to celebrate his union with Queen. John also arranged for EMI Publishing to advance Queen one hundred thousand pounds so that Queen could finally settle their Trident arrangement.
Queen presented John with what they wanted to be their next single "Bohemian Rhapsody". Whilst he was in agreement that it was a nice tune, he was adamant that it couldn't be a single because of its length of nearly six minutes. He said no one would play it - the average length of a song then was 3 minutes. The band though were equally forthright in their opinions and convinced John of the merits of the song and the single was pressed.
Queen make their first video for "Bohemian Rhapsody". The video costs just 4,500 pounds but is still revolutionary. It is regarded as the first promotional film, as it was recorded on video tape rather than proper film.
On the 31st October Bohemian Rhapsody is released. It is the first UK Queen single to be given a picture cover. The song took Britain by storm, and on November 25th reached the number one position and staying there for nine weeks.
Radio play for the single had been an issue due to its length, however none of the radio stations edited it. Queen were helped by a friend of theirs, a DJ called Kenny Everett. Freddie and Kenny had become friends when Freddie had agreed to be on Kenny's radio show. Queen gave a test pressing for Bohemian Rhapsody to Kenny - with strict instructions not to play it. Kenny wasn't very good at self denial and played it anyway - reputedly fourteen times in two day.
"A Night At The Opera", the accompanying album is released in December. The album had been named after the Marx Brother's movie of the same title. At a media launch "A Night At The Opera" is reported to be the most expensive album ever recorded, partly because in order to get things just right, the band used no less than six different studio's, sometimes recording in up to three simultaneously.
One song on the album causes Queen some problems though. "Death On Two Legs" is dedicated to an anonymous person and the lyrics are quite scathing. Norman Sheffield believed that the lyrics are about him and threatened to sue Queen and EMI. Queen refused to be moved by his threats, however EMI settled the situation out of court - rather than let the situation escalate.
Queen undertake another tour - again expanding their elaborate stage lighting. On tour in Dundee, they are pulled in by the police and are searched for drugs. NONE were found.
Queen reign once more in the annual music polls and Freddie receives yet another Ivor Novello award - this time for Bohemian Rhapsody - which by now has sold over 1 000 000 copies in the UK alone. It is also announced that it is the biggest hit since 1957.
Queen leave for their third stateside tour on January 20th - with the first gig in Connecticut on the 27th. Queen take with them a new face, a tour manager called Gerry Stickells. Queen get on well with Gerry, and he manages all the other Queen tours.
Initial radio reluctance stalls the progress of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "A Night At The Opera" stateside. However the excessive touring of the US has an impact and they eventually reach numbers 8 and 3 respectively.
In New York in February, Freddie sees true fan hysteria face to face when he is mobbed by a gang of females. Freddie is half strangled by one of them as she decides that she NEEDS his scarf desperately! February also sees the release of the "Live At The Rainbow" film. It supports the new Burt Reynolds film called "The Hustle".
Queen then head for a lightning visit of Japan for their second tour, where there popularity knows no bounds. While there the UK Top Twenty features all four of their albums simultaneously - a feat that has never been repeated by any other band.
Queen next stop is to tour 'down under'. After their previous experiences they were a little apprehensive about going back - but their fears were quickly quashed. The tour was a sell out and by the end "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "A Night At The Opera" are at the top of their respective charts.
June sees the release of "You're My Best Friend" written by John Deacon. It is the first single to be released on its own - not being a taster for a forthcoming album. The band decide to record another video for it and the song eventually reaches number 7 in the UK chart.
The band whilst spending most of their time recording do spend time to do a short tour of the UK. The most notable of which is when they play to over 150 000 people at a free gig in London's Hyde Park. Held on the 18th September - the anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's death - that show holds the attendance record for any show put on at Hyde Park. The massive influx of people brought certain areas of London to a halt - and public transport was severely overloaded.
I think that Hyde Park was one of the most significant gigs in our career. There was a great affection because we'd kind of made it in a lot of countries by that time, but England was still, you know, we weren't really sure if we were really acceptable here. So it was a wonderful feeling to come back and see that crowd and get that response.
The concert went tremendously, the only black spot was that Queen were not allowed to paly an encore. The show had overran its allotted time and the police were adamant that the show must end. They went so far as to threaten the band if they went on again. Freddie didn't really fancy being locked up in a leotard and the band reluctantly agreed to the polices demands. With that the police turned of the main power - which also controlled the lights and 150 000 people struggled to find their way home in the darkness.
The whole concert was broadcast on Capitol Radio and was also filmed. Unfortunately the film has degraded in quality so much that a commercial release is unlikely.
After the concert, work on the next album progresses - this being the first to be produced without the assistance of Roy Thomas Baker. The split was amicable whit the band just wanting to 'do their own thing'.
On the 12th November "Somebody To Love" is released. The accompanying video features scenes from the Hyde Park concert. The single is another success reaching number 2.
As promotion and as a celebration for the new album Queen host an unorthodox reception at Kempton Park Race course. The band all make bets as to the out come of a race in their honour. Unknown to each other they all back the same horse - which storms home and wins.
EMI receive advance orders of over half a million for the next Queen Album, borrowing another Marx brothers title "A Day At The Races". At that stage the press made quite a big deal of the Marx brothers theme. Roger eventually read up on them and discovered quite a few similarities - perfectionism and talent being just two. Groucho Marx was kept up to date with Queen's activities due to the connection with his films and sent them a telegram wishing them success. His good wishes must have paid off as the album became Queen's second UK number 1.
The year end with Queen doing the rounds of television programs promoting the new album. The BBC also repeat the Queen at The Hammersmith concert, shown a year earlier, due to high public demand. Queen begin the year touring America - again. They add four new songs to their list from "A Day At The Races". This tour also marks the first time that Queen paly Bohemian Rhapsody in its entirety. Up until now it had been played only as a part of a medley.
In support they have Thin Lizzy, and as it is Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee year the tour is dubbed the "Queen Lizzy tour". The American critics enjoy themselves immensely by deliberately slating Queen and praising Lizzy to the skies. The band backfires with the public coming to see Lizzy and being blown away by Queen's exemplary performance.
Scott Gorham (of Thin Lizzy)
Thin Lizzy went on tour supporting Queen during the Seventies and we had a great time. Some nights we blew them off stage, and some nights they did the same to us. Brian May was a big fan of ours and we really got on well together
Thin Lizzy as a support band is a real challenge. They'll want to blow us of stage, and that can be a very healthy thing. You feed of the energy of others and I know that if they go down a real storm then we're gonna go on feeling that much higher. It makes for good concerts. We've had it the other way around. I think that we gave Mott The Hoople a hard time on our first tours of Britain and America.
The combination of Queen and Thin Lizzy was tremendous - both fed of off each other. That tour has gone down in history as one of the finest ever. The tour was also a land mark for Queen as it is the tour that they realised a dream. They played Madison Square Gardens for the first time.
March sees the release of their next single, "Tie Your Mother Down" - a real rocker, written by Brian. Also in March, they are in Los Angeles, and Groucho Marx invites them to visit. Queen present him with a tour jacket and a engraved gold disc.
From the US they go on to Canada and then back to the UK for more touring. They play two nights at the prestigious Earls Court as part of the official celebrations of the Queens Silver Jubilee year.
The Jubilee's quite fun isn't it? I love the Queen. I'm very patriotic. I love all this pomp, of course I do. I love it. She does outrageous things!
At Earls Court they unveil their famous 'Crown' lighting rig - costing fifty thousand pounds. Unlike other rigs of the time this one actually moves - ushering in the age of interactive, 'living' lights. Queen put on a lavish show - whit the profits from the second night going to the official Jubilee fund - all in all Queen 'lose' seventy five thousand pounds.
All of this sort of thing doesn't go down with the music press. Many so called journalists are championing newer bands like the Sex Pistols. They see Freddie Mercury - someone who toasts his audience with champagne - as all that is wrong with rock.
NME runs what is less of an interview than a confrontation between Freddie and 'journalist' Tony Stewart under the heading "Is This Man A Prat?". Communication between the two is almost impossible. All this leads to a further downgrading of the relationship Queen has with the press.
In August Roger astounds everyone by releasing a solo single "I Wanna Testify", which immediately sets the press tongues wagging about the imminent demise of Queen. According to the media Roger was testing the water, because he can no longer handle being the third songwriter. However rumours of Queen splitting had been circulating since 1973...
"We Are The Champions" backed with "We Will Rock You" is released. The video has live feel, with the band playing to an audience. The audience aren't paid extra's though, they are members of the fan club. The single becomes an international hit, but more impressively they develop into permanent fixtures of popular culture. The songs are sung at major sporting events around the world - regardless of the countries race, religion or ethos.
In October Queen are awarded a Britannia Award for best single in 25 years (Bohemian Rhapsody). Two days later the band release "News of the World", their sixth album.
The cover art is by Frank Kelly Freas. Science Fiction devotees Brian and Roger remembered the cover of and old comic - a drawing of a giant with a blood stained finger, holding a lifeless man in his hand. They managed to trace the illustrator to Virginia, USA, and he agreed to redesign his drawing for the album. Up until now Queen had always designed their own album covers. The album sells 7 000 000 copies world wide.
At this stage the band decide to finally severe all remaining ties with Trident. As part of the original deal Queen had agreed to paying Trident a one per cent royalty on their next six albums. Queen were now in a position to pay of the Sheffield Brothers earlier.
The band conduct another tour of the US. Two US tours in the same year was unthinkable - but Queen were as successful as always. Freddie buys a lacquered piano during a shopping spree in New York. It takes US and UK customs 73 hours collectively arranging the return shipment.
Freddie and his long time girlfriend Mary Austin 'come to an arrangement'. He buys her a luxury London apartment of her own, because he is away so much, and they agree to a loser relationship.
Our love affair ended in tears, but a deep bond grew out of it, and that's something nobody can take away from us. It's unreachable. All my lovers ask me why they can't replace her, but it's simply impossible.
I don't feel jealous of her lovers because, of course, she has a life to lead, and so do I. Basically, I try to make sure she's happy with whoever she's with, and she tries to do the same for me. We look after each other, and that's a wonderful kind of love. I might have all the problems in the world, but I have Mary and that gets me through.
Queen decide to split from John Reid As Queen grew bigger and demanded more of John's time, It became apparent that he could no longer manage Elton John and Queen. The severance agreement is signed in typical flamboyance - in the back of Freddie's Rolls Royce.
We simply don't need a manager like John any more. We're in a position to guide our own careers
Splitting from John Reid though wasn't cheap. They paid him a flat amount initially and agreed to pay him fifteen per cent of all future royalties of those albums already released. The fact that managers seemed to be costing Queen a lot more than they apparently seemed to work made Queen to set up their own management company with Jim Beach.
The band take over Queen Productions and appoint themselves as directors. During the year 78/79 they each earn a salary of 690 000 pounds as directors of the company. The highest paid directors in British industry!
We didn't particularly want the job of managing ourselves, but we decided it was the best way of getting precisely what we wanted and controlling our own destiny
Queen end the year touring the US. On the 22nd of December they play the Los Angeles forum. The encore features a bevy of girls and an elf - brilliantly portrayed by John Reid.
The year begins with "Spread Your Wings" being released - a superb John Deacon song - it unfortunately only reaches number 34, spending a mere two weeks on the chart.
Queen then go on to a sell out tour of Europe. They play the Forest Nationale at maximum capacity for three nights - something no other band had done before. At the end of the tour Roger, John and Brian flew to Musicland Studio's to start work on their next album. Freddie though, in England, stayed behind and co-produced with Roy Thomas Baker, Peter Strakers album "This Ones On Me".
By July the band were reunited and in full swing going to Switzerland and France to record their new album "Jazz". Whilst in Montreux a violent thunder storm erupts. Brian promptly goes outside and records the whole thing. These sounds appear on the song "Dead On Time".
For this album they are again joined by Roy Thomas Baker - for reasons that remain unclear. This same month sees Roger buy a manor outside Guildford, complete with 20 acres of land. The house used to belong to Dr Crippens lawyer...
Whilst the band are busily recording, EMI International Records are awarded the Queen's Award to Industry. To celebrate the occasion they choose to press three to four hundred copies of their biggest hit, "Bohemian Rhapsody" in Royal Purple vinyl. This has since become the ultimate collectors trophy.
The first single from the new album is a double A-side of "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race". "Bicycle Race" was inspired by the Tour De France. Whilst in France recording the race has been on and Freddie had been inspired by all those men on Bikes.
For the video the band felt that it would be good if they could have fifty naked women riding around on bicycles. This is promptly organised - with an amazing amount of volunteers. A race is conducted in the grounds of Wimbledon Stadium, with the winner being lucky enough to adorn the cover of the single.
The "blatantly rude" cover sparks outrage - and eventually the band agree to have panties painted on the girl. For once the press are lost for words - NME still manage to print an article with a picture of Freddie and the caption "Fat Bottomed Queen"
We lost some of our audience with that . 'How could you do it? It doesn't go with your spiritual side'. But my answer to that the physical side is as much a part of a person as the spiritual or intellectual side. It's fun. I'll make no apologies. All music skirts around sex, sometimes very directly. Ours doesn't. In our music, sex is either implied of referred to semi-jokingly, but it's alway there.
The album "Jazz" is released in November, and reaches number 2 in the UK charts. Never ones to hide from controversy, the album comes with a colour poster of all fifty girls and their bicycles - much to the delight of the male population! Again there is uproar and the poster is later replaced with an application form for the poster - for those that want it...quite a few I would imagine...
Queen hold are party to celebrate the album releasing New Orleans, the home of jazz, featuring mud wrestlers, jugglers, magicians. Both their record companies were invited - with the companies both trying to ensure that they had the most staff at the party. Ever the perfect hosts, Queen provide a 'special groupie' who gave a the record company executive..."a very good time!".
The year is finished with the band announcing that they wish to have a concert on centre court at Wimbledon. They are politely refused permission...
Early January see the band touring Europe. Whilst on tour their next single "Don't Stop Me Now" is released which reaches a number 9 in the UK. The entire tour is recorded with the thought of a live album later in the year.
During the year they stop of at Mountain Studios in Montreux to work on their next album. They like the studios so much they buy them! When the resident studio engineer David Richard's asked what they intend to do with the studio, Freddie replies "dump it in the lake, Dear!".
In June Queen release a double live album "Live Killers", which reaches number three on the UK chart. The album manages to spark controversy in that Roger goes on the record in saying he doesn't like it - in that the sound isn't up to his standards. It attract criticism from the press as well for the inclusion of "Bohemian Rhapsody", as during the operatic section Queen leave the stage and play the pre-recorded tapes.-Brian:
Rhapsody is not a stage number. A lot of people don't like us leaving the stage. But to be honest, I'd rather leave than have us play to a backing tape. If you are there and you have got backing tapes, it's a totally false situation. So we'd rather be up front and say 'Look, this is not something you can paly onstage. It was multi-layered in the studio. We'll play it because we think that you want to hear it.
The fans love it though, as they had been making do with poor quality bootlegs up until this time.
The album was pieced together at Musicland Studio's in Munich. There Queen discovered the resident engineer Reinhart Mack - or just Mack as he is commonly known. His ideas appeal so much to the band that he is credited with co-producer on the next album.
In August Queen headline a huge open air concert in Germany. That day Roger decided to bleach his hair, something he had been doing for quite some time now. Unfortunately things went a bit wrong and it went green. Freddie proceeded to make fun of him all night... At the end of the show Queen cooled down the crowd with some water cannons - welcome relief on a very hot day.
Dino Di Laurentis commissions the band to write music for his new movie, "Flash Gordon". When Queen were first suggested as a possible band for the soundtrack, Laurentis replied "who are the Queen's?!". After learning a bit more about the band he readily agrees that they are the right people for the job.
Roger's Ferrari blows up in the South of France. Roger was just driving along, apparently quite fast, and the engine caught fire. Roger quickly disembarked the vehicle safely - the car however was a write-off.
The next single released, form the new album "The Game", is "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", written by Freddie.
I wrote "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in the bath. I actually grabbed an upright piano to my bedside table once. I've been known to scribble lyrics in the middle of the night without putting the lights on.
We're not a singles group. We don't stake our reputation on singles and we never have done, but I think that it's brought a lot of younger people to our concerts.
The single is a huge success reaching number 2 in the UK and giving the band their first US number 1.
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love" - it's not rockabilly but it does have that early Elvis feel, and it was one of the first records to exploit that. In fact I read somewhere - in Rolling Stone I think - that John Lennon heard it and it gave him the impetus to start writing again. If it's true - and listening to that last album it certainly sounds as if he explored similar influences - that's wonderful.
Around this time Freddie performs with the royal ballet. He practised for a few weeks and eventually danced and sung to "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Freddie also commandeered the Royal Ballet's best wardrobe man...
At the end of the year Queen embark on the Crazy tour - crazy because the venues are tiny. The venues certainly aren't what you would expect from a major act such as Queen. One of the problems with this tour is actually getting the equipment into the hall.
I remember at the Lyceum gig in 1979 - the roof was too small to fit in all our lights - so we cut two holes in it. We got a call from Paul McCartney saying Wings were playing there next week and they'd need a hole in the rood, so could he pay for one of them? Just think - we became the first group to sell Paul McCartney a hole.
We thought it was important to actually visit people again. Unless people can see you in their home town, it can almost seem as though you don't exist. It's also a relief to us because, having done the big barns, it's nice to be somewhere where people can actually see and hear you.
The advantage of what we're doing is that, because our sound and lighting systems are better than ever, we can really knock audiences in the stomach. The only real disadvantage is that not everybody can get to see us - but I think that those that do will have a much better time. It's great fun too, because the reward is much more immediate and rewarding.
In the larger venues you tend to lose that intimacy, but on the other hand you gain something. You get a feeling of an event, and the more people there are, the greater the tension becomes. As a result it makes you work harder, particularly to reach the people at the back.
During the Crazy Tour Gerry Stickells collapses back stage. He had been touring with Queen non-stop for years and it had all taken its toll. The doctors ordered a long rest period, but within two to three days Gerry was back in the thick of things.
The year ends for Queen by playing at the "Concert for the People for Kampuchea" on boxing day. A live version of "Now I'm Here" makes it to the accompanying album.