|Released:|| 13 July 1973|
4 September 1973
De Lane Lea Studios
|Genre:||Hard rock, progressive rock, glam rock, heavy metal|
|Label:||EMI, Parlophone (Europe)|
Elektra, Hollywood (US)
Roy Thomas Baker
|Next Album:||Queen II|
Queen is the self-titled debut album from the English rock band Queen, released in 1973. It was recorded at Trident Studios and De Lane Lea Music Centre, London, England, with production by Roy Thomas Baker (as Roy Baker), John Anthony, and Queen.
The album was influenced by the seaside rock, hard rock, and heavy metal of the day and covers subjects such as folklore ("My Fairy King") and religion ("Jesus"). Lead singer Freddie Mercury composed five of the ten tracks. Lead guitarist Brian May contributed four songs, including "Doing All Right" which was co-written by Smile bandmate Tim Staffell. Drummer Roger Taylor composed and sang "Modern Times Rock and Roll." The final song on the album is a short instrumental version of "Seven Seas of Rhye." The full version, including vocals, appeared on the band's next album, Queen II. The band included the comment 'No synthesizers' on the album sleeve, as some listeners had mistaken their elaborate multi-tracking and effects processed by guitar and vocal sounds as synthesizers. Bassist John Deacon was credited on the sleeve notes of the original vinyl release as "Deacon John", as Mercury and Taylor thought this may make him sound more interesting. Shortly after the release, Deacon preferred to use his own name later on.
Queen had been playing the club and college circuit in and around London for almost two years when the band had a chance opportunity to test out the new recording facilities of De Lane Lea Studios. Taking advantage of the opportunity, they put together a polished demo tape of five songs: "Keep Yourself Alive," "The Night Comes Down," "Great King Rat," "Jesus," and "Liar". Despite the demo tape's quality, the band received only one offer from a record company - a low bid from Chrysalis Records, which they used to try to entice other companies.
They were finally taken aboard in 1972 by Norman and Barry Sheffield, who were setting up Trident Studios; however, Queen were allowed to record only during the studio's downtime, after the paying artists had left, which was usually between 3am and 7am. One day, while waiting to use the studio, Freddie Mercury was asked to record vocals by producer Robin Cable, who was working on a version of "I Can Hear Music" and "Goin' Back." Mercury enlisted Brian May and Roger Taylor to record the tracks. These recordings were released on a single under the name Larry Lurex.
The arrangement of recording only during downtime lasted from June to November 1972. The limitations this imposed on them led the band to focus on completing one track at a time, but problems arose almost immediately. The band had thought highly of their De Lane Lea demo tracks, but producer Roy Thomas Baker asked them to re-record the songs with better equipment. "Keep Yourself Alive" was the first song to be re-recorded, and Queen did not like the result. They recorded it once again, but during the mixing sessions, no mix met their standards until engineer Mike Stone stepped in. After seven or eight failed attempts, Stone's first try met with Queen's approval. Stone would stay on to engineer and eventually co-produce their next five albums. The first, rejected re-record of "Keep Yourself Alive" was later released by Hollywood Records in the United States, titled "(Long Lost Re-take)," with Brian May's approval. Another track that proved problematic was "Mad The Swine", which was recorded for the album but then derailed by Baker and Queen disagreeing on the quality of the percussion. With the issue unresolved, the track was left off the album. It re-surfaced in 1991 as both the B-side to the "Headlong" CD single in the UK, and on the Hollywood Records re-release of the album. The version of "The Night Comes Down" which appears on the album is, in fact, the De Lane Lea demo recording, as its quality was apparently up to the standards of the rest of album's recordings.
Other recordings from this period, such as two Smile tracks ("Silver Salmon" and "Polar Bear"), "Rock And Roll Medley" (a live encore staple from the era), and the infamous track "Hangman" (whose existence was long denied officially, beyond live concert recordings), have surfaced in the form of acetate pressings, now owned legitimately by private collectors.
Though the album was completed and fully mixed by November 1972, Trident spent months trying to get a record company to release it. After eight months of failing that, they simply released it themselves in 1973. During this time, Queen had begun writing material for their next album, but they were disheartened by the current album's delay, feeling they had grown past that stage, even though the record-buying public was just getting wind of them. They recorded two BBC sessions during the interim. The first single, "Keep Yourself Alive" (the Mike Stone mix, now considered the standard album version) was released a week before the album (UK dates, 6 July and 13th respectively). The track length was edited for release in the US, from 3:47 to 3:30. The US single was issued in October. All countries had the B-side "Son And Daughter". The album was released in the US on 4 September.
Elektra Records released a single of "Liar" in a heavily edited form (without the band's knowledge) on 14 February 1974, with the B-side "Doing All Right". Elektra later re-issued the edited version of "Keep Yourself Alive" in July of 1975, this time with the rare double B-side (rare for a 7" single) of "Lily Of The Valley" and "God Save the Queen". Both versions are unique compared to the album versions.
Hollywood Records released a CD single featuring five versions of "Keep Yourself Alive" to promote the forthcoming "Crown Jewels" boxed set (1998). The versions on the CD are: "Long Lost Re-take", "BBC Session #1 Version", "Live Killers Version", "Album Version (Unremastered)", and "Album Version (1998 Remastered Version)".
When originally issued on cassette, the running order of the tracks was rearranged. Side one included tracks 1, 2, 5, 9, and 10, and side two included tracks 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8.
The track list was different in the early stages of the album's mixing and compiling. Most notably "Mad the Swine" segued from "Great King Rat", coming in over the final drum-roll; the original album recording of "Keep Yourself Alive" started off the album (i.e. the Long Lost Re-take); and the unused album version of "The Night Comes Down" co-produced by Roy Thomas Baker was included. Acetates reportedly exist of this early cut .
See main article: Keep Yourself Alive. Brian May wrote "Keep Yourself Alive" after the band had been formed, but before John Deacon joined, as confirmed by former bass-player Barry Mitchell (on an unofficial Q&A session held on an on-line forum). According to what May said in a radio special about their 1977 album News of the World, he had penned the lyrics thinking of them as ironic and tongue-in-cheek, but their sense was completely changed when Freddie Mercury sang them.
It's been suggested by some fans and Queen scholars that Mercury could have helped on the musical songwriting, based on the fact that (as it's been recalled by former bassists and the band themselves) they were in a more collaborative period in the pre-studio days and Mercury was usually the one getting his way with structural ideas. While it's highly possible that he contributed ideas to the song (the modulation types and the expanded form are closer to his style than to May's), the bottom line is that even in that case Mercury would be more a co-arranger than a co-writer per se (like George Martin on The Beatles' songs).
"Doing All Right" (also spelled "Doin' All Right" and "Doin' Alright") was originally a song from the British group Smile, which would later come to be known as Queen. It was written by Brian May and Tim Staffell.
This is one of the few Queen songs to feature Brian May on the piano. He also played his old Hairfred acoustic guitar on this track and on later tracks such as "White Queen (As It Began)" and "Jealousy".
The band played this song as early as 1970, and it was notable as the band's first song Freddie Mercury played live on the piano for. Staffell sang it when it was a Smile song, and Mercury tried to sing in the same manner when it became a Queen song.
The version on the album At the Beeb features Roger Taylor singing lead vocals on the last verse.
"Great King Rat" was written by Freddie Mercury. At the Beeb features a different version of the song recorded in December 1973. This song is an example of Queen's earliest sound, with lengthy, heavy compositions with long guitar solos and sudden tempo changes. In the middle part of the song, the lyrics contain some lines that can be interpreted as anti-religious , such as "Don't believe all you read in the Bible / You sinners get in line / Saints you leave far behind...". One of the riffs in the instrumental solo section was later used in the more popular Stone Cold Crazy, from 1974's Sheer Heart Attack.
"My Fairy King", written by Mercury, deals with Rhye, a fantasy world created by vocalist Freddie Mercury and featured in other Queen songs, most notably "Seven Seas of Rhye".
"My Fairy King" is the first song on the album to feature Mercury's piano skills – as the piano on "Doing All Right" was played by guitarist Brian May who was quite impressed by Mercury's piano playing on the track, and from this point on Mercury handled most of Queen's piano parts.
Before writing this song Mercury was known as Freddie Bulsara, and this song is said to have inspired him to change his surname. Its lyrics contain a verse with the words "Mother Mercury, look what they've done to me." Brian May has said that after the line was written, Freddie claimed he was singing about his mother. Subsequently, Freddie Bulsara took the stage name Freddie Mercury. This was another attempt to separate his stage persona ("extroverted monster", as Mercury himself once described it) from his personal persona (introverted).
Written during the band's time in the studio, the song contains many voice overdubs and vocal harmonies, which Mercury was fond of. Drummer Roger Taylor also displays his vocal skills here, hitting some of the highest notes in the composition. The vocal overdubs technique would later be used in many Queen songs, most notably "Bohemian Rhapsody".
See main article: Liar (Queen song). "Liar" was written by Freddie Mercury in 1970 while he was still under the name Freddie Bulsara, and before John Deacon joined the band the following year. It is considered by many to be one of the direct forerunners to "Bohemian Rhapsody", in terms of long melodies, acyclic form, and dramatic changes in style and arrangement. It is one of the band's heavier songs.
As confirmed by the transcription on EMI Music Publishing's Off The Record sheet music for the song, this is one of the few Queen tracks of the 1970s to feature a Hammond organ.
Some Queen fans believe that John Deacon sang the "all day long" lines, since he did so in live versions and the video. However, on both, he was joined by Roger Taylor, Brian May and Freddie Mercury, therefore it isn't known if it was merely a visual trick or if actually Deacon did some uncredited backing vocals. Both live and in the video, Deacon would sing into Mercury's microphone.
Brian May wrote the song shortly after the band's formation in 1970, following the break up of Smile. It was first recorded at De Lane Lea Studios in September 1971, when the band was hired to test the studio's new equipment in exchange for being allowed to record proper demos for their attempt to find a record company. The agreement was mutually beneficial and Queen took full advantage of the state-of-the-art equipment to put five of their tracks to tape ("Keep Yourself Alive", "The Night Comes Down", "Great King Rat", "Jesus", and "Liar").
In 1972, Trident Studios signed Queen to a recording contract which limited them to only down-time studio access (when paying artists weren't recording) and they began working with producer Roy Thomas Baker. Baker and Studio owners/management Norman and Barry Sheffield insisted on re-recording the five De Lane Lea demos. A new studio version of "The Night Comes Down" was recorded, but in the end, it was decided that the De Lane Lea version was still superior, and this was the version which appears on the debut album. As of 2006, the unused Roy-Thomas-Baker-produced version remains unreleased and has not surfaced even on bootlegs.
Bootleg recordings of the original De Lane Lea demos are in circulation, and the difference in quality of "The Night Comes Down" is noticeable compared to the 1973 LP and even more noticeable compared to the latest series of digital remasters of that album from Parlophone and Hollywood Records. Otherwise, the demo is the same mix that appeared on the demo tape, with little to no alteration (the quality of the bootlegs makes it difficult to tell if the improvements are from proper mastering or additional mixing).
In 1998, Queen released "". The PC computer game features four discs with tracks playable on regular CD players. An edit of the familiar version of "The Night Comes Down" is among the tracks used in the game. This version is the first minute and a half of the track, before a phased fade out.
The song follows what would become trademark Brian May themes such as coming-of-age, nostalgia over the loss of childhood to the past, and the difficulties of life as an adult. Other May songs which deal with similar issues would be: "Some Day One Day", "Long Away", "All Dead, All Dead", "Leaving Home Ain't Easy", and "Too Much Love Will Kill You", among others.
There is also what could be an ambiguous reference to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", in the lyric: "When I was young it came to me; And I could see the sun breaking; Lucy was high and so was I; Dazzling, holding the world inside." May is admittedly a Beatles fan and has commented in numerous interviews on their impact on him.
The lead vocal is performed by drummer Roger Taylor, who wrote the song. The song was re-recorded on two occasions for the BBC. The first was re-recorded in December 1973 and broadcast on John Peel's show. This version was released on the 1989 Queen album At The Beeb, and sounds very similar to the original album version. The second re-recording was done in April 1974 and broadcast on Bob Harris's show. This version has not seen the light of day outside of bootleg recordings and it differs in style from the original album version, with a slower tempo and extra vocals from Freddie Mercury. Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll would be played live on the Sheer Heart Attack Tour, however Mercury would sing lead vocals.
"Son and Daughter" was written by guitarist Brian May and was the B-side for the single "Keep Yourself Alive". Written in 1972 for their first album and a regular feature in Queen's live set until well into 1975, the song originally housed Brian May's famous guitar solo. The solo features in both 1973 BBC sessions' (Queen's second and third sessions respectively) versions of "Son And Daughter". The album version of the song does not feature the guitar solo (thereby keeping the song to a tight, marketable, three and a half minutes). The solo wouldn't be properly recorded until 1974, for the track "Brighton Rock" of their Sheer Heart Attack album. Until this time, and occasionally afterward, the guitar solo would take over the middle of "Son And Daughter" during concerts, allowing the rest of the band a bit of a rest and costume change.
The third BBC session recording would eventually see an official release in 1989, along with Queen's first BBC session, under the title Queen at the Beeb. "Son And Daughter" ends the session and the album, complete with the guitar solo, which runs over seven minutes. Because this version was originally recorded for radio broadcast, Mercury censors himself, singing, "Buckle down and a-shovel it!" instead of the original lyric, "shovel shit!". The second, unreleased BBC session version of the song has Mercury singing, "Shovel shhhhh...".
Unlike other songs from Queen's early period which crept back into circulation in the live set of their '84 through '86 tours, such as "Liar", "Keep Yourself Alive", "The Seven Seas of Rhye" and "In The Lap Of The Gods...Revisited", "Son And Daughter" stayed off the set-lists after Queen's hit singles began to dominate their live show. The song is indicative of their very earliest sound, influenced by blues rock and heavy metal.
The lyrics tell part of the story of Jesus of Nazareth – singer Freddie Mercury was a follower of Zoroastrianism. The track features a two-chord rhythm section during the verses with a long instrumental break toward the end of the song. Because of the effects created by Brian May's Red Special guitar, among other things, many early followers of Queen viewed the band as something of a psychedelic rock band.
See main article: Seven Seas of Rhye. Mercury had half-written the song when the first album was recorded and completed it for the second album.
Written by Freddie, this song was initially intended to be included on the album between "Great King Rat" and "My Fairy King", two other Mercury compositions. "Great King Rat" and this song were to link seamlessly into each other (hence the reason why the drum solo at the end of "Great King Rat" has no ending), but the band and producer Roy Thomas Baker had a debate about the quality of the percussion of the song, and it was not included with the album until the 1991 US re-release, but first saw the light of day as the b-side to the 1991 single "Headlong", from the album Innuendo.
Originally intended for the pre-Queen band Smile, this song was written by that band's frontman Tim Staffel.
Written by Mercury and May, this song has been entirely wiped of all studio recordings. A few poor quality live versions do exist, however, and studio recordings have been claimed to be owned by a few private collectors.
Another Smile song, this was either written by Tim Staffel or Brian May, or possibly both.
Written at the time, but not recorded until the Queen II sessions.
See main article: Stone Cold Crazy.
Written by the entire band, but mostly Mercury. Mercury has stated that it was the first ever Queen song performed onstage