|Who is it?||Soundtrack, Composer, Music Department|
|Labels||EMI Parlophone Elektra Capitol Hollywood Island|
|Associated acts||Smile Queen + Paul Rodgers Queen + Adam Lambert David Bowie|
|Members||Brian May Roger Taylor|
|Past members||Freddie Mercury John Deacon See also: Early members|
David Mallet directed a number of their music videos, some of which use footage from classic films: "Under Pressure" incorporates 1920s silent films, Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, the 1984 video for "Radio Ga Ga" includes footage from Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), while the 1995 video "Heaven for Everyone" shows footage from Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904). The first part of Mallet’s music video for “I Want to Break Free” spoofed the popular long-running British soap opera Coronation Street. The music video for “Innuendo” combines stop motion animation with rotoscoping and band members appear as illustrations and images taken from earlier Queen music videos on a cinema screen in the same manner as in the British film Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Queen drew artistic influence from British rock acts of the 1960s and early 1970s, such as the Beatles, the Kinks, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Who, Black Sabbath, Slade, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Genesis and Yes, in addition to American Guitarist Jimi Hendrix, with Mercury also inspired by the gospel singer Aretha Franklin. May referred to the Beatles as being "our bible in the way they used the studio and they painted pictures and this wonderful instinctive use of harmonies." At their outset in the early 1970s, Queen's music has been characterised as "Led Zeppelin meets Yes" due to its combination of "acoustic/electric guitar extremes and fantasy-inspired multi-part song epics".
In 1963, the teenage Brian May and his father custom-built his signature guitar Red Special, which was purposely designed to feedback. Sonic experimentation figured heavily in Queen's songs. A distinctive characteristic of Queen's music are the vocal harmonies which are usually composed of the voices of May, Mercury, and Taylor best heard on the studio albums A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. Some of the ground work for the development of this sound can be attributed to the Producer Roy Thomas Baker and Engineer Mike Stone. Besides vocal harmonies, Queen were also known for multi-tracking voices to imitate the sound of a large choir through overdubs. For instance, according to Brian May, there are over 180 vocal overdubs in "Bohemian Rhapsody". The band's vocal structures have been compared with the Beach Boys, but May stated they were not "much of an influence".
In 1968, Guitarist Brian May, a student at London's Imperial College, and Bassist Tim Staffell decided to form a band. May placed an advertisement on a college notice board for a "Mitch Mitchell/Ginger Baker type" drummer; Roger Taylor, a young dental student, auditioned and got the job. The group called themselves Smile.
Keeping in a tradition of naming each season's episodes after songs by 1970s rock bands, the eighth and final season of That '70s Show had episodes named after Queen songs. "Bohemian Rhapsody" served as the season premiere. The Simpsons has made storylines which have featured Queen songs such as "We Will Rock You", "We Are the Champions" (both sung by Homer), and "You're My Best Friend".
While attending Ealing Art College, Tim Staffell became friends with Farrokh Bulsara, a fellow student who had assumed the English name of Freddie. Bulsara felt that he and the band had the same tastes and soon became a keen fan of Smile. In 1970, after Staffell left to join the band Humpy Bong, the remaining Smile members, encouraged by Bulsara, changed their name to "Queen" and performed their first gig on 18 July. The band had a number of bass players during this period who did not fit with the band's chemistry. It was not until February 1971 that they settled on John Deacon and began to rehearse for their first album. They recorded four of their own songs, "Liar", "Keep Yourself Alive", "The Night Comes Down" and "Jesus", for a demo tape; no record companies were interested. It was also around this time Freddie changed his surname to "Mercury", inspired by the line "Mother Mercury, look what they've done to me" in the song "My Fairy King". On 2 July 1971, Queen played their first show in the classic line-up of Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon at a Surrey college outside London.
In 1972, Queen entered discussions with Trident Studios after being spotted at De La Lane Studios by John Anthony. After these discussions, Norman Sheffield offered the band a management deal under Neptune Productions, a subsidiary of Trident, to manage the band and enable them to use the facilities at Trident to record new material, whilst the management searched for a record label to sign Queen. This suited both parties, as Trident were expanding into management, and under the deal, Queen were able to make use of the hi-tech recording facilities used by other Musicians such as the Beatles and Elton John to produce new material.
In 1973, Queen signed to a deal with Trident/EMI. By July of that year, they released their eponymous debut album, an effort influenced by heavy metal and progressive rock. The album was received well by critics; Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone called it "superb", and Chicago's Daily Herald called it an "above average debut". However, it drew little mainstream attention, and the lead single "Keep Yourself Alive" sold poorly. Retrospectively, it is cited as the highlight of the album, and in 2008 Rolling Stone ranked it 31st in the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time", describing it as "an entire album's worth of riffs crammed into a single song". The album was certified gold in the UK and the US.
In October that year, Queen released their first compilation album, titled Greatest Hits, which showcased the group's highlights from 1974 to 1981. It is the best-selling album in UK Chart history, and has spent 450 weeks in the UK Album Chart. The album is certified eight times platinum in the United States, and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Taylor became the first member of the band to release his own solo album in 1981, titled Fun in Space.
In late 1975, Queen recorded and released A Night at the Opera, taking its name from the popular Marx Brothers movie. At the time, it was the most expensive album ever produced. Like its predecessor, the album features diverse musical styles and experimentation with stereo sound. In "The Prophet's Song", an eight-minute epic, the middle section is a canon, with simple phrases layered to create a full-choral sound. The Mercury penned ballad, "Love of My Life", featured a harp and overdubbed vocal harmonies. The album was very successful in Britain, and went triple platinum in the United States. The British public voted it the 13th greatest album of all time in a 2004 Channel 4 poll. It has also ranked highly in international polls; in a worldwide Guinness poll, it was voted the 19th greatest of all time, while an ABC poll saw the Australian public vote it the 28th greatest of all time. A Night at the Opera has frequently appeared in "greatest albums" lists reflecting the opinions of critics. Among other accolades, it was ranked number 16 in Q Magazine's "The 50 Best British Albums Ever" in 2004, and number 11 in Rolling Stone's "The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time" as featured in their Mexican edition in 2004. It was also placed at No. 230 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" in 2003. A Night at the Opera is the third and final Queen album to be featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
During 1976, Queen played one of their most famous gigs, a free concert in Hyde Park, London. A concert organised by the Entrepreneur Richard Branson, it set an attendance record with 150,000 people confirmed in the audience. On 1 December 1976, Queen were the intended guests on London's early evening Today programme, but they pulled out at the last-minute, which saw their late replacement on the show, EMI labelmate the Sex Pistols, give their infamous expletive-strewn interview with Bill Grundy. During the A Day at the Races Tour in 1977, Queen performed sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, New York, in February, and Earls Court, London, in June.
The band's sixth studio album News of the World was released in 1977, which has gone four times platinum in the United States, and twice in the UK. The album contained many songs tailor-made for live performance, including two of rock's most recognisable anthems, "We Will Rock You" and the rock ballad "We Are the Champions", both of which became enduring international Sports anthems, and the latter reached number four in the US. Queen commenced the News of the World Tour in October 1977, and Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times called this concert tour the band's "most spectacularly staged and finely honed show".
In 1978, Queen toured the US and Canada, and spent much of 1979 touring in Europe and Japan. They released their first live album, Live Killers, in 1979; it went platinum twice in the US. Queen also released the very successful single "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", a rockabilly inspired song done in the style of Elvis Presley. The song made the top 10 in many countries, topped the Australian ARIA Charts for seven consecutive weeks, and was the band's first number one single in the United States where it topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. Having written the song on guitar and played rhythm on the record, Mercury played rhythm guitar while performing the song live, which was the first time he ever played guitar in concert. In December 1979, Queen played the opening night at the Concert for the People of Kampuchea in London, having accepted a request by the event's organiser Paul McCartney.
Queen contributed music directly to the films Flash Gordon (1980), with "Flash" as the theme song, and Highlander (the original 1986 film), with "A Kind of Magic", "One Year of Love", "Who Wants to Live Forever", "Hammer to Fall", and the theme "Princes of the Universe", which was also used as the theme of the Highlander TV series (1992–1998). In the United States, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was re-released as a single in 1992 after appearing in the comedy film Wayne's World. The single subsequently reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (with "The Show Must Go On" as the first track on the single) and helped rekindle the band's popularity in North America.
In February 1981, Queen travelled to South America as part of The Game Tour, and became the first major rock band to play in Latin American stadiums. The tour included five shows in Argentina, one of which drew the largest single concert crowd in Argentine history with an audience of 300,000 in Buenos Aires and two concerts at the Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil, where they played to an audience of more than 131,000 people in the first night (then the largest paying audience for a single band anywhere in the world) and more than 120,000 people the following night. In October of the same year, Queen performed for more than 150,000 fans on 9 October at Monterrey (Estadio Universitario) and 17 and 18 at Puebla (Estadio Zaragoza), Mexico. On 24 and 25 November, Queen played two sell out nights at the Montreal Forum, Quebec, Canada. One of Mercury's most notable performances of The Game's final track, "Save Me", took place in Montreal, and the concert is recorded in the live album, Queen Rock Montreal.
In 1982, the band released the album Hot Space, a departure from their trademark seventies sound, this time being a mixture of rock, pop rock, dance, funk, and R&B. Most of the album was recorded in Munich during the most turbulent period in the band's history, and Taylor and May lamented the new sound, with both being very critical of the influence Mercury's personal manager Paul Prenter had on the singer. May was also scathing of Prenter, who was Mercury's manager from the early 1980s to 1984, for being dismissive of the importance of radio stations, such as the US networks, and their vital connection between the Artist and the community, and for denying them access to Mercury. Q magazine would list Hot Space as one of the top fifteen albums where great rock acts lost the plot. On 14 and 15 September 1982, the band performed their last two gigs in the US with Mercury on lead vocals, those concerts were held at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The band stopped touring North America after their Hot Space Tour, as their success there had waned, although they would perform on American television for the only time during the eighth-season premiere of Saturday Night Live on 25 September of the same year; it became the final public performance of the band in North America before the death of their frontman. Queen left Elektra Records, their label in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, and signed onto EMI/Capitol Records.
After working steadily for over ten years, Queen decided that they would not perform any live shows in 1983. During this time, they recorded a new album at the Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles and Musicland Studios, Munich, and several members of the band explored side projects and solo work. Taylor released his second solo album, Strange Frontier. May released the mini-album, Star Fleet Project, collaborating with Eddie Van Halen.
In February 1984, Queen released their eleventh studio album, The Works, which included the successful singles "Radio Ga Ga", "Hammer to Fall" and "I Want to Break Free". Despite these hit singles, the album failed to do well in the US, while in the UK it went triple platinum and remained in the albums chart for two years.
At Live Aid, held at Wembley on 13 July 1985, in front of the biggest-ever TV audience of 1.9 billion, Queen performed some of their greatest hits, during which the sold-out stadium audience of 72,000 people clapped, sang, and swayed in unison. The show's organisers, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, other Musicians such as Elton John, Cliff Richard and Dave Grohl, and music journalists writing for the BBC, CNN, Rolling Stone, MTV, The Telegraph among others, stated that Queen stole the show. An industry poll in 2005 ranked it the greatest rock performance of all time. Mercury's powerful, sustained note during the a cappella section came to be known as "The Note Heard Round the World".
Under the supervision of May and Taylor, numerous restoration projects have been under way involving Queen's lengthy audio and video catalogue. DVD releases of their 1986 Wembley concert (titled Live at Wembley Stadium), 1982 Milton Keynes concert (Queen on Fire – Live at the Bowl), and two Greatest Video Hits (Volumes 1 and 2, spanning the 1970s and 1980s) have seen the band's music remixed into 5.1 and DTS surround sound. So far, only two of the band's albums, A Night at the Opera and The Game, have been fully remixed into high-resolution multichannel surround on DVD-Audio. A Night at the Opera was re-released with some revised 5.1 mixes and accompanying videos in 2005 for the 30th anniversary of the album's original release (CD+DVD-Video set). In 2007, a Blu-ray edition of Queen's previously released concerts, Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid, was released, marking their first project in 1080p HD.
After fans noticed Mercury's increasingly gaunt appearance in 1988, the media reported that Mercury was seriously ill, with AIDS frequently being mentioned as a likely illness. Mercury flatly denied this, insisting he was merely "exhausted" and too busy to provide interviews; he was now 42 years old and had been heavily involved in music for nearly two decades. Mercury had in fact been diagnosed as being HIV positive during 1987, but did not make his illness public and denied that anything was wrong. In spite of Mercury's illness, the band decided to continue making albums, starting with The Miracle (released in the summer of 1989) and continuing with Innuendo (released at the beginning of 1991). Despite his deteriorating health, the lead singer continued to contribute. For the last two albums made while Mercury was still alive, the band credited all songs to Queen, rather than specific members of the group, freeing them of internal conflict and differences. In 1990, Queen ended their contract with Capitol and signed with Disney's Hollywood Records, which has since remained the group's music catalogue owner in the United States and Canada. In February that year, Mercury made his final public appearance when he joined the rest of Queen to collect the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Throughout 1990, media reports persisted that Mercury was seriously ill, but the singer continued to deny that these reports were true.
Estimates of their record sales range from 150 million to 300 million records, making them one of the world's best-selling music artists. Queen received the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1990. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Each member of Queen has composed multiple hit singles, and all four band members were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2005 the band received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors, and in 2018 they were presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
On 23 November 1991, in a prepared statement made on his deathbed, Mercury confirmed that he had AIDS. Within 24 hours of the statement, he died of bronchial pneumonia, which was brought on as a complication of AIDS. His funeral Service on 27 November in Kensal Green, West London was private, and held in accordance with the Zoroastrian religious faith of his family. "Bohemian Rhapsody" was re-released as a single shortly after Mercury's death, with "These Are the Days of Our Lives" as the double A-side. The music video for "These Are the Days of Our Lives" contains Mercury's final scenes in front of the camera. This track had featured at the beginning of the year on the Innuendo album, and the video for it was recorded in May 1991 (which proved to be Mercury's final work with Queen). The single went to number one in the UK, remaining there for five weeks – the only recording to top the Christmas chart twice and the only one to be number one in four different years (1975, 1976, 1991, and 1992). Initial proceeds from the single – approximately £1,000,000 – were donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an AIDS charity.
On 20 April 1992, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was held at London's Wembley Stadium to a 72,000-strong crowd. Performers, including Def Leppard, Robert Plant, Guns N' Roses, Elton John, David Bowie, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Seal, Extreme, and Metallica performed various Queen songs along with the three remaining Queen members (and Spike Edney.) The concert is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as "The largest rock star benefit concert", as it was televised to over 1.2 billion viewers worldwide, and raised over £20,000,000 for AIDS charities.
Queen's last album featuring Mercury, titled Made in Heaven, was finally released in 1995, four years after his death. Featuring tracks such as "Too Much Love Will Kill You" and "Heaven for Everyone", it was constructed from Mercury's final recordings in 1991, material left over from their previous studio albums and re-worked material from May, Taylor, and Mercury's solo albums. The album also featured the song "Mother Love", the last vocal recording Mercury made, which he completed using a drum machine, over which May, Taylor and Deacon later added the instrumental track. After completing the penultimate verse, Mercury had told the band he "wasn't feeling that great" and stated, "I will finish it when I come back, next time"; however, he never made it back into the studio, so May later recorded the final verse of the song. Both stages of recording, before and after Mercury's death, were completed at the band's studio in Montreux, Switzerland. The album reached No. 1 in the UK following its release, their ninth number one album, and sold 20 million copies worldwide. On 25 November 1996, a statue of Mercury was unveiled in Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva, almost five years to the day since his death.
In 1997, Queen returned to the studio to record "No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)", a song dedicated to Mercury and all those that die too soon. It was released as a bonus track on the Queen Rocks compilation album later that year. In January 1997, Queen performed "The Show Must Go On" live with Elton John and the Béjart Ballet in Paris on a night Mercury was remembered, and it marked the last performance and public appearance of John Deacon, who chose to retire. The Paris concert was only the second time Queen had played live since Mercury's death, prompting Elton John to urge them to perform again.
In conjunction with Electronic Arts, Queen released the computer game Queen: The eYe in 1998. The music itself—tracks from Queen's vast catalogue, in many cases remixed into new instrumental versions—was by and large well received, but the game experience was hampered by poor gameplay. Adding to the Problem was an extremely long development time, resulting in graphic elements that already seemed outdated by the time of release.
Queen are one of the most bootlegged bands ever, according to Nick Weymouth, who manages the band's official website. A 2001 survey discovered the existence of 12,225 websites dedicated to Queen bootlegs, the highest number for any band. Bootleg recordings have contributed to the band's popularity in certain countries where Western music is censored, such as Iran. In a project called Queen: The Top 100 Bootlegs, many of these have been made officially available to download for a nominal fee from Queen's website, with profits going to the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Rolling Stone ranked Queen at number 52 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", while ranking Mercury the 18th greatest singer, and May the twenty-sixth greatest Guitarist. Queen were named 13th on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock list, and in 2010 were ranked 17th on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list. In 2012, Gigwise readers named Queen the best band of the past 60 years.
In 2002, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" was voted "the UK's favourite hit of all time" in a poll conducted by the Guinness World Records British Hit Singles Book. In 2004, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Many scholars consider the "Bohemian Rhapsody" music video ground-breaking, crediting it with popularising the medium. Rock Historian Paul Fowles stated that the song is "widely credited as the first global hit single for which an accompanying video was central to the marketing strategy". It has been hailed as launching the MTV age. Acclaimed for their stadium rock, in 2005 an industry poll ranked Queen's performance at Live Aid in 1985 as the best live act in history. In 2007, they were also voted the greatest British band in history by BBC Radio 2 listeners.
"I Was Born to Love You" was used as the theme song of the Japanese television drama Pride on Fuji Television in 2004, starring Takuya Kimura and Yūko Takeuchi. The show's Soundtrack also contained other songs by Queen. "Don't Stop Me Now" has featured in the BBC television show Top Gear, and in 2005 the song was voted as "The Greatest Driving Song Ever" by the series' viewers.
As of 2005, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Queen albums have spent a total of 1,322 weeks (twenty-six years) on the UK Album Charts, more time than any other musical act. Also in 2005, with the release of their live album with Paul Rodgers, Queen moved into third place on the list of acts with the most aggregate time spent on the British record charts.
On 11 April 2006, Brian May and Roger Taylor appeared on the American singing contest television show American Idol. Each contestant was required to sing a Queen song during that week of the competition. Songs which appeared on the show included "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Fat Bottomed Girls", "The Show Must Go On", "Who Wants to Live Forever", and "Innuendo". Brian May later criticised the show for editing specific scenes, one of which made the group's time with contestant Ace Young look negative, despite it being the opposite. Taylor and May again appeared on the American Idol season 8 finale in May 2009, performing "We Are the Champions" with finalists Adam Lambert and Kris Allen. On 15 November 2009, Brian May and Roger Taylor appeared on the singing contest television show The X Factor in the UK.
In the autumn of 2009, Glee featured the fictional high school's show choir singing "Somebody to Love" as their second act performance in the episode "The Rhodes Not Taken". The performance was included on the show's Volume 1 Soundtrack CD. In June 2010, the choir performed "Another One Bites the Dust" in the episode "Funk". The following week's episode, "Journey to Regionals", features a rival choir performing "Bohemian Rhapsody" in its entirety. The song was featured on the episode's EP. In May 2012, the choir performed "We Are the Champions" in the episode "Nationals", and the song features in The Graduation Album.
On 7 May 2010, May and Taylor announced that they were quitting their record label, EMI, after almost 40 years. On 20 August 2010, Queen's manager Jim Beach put out a Newsletter stating that the band had signed a new contract with Universal Music. During an interview for HARDtalk on the BBC on 22 September, May confirmed that the band's new deal was with Island Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. For the first time since the late 1980s, Queen's catalogue will have the same distributor worldwide, as their current North American label—Hollywood Records—is currently distributed by Universal (for a time in the late 1980s, Queen was on EMI-owned Capitol Records in the US).
In May 2011, Jane's Addiction vocalist Perry Farrell noted that Queen are currently scouting their once former and current live Bassist Chris Chaney to join the band. Farrell stated: "I have to keep Chris away from Queen, who want him and they're not gonna get him unless we're not doing anything. Then they can have him." In the same month, Paul Rodgers stated he may tour with Queen again in the near Future. At the 2011 Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI) Awards held in London on 4 October, Queen received the BMI Icon Award in recognition for their airplay success in the US. At the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards on 6 November, Queen received the Global Icon Award, which Katy Perry presented to Brian May. Queen closed the awards ceremony, with Adam Lambert on vocals, performing "The Show Must Go On", "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions". The collaboration garnered a positive response from both fans and critics, resulting in speculation about Future projects together.
On 12 August 2012, Queen performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The performance at London's Olympic Stadium opened with a special remastered video clip of Mercury on stage performing his call and response routine during their 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium. Following this, May performed part of the "Brighton Rock" solo before being joined by Taylor and solo Artist Jessie J for a performance of "We Will Rock You".
On 20 September 2013, Queen + Adam Lambert performed at the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Queen + Adam Lambert toured North America in Summer 2014 and Australia and New Zealand in August/September 2014. In an interview with Rolling Stone, May and Taylor said that although the tour with Lambert is a limited thing, they are open to him becoming an official member, and cutting new material with him.
In November 2014 Queen released a new album Queen Forever. The album is largely a compilation of previously-released material but features three new Queen tracks featuring vocals from Mercury with backing added by the surviving members of Queen. One new track, "There Must Be More To Life Than This", is a duet between Mercury and Michael Jackson.
In September 2010, Brian May announced in a BBC interview that Sacha Baron Cohen was to play Mercury in a film about the band. Time commented with approval on his singing ability and visual similarity to Mercury. However, in July 2013, Baron Cohen dropped out of the role due to "creative differences" between him and the surviving band members. In December 2013, it was announced that Ben Whishaw, best known for playing Q in the James Bond film Skyfall, had been chosen to replace Cohen in the role of Mercury. The motion picture is being written by Peter Morgan, who had been nominated for Oscars for his screenplays The Queen and Frost/Nixon. The film, which is being co-produced by Robert De Niro's TriBeCa Productions, will focus on Queen's formative years and the period leading up to the celebrated performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert. On 4 November 2016, it was announced that the film was now backed by 20th Century Fox, New Regency and GK Films, with shooting set to have begun in early 2017. Mercury will be played by Rami Malek.