Queen


Queen are a British glam rock band formed in London in 1970, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). Queen's earliest works were influenced by progressive rock and hard rock, but the band gradually ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly works, incorporating further diverse styles into their music. Before joining Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor had been playing together in a band named Smile with bassist and vocalist Tim Staffell. Freddie Mercury (then known as Farrokh/Freddie Bulsara) was a fan of Smile and he  joined the band shortly thereafter, changed the name of the band to Queen, and adopted his familiar stage name. John Deacon was recruited prior to recording their eponymous debut album (1973). Queen enjoyed success in the UK with their debut and its follow-up, Queen II (1974), but it was the release of Sheer Heart Attack (1974) and A Night at the Opera (1975) that gained the band international success. The latter featured "Bohemian Rhapsody", which stayed at number one in the UK Singles Chart for nine weeks; it charted at number one in several other territories, and gave the band their first top ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Their 1977 album, News of the World, contained two of rock's most recognisable anthems, "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions". By the early 1980s, Queen were one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world, and their performance at 1985's Live Aid is widely regarded as one of the greatest in rock history. In 1991, Mercury died of bronchopneumonia, a complication of AIDS, and Deacon retired in 1997. Since then, May and Taylor have infrequently performed together, including a collaboration with Paul Rodgers under the name Queen + Paul Rodgers which ended in May 2009. The band have released a total of 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles, and 10 number one DVDs. Estimates of their album sales generally range from 150 million to 300 million albums, making them one of the world's best-selling music artists. They received the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1990, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.


The band drew artistic influence from many other British rock acts at the time, such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and David Bowie. Queen composed music that drew inspiration from many different genres of music, often with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. The genres they have been associated with include progressive rock, glam rock, hard rock, pop rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock and dance/disco. Queen also wrote songs that were inspired by genres that are not typically associated with rock, such as ragtime, opera, gospel, vaudeville and folk. One of the most progressive aspects of their early music was their approach to the compositional arrangements. Being proudly anti-synthesiser for the first few years at least, they concentrated on rich and highly skilful vocal and guitar arrangements in extravagantly extended and layered rock structures that went beyond the single riff jams of conventional hard rock. 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 their former producer Roy Thomas Baker, and their 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". Many Queen songs were also written with audience participation in mind, such as "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions". The 1970s were a time for excess, especially in rock music, and few bands came quite as close to epitomising this excess as Queen. Queen intended to be a larger than life rock group, the music had to be perfect, with drama, bombast and excess in the recordings. But the real arena for Queen was the live shows, where both the music and the dramatic presentation of the music, made up the whole package, the visual experience was almost on a par with the music. Queen maintained this approach throughout their career, and quickly adopted and developed music video styles using the most up-to-date technologies for the time, creating what was arguably the first artistic promo video for "Bohemian Rhapsody". Keeping a close eye on the mainstream, the band never stopped growing, developing and changing their style; yet somehow always managed to retain an essential sound that was unique and remains unchallenged as a pinnacle of rock music to the present day. Queen have been cited as an influence by many  musicians. Moreover, like their music, the bands and artists that have claimed to be influenced by Queen are diverse and span different generations, countries, and genres. For progressive rock fans, the most interesting period of Queen was between 1973's debut album and 1976 with A Day At The Races.


HISTORY
Early years (1968–1974)

Brian May
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 the 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. They played a few gigs, supporting such recently formed groups as Yes and Pink Floyd, playing mostly covers, but extending them up to 20 minutes or so, changing tempos frequently. The album "Ghost of a Smile", released posthumously in 1998, is a pale reflection of what the band achieved on the live circuits. Brian May and Tim Staffel were the main writers in Smile, and they released a single in the US, "Earth", which didn't do much on the charts.
Roger Taylor
Some other attempts at making a breakthrough were made, but due to the absence of commercial success Tim Staffel decided to try his luck with another band, Humpy Bong. Freddie Mercury (original name Farrokh Bulsara), was no stranger to Smile, and he had already started performing with Wreckage and later Sour Milk Sea. He had attended several gigs of Smile, being both a friend of Tim Staffel and Roger Taylor, and was interested in joining the band. Freddie already had a vision for the direction Smile had to take, introducing flamboyance, bombast, glamour and visual presentation to their music and live shows. 
Freddie Mercury
Shortly after becoming a member, Freddie proposed the new name for the band, Queen. When asked about the name, Freddie explained, "I thought up the name Queen. It's just a name, but it's very regal obviously, 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 gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it." The band had a number of bass players during this period (Mike Grose (1970), Barry Mitchell (1970–1971), Doug Ewood Bogie (1971)), who did not fit with the band's chemistry.
John Deacon
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, Deacon and Taylor at a Surrey college outside London. Having attended art college, Mercury also designed Queen's logo, called the Queen crest, shortly before the release of the band's first album. The logo combines the zodiac signs of all four members: two lions for Leo (Deacon and Taylor), a crab for Cancer (May), and two fairies for Virgo (Mercury). The lions embrace a stylised letter Q, the crab rests atop the letter with flames rising directly above it, and the fairies are each sheltering below a lion. There is also a crown inside the Q and the whole logo is over-shadowed by an enormous phoenix. The whole symbol bears a passing resemblance to the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, particularly with the lion supporters. The original logo, as found on the reverse-side of the first album cover, was a simple line drawing but more intricate colour versions were used on later sleeves.


In 1972 Queen were spotted at De La Lane Studios by John Antony and they were offered a management deal by Norman Sheffield under Neptune Productions, a subsidiary of Trident Studios to manage the band and enable them to use the facilities at Trident to record new material whilst the management was searching for a record label to sign Queen. This suited both parties at the time as Trident were expanding into management and Queen under the deal were able to make use of the hi-tech recording facilities shared by bands such as The Beatles and Elton John to produce new material. However Trident found it difficult to find a label for the  band. In July 1973, Queen finally under a Trident/EMI deal released their eponymous debut album, an effort influenced by the hard and progressive rock of the time. The album was received well by critics; Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone said "their debut album is superb", and Chicago's Daily Herald called it an "above average debut". It drew little mainstream attention, and the lead single "Keep Yourself Alive", a Brian May composition, sold poorly. Retrospectively, "Keep Yourself Alive" 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.

Keep Yourself Alive

Liar


The group's second LP, Queen II, was released in 1974, and features rock photographer Mick Rock's photo of the band on the cover. This image would be used as the basis for the 1975 "Bohemian Rhapsody" music video production. The album reached number five on the British album chart and became the first Queen album to chart in the UK. The Freddie Mercury-written lead single "Seven Seas of Rhye" reached number ten in the UK, giving the band their first hit. The album is the first real testament to the band's distinctive layered sound, and features long complex instrumental passages, fantasy-themed lyrics, and musical virtuosity. Aside from its only single, the album also included the song "The March of the Black Queen", a six-minute epic which lacks a chorus or song structure, bearing similarity to Queen's later work, "Bohemian Rhapsody". The Daily Vault described the number as "menacing". Critical reaction was mixed; the Winnipeg Free Press describing the record as a "monstrosity". Allmusic has described the album as a favourite among the band's hardcore fans, and it is the first of three Queen albums to feature in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Seven Seas of Rhye


The March of the Black Queen



Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera & A Day at the Races(1974–1977)

After the band's six-night stand at New York's Uris Theatre in May 1974, Brian May collapsed and was diagnosed as having hepatitis. While recuperating, May was initially absent when the band started work on their third album, but he returned midway through the recording process. Released in 1974, Sheer Heart Attack reached number two in the United Kingdom, sold well throughout Europe, and went gold in the United States. It gave the band their first real experience of international success, and was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The album experimented with a variety of musical genres, including British music hall, hard rock, ballads, ragtime, and Caribbean. Sheer Heart Attack introduced new sound and melody patterns that would be refined on their next album, A Night at the Opera. The single "Killer Queen" from Sheer Heart Attack reached number two on the British charts, and became their first US hit, reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It combines camp, vaudeville, and British music hall with May's guitar virtuosity. The album's second single, "Now I'm Here", a more traditional hard rock composition, was a number eleven hit in Britain, while "Stone Cold Crazy" featuring May's uptempo riffs is a high speed rock track. In recent years, the album has received acclaim from music publications: In 2006, Classic Rock ranked it No.28 in "The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever", and in 2007, Mojo ranked it No.88 in "The 100 Records That Changed the World". It is also the second of three Queen albums to feature in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 1975, the band left for a world tour with each member in Zandra Rhodes-created costumes and accompanied with banks of lights and effects. They toured the US as headliners, and played in Canada for the first time. 

Killer Queen


Now I'm Here


In the Lap of the Gods

In September later that year, after an acrimonious split with Trident the band negotiated themselves out of their Trident Studios contract and searched for new management. One of the options they considered was an offer from Led Zeppelin's manager, Peter Grant. Grant wanted them to sign with Led Zeppelin's own production company, Swan Song Records. The band found the contract unacceptable and instead contacted Elton John's manager, John Reid, who accepted the position. 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. The album also featured the hit single "Bohemian Rhapsody", which was number one in the UK for nine weeks and is the third-best-selling single of all time in the UK, surpassed only by Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997". It also reached number nine in the United States (a 1992 re-release reached number two on Billboard for five weeks). It is the only single ever to sell a million copies on two separate occasions, and became the Christmas number one twice in the UK, the only single ever to do so. Bohemian Rhapsody has been voted numerous times the greatest song of all time. The band decided to make a video to help go with the single and hired Trilion, a subsidiary of the former management company Trident Studios, using new technology to create the video; the result is generally considered to have been the first "true" music video ever produced. The album's first track "Death on Two Legs" is said to be written by Mercury about Norman Sheffield and the former management at Trident. Although other bands, including The Beatles, had made short promotional films or videos of songs prior to this, generally, those were specifically made to be aired on specific television shows. The second single from the album, "You're My Best Friend", the second song composed by John Deacon, and his first single, peaked at number sixteen in the United States and went on to become a worldwide Top Ten hit. The band's A Night at the Opera Tour began in November 1975, and covered Europe, the United States, Japan, and Australia.

You're My Best Friend

Bohemian Rhapsody


Death on Two Legs

By 1976, Queen were back in the studio recording A Day at the Races, which is often regarded as a sequel album to A Night at the Opera. It again borrowed the name of a Marx Brothers movie, and its cover was similar to that of A Night at the Opera, a variation on the same Queen crest. The most recognisable of the Marx Brothers, Groucho Marx, invited Queen to visit him in his Los Angeles home in March 1977; there the band thanked him in person, and performed "'39" a cappella. Musically, A Day at the Races was by both fans' and critics' standards a strong effort, reaching number one in the UK and Japan, and number five in the US. The major hit on the album was "Somebody to Love", a gospel-inspired song in which Mercury, May, and Taylor multi-tracked their voices to create a 100-voice gospel choir. The song went to number two in the United Kingdom, and number thirteen on the US singles chart. The album also featured one of the band's heaviest songs, Brian May's "Tie Your Mother Down", which became a staple of their live shows. During 1976, Queen played one of their most famous gigs, a free concert in Hyde Park, London. It set an attendance record, with 150,000 people confirmed in the audience. 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.

Somebody to Love


Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy

Tie Your Mother Down


News of the World & Jazz (1977–1979)

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. With this album, Queen concentrates more on the hard rock and ballad aspects of their music and move away from the progressive tendencies of their first releases into a more radio-friendly, song-oriented style. News of the World 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 United States. 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".

We Are the Champions


In 1978, the band released Jazz, which included the hit singles "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race". The album reached number two in the UK and number six on the Billboard 200 in the US. Reviews of the album in recent years have been more favourable. Another notable track from Jazz, "Don't Stop Me Now", provides another example of the band's exuberant vocal harmonies. 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 United States. 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.

Bicycle Race


Don't Stop Me Now


From The Game to The Works (1979–1984)

Queen began their 1980s career with The Game. It featured the singles "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Another One Bites the Dust", both of which reached number one in the United States. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is 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. After attending a Queen concert in Los Angeles, Michael Jackson suggested to Mercury backstage that "Another One Bites the Dust" should be released as a single, and in October 1980 it spent three weeks at number one. The album topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks, and sold over four million copies in the US. It was also the first appearance of a synthesiser on a Queen album. Heretofore, their albums featured a distinctive "No Synthesisers!" sleeve note. The note is widely assumed to reflect an anti-synth stance by the band, but was later revealed by producer Roy Thomas Baker to be an attempt to clarify that those albums' multi-layered solos were created with guitars, not synths, as record company executives kept assuming at the time. In September 1980, Queen performed three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. In 1980, Queen also released the soundtrack they had recorded for Flash Gordon. At the 1981 American Music Awards on 30 January, "Another One Bites the Dust" won the award for Favorite Pop/Rock Single, and Queen were nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love


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 on 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. Queen worked with David Bowie on the single "Under Pressure". The first-time collaboration with another artist was spontaneous, as Bowie happened to drop by the studio while Queen were recording. Upon its release, the song was extremely successful, reaching number one in the UK and featuring at number 31 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s. Later in 1981, Queen released their first compilation album, titled Greatest Hits, which showcased the group's highlights from 1974–1981. 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 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. 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. Queen left Elektra Records, their label in the United States, 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, several members of the band explored side projects and solo work. May released a mini-album titled Star Fleet Project, on which he collaborated 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 United States, while in the UK it went triple platinum and remained in the album chart for two years.


I Want to Break Free

That year, Queen began The Works Tour, the first tour to feature keyboardist Spike Edney as an extra live musician. The tour featured nine sold-out dates in Bophuthatswana, South Africa, at the arena in Sun City. Upon returning to England, they were the subject of outrage, having played there during the height of apartheid and in violation of worldwide divestment efforts. The band responded to the critics by stating that they were playing music for fans in that country, and they also stressed that the concerts were played before integrated audiences.


Live Aid and later years (1985–1990)

In January 1985, the band headlined two nights of the first Rock in Rio festival at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and played in front of over 300,000 people each night. The Boston Globe described it as a "mesmerising performance". A selection of highlights of both nights was released on VHS with the title Queen: Live in Rio, and was later broadcast on MTV in the US. In April and May 1985, Queen completed the Works Tour with sold-out shows in Australia and Japan. 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 various music journalists commented that Queen stole the show. An industry poll in 2005 named it the greatest rock performance of all time. When interviewed for Mojo magazine the band said the most amazing sight at Live Aid was to see the audience clapping to "Radio Ga Ga". Brian May stated: "I'd never seen anything like that in my life and it wasn't calculated either. We understood our audience and played to them but that was one of those weird accidents because of the music video. I remember thinking 'oh great, they've picked it up' and then I thought 'this is not a Queen audience'. This is a general audience who've bought tickets before they even knew we were on the bill. And they all did it. How did they know? Nobody told them to do it." The band, now revitalised by the response to Live Aid and the ensuing increase in record sales, ended 1985 by releasing the single "One Vision", which was the third time after "Stone Cold Crazy" and "Under Pressure" that all four bandmembers received a writing credit for the one song. Also, a limited-edition boxed set containing all Queen albums to date was released under the title of The Complete Works. The package included previously unreleased material, most notably Queen's non-album single of Christmas 1984, titled "Thank God It's Christmas". In early 1986, Queen recorded the album A Kind of Magic, containing several reworkings of songs written for the fantasy action film Highlander. The album was very successful, producing a string of hits, including the title track, "A Kind of Magic". Also charting from the album were "Friends Will Be Friends", "Who Wants to Live Forever" (featuring an orchestra conducted by Michael Kamen), and the de facto theme from Highlander, "Princes of the Universe".

Who Wants to Live Forever


In summer of 1986, Queen went on their final tour with Freddie Mercury. A sold-out tour in support of A Kind of Magic, once again they hired Spike Edney. The Magic Tour's highlight was at Wembley Stadium in London and resulted in the live double album, Queen at Wembley, released on CD and as a live concert DVD, which has gone five times platinum in the US and four times platinum in the UK. Queen could not book Wembley for a third night, but they did play at Knebworth Park. The show sold out within two hours and over 120,000 fans packed the park for what was Queen's final live performance with Mercury. Queen began the tour at the Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm, Sweden, and during the tour the band performed a concert at Slane Castle, Ireland, in front of an audience of 95,000 which broke the venue's attendance record. The band also played behind the Iron Curtain when they performed to a crowd of 80,000 at the Népstadion in Budapest, in what was one of the biggest rock concerts ever held in Eastern Europe. More than one million people saw Queen on the tour, 400,000 in the United Kingdom alone, a record at the time.


Radio Ga Ga live at Wembley Stadium 1986


After working on various solo projects during 1988 (including Mercury's collaboration with Montserrat Caballé, "Barcelona"), the band released The Miracle in 1989. The album continued the direction of A Kind of Magic, using a pop-rock sound mixed with a few heavy numbers. It spawned the European hits "I Want It All", "Breakthru", "The Invisible Man", "Scandal", and "The Miracle". The Miracle also began a change in direction of Queen's songwriting philosophy. Since the band's beginning, nearly all songs had been written by and credited to a single member, with other members adding minimally. With The Miracle, the band's songwriting became more collaborative, and they vowed to credit the final product only to Queen as a group.

The Miracle



Freddie Mercury's illness, death and tribute (1988–1992)

After fans noticed Mercury's increasingly gaunt appearance in 1988, rumours began to spread that Mercury was suffering from AIDS. Mercury flatly denied this, insisting he was merely exhausted and too busy to provide interviews. The band decided to continue making albums, starting with The Miracle in 1989 and continuing with Innuendo in 1991. Innuendo seems like a complete revolution of the cycle. 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, Mercury made his final public appearance when he joined the rest of Queen to collect the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Innuendo was released in early 1991 with an eponymous number 1 UK hit and other charting singles including, "The Show Must Go On". Mercury was increasingly ill and could barely walk when the band recorded "The Show Must Go On" in 1990. Because of this, May had concerns about whether he was physically capable of singing it. Recalling Mercury's successful performance May states; "he went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal". The band's second greatest hits compilation, Greatest Hits II, followed in October 1991, which is the eighth best-selling album of all time in the UK and has sold 16 million copies worldwide.

Innuendo


On 23 November 1991, in a prepared statement made on his deathbed, Freddie Mercury confirmed that he had AIDS. Within 24 hours of the statement, on 24 November 1991, 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" contain Mercury's final scenes in front of the camera. 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.

Queen's popularity was stimulated in the United States when "Bohemian Rhapsody" was featured in the 1992 comedy film Wayne's World. Its inclusion helped the song reach number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks in 1992 (it remained in the Hot 100 for over 40 weeks), and won the band an MTV Award at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. The compilation album Classic Queen also reached number four on the Billboard 200, and is certified three times platinum in the US. Wayne's World footage was used to make a new music video for "Bohemian Rhapsody". 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. 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.

Annie Lennox & David Bowie-Under Pressure
at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert



Made in Heaven (1995–2003)

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. 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 on the UK charts immediately following its release, and has 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)". It was released as a bonus track on the Queen Rocks compilation album later that year. The song was later released as a single, reaching number 13 in the UK chart. In January 1997, Queen performed "The Show Must Go On" live with Elton John and the Béjart Ballet in Paris on a night in which Freddie 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, and prompted Elton John to urge them to perform again. Brian May and Roger Taylor performed together at several award ceremonies and charity concerts, sharing vocals with various guest singers. During this time, they were billed as Queen + followed by the guest singer's name. In 1998, the duo appeared at Luciano Pavarotti's benefit concert with May performing "Too Much Love Will Kill You" with Pavarotti, later playing "Radio Ga Ga", "We Will Rock You", and "We Are the Champions" with Zucchero. They again attended and performed at Pavarotti's benefit concert in Modena, Italy in May 2003. Several of the guest singers recorded new versions of Queen's hits under the Queen + name, such as Robbie Williams providing vocals for "We Are the Champions" for the soundtrack of A Knight's Tale (2001). In 1999, a Greatest Hits III album was released. This featured, among others, Queen + Wyclef Jean on a rap version of "Another One Bites the Dust". A live version of "Somebody to Love" by George Michael and a live version of "The Show Must Go On" with Elton John were also featured in the album. By this point, Queen's vast amount of record sales made them the second best selling artist in the UK of all time, behind The Beatles. In 2002, Queen were awarded the 2,207th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is located at 6358 Hollywood Blvd. On 29 November 2003, May and Taylor performed at the 46664 Concert hosted by Nelson Mandela at Green Point Stadium, Cape Town, in order to raise awareness of the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. May and Taylor spent time at Mandela's home, discussing how Africa's problems might be approached, and two years later the band was made ambassadors for the 46664 cause.


Queen + Paul Rodgers (2004–2009)

At the end of 2004, May and Taylor announced that they would reunite and return to touring in 2005 with Paul Rodgers (founder and former lead singer of Free and Bad Company). Brian May's website also stated that Rodgers would be "featured with" Queen as "Queen + Paul Rodgers", not replacing Mercury. The retired John Deacon would not be participating. In November 2004, Queen were among the inaugural inductees into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and the award ceremony was the first event at which Rodgers joined May and Taylor as vocalist. Between 2005 and 2006, Queen + Paul Rodgers embarked on a world tour, which was the first time Queen toured since their last tour with Freddie Mercury in 1986. The band's drummer Roger Taylor commented; "We never thought we would tour again, Paul came along by chance and we seemed to have a chemistry. Paul is just such a great singer. He's not trying to be Freddie." The first leg was in Europe, the second in Japan, and the third in the US in 2006. Queen received the inaugural VH1 Rock Honors at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 25 May 2006. The Foo Fighters paid homage to the band in performing "Tie Your Mother Down" to open the ceremony before being joined on stage by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Paul Rodgers, who played a selection of Queen hits. On 15 August 2006, Brian May confirmed through his website and fan club that Queen + Paul Rodgers would begin producing their first studio album beginning in October, to be recorded at a "secret location". Queen + Paul Rodgers performed at the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute held in Hyde Park, London on 27 June 2008, to commemorate Mandela's ninetieth birthday, and again promote awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The first Queen + Paul Rodgers album, titled The Cosmos Rocks, was released in Europe on 12 September 2008 and in the United States on 28 October 2008. Following the release of the album, the band again went on a tour through Europe, opening on Kharkiv's Freedom Square in front of 350,000 Ukrainian fans. The 12 September concert in Ukraine was later released on DVD. The tour then moved to Russia, and the band performed two sold-out shows at the Moscow Arena. Having completed the first leg of its extensive European tour, which saw the band play 15 sold-out dates across nine countries, the UK leg of the tour sold out within 90 minutes of going on sale and included three London dates, the first of which was The O2 Arena on 13 October. The last leg of the tour took place in South America, and included a sold-out concert at the Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires. Queen and Paul Rodgers officially split up without animosity on 12 May 2009. Rodgers stated: "My arrangement with Queen was similar to my arrangement with Jimmy Page in The Firm in that it was never meant to be a permanent arrangement". Rodgers did not rule out the possibility of working with Queen again.



Departure from EMI, 40th Anniversary (2009–present)

In mid-2009, after the split of Queen + Paul Rodgers, the Queen online website announced a new greatest hits compilation named Absolute Greatest. The album was released on 16 November and peaked at number 3 in the official UK Chart. The album contains 20 of Queen's biggest hits spanning their entire career and was released in four different formats: single disc, double disc (with commentary), double disc with feature book, and a vinyl record. Prior to its release, a competition was run by Queen online to guess the track listing as a promotion for the 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. For the first time since the late 1980s, Queen's catalogue will have the same distributor worldwide, as their US home, Hollywood Records, is currently distributed by Universal (for a time in the late 1980s, Queen was on EMI-owned Capitol Records in the US). On 14 March 2011, which marked the band's 40th anniversary, Queen's first five albums were re-released in the UK and some other territories as remastered deluxe editions (the US versions were released on 17 May). The second five albums of Queen's back catalogue were released worldwide on 27 June, with the exception of the US and Canada (27 September). The final five were released in the UK on 5 September. 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. In October 2011, it was announced that Queen will be recording a new album featuring lost demos of Mercury on vocals. Brian May confirmed that he and Roger Taylor are working their way through the band's old material to compile a selection of unreleased songs for the forthcoming album. May also revealed that a series of duets that Mercury recorded with Michael Jackson are to be released. Queen were scheduled to headline Sonisphere at Knebworth on 7 July 2012 with Adam Lambert before the festival was cancelled. Queen's final concert with Freddie Mercury was in Knebworth in 1986 and Brian May commented: "It's a worthy challenge for us, and I'm sure Adam would meet with Freddie's approval." Queen expressed disappointment at the cancellation and released a statement to the effect that they were looking to find another venue. It was later announced that Queen + Adam Lambert would play two shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, London on 11 and 12 July 2012. Both shows sold out within 24 hours of tickets going on open sale. A third London date was scheduled for 14 July. On 30 June, Queen + Adam Lambert performed in Kiev, Ukraine at a joint concert with Elton John for the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation. Queen also performed with Lambert on 3 July 2012 at Moscow's Olympic Stadium, and on 7 July 2012 at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, Poland. 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 Freddie 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".



Musical theatre

In May 2002, a musical or "rock theatrical" based on the songs of Queen, titled We Will Rock You, opened at the Dominion Theatre on London's West End. The musical was written by British comedian and author Ben Elton in collaboration with Brian May and Roger Taylor, and produced by Robert De Niro. It has since been staged in many cities around the world. Following the Las Vegas premiere on 8 September 2004, Queen were inducted into the Hollywood RockWalk in Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. The original London production was scheduled to close on Saturday, 7 October 2006, at the Dominion Theatre, but due to public demand, the show has now been extended indefinitely. We Will Rock You has become the longest running musical ever to run at this prime London theatre, overtaking the previous record holder, the Grease musical. Brian May has confirmed that they are considering writing a sequel to the musical. The musical toured around the UK in 2009, playing at Manchester Palace Theatre, Sunderland Empire, Birmingham Hippodrome, Bristol Hippodrome, and Edinburgh Playhouse. The launch of the musical coincided with Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. As part of the Jubilee celebrations, Brian May performed a guitar solo of "God Save the Queen", as featured on Queen's A Night at the Opera, from the roof of Buckingham Palace. The recording of this performance was used as video for the same song on the 30th Anniversary DVD edition of A Night at the Opera. Sean Bovim created "Queen at the Ballet", a tribute to Freddie Mercury, which uses Queen's music as a soundtrack for the show's dancers, who interpret the stories behind tracks such as "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Radio Ga Ga", and "Killer Queen". Queen's music also appears in the Off-Broadway production Power Balladz, most notably the song "We Are the Champions", with the show's two performers believing the song was "the apex of artistic achievement in its day".

We Will Rock You musical trailer


Brian May's Red Special

Brian May is known for his Red Special guitar custom-built by him and his father, Harold. The guitar is also sometimes named as the Fireplace, a reference to the fact that the wood used to make the neck of the guitar came from a fireplace mantel. Red Special would define Brian's signature style, it was purposely designed to feedback. He has used it on Queen albums and in live performances since the band's advent in the early 1970s. The name Red Special came from the reddish-brown colour the guitar attained after being stained and painted with numerous layers of Rustins' plastic coating. Brian still uses the original but he has been using replicas in some performances since his own company (Brian May Guitars) builds this instrument. Two notable occasions on which the original guitar was not used is in the videos "We Will Rock You", and "Spread Your Wings", using his John Birch made Red Special copy which differs from the original in its all maple construction and natural maple color, since he did not want to expose the Red Special to snow. 



DISCOGRAPHY
Studio albums

Queen (1973)
Queen II (1974)
Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
A Night at the Opera (1975)
A Day at the Races (1976)
News of the World (1977)
Jazz (1978)
The Game (1980)
Flash Gordon (1980)
Hot Space (1982)
The Works (1984)
A Kind of Magic (1986)
The Miracle (1989)
Innuendo (1991)
Made in Heaven (1995)

Queen + Paul Rodgers: The Cosmos Rocks (2008)