Thursday, March 10, 2011

FOCUS ON: QUEEN


Queen was a great rock band, no doubt about that but what made them great was how they added a little something extra that made their music much more exciting, powerful and memorable than your average rock song. The band, made up of Brian May on keyboards/guitar/vocals, Roger Taylor on drums/vocals, bassist, John Deacon and lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury, were open to using any form of music, combined with traditional rock guitar and layered vocals to help make their own fresh and distinctive sound. Queen never worried about following any rules and would wind up paving the way for other artists to feel free to open up the idea of what rock music could potentially be.

Brian May and Roger Taylor first performed together along with Tim Staffel as singer and bassist in the blues-rock band, Smile in 1968. Staffel attended art college with Freddie Mercury, who was then known by his real name, Farokh Bulsara and he became a fan of the group. Smile toured throughout London before signing with Mercury Records where the band recorded several singles.

Tim Staffel decided to leave Smile in 1970 to join another group and Bulsara soon joined the band as lead vocalist. They changed the name of the group to Queen and Bulsara, now known professionally as Freddie Mercury, helped encourage the band to move away from traditional blues-rock and to be more experimental with their sound. While performing on stage, they used different bass players before settling on John Deacon in 1971 to join the group before the recording of their first album.

After several delays, Queen finally released their self-titled debut, "Queen" in 1973. While it received some critical acclaim, the album sold poorly. The group's second album, "Queen II" in 1974 fared much better, reaching the top five in the UK and the lead single, "Seven Seas Of Rhye" went to number ten on the pop charts.

By the release of their third album, "Sheer Heart Attack" later in 1974, Queen moved more towards a traditional rock sound and finally found success outside of England. The first single, "Killer Queen" went to number twelve in the US on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts as well as the album reaching that same position.

With their new found fame, Queen toured the world to sold-out shows that included elaborate costumes and a dramatic stage show filled with lights and visual effects.

In 1975, Queen released, "A Night At The Opera", an expensive production that features diverse musical styling and experimentation. One of the highlights of the album was the song, "Bohemian Rhapsody" written by Mercury that was very unusual because of it's incorporation of a ballad opening, an operatic middle section and a hard rock guitar closer. The main resistance to having this song as a single was it's length. It was over five minutes long which was unheard of at the time but Mercury refused to have it edited down. The song was leaked to a radio station in it's complete form, ultimately becoming a smash hit, with it going to number one in several countries and it is one of Queen's most popular songs.

Throughout the rest of their career, the band continued to experiment by mixing together a wide variety of musical genres such as ragtime, gospel, world, folk and funk with their rock sound to make very distinct Queen records. Queen would have many more hit songs that have become rock anthems including, "We Will Rock You", 'We Are The Champions", "Another One Bites The Dust" and "Under Pressure", a duet with David Bowie. They also created the music for the soundtrack of the 1980 film, "Flash Gordon".

By 1988, many people were alarmed by the gaunt appearance of Freddie Mercury. There were rumours going around that he had AIDS but he denied this, claiming that he was simply just overworked. He continued to work with his band on two more albums, "The Miracle (1989)" and "Innuendo (1991) when on November 23, 1991, a statement was released that confirmed that Freddie Mercury did have AIDS. He died the next day due to complications from the disease. A tribute concert was held in his honor in April of 1992 at London's Wembley Stadium. It was attended by 72,000 fans and raised over twenty million dollars that went to several AIDS charities.

The surviving members of Queen continued to perform together either by sharing vocals or using guest singers. In 2004, Brian May and Roger Taylor teamed up with Paul Rodgers, lead singer for the rock bands, Free and Bad Company, to form a group called Queen + Paul Rodgers. John Deacon decided to retire and did not participate on the project. The group toured for a year and released an album, "The Cosmos Rocks (Amazon Exclusive)" in 2008 before splitting up amicably.

A rock musical was produced using the music of Queen titled, "We Will Rock You" opening in London's West End in 2002. The show became very successful and has been staged in many cities around the world. A feature film is in the works, to begin possibly later this year, about the forming of the band and may star comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury.

Queen recorded fourteen studio albums, had eighteen number one singles and sold over one hundred and fifty million albums across the globe. They were inducted in to The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Here are a few of my favorite Queen songs:

Killer Queen - Queen (1974)

Somebody To Love - Queen (1976)

Bicycle Race - Queen (1978)

Don't Stop Me Now - Queen (1979)

Another One Bites The Dust - Queen (1980)

Queen decided to make a video of  "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 1975 to help promote the song and it is considered to be one of the first "true" music videos:



This is an odd little video for the song, "I Want To Break Free", which features all of the band members in drag. Why? Well, why not?:

ICONA POP ARE "GIRLS GIRLS"

Those Swedish musical party-girls, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, otherwise known as  Icona Pop are back with a new club-banging anthem. ...