For Queen’s fifth studio album, ‘A Day at the Races’ is considered a sort of companion piece to the preview album ‘A Night at the Opera’. The only connection I feel really is the fact both are titled after Marx Brother movies. Outside of that, they don’t feel connected to me at all. The album was recorded between July 1976 and November 1976 and get its release on December 10, 1976. The album was self-produced by Queen which is the first time they had done that and I am not so sure it worked as well as they hoped. Now their long time producer might be gone, but the band was still in tact. Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon are still going strong.
The album did ship Gold. went to #1 in the UK and #5 in the US and would go on to Platinum status so the band did something right. They released 5 singles and their popularity kept growing with each album release. However, this is not an album I ever really connected to and I gave it enough listens. I actually ended up skipping a couple songs on later listens of the album and that is never a good sign. Now, I am not saying the album is horrible, no as they do make worse ones down the road, I am only saying that I didn’t find this one to be as good as a lot of people say it is. Don’t shoot me, it is only my opinion and plus, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about half the time anyway.
Before the band could record their fourth album, they had to go through a lot of a business crap. Money was becoming an issue in the fact they weren’t getting any. They were extremely disappointed, to say the least, with their current management and record label, Trident. The hired a lawyer and for nine months, battled back and forth until they were successful in getting released from the Trident deal. But it was costly. They were able to get ownership back of their first few albums, but it cost them 1% royalty on the next 6 as well as pay £100,000 and the tour that was scheduled had to be cancelled because it was set up by the old management. Now this was 1975, so that is a lot of freaking money.
Queen was able to get new management and they singed with EMI (UK) / Elektra (US) and were set to create their next masterpiece. This album would be the most expensive album ever to be made (at the time of 1975). It cost £40,000 (or $338,000 in today’s dollars). It was so expensive due to the fact they recorded the album in seven different studios, over 4 months and required a lot of multi-tracking and they ended up using a 24-Track set up. Their last album only used a 16-Track tape. Queen was going big or going home. And if you know them at all, going big is the only way they know.
The band set out on tour after ‘Queen II’ and that is when disaster struck. Brian May was diagnosed with Hepatitis and the band had to cancel the rest of the tour. With no more tour, they started to rehearse and prep for the next album. Luckily May got better and joined his lads when they went in to Trident Studio in July of 1974 to start recording the album. However, May got sick again. This time with a stomach ulcer and he missed some of the recording process. Thankfully for us all, he recovered and came back and finished his part of the album. The album was finally finished in October of that year and released a short time later on November 8, 1974. I guess back then you could get an album out a month after you finished it. Nowadays, you need a minimum of 3 months or more before the album will come out.
The band finally saw some major success both in the UK and around the World. In the UK, the album went platinum and sold over 300,000 copies going to #2 on the charts. In the US, the album went Gold and sold over 500,000 copies going all the way to #12. They released two singles off the album (although they could’ve released more in my book) and saw one go to #2 in the UK and the other to #11. Queen was starting to find its groove. With this album, I think that is true. They stepped away from the more progressive rock sounds and the fantasy themes from the first two album and honestly, I am glad they did. This saw them branch out more and turn out a more complete rock album. Of course, they still experimented with their sound and tried new things, they just weren’t as far out in left field as before. As you can see below, no line-up changes as it is still Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon as it should be.
I am sorry to say I get a little verbose with the first three songs. I did a My Sunday Song on each of those and I liked what I wrote so I used a lot of those post. I promise to not ramble on for the songs after that otherwise we will be here for hours reading and me writing. Enough ranting, let us get to the songs…
In August 1973, the band started recording the follow-up to their debut album. The big difference between recording the first album and this one was now they actually could use a recording studio at any time. The first album, they were stuck recording only when the studio was not being used, now they were with a label, the sky was the limit. The band took full advantage of that and improved production and we even start to see the real over-the-top production we became used to seeing from the band. They finished recording in February 1974 and the album was finally released on March 8, 1974.
The album only had one single which actually charted giving the band their first hit since the song “Keep Yourself Alive” from the debut didn’t even chart. The album went on to go to #5 in the UK and up to #49 in the US where the band was just starting to catch on ever so slowly. The band was starting to get noticed and helped ever more by their touring and stage performances. Who knows, maybe they might make it big one day.
Welcome to the new series on 2 Loud 2 Old Music. We are going to go through all the Studio Albums for the band Queen. And to do this, we are using the 40th Anniversary 2011 Remastered CDs as our source as I picked up the 3 Volume Box Set for Christmas. And with any good series, we will start with their debut album and work our way through all the studio albums in chronological order. I hope you enjoy this new series and note, they won’t be coming weekly like the Kiss Series is doing, these will come as I can get to them and my goal is to be done by the end of the year. With only 15 reviews, I think I can meet that goal.
We aren’t going to go through a detail history lesson of the band as this series focus is the studio albums only. But we will give you a quick rundown of their beginnings. Brian May and Roger Taylor were in a band called Smile in the late 60’s. Freddie Bulsara was a big fan of the band and asked to join the band as lead singer. May of course didn’t think their current lead singer, Tim Staffell would give up that role. Well, eventually he did as he wanted to go in a different direction than what Smile was doing. Freddie joined the band and they changed their name to Queen and Freddie changed his name to Freddie Mercury due to a line in their song “My Fairy King”. This was around 1970. Then in Feburary 1971, bass player John Deacon joined the band and Queen was ready to go.
For My Sunday Song #230, we are ending the Queen 10 song set with “Who Wants to Live Forever” off the 1986 album, ‘A Kind of Magic’. The song was from the movie ‘Highlander’ which I love that movie, but it doesn’t really hold up well when I watched it a few months back but I am getting off topic. The song only charted in the UK and sold well over 400,000 copies and is still a fan favorite as Queen still plays it in their shows today. It is one of my favorite Queen songs and so that it is why it is ending this set.
The song was written by Brian May and he wrote it in only 20 short minutes after watching a clip of the movie where Connor MacLeod’s wife, Heather, dies. You see Connor is immortal and he can’t die (unless he loses his head). The song is the backdrop to that scene in the final cut of the movie. Now in the film version, Freddy sings the whole song, but I am going off the album version where Brian actually sings the first verse and then Freddie takes over.
Musically, the song is a ballad, full of orchestration by Michael Kamen. The song is so haunting, the lyrics even more so and when you add the strings and the full orchestra it is a really moving song and can send chills up and down your spine. It does pick up a tempo as the song builds and the heavy drum beats come in. It keeps building until Freddie lays down that final massive vocal on the chorus. His theatrical talents bode well for getting the emotions across in the song. The song is so grand and so Queen.
For My Sunday Song #229, we are tackling on of the band’s biggest hits, “Another One Bites the Dust” off the Queen album “The Game” from 1980. The song was a departure for Queen as it was more funk and disco but it seems everything they do is a departure as they don’t follow anyone’s rules. The song went to #1 in the US and several other countries and sold over 5 million copies worldwide.
The song was written by bass player, John Deacon, and let me tell you there is some bass in it. The song was inspired by the song “Good Times” by the Chic and resulted from John hanging out a lot with that band as he was a big fan. Now, Roger Taylor wasn’t a big fan of the song, but Freddie loved it and worked hard to get everyone’s buy-in on the song and thanks to Freddie it was put on the album and the rest is history.
The song has so many effects on it, but none are with a synthesizer. It is all bass, guitar, piano and drums. Deacon played all the instruments except Roger’s drum loop. Brian May was on it as he added numerous sound effects using his guitar and a harmonizer. Some of the effects were the tape played backwards at different speeds. As a result of this effect, Christian groups protested the band saying the band was using backmasking to hide messages. They thought the band was promoting the use of marijuana.
For My Sunday Song #228, we are going to discuss the song “The Invisible Man” by Queen from the band’s 1989 album ‘The Miracle’. The song was the third single on the album and reached #12 on the UK Charts. It did not chart in the U.S. In fact, the album didn’t do all that well in the U.S. despite reaching #24 on Billboard. But the song is still one of my favorites on the album and I wanted to have something from ‘The Miracle’ in my 10 song set.
The song was written by Roger Taylor and was inspired by a book he was reading in which the bass line came to him immediately while reading. He titled the song after a book by H.G. Wells called “The Invisible Man”. I am sure you’ve heard of it. Roger doesn’t sing much on the song. He opens the song with saying “I’m the Invisible Man”, but Freddie does all the heavy lifting in the song. And one interesting fact about the song is that is the only Queen song to actually feature every band member’s name in the song. When they say Freddie Mercury, he starts singing. When they John Deacon, there is a heavy bass line going. When they say Brian May, they say it twice and he goes in to a solo. When they say Roger Taylor, he has a quick drum fill. It is all pretty cool.
The song is about a guy he becomes invisible after being rejected by a woman. Now, he actually isn’t invisible physically, only in the fact he is ignored by people and only feels invisible. He can now see right through her and her hidden emotions and the woman suddenly can’t stop thinking of him. He becomes her meanest thought and her darkest fear as the lyrics say. It is an interesting take on invisibility.
For My Sunday Song #227, we are focusing our attention to the song “Killer Queen” by Queen. The song is off their 1974 album ‘Sheer Heart Attack’. The song was released as a single and went to #2 in their home country of the UK and #12 in the U.S. of A. It is song that is quintessential Queen and this was actually the band’s first hit in the US.
The song was written by Freddie Mercury and in an interview from 1974 in the queenarchives.com, Freddie had this to say about the song…
It’s about a high class call girl. I’m trying to say that classy people can be whores as well. That’s what the song is about, though I’d prefer people to put their interpretation upon it – to read into it what they like.
I would have to agree with what Freddie says because the lyrics are pretty clear. This high class beauty has been passed around from country to country by all sorts of men…very high-level and powerful men. I love the lyrics as they are all so playful and well-crafted to flow well together and piece together a funny, yet clever little tale.
Musically, the song starts off with some snazzy finger snaps from Mr. Mercury. Then a piano joins in and Freddie’s miracle pipes chime in. The chorus is full of four part harmonies and there are so many different effects on the vocals as well. The music is as playful as the lyrics and Freddie’s performance is as flamboyant and theatrical as it comes which is a trademark Queen style. Brian May’s guitar work is also top-notched and layered with so many different tracks. It is an all around fun, good time song and one of the reasons Queen is so amazing. They pretty much can do anything and make it sound great.
For My Sunday Song #226, we are going to discuss the opening track to ‘Sheer Heart Attack’, “Brighton Rock” by Queen. The song was not a single and being the first song on the album, I guess you couldn’t call it a deep cut as it isn’t very deep on the album. But there is something in this song that makes it so incredible and we will get to that piece in a minute.
The song was written by Brian May and the vocals were done by Freddie and Brian. Brian wrote the song during the Queen II sessions, but they didn’t feel like it fit that album so they worked it some more and it actually kicks off this album. The song is about 2 “Mod” kids in love, Jenny and Jimmy, who travel off to Brighton on Holiday. I don’t think the holiday goes great as Jenny is afraid she will get in trouble. There is more, but the story isn’t the best part of the song as it is really secondary. It isn’t even Freddie’s singing that is best part even though his vocals are always stellar.
What is incredible about this song is simply, Brian May. The guitar solo is probably one of the best he has ever done, hands down. It is the centerpiece of the song. There is an entire interlude in the song that is only Brian and that guitar. His use of delay for the harmony that sets the song apart. Brian was tinkering extensively with an Echoplex (a tape delay machine) to get the effects he wanted. The song contains one normal guitar sound and then one with the delayed effect and it must be heard to believe as I don’t know how to describe it in words. It is true audio experience.