Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar, vocals), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). Queen's earliest works were influenced by progressive rock, but the band gradually ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly works, incorporating more diverse and innovative styles in their music. Before joining Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor had been playing together in a band named Smile with bassist Tim Staffell. Freddie Mercury (then known by his birth name of Farrokh/ Freddie Bulsara) was a fan of Smile, and encouraged them to experiment with more elaborate stage and recording techniques after Staffell's departure in 1970. Mercury himself 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 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.
Serious question: is anyone left in the known cosmos who hasn’t already heard these songs? Is it possible to think of Darth Vader after a hard day at the office blowing up planets without imagining him retiring to his chamber afterwards to put his feet up with a nice glass of chardonnay and Somebody to Love on the stereo? Can one really picture Spock and Kirk in the holodeck, playing a game of squash without their preferred soundtrack, You’re My Best Friend?
Apparently there are people still on this very planet, Earth, who have never been exposed to the rock and roll majesty of Queen and their iconic Greatest Hits albums. And while there are tapir-hunting tribesmen in Borneo who haven’t heard the ‘politically of its day’ harmonised rock of Fat Bottomed Girls, and goat-milking crofters on the Isle of Arran who are unaware of the priapic, steroid-pumped funk rock of Another One Bites the Dust, it is EMI’s right ”“ nay, their duty ”“ to keep on reissuing these essential rock artefacts.
Only a fool would try and find fault with these discs. While they don’t necessarily contain all of Queen’s finest tracks (Sheer Heart Attack from News of the World, for example) or even all their best singles (It’s Late, for another example), they certainly are the mightiest statements the four-piece ever recorded. These are essential compilations that any coach driver, jukebox filler or wedding DJ worth their salt will have as the bedrock of their collection.
The first volume (pictured, tracklisting to the left) is one of the most successful albums of all time, having shifted 25 million copies and covers the first stage of their career, spanning Seven Seas of Rye (1974) to Flash (1980). In amongst the songs that even your grandma knows (Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, Don’t Stop Me Now) are a few gems that show exactly how weird Queen were for a mainstream rock group, such as the futuristic howling pomp-rock of Now I’m Here.
While, perhaps unavoidably, the second disc isn’t quite as stunningly impressive, it still charts the second half of their career well (from doldrums to Live Aid to impressive second act to Freddie Mercury’s sad decline) and sold a not unenviable 16 million copies. And even though the melancholia present in their later singles (The Show Must Go On, Innuendo) isn’t something a fan always wants to dwell on, this is also where to find some of their finest moments (Hammer To Fall, I Want To Break Free, Under Pressure). Buy a couple of copies for those isolated Inuit herdsmen in your life. User Comments