With the new Queen movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” now out in theaters everywhere, a movie I most definitely will go and see, I think this article can be interesting to look back on. Here they still were in their infancy and not yet the mega-band that they were to become. It must have been nice for Mr. Hayman, or anyone else for that matter, to meet such an influential band this early in their career. That`s sure something to tell your grandchildren or anyone else that have just a little bit of interest in this extremely creative and wonderful band.
Queen: Britain`s biggest unknowns
By Martin Hayman
Queen are being hailed as the natural successors to Led Zeppelin on the other side of the Atlantic. This may cause an outburst of derisive laughter, hoots, boos, jeers and catcalls from those who think Zep are the cat`s whiskers. But most of the people who have seen Queen agree that they are pretty hot.
They have been touring with Mott the Hoople and make a good showing on what is now a pretty tough assignment, opening the show for Mott: They write and play punchy songs, they are loud and aggressive to the right degree, they look good and move well on stage, especially their singer Freddie Mercury, who besides strutting and prancing has an excellent sharp-edged voice with a lot of power.
It makes one wonder why the New York Dolls were so lavishly feted on their derisory couple of British gigs. I reckon that a British provincial audience would have pulled the Dolls apart in a jiffy; Queen handle them well, and they were getting encores on their set.
And the public are giving them the thumbs up too, which is reflected in steady sales of their debut album – standing now at 15,000 in Britain and a quite incredible 85,000 in the States, where it has crept into the lower reaches of the album charts. Not bad when you think how comparatively unknown they are even here. Evidently not as unknown as we imagine. You might say they were Britain`s biggest unknowns.
I went to Trident Studios on a rainy night before Christmas to find the band hard at work trying to complete their second album before the inevitable cutbacks in production at EMI slowed up their progress. For at this point Queen are at a crucial stage of their career – just before the break, as they say in the business. If they are to maintain the initial impetus it is essential that they get out another album – and preferably a single too – and then get a support gig with a big British act in America.
Business-wise Queen seem to be quite well set. They are signed to Trident Audio Productions, the production and management arm of the studios. Queen are TAP`s first signing and this is likely to give the group considerable leverage with EMI. They are no newcomers to the music scene though, it`s only in the last year that they have turned to music full-time. Bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor had been in a semi-professional group called Smile for a year or two while at college, but it was not until singer Freddie Mercury`s arrival that they named themselves Queen. Wisely they all decided to finish their respective courses before going professional.
John, originally from Leicester, had been at the Chelsea College of Arts and Technology; Roger, up from Cornwall after leaving dental college, joined up with Freddie to run a stall in the Kensington Market; Brian May the guitarist took a degree in Physics and went on to do a Ph.D. in, believe it or not, infra-red astronomy; and Freddie they just describe as a “Kensington poseur”.
I talked to John and Roger in Trident`s re-mix room as they played through such rough mixes as they had finished. The sound was still a bit raw and ragged, but there was no mistaking the originality of the songs and the thrusting energy of the playing, the kind of buzz you only get from a new band whose creativity has not yet peaked.
First song up was “Fairy Feller`s Masterstroke”, so titled after a painting by the Victorian Richard Dadd (it hangs in the Tate Gallery). “Freddie just wrote a song using all the characters in the painting – it`s fairly incomprehensible,” commented Roger. Next up were “Loser In The End” and the atmospheric “Ogre Battle”, with bumping and grinding effects. Freddie (the one with the Bugs Bunny mush and the wigwam of dark hair) is the principal writer, followed closely by Brian, although Roger occasionally turns in a song.
The band were complimentary about the way their first album had been handled by the American record company Elektra, who had used the original cover art-work supplied by the group, which EMI here had not done. They also complained that the record had gone out of stock for six weeks in this country, which could have done them a lot of damage if they were not pushing hard.
It`s to avoid such complications that they are working so hard on the album, to give plenty of margin for other people`s errors. They have their heads screwed on, these fellers, following the business manoeuvres with an interested eye, and Roger was able to give me a sort of market breakdown of Queen`s global trading position – they are especially strong, it appears, in Germany and Sweden as well as the US.
But closer to home, they feel that they acquitted themselves fairly well on the recent Mott tour, despite an outdated PA – actually David Bowie`s old Ground Control. “It was the first time we`d done gig after gig, night after night,” says John, “but we were really pleased with some places – Newcastle and Glasgow and, strangely enough, Bournemouth, seemed to know about us.”
Continued Roger: “I`ve been with the band two and a half years and I`m the newest member. Queen was Freddie`s idea really, about three years back. We`d like to make it everywhere, but we are placing a lot of emphasis on America, but we don`t want to go out there too soon and blow it. For example we`ve been giving a lot of thought to getting in a keyboard. We may get another guy in. It would thicken the sound up. It`s a bit limited with only three instruments on stage, but we don`t really want to make it a five-piece. We`re going to do a tour of concerts before we go to the States. That`ll probably be in April. It`s got to improve a lot yet, the stage sound has to be good every night.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Denny Laine, Hughie Nicholson, Savoy Brown, Deep Purple, Greenslade, Gary Glitter, Dave Lambert.
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