November 10 – Baker Helped Queen Become Roy-ally Popular

Mama Mia, Mama Mia…happy birthday to the man on the other side of the glass for the creation of rock’s greatest hits. Roy Thomas Baker turns 76 today. Not exactly a household name, but responsible in large part for bringing us some of the music that has made other artists household names…like Queen, the Cars, Cheap Trick, T Rex…

Baker grew up in London, obsessed with music. “The thing that I loved was the way American blues went over to England and got bastardized with artists like Clapton and the Stones, then went back to America. It was this continual bouncing back and forth between the two places,” he says. Unlike so many like him that picked up a guitar or tried to write some tunes, Baker headed into the studio to work with other artists, getting hired on at Trident Studios as a recording engineer not long after finishing school. He was often teamed up with producer Gus Dudgeon, Elton John’s famous producer of the early-’70s. While there, he worked on records from the likes of T Rex, the Rolling Stones and Santana, before being given the opportunity to produce records on his own.

His first production credit was on a Free album, followed by a Nazareth one, but things really clicked when he ran into a new and audacious band called Queen. He produced their first record, then their second…in the end he produced most of their great 1970s records including A Night At the Opera, and of course the wild hit from it, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I remember Freddie playing me ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the first time at his place in London. He played me he beginning part and said, ‘right, now this is where the opera section comes in.’ He left a gap and I’d have to imagine the dramatic opera-style segment. Then we went out to dinner,” he told the New York Times recently. “It took us three weeks to record on a 16-track machine and we used 180 overdubs, which was very, very unusual for back then…I thought it was going to be a hit (but) I didn’t realize it was still going to be talked about 30 years later.”

Around the end of the decade he moved to L.A., soon got hired on by Columbia Records as a staff producer, but not before doing some work for a band that was from the other coast…and from the other end of the spectrum from Queen. He says songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” were “kitchen sink over-production, which I loved…when I did the first Cars record, we purposefully did it very sparse.” He ended up producing four albums for the Cars, then helped make Journey a mega-selling act. From there, he went on to do the soundtrack for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and work on records from artists ranging from Chris DeBurgh to the Stranglers. As journalist Rick Clark puts it, “instead of simply giving rock fans more of the same, Roy Thomas Baker has managed throughout his long and distinguished career to produce audacious and distinctive projects while successfully reading the pulse of mainstream audiences.”

Presently Baker has homes in Europe, but has L.A. as his home base, where he has a 40-track recording studio by his house he shares with wife Tere, the actress who portrayed Theresa in the Godfather movies.

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August 19 – John The Yin To Freddie’s Yang

Happy birthday to the quiet piece of one of rock’s biggest and most flamboyant bands. John Deacon, the former bassist for Queen turns 71 today.

Deacon grew up in Leicester, England and was in his first band by age 14, playing guitars at first then bass. Unlike some rock stars though, his music never became his sole passion or purpose, and he went to college, getting a degree in electronics by 21. Around that time Freddie Mercury had his band together with Brian May and Roger Taylor, but lacked a regular bassist. Enter John Deacon.

Deacon wasn’t instantly overwhelmed with the idea. He grew up liking soul music and though he’d grown interested in prog rock and even some classical music by the early-’70s, he wasn’t sure Queen was his calling. The other three thought it was though and won him over.

We were so over the top,” Taylor says, “we thought because he was so quiet, he would fit in with us without too much upheaval.” Brian May had another reason to like him too; Deacon built him his own amp with his electronics knowledge.

Although mainly just a bass player in the shadow of the flamboyant singer and flashy guitarist, beginning in 1974, he began writing at least one song on every Queen album, including a couple of their best known ones – “Another One Bites The Dust” and one he wrote for his new wife, Veronica, “You’re my Best Friend.” He also played electric piano on that one; besides bass he could play keyboards and guitars and now and again did so with the band.

Curiously, his low-profile extended even towards the critics it seemed. Rolling Stone was lambasted by fans when they failed to include him in a list of rock’s great bassists. Journalist Troy Smith from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame put him at #16 on his own list, stating “had all John Deacon ever done was ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, he might still have made the list. It’s arguably the most iconic bassline in rock (but) his basslines were the key ingredient on Queen classics.”

Over time he and Freddie became very close so Deacon was especially hard-hit by Freddie’s death. After playing the Tribute concert for Mercury with the band, he said “as far as we are concerned, this is it. There is no point carrying on (the band.) It is impossible to replace Freddie.”

After a few years, Brian and Roger disagreed that Queen had to bite the dust and reformed the group (initially with Paul Rodgers) but Deacon retired. It’s not entirely clear what his opinion of Queen with Adam Lambert is, but Brian May says “John Deacon is still John Deacon. We don’t undertake anything financial without talking to him,” while Roger Taylor says less diplomatically “John’s a sociopath…he’s given us his blessing to do whatever Brian and I might do with the brand. And we’ve done rather a lot.” Tellingly, Deacon didn’t join Taylor and May when Queen got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Sociopath or just a musician who felt his band had done all it could do, Deacon lives a fairly quiet life with Veronica and some of his six kids in southern England these days. Brian May recently said he would like to see Deacon in a social setting but had no hope for ever working with him again.

May 21 – Hot Space Got Cold Shoulder From Fans

Being a successful musician seems to mean being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Being super-successful seems to involve that and being something of a magician or mystic at the same time, managing to steer the sound successfully. The problem is, once you have a following, if you keep sounding the same, people will typically get bored with you (AC/DC fans excepted) …but if you change sound, you risk alienating many of your fans who’ll long for your “traditional” sound. Few can navigate frequent change well and keep their fans. Even Queen struggled with it, as we found out four decades back – Hot Space came out this day in 1982.

It was their tenth studio album, coming about a year and change after their experimental soundtrack to Flash Gordon, and two years after their smash The Game which had elevated them to unmitigated superstar status worldwide with hits like “Another One Bites The Dust”. They were getting a bit restless perhaps, and well aware that the prevailing hit sounds were quite different than they were five or six years earlier when they were making their mark with songs like “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions.” Bassist John Deacon and their star singer Freddie Mercury in particular seemed to want to shift gears with the band.

Drummer Roger Taylor says Deacon particularly was tired of their anthemic rock sound. “John’s always been R&B orientated,” he’d say a year or two after the album release, “I think we went too far and did too much.” Neither he nor guitarist Brian May liked Freddie’s personal manager, Paul Prenter one bit. Prenter apparently disliked rock and May says “he wanted our music to sound like you’d just walked into a gay bar, and I didn’t.” He further aggravated them by keeping Mercury away from reporters and rudely alienating quite a few American radio people in the process, never helpful when you want them to play your new record. For another change, they recorded it – slowly due to heavy partying – in Germany and Switzerland, no doubt taking in the latest Euro-pop sounds along the way.

The result was an interesting, but oddly varied album using far more synthesizers than they had before and fewer Brian May guitar bits. For the first time they brought in drum machines. The one real standout on the album was a song everyone already knew – “Under Pressure”, the duet with David Bowie which had been pre-released months earlier.

There were some other highlights, though opinions varied as to what they were. Brian May got to show off his guitar a little with his bluntly anti-gun “Put out the Fire”; the band did a tribute to John Lennon (with them recording the record at the time Lennon was killed) called “Life is Real,” and “Calling All Girls” was a likeable little pop song that would have sounded at home as one of the lesser tracks on The Game. Still, diehard fans found little to really cheer on and the new wave, younger crowd they were seemingly working to musically seduce weren’t interested.

Reviews weren’t terrible…unless you put it in context of them being for one of the most successful and loved acts of the decade preceding it. Smash Hits rated it 5 out of 10; The Guardian gave it just 2-stars noting “by the time (it) came out, disco had mutated into weird, skeletal dubby electronic sounds…which didn’t really suit Queen.” Rolling Stone was a bit more generous, rating it 3-stars. They opined “Queen offers a bit more than bluster” with their “funky songs”, singling out “Back Chat” as “a hot rock funk tune with guitar tracks as slick as any icy dancefloor,” but warning that “Body Language” is “a piece of funk that isn’t fun.” Later, allmusic rated it just 2.5-stars, the lowest of anything they did while Mercury was alive. They called it an “unabashed pop/dance album…devoting the entire first side to robotic, new wave dance pop driven by drum machines” before “finally getting synth-drum new wave right” with “Calling All Girls.” They summed it up by suggesting “Under Pressure” would be the only track on it fans would remember. Interestingly, to the record’s credit (well, debate among yourselves if it is that) it did have a big fan in Michael Jackson who loved it and said it was a big influence on Thriller.

While “Under Pressure” was one of their biggest hits, the other singles released didn’t exactly re-write the Queen song book or necessitate a lot of added cabinet space for awards. “Body Language,” with its oft-banned video peaked at #25 at home for them, doing a bit better here, hitting #11 in the U.S. and #3 in Canada. “Calling All Girls” hit #33 in Canada, but flopped in the States, the only other market it was put out in as a single; back in the UK “La Pelagras De Amor (The words of Love)” was released instead, and hit #17 and #10 in Ireland. “Put out the Fire” did well on North American rock radio, but wasn’t put out as an official single. When all was said and done, the album did top the Austrian charts and got to #4 in the UK, #5 in Germany and #6 in Canada. It stalled at #22 in the U.S., but still got them a gold record. Worldwide sales topped three million, decent but far down from their big hits of the late-’70s and 1980. The Game, for instance sold more than double that. The band’s manager, not to be confused with Mercury’s own, called it “a disaster.”

Sadly for American fans, the album’s limited appeal might have kept them from going to see Queen when they toured for it. As it turned out, it would be the last time Mercury would play shows on this continent, with their next one (and the last before he began to get ill from AIDS) being limited to Europe.

February 18 – Queen’s Last Speech From The Throne

We looked at the Brit Awards earlier this week. The 1990 ones, held on this day in London, were not especially noteworthy in most respects. Fine Young Cannibals took home the Best Album for their The Raw and the Cooked, Phil Collins won the Best Single for “Just Another Day in Paradise.” But the ’90 awards have since gone on to gain historical poignancy. Terry Ellis, co-founder of Chrysalis Records and producer of several bands such as Jethro Tull hosted the night. The highlight, as it often is, was the presentation of the award for lifetime achievement, known as Outstanding Contribution To Music. On this night, the fitting recipient was Queen.

Of course, in retrospect, Queen seem like one of the best, biggest and most important Brit acts of all-time. It was coming up to the 20th anniversary of their first show. However, although popular, at the time they weren’t universally revered nor were they on a winning streak so to speak. They’d only won one Brit Award before, for single of the year with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And although they’d put out their sixth album of the ’80s a few months earlier (The Miracle), their triumphant set at Live Aid seemed almost a lifetime back. Although The Miracle did become their sixth #1 album at home, it was close to a flop in North America, where it peaked at #24 in the U.S. and their last really big hit had been a decade earlier with songs from The Game. Even in Britain, their sales were going downhill and, surprisingly to most, the band known for their exuberant and excellent live shows hadn’t toured at all for the album. Rumors abounded.

All that should have been put aside for the night as their excellence was honored. A short video mixed clips of the band at Live Aid with messages of congratulations from the likes of Phil Collins, Elton John, Bob Geldof and Roger Daltrey (who said if he had any advice at all for them, it’d be “don’t break up!”). But the actual acceptance was rather a denouement.

The band, dressed neatly, came up to the podium. Brian May spoke on behalf of the band, thanking the awards and especially those “outside the industry” for letting them do what they do and “go out on a bit of a musical limb.” A decidedly somber-looking and thinner than expected Freddie Mercury, in a tasteful light-colored suit but lacking his trademark moustache, stood to the side, just quietly saying “Good night, thank you” as they sped off the stage barely three minutes in.

As we now know, it was the last time we’d see Mercury in public. He’d been diagnosed with AIDS some three years earlier and was in poor health, which the band knew but the public was kept in the dark about despite ongoing tabloid stories based on innuendo and second-hand reports. Freddie passed away in 1991.

Good night, and thank you, Freddie.

February 2 – Maybe Queen Really Are Champions Of The World

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character famously wakes up every morning (which is in fact the same morning) to the sound of Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” Well, if you ever put on the car radio, or have it on at your work, you might think every day is Groundhog Day…but Queen has replaced Sonny & Cher. Because apparently the Brit rockers are the most-played rock artist on radio world-wide.

That according to a much quoted recent report by Viberate. I wasn’t really familiar with Viberate, so I turned to musicologist Alan Cross who calls it “a new way for artists to both keep track of their music and to make vital connections within the music business.” Essentially, it’s a gigantic database which tracks music radio play, streaming, downloads and even appearances on social media, rating songs social media performance, radio performance and even “respect.” It’s fascinating…but altogether too big a rabbit hole to fully explore here! However, their 2021 report had some interesting observations, including “rock is resurrected.”

They looked at radio stations from 150 countries around the globe and list “Pop” as being the most-played genre, with 141 million total spins from tracked stations, followed by “rock” with about 80 million. Hip-hop then Latin Music follow, each with less than half the prominence of rock. Now, how they exactly draw the line between pop and rock is unclear (Billy Joel – rock? pop? who’s to say), but we can see that rumors of rock’s death have been greatly exaggerated. On Spotify, the presumably younger base still pick Pop the most (145 billion streams) but hip-hop is next, then Latin and then Rock, with about 32 billion streams.

Back to radio, world-wide, Ed Sheeran is becoming one very wealthy young man. His music was played more on radio than anybody else, over four million times last year. He was followed by Dua Lipa, the Weeknd…and then Queen. Queen tracks were played just under three million times worldwide. If you’re at all like us, it might seem that about two million of those airings were on stations that you happened to be tuned into at the time! I-heart Radio report that “Another One Bites the Dust” was the #1 played song by Queen on the Viberate report, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” couldn’t have been far behind. More surprising – the fifth most-played artist, worldwide was… Maroon 5.

So, there you go. The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” might be the most-played song ever on radio, but Sting and friends apparently have to curtsy to Queen, when it comes to total radio attention these days.

December 27 – Mama Mia, Mama Mia, That’s A Hit

As unlikely a rock hit as ever has been, Queen had the #1 hit in Britain with the six-minute operatic classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” on this day in 1975.  Amazingly, 16 years later in 1991, the song was again sitting at #1 in the UK on this day! In so doing it joins a very limited number of records that have topped the charts there twice for the same artist. And between the nine weeks atop the chart it would spend in 1975-76 and the five more in the early ’90s, it is one of the longest-running #1s of all time in “Jolly Ol'”.

Its resurgence in popularity was largely due to its use in Wayne’s World, something director Penelope Spheeris wasn’t sure about, much like the people at the record label weren’t sure it could be a winning single back in the ’70s. Mike Myers insisted, Queen later thanked him and the rest is history. It had hit #1 in its first (’70s) run in Canada and Ireland as well, in the U.S. it peaked at #9…but rose up to #9 after Wayne’s World came out.

The song was unusual in so many ways. Its tip of the cap to opera and length made it an unlikely candidate for a single, let alone a hit. Freddie Mercury said of it “we knew it was risky, but we had so much confidence in that song…if it was successful it would earn us a lot of respect.” Also unusual for the time was the video, something not at all common in the mid-’70s but something Queen did routinely. That alone is noteworthy: Rolling Stone suggest “its influence cannot be overstated, practically inventing the music video seven years before MTV went on the air.” It garnered them more exposure on shows like Top of the Pops and a few years later, the Kenny Everett Video show. Everett at the time was one of the radio DJs who helped the tune become the hit it was.

Twice to #1- amazing, and more striking given the very unusual sound compared to its contemporaries on ’70s AM radio. In 2018, it’s stature rose yet again due to the biopic of Freddie Mercury which borrows its title for its own. To date the movie has taken in $900M worldwide, making the biggest “music movie” of all time.

September 5 – The King Of Queen

Not many famous people have come from Tanzania. In fact, we’d go out on a limb and suggest most of you couldn’t even name one… but also suggest you know one well! Then again, not many people were like that person – Farrokh Bulsara, one of the great singers of the modern era. Yeah, if you’re drawing a blank, you might know him better as Freddie Mercury! And he was born this day 75 years back.

While he was born in Africa to Indian parents, one must recall that back then much of the world was under British control, so no surprise that he went to boarding schools in India being taught in English and eventually would move to the UK, where he got a degree in arts. One of his old schoolmates in India recall him loving music and being able to play music he heard on radio by ear on the piano. His first real band was called Ibex in London, back in 1969. No one seems to know much about them but we know about the band he formed with John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor the next year. About the name Queen, he said “it’s very regal obviously and it sounds splendid… I was certainly aware of the gay connotations but that was just one facet of it.” With them he not only wrote some of their big hits like “Somebody to Love,” “We Are The Champions” as well as of course the audacious “Bohemian Rhapsody” but he became one of rock’s premier showmen and perhaps its best voice.

Rolling Stone ranked him the 18th greatest singer ever, applauding his “hard rock hammerer, disco glitterer, a rockabilly lover boy. Freddie Mercury was dynamite with a laser beam… and a four-octave voice.” L.A. Weekly did that better last year, ranking him the greatest singer of all-time on a chart that included not only rockers but the likes of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holliday. A study printed in the Consequence of Sound and elsewhere in 2016 suggests that Freddie was naturally a baritone but could easily handle tenor parts and, through scientific analysis, found that his “vocal cords just moved faster than other people’s.”

Mercury passed away in 1991 from AIDS. Needless to say, his reputation and fan base has grown posthumously, especially with the release of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody which tasked then little-known Rami Malek with the ambitious job of channeling the late, great singer’s energy and voice.

August 9 – Freddie’s Fearless Finale

About 120 000 or so were on hand this day in 1986 in the east of England at the Knebworth (although not the actual Knebworth Festival) to see what would turn out to be a historic concert. Likely no one in the crowd knew it at the time, but possibly the band did. What they were seeing was the very last Queen concert with Freddie Mercury.

It was the tail end of their 26 date European “Kind of Magic” tour. At the time Queen were enjoying a renewed popularity, in no small part due to their great set at Live Aid the previous year. The band brought in Status Quo, Belouis Some and Big Country to open for them, with videos of Thin Lizzy played on the large video screen between sets.

The headliners arrived to great fanfare in their own helicopter and set into a show described as between “over and hour” and “a full two hours.” Sadly, the Knebworth staff note the show wasn’t recorded officially for posterity, though “there’s a Dutch bootleg going around.” Mercury looked noticeably thinner than before but was in fine form through the hour-plus set. They gave a fine performance that included a good chunk of their catalog of hits including “Under Pressure”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Hammer to Fall”, “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions,” “Another One Bites The Dust” and the sadly ironic “Who Wants to Live Forever?” At the end, “God save the Queen” played through the PA, Freddie hoisted a gold crown and waved to the fans and left for the last time after over 700 concerts with his bandmates. It seemed a good, but unremarkable concert to most. LMNR say “Mercury himself radiated energy, positivity and a willingness to create a quality show.”

There were one of two odd things however. Peter Hince said John Deacon smashed his bass during the show, uncharacteristic of the normally level-headed quiet guy. “John acted strangely on that tour. He was doing stuff that was out of character.” After the show, Mercury headed out and flew home almost as soon as the anthem shut down, but not before saying to his bandmates “Oh, I can’t f@@**n’ do this anymore! My whole body’s wracked with pain!” But Brian May says “he normally said things like that at the end of every tour”, so he didn’t think much of it. There were one or two odd things though.

Mercury was undoubtedly already in ill health at the time. Although he lived until late 1991, his longtime partner Jim Hutton said Mercury tested positive for AIDS only months after this concert and would only be seen with Queen one more time, looking very frail in 1990 when they picked up an award.

Except for a one-off tribute show in 1992 (in which greats like Elton John, George Michael and David Bowie took turns at the mic while the original trio played), Queen wouldn’t return to the stage for almost 20 years. In 2005, they toured with Paul Rodgers singing. Roger Taylor said of that, “we never thought we’d tour again. Paul came along by chance and we seemed to have a chemistry (but) he’s not trying to be Freddie.” Good thing that. Roger Daltrey of the Who echoes what many feel in saying Mercury was “the best virtuoso rock’n’roll singer of all-time. He could sing anything in any style.”

July 23 – Everybody Wanted Billy In ’82

Mixing heavy metal attitudes and pop sensibilities was big in the early-’80s. In fact, it likely never goes far out of style. One artist who did that well, albeit briefly back then was Massachusetts’-born Billy Squier, who for a year or two was one of the hottest male artists on the charts. He released his third album, Emotions In Motion on this day in 1982. It picked up right where the predecessor, Don’t Say No, and its hit “The Stroke” left off the year before.

Squier was at the time about 32 years old and a veteran of the Boston-area scene. He got interested in being a rock star after seeing Cream – Eric Clapton particularly impressed him – as a teen. He toiled away in several largely unsuccessful bands through the ’70s before signing with Capitol and going it on his own. In a way of speaking.

Squier wrote all ten tracks himself, but had some decent studio help behind him and his guitar and well-known producer Reinhold Mack working with him. Mack was best known for his work with Queen, including their 1980 hit The Game. What’s more, he apparently introduced Billy to the famous band. Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor add backing vocals to the title track and are thanked for “emotional support” in the liner notes. Brian May would add some guitars to Squier’s next record. They weren’t his only famous contacts. As one might guess from looking at it, the album cover was done by Andy Warhol.

Although as one would expect from an album with song titles like “It Keeps You Rockin’” and “Keeps Me Satisfied”, Emotions in Motion was pretty much straight-ahead, slickly-produced FM-ready rock. But he did reach a little, and as Classic Rock Review would later note, “served to expand Squier into the sub-genres of funk, new wave and other dance-oriented rock.” Allmusic, which rated it 3-stars, considered it his “most consistent solo record” and figured he “expands on the Led Zeppelin-influenced exploits of Don’t Say No”, partly by “veering into Rolling Stones territory on horn-laced ‘Catch 22’, borrowing heavily from ‘Tumbling Dice’” Britain’s Get Ready to Rock noted the album had recently been reissued on CD and thought while “the percussion is a little over-produced” all-in-all, “the album’s saving grace is the compositions…strong enough to avoid sounding dated.”

The record buyers were in motion in 1982, grabbing Billy’s record. The title track was a top 20 hit on American rock radio and got to #13 on Canada’s singles chart, while “Everybody Wants You” made #32 in the States and topped the Mainstream Rock charts. Combined they helped push the album to double-platinum status at home, taking only three months to first be certified platinum, where it hit #5. In Canada it also went platinum and made it to #8, but elsewhere, the main emotion towards it seemed to be disinterest.

Squier last studio album, Happy Blue, a much more acoustic-based record than most of his, came out in 1998. But he’s performed at times since, including a couple of tours with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. He now lives in New York City and keeps busy volunteering as a groundskeeper at Central Park.

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July 13 – First Jewel In Queen’s Crown

Twelve years to the day before they’d steal the show with their epic set at Live Aid, Queen had another big day. One noticed by far fewer however. On this day in 1973, the quartet of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon put out their self-titled debut album on Hollywood or EMI Records, depending on where you were. Like many other great bands though, it was a fairly inauspicious beginning.

They’d begun about three years earlier in London and by early-’72 had recorded a demo which they shopped around. They found a record company and got to use the well-known Trident Studios in the Soho neighborhood, and hooked up with Roy Thomas Baker who’d go on to be their regular producer for some years. The good news was that they were allowed to use the studio for free. The bad news was they had to do so in the few downtimes when it wasn’t in use. Add to that the of both Mercury and Baker and their penchant for re-recording take after take, and it took over four months to put together. Most would say it was worth the wait though.

The result was, as allmusic describe it “patchy but promising.” Over half the songs were written by Mercury, many of them (“Great Rat King” “My Fairy King” etc.) were rather sci-fi, fantasy world creations that come to their acme a few years later with “Bohemian Rhapsody”; then there was a song called “Jesus”, which, truth in advertising, was about the Biblical Jesus. Brian May contributed a few of the more straight-forward rockers like “The Night Comes Down” and the near-hit single, “Keep Yourself Alive” (which was unusual in having Taylor and May join Mercury in the singing.)

The public didn’t pay a lot of attention to the odd “heavy metal” band. Although it is now gold in the UK and U.S., (platinum in Poland – go figure) it topped out at #24 in their homeland and#83 in the States. Each of the dozen studio albums they’d record later in Mercury’s lifetime would do better in Britain, but the ball was rolling. Likewise, “Keep Yourself Alive,” a song which many would agree with allmusic in calling “one of their very best”, didn’t even make the charts – nor many radio playlists.

Critics however, did give it a listen and were actually quite astute. In Canada, the Winnipeg Free Press predicted the “driving high energy set” could “in time be looked upon with the same reverence Led Zeppelin One now receives.” Rolling Stone graded it 4-stars (although surprisingly to say the least, they later downgraded it to 2-stars for their comprehensive albums guide) with similar accolades. “Superb,” they exclaim, “funky energetic English quartet has all the tools they’ll need to lay claim to Zep’s abdicated heavy metal throne.”

Looking back, it might seem odd that Queen were called “heavy metal”… but not strange to consider them in the same level of rock greatness as Led Zeppelin or any other British group of the ’70s.