Queen during the mid-70's. Clockwise from the top: Brian May, John Deacon, Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor.
"We are a very competitive group. We are four good writers and there are no passengers."
— Freddie Mercury as quoted in the Freddie Mercury Solo Collection
Queen is a famous British rock band known for their style which combines hard rock, massed vocal harmonies, Brian May's complex, intricately arranged and highly overdubbed guitar work, catchy pop melodies, surreal humour and flamboyant, theatrical performances (which the band was steered towards chiefly by Mercury). The band was formed in 1970 with frontman Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara), guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. After going through a series of short-term bassists, they finally settled with John Deacon in 1971.All members of the band were songwriters, approaching wildly different styles, from straight-up Hard Rock and Arena Rock to Glam Rock, Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, disco/Funk, pop, rockabilly, New Wave and Synth Pop, going all the way between 1 and 7 on the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness. While all bandmembers shared an eclectic approach to songwriting and a tendency for experiments, generally speaking:
Mercury was responsible for many of their ballads ("Love of My Life", "My Melancholy Blues"), pop songs and stylistic experiments ("Killer Queen", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Somebody to Love" etc.).
If you're headbanging to an incredibly guitar-heavy Hard Rock tune it's probably been written by May ("Prophet's Song", "Tie Your Mother Down", "We Will Rock You"). May was responsible for his fair share of Tear Jerker ballads, too ("Save Me"; "All Dead, All Dead", "Who Wants To Live Forever") and acoustic folk-, '30's jazz- or skiffle-influenced songs ("'39"; "Good Company"; "Dreamers' Ball"), often featuring ukelele-banjo.
If the song is more old school rock-ish and its lyrics deal with things like rebellion, passion, living a life outside the rules etc., it was probably penned by Taylor ("Tenement Funster", "I'm in Love with My Car", "Sheer Heart Attack", "Fight from the Inside"). Somewhere in the early to mid '80s, Roger began composing pop songs with a heavier focus on synths ("Radio Ga Ga", "Breakthru").
The other band members have observed that Deacon was less influenced by bands like Led Zeppelin or The Who than the rest of them and had preferred Soul and American Funk music in his youth. As a result a lot of his songs have a kind of Motown pop style ("You're My Best Friend", "Misfire") or a funky, bass-driven sound ("Another One Bites the Dust", "I Want to Break Free"). He also wrote several ballads, including "Spread Your Wings", "You and I" and "Friends Will Be Friends" (the last one in collaboration with Freddie, with whom he also co-wrote "The Miracle").
The band unofficially ceased to exist after Mercury died of AIDS in 1991. Unwilling to continue without a key member, the band stopped all activity besides a posthumous album with Mercury's previously recorded vocals and one single in 1997. Deacon officially retired from the band soon afterwards. May and Taylor have continued to record and tour in collaboration with other musicians under the "Queen + ..." moniker, which resulted in one album, The Cosmos Rocks with Paul Rodgers as singer. The album was greeted with critical disdain and a fan backlash over the perceived nature of Rodgers as a Replacement Scrappy, despite May and Taylor repeatedly pointing out that he was only a featured artist and not a replacement for Mercury. (Ho hum.) Rodgers parted with the band in 2009, and subsequently the group performed with former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert in 2011 through 2014.
Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
2008 - The Cosmos Rocksnote A collaboration with Paul Rodgers
1979 - Live Killers
1986 - Live Magic
1989 - At The Beeb
1992 - Live At Wembley '86
2004 - Queen On Fire – Live At The Bowl
2005 - Return Of The Championsnote The first of two live albums made with Paul Rodgers
2007 - Queen Rock Montreal
2009 - Live In Ukrainenote The second of two live albums made with Paul Rodgers
2012 - Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live In Budapest ’86
2014 - Queen: Live At The Rainbow '74
1974 - Seven Seas Of Rhyenote Otherwise available on their 1974 album Queen II
See What A Fool I've Been as the B-side
1980 - Play The Gamenote Otherwise available on their 1980 album The Game
A Human Body as the B-side
1981 - Under Pressurenote Otherwise available on their 1982 album Hot Space. Also a collaboration with David Bowie
Soul Brother as the B-side
1984 - Radio Ga Ganote Otherwise available on their 1984 album The Works
I Go Crazy as the B-side
1984 - Thank God It's Christmas
Man On The Prowl as the first B-side note Otherwise available on their album The Works
Keep Passing The Open Windows as the second B-side note Otherwise available on The Works
1985 - One Visionnote Otherwise available on their 1986 album A Kind Of Magic
Blurred Vision as the B-side
1986 - A Kind Of Magicnote Otherwise available on their album A Kind Of Magic
A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling as the first B-side
Gimme The Prize (Kurgan's Theme) as the second B-side note Otherwise available on A Kind Of Magic
1986 - Who Wants To Live Forevernote Available on their 1986 album A Kind Of Magic
Killer Queen as the first B-side note Otherwise available on their 1974 album Killer Queen
Forever as the second B-side
1989 - I Want It Allnote Otherwise available on their 1989 album The Miracle
Hang On In There as the B-side
1989 - Breakthrunote Otherwise available on their album The Miracle
Stealin' as the B-side
1989 - The Invisible Mannote Otherwise available on The Miracle
Hijack My Heart as the B-side
1991 - I'm Going Slightly Madnote Otherwise available on their 1991 album Innuendo
Lost Opportunity as the first B-side
The Hitman as the second B-side note Otherwise available on their album Innuendo
1997 - No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)
Tie Your Mother Down as a double A-side note Otherwise available on their 1976 album A Day At The Races
We Will Rock You and ''Gimme The Prize (Kurgan's Theme) as a double B-side note Remixes otherwise not available elsewhere
This band contains examples of:
A Cappella: "We Will Rock You". The song is generally set in A cappella form, using only stomping and clapping as a rhythmic beat, except at the very end, which has a guitar solo. Alternately, there is the lesser known 'fast' version, played in their live shows from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Here's a BBC semi-live recording of said version.
Achievements in Ignorance: Roger Taylor's a more instinctive musician, so he doesn't know and doesn't care about the names of some of the chords or harmonic functions, etc. When he composed 'Radio Ga Ga', he used some chords that he was completely unfamiliar with, not knowing what they were actually called. He wrote that song on piano, knowing that it would encourage him to 'feel' his way and be more creative than if he played guitar. Freddie occasionally did the opposite; he mostly wrote on piano, but composed some songs on guitar. He felt it was a good process precisely because his limited guitar skills allowed him to write without overthinking it.
Ambiguously Brown: Freddie. His real name was Farrokh Bulsara, he was born in Zanzibar, East Africa to Parsi parents, and he went to boarding school in Bombay, India. According to Wikipedia, he was named one of the 60 most influential Asian heroes of the last 60 years.
Ambiguously Gay: Freddie. He rarely to never came out and admitted his sexualitynote the famous quote "I am as gay as a daffodil, my dear" is actually apocryphal, though Julie Webb claims he did state something to that effect one time they met, but he was able to get much past the radar (the Leatherman look of the late seventies, and the Manly Gay "clone" look of The Eighties comes to mind) until his death. Queen's image combined the fey and the macho even after the "glitter rock" phase of The Seventies.
American Accents: Freddie claims to have one during the 1986 Wembley concert, and asks the audience if they like it. It's pretty good.
The Apartheid Era: The band got a lot of heat for playing the Sun City resort in South Africa during apartheid.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The titular character from "The March of the Black Queen" is known to 'boil' (people), 'bake' (people) and to 'never dot her "i"s'.
Freddie (before he was Freddie Mercury) was a big fan of Smile, a band consisting of Tim Staffell, Brian May, and Roger Taylor. After Staffell left to join another band, Freddie got his foot in the door, and was soon offered to join the group. He encouraged the remaining members to change the name to Queen - the rest, of course, is history.
Freddie was completely in love with the singing voice of Montserrat Caballé, a renowned Spanish opera singer. Eventually he got the chance to collaborate with her, the result being the album Barcelona.
He was also a huge fan of Aretha Franklin, and once said that he wanted to a duet with her, in which she'd basically sing it all and he'd come in at the end and say "Ah!"
Attractive Bent-Gender: Roger Taylor in the "I Want to Break Free" video. He also grew a mustache before joining the band because men often mistook him for a woman due to his long hair and effeminate look.
Audience Participation Song: "We Will Rock You", "We Are the Champions" and "Radio Ga Ga" spring to mind, though this works with a lot of their output. Freddie left the first lines of "I Want to Break Free" to the audience, and he himself explicitly stated that "Love of My Life" had been "turned into a duet" with the audience as early as the live shows of the late 1970s. And then there's the obligatory singing "contests" Freddie had with his audience, where he sang a sequence of notes, and the audience had to match it. On the Live Killers album, Freddie himself commented it with "You buggers can sing higher than I can, I tell you". Brian May and Roger Taylor imagine that songs like "I Want It All" and "The Miracle" could have ended up like this as well if Freddie hadn't become too ill for the band to keep touring after 1986.
Badass Boast: "Princes of The Universe", "Gimme The Prize", "We Are the Champions" (no time for losers) and "Seven Seas of Rhye". The lyrics also contain bits of A God Am I. Given that the first two are from Highlander this should not be surprising. "Khashoggi's Ship" also counts, for the six of us who've heard it. Just partying with a famous arms dealer, gun-wielding giants be damned . . .
The words "No Synthesizers", which appeared on every Queen album cover prior to 1980's "The Game" are a Badass Boast. And if you don't believe that, go listen to all of "A Night At The Opera" again.
Badass Mustache: Freddie Mercury. As one November ad says, it turned Freddie from merely a queen to Queen!
Brian and Roger's commentary for Queen Rock Montreal reveals that, at this point, Freddie was emphatically not pleased about making a concert film, didn't really get on with the director and thought the cameramen were getting in the way. Since the plan was to take footage from both nights' shows, he tried to make a mess of that by wearing trousers on one night and shorts on the second.
Freddie also got really annoyed at one concert when fans showed up with banners that read "DISCO SUCKS" after the release of Hot Space. "It's only a bloody record for Christ's sake, people get so excited."
Roger, on the other hand, musically disliked the idea of steering Queen too far away from their rock roots into funk or techno-pop as they had by The Eighties, though he still acquiesced in the end.
"Tie Your Mother Down", the first song from A Day At The Races opens with a "White Man" foreshadowing that segues into an endless staircase-esque sound that goes right into the actual song and doesn't appear again until the very end of the album, serving as the coda for "Teo Torriate".
"White Queen" from Queen II begins and ends the same way. This was most definitely intentionally done to mirror the song's thematic progression, with "As It Began" being the subtitle of the song.
The band's lineup: it started with May and Taylor playing together in Smile, and now they are the only ones left performing.
Boring, but Practical: Brian May's method for supplying the harp parts on "Love of my Life". Since he couldn't actually play the instrument, he recorded each note separately and edited them together to get the chord sequences he wanted.
Break Up Song: "Save Me", "Need Your Loving Tonight", "It's a Hard Life", and probably some others.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Freddie went through that phase for some albums and his solo effort Mr Bad Guy. Some of his songs would be originated by asking the producer or engineer to generate a drum beat and then he'd just ad-lib and go out expecting the others to finish off the work for him. During most of his career he seriously averted this by being a very professional workaholic, both in the 70's and in the last years of his life.
British Teeth: Well, "Zanzibar Teeth", maybe, of Freddie Mercury.
Camp: The video for the operatic "It's A Hard Life" takes it Up to Eleven. It features Freddie Mercury dressed in a costume that looks like a giant prawn, John Deacon and Roger Taylor wearing tights, ruffs and doublets and Brian May playing a guitar made of a skull and crossbones and a random foot shot between Freddie and his girlfriend at the time, all surrounded by a crowd of elaborately-costumed, ultra-hammy extras dressed like opera characters in period costumes. John Deacon also has a Unicorn head on a stick for some reason.
Cargo Ship: "I'm in Love with my Car", on A Night at the Opera is a canon example:
Character Development: "It's A Hard Life". It starts off with the singer dramatically announcing there's no reason to go on in life after a break-up, then within his mourning, he realizes how much effort lasting relationships take throughout the song. At the last chorus, the lyrics have changed to a more optimistic outlook, as he moves on without regret, instead reflecting back on the break-up as a lesson learned in life.
Christmas Rushed: A failed example. Innuendo was supposed to be available for Christmas 1990, but was delayed because of Freddie Mercury's health. It was eventually released in February of 1991, nine months before Mercury's death.
"Love of My Life" has "when I get older I will be there at your side to remind you how I still love you, I still love you". Sixteen years later, "These Are the Days of Our Lives" (by a different songwriter though) has an older (and dying) Freddie singing "when I look and I find, I still love you... I still love you." The video makes it all even more tearful, as it was Freddie's last.
"Seaside Rendezvous" from A Night At The Opera has "I love you madly", while "Was It All Worth It" from The Miracle has "We love you madly".
"Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race" (both released on one single) reference each other; "Bicycle Race" features "Fat Bottomed Girls will be riding today," and "Fat Bottomed Girls" has "Get on your bikes and ride!"
One of the album tracks from Jazz ("Let Me Entertain You") includes the lyric, "We'll Breakfast at Tiffany's / We'll sing to you in Japanese" as a reference to the song "Teo Toriatte" from the A Day at the Races album (which had a chorus sung in phonetic Japanese).
The symmetrical group image featured in the cover of Queen II (and on the profile pic) was frequently used in videos, including "Bohemian Rhapsody" and an updated one in "One Vision".
"A Winter's Tale", one of the few songs from Made In Heaven recorded during the post-Innuendo sessions, has a subtle but charming one, "It's a kind of magic in the air"
"It's A Beautiful Day" has a relatively big one that might have not even been intentional in that Freddie continuously chants "No One's Gonna Stop Me Now" throughout parts of the song, either a generic boast of his, or a fairly glaring reference to one of his songs that was (when "It's A Beautiful Day"'s vocals and piano were recorded) very recently released note "It's A Beautiful Day" was partially recorded in 1980, a mere year or so after the Jazz album was released.
"No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)", being the reflective song that it is, also has several, namely the lines "Another tricky situation", "Forever paying every due" and "Now the party must be over", referencing "It's A Hard Life", "We Are The Champions" and "Party"/"Khashoggi's Ship" respectively.
The clip to "Radio Gaga" features brief excerpts of several of their clips to earlier songs.
They never actually recorded any cover songs on their albums (except "God Save the Queen" at the end of Night at the Opera, guitar orchestrated by May, but they performed plenty of cover songs during live shows. Examples include "Big Spender" at their early concerts, "Jailhouse Rock" on all their shows from 1973 until 1982 including the version on Queen Rock Montreal, and a medley of "Hello Mary Lou", "You're So Square", "Tutti Frutti" and "Gimme Some Lovin'" on the Magic Tour of 1986.
"Doin' All Right" is a song that was originally done by May's previous band Smile, so past member Tim Staffell also demanded royalties.
Freddie's biggest solo hit, "The Great Pretender", is a cover of a song by The Platters.
They have quite a few, some of which are merely unfinished demos, but several are arguably finished, but simply weren't used anywhere. In a more conventional use of the trope, they also have a few B-Sides that many fans argue to this day would've made excellent album tracks. Examples include "A Human Body" from The Game sessions, "Soul Brother" from the Hot Space sessions, and "Lost Opportunity" from the Innuendo sessions. Notably (by those points in time), the first and third of those songs were not sung by Freddie.
Of the "finished songs that weren't used at all" variety, we have "Dog With A Bone", a track that was most likely recorded between A Kind Of Magic and The Miracle. Likewise, "Face It Alone" (which was recorded in a rough but complete form some point afterwards) is also a notable unused track. Both songs exist around the internet in varying quality, but always with unavoidable artifacts (such as static being very audible). Unfortunately, it seems that Queen Productions does not intend on releasing higher quality versions of the songs despite going out of their way to take them down from YouTube and the like.
1977—1982 concerts featured drummer Roger Taylor singing lead on one song, "I'm In Love With My Car", on which Freddie stuck to piano and backing vocals. Most of their albums had one song with Brian singing lead and one song with Roger singing lead. Brian also occasionally played piano, such as on "Save Me" and "Teo Torriatte", while John Deacon played some guitar on "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Misfire". Less frequently but still, Roger would play guitar, bass and provide vocals in addition to drums.
Roger singing lead vocals was particularly notable, in that his performances of "I'm In Love With My Car" were the only instances where another band member sang lead vocals live before 1992. Freddie sang in Roger's place for "Modern Times Rock and Roll", and Brian's for "'39", as well as "Sleeping On The Sidewalk" (though it is debated if the latter was actually played live, as no bootleg recordings exist to verify it).
Roger had a sort of I Am the Band moment with "Fight from the Inside", which was entirely recorded by himself on vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Some other of his compositions at that time were almost entirely recorded by him too (e.g. "Drowse" and "Sheer Heart Attack") , with minimal contributions by the other members (generally some guitar noises by Brian)
Dead Artists Are Better: It's an unfortunate fact that Queen had their most successful period in America immediately after the death of Freddie Mercury. Freddie Mercury himself encouraged Brian May to make use of this trope, urging him to release the single "Driven by You" around the time of his death, so the single could sell better.
Determinator: In their commentaries for the music videos from The Miracle on the Greatest Video Hits II DVD, Roger Taylor and Brian often comment on how Freddie Mercury put as much energy as he could into making the best possible videos in spite of how fragile his health had become by 1989.
The story of how vocals to "The Show Must Go On" (itself an example of the trope) were recorded is similarly famous:
"When Brian May presented the final demo to Mercury, he had doubts that Mercury would be physically capable of singing the song's highly demanding vocal line, due to the extent of his illness at the time. To May's surprise, when the time came to record the vocals, Mercury consumed a measure of vodka and said "I'll fucking do it, darling!" then proceeded to nail the vocal line in one take without problems."
By the time when Freddie recorded vocals for "Mother Love", his last studio recording before his death, he could no longer stand up on his own (and wasn't able to finish the recording).
Dirty Old Man: The title character in "Great King Rat" is described as one in the lyrics.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Freddie kept his HIV/AIDS diagnosis secret from the late 80s until shortly before he passed away in 1991 because he was afraid people would only buy Queen albums out of sympathy. Though it still hasn't stopped people from criticizing him for hiding it until the end, arguing he could've helped raise greater awareness of AIDS. However, during Freddie's illness, AIDS was considered a "gay disease", the moral panic the AIDS epidemic nurtured was at an all-time high (people still believed you can catch AIDS from toilet seats or mosquitoes, or even by hugging or shaking hands with someone with the disease).
Members of the tabloid media (mostly run by Rupert Murdoch) were surrounding Freddie's mansion in London, pointing microphones and cameras every which way, clamoring for unflattering photos showing how sick Freddie really was, etc. He and his friends, relatives, Queen co-members, assistants, lovers, and so forth were constantly badgered to come forth about Freddie's illness by gossip hounds, and he was made a prisoner of his own home. He and his loved ones spent much of their time in Montreaux hoping to escape this intense scrutiny. Freddie, already an intensely private person, shielded himself and those he loved from the media to protect them. It was also important to Freddie that he carry on as normally as possible and not alarm people to his illness, so he kept it private and donated money anonymously to AIDS charities till the end.
Found mostly in their 70s material, particularly on their first two albums. Songs close to or exceeding six minutes in length include "Bohemian Rhapsody", "The Prophet's Song", "Liar", "March of the Black Queen", "Father to Son", "It's Late", "Innuendo", and that 22-minute ambiance at the end of "Made in Heaven".
Brian's first solo effort (1984's Star Fleet Project EP) was three songs of epic rocking, featuring contributions from Eddie Van Halen and an extended tribute to Eric Clapton.
Every Episode Ending: Played with. A few (but not all) of the songs from A Night at the Opera have similar endings: the song will pretend to end, but then a heavily panned coda appears out of nowhere. At first, it sounds like it builds up to something, but nothing's really done with it.
Face Death with Dignity: Not only alluded to in "The Show Must Go On" ("I'll face it with a grin/I'm never giving in/On with the show"), but Freddie's own sendoff was like this since, knowing that the end was inevitable at that point, he simply stopped taking the medicine that would keep his HIV at bay.
The guitar at the end of "The Prophet's Song" fades into the introduction for "Love Of My Life" on A Night At The Opera.
Done twice consecutively on Sheer Heart Attack: "Tenement Funster", "Flick Of The Wrist" and "Lily Of The Valley" merge into one another seamlessly.
"Procession", "Father to Son" and "White Queen (As It Began)" merge seamlessly into one another. "Ogre Battle" merges into "Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke", which then merges into "Nevermore". "The March of the Black Queen" merges into "Funny How Love Is". These were all on the same album, Queen II.
First Girl Wins: When the band began, Freddie was dating a beautiful blonde English woman named Mary Austin. They moved in together for a while before breaking up in 1976. After that, Freddie dated many men and women, eventually being domestic partners with an Irish man, Jim Hutton. When Freddie died, Mary received half of his fortune (the other half was split between his sister and his parents), including his mansion, his piano, and publishing royalties.
The Miracle has the titular song along with "Breakthru", both of which mention "All God's People" and "Headlong" in their lyrics, respectivelynote These are the titles of songs from the album that directly followed The Miracle, Innuendo. In the case of "Headlong", the lyrics in context are "rushing headlong", a phrase it shares with the "Headlong" song. The degree to which these were intentional is hard to say.
Gadgeteer Genius: Brian May holds a Ph.D in Astrophysics. He also designed and built his guitar, the Red Special, with his father in 1964. The guitar's neck is mostly a piece of wood salvaged from an old fireplace mantlepiece, and the tremolo bar is a motorcycle handbrake combined with a knitting needle.The guitar's body was made out of an old Mahogany-table that was going to be replaced anyway. John Deacon also tinkered with electronics in his youth and later graduated with a First in electrical engineering. He joined in part because the others were impressed by his skill with equipment. He designed and built a guitar amplifier that Brian deemed good enough use while recording.
Gag Boobs: Freddie, (in)famously in "I Want to Break Free".
Genre Roulette: A typical Queen album from The Seventies might contain elements of heavy metal, hard rock, progressive rock, music-hall numbers, Dixieland jazz, folk, blues-rock, Beatlesque pop-rock, glam-rock and ballads. Later albums would include funk, dance music, synth-pop, punk-rock, rockabilly, reggae and/or new wave influences. Freddie suggested that this was why it took so long (close to fifteen years after Queen began) for Roger and himself to put out the first Queen solo albums; the band was four solo projects that came together to create the Queen sound.
Glam Rock: One of the longest lasting bands from this genre, bridging the gap between the artsy (David Bowie and Roxy Music) and heavy (Sweet, Slade) sides of the genre.
Go Out with a Smile: "These Are the Days of Our Lives" was written and released shortly before Freddie Mercury's death. At the end of the music video (filmed in black and white to de-emphasise his frailty) Freddie looks directly at the camera and whispers 'I still love you', his last ever words on camera.
Grand Finale: There's no denying that "The Show Must Go On" is this.
We'll breakfast at Tiffany's, we'll sing to you in Japanese
We're only here to entertain you
Gratuitous Panning: Most notable in "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Killer Queen", but it happened all the time. Part of their unique production style, along with all the overdubbing. The middle choral section of "The Prophet's Song" uses this trope to make it easier to follow.
Greatest Hits Album: The two main ones — Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits II — were released in 1981 and 1991 respectively and collected the hit singles of the preceding decade. A third album, Greatest Hits III, is probably more aptly described as "Greatest Leftovers", consisting mainly of live Queen+ recordings and some remixes, although it does contain some good songs which were left out on I and II and needed to be included.
The US received the 1981 Greatest Hits (with a different track list), as well as both a modified version of Greatest Hits (red cover) and the US-only Classic Queen (with a blue cover similar to Greatest Hits II) in 1992. Classic was issued largely to capitalize on "Queen-fever" brought on by Wayne's World (see above).
Grief Song: One of the songs from Queen Rocks, "No-One But You," was written by the remaining members of Queen, not only in mourning of Freddie, but as a more general lament for public figures who suffered tragic deaths, spurred by the sudden passing of Princess Diana.
Heavy Meta: Roger Taylor wrote quite a few songs about rock music. His very first composition for the group was "Modern Times Rock and Roll", after all.
I Call It "Vera": Brian May's guitar, "Red Special", which he built from scraps as a teenager. Also of note was the amp often used with the Red Special, the "Deacy Amp", built by Electrical Engineer-turned Bassist, John Deacon.
Freddie's bottomless microphone stand; during a gig very early in the band's career his mic stand snapped in half in the middle of a song, but he carried on with the intact bit and decided it would be more interesting to keep it like that.
Brian May's Red Special guitar.
Important Haircut: Freddie, Roger and John all had long hair in the 1970s, but then appeared with shorter hair around the time of News of the World, which represented new directions in the group's style. Freddie's famous mustache, which he grew around the time of The Game and the Flash Gordon soundtrack, also accompanied changes to Queen's sound. Only Brian May has kept the same haircut (huge, dark and curly) for the past 40 years (one of his conditions for Queen's inclusion in Lego Rock Band was that they portray his hair accurately).
"Seven Seas of Rhye" is a surreal, apocalyptic A God Am I rant by Freddie Mercury including such lyrics as "I'll defy the laws of nature and come out alive/and then I'll get you." It ends by fading into a sample of the old music-hall tune "I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside".
"Great King Rat", a surreal song describing the less-than-savory life of the title character, has a chorus based on "Old King Cole": "Great King Rat was a dirty old man and a dirty old man was he."
Taken to its Logical Extreme: a Long Runner band (20 years) with only one lineup: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylornote however, in the early, early days, they went through several bassists before they found John.
From 1984, Spike Edney was known as the unofficial fifth member of the band, playing keyboards and guitar on tours. He has also stayed around for their live collaborations into the 2010s.
Since Mercury's death and Deacon's retirement, "Queen +" has had the lineup of May and Taylor + various musicians and vocalists.
Long Song, Short Scene: Their version of "New York, New York", which can be heard on Highlander never got a full version recording (they only recorded it partially, to match scene it plays on; Kurgan's drive through New York). It's never been released, except as a snippet in the movie itself.
Lyrical Cold Open: Many of their songs have this. Some loudly announce themselves with an opening chorus ("Bohemian Rhapsody", "Fat Bottomed Girls", "Bicycle Race", "It's A Hard Life", "I Want It All") while others open with a quiet fade in of Freddie's vocals ("We are the Champions", "Save Me", "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy"). "Somebody to Love" does a bit of both ("Can...any-bo-dyyyy...").
"I Want to Break Free" is not a happy song, but has a catchy, upbeat tone.
There's also "Don't Try Suicide," which is about suicidenote while it's nice that Queen are, in fact, not in favor of suicide, the text really sucks as an anti-suicide message, being flippant and dismissive rather than empathetic and supportive but sounds like a reject from West Side Story.
Hell, Queen have this all over the place. "Bring Back That Leroy Brown", "Misfire", "'39", "Somebody to Love", etc.
"One Vision" is an upbeat, inspirational song mostly about Martin Luther King Jr.. It was covered by Laibach, who rendered it as a German-language faux-Nazi song. Critics at the time had sometimes equated Queen with fascism, due to the hold Freddie had over the audience coming as one, and due to the critics' dismissal of the kind of arena rock Queen did so well.
"Radio Ga-Ga" can be interpreted as a New Wave song calling for classic rock to stay alive.
"Dead On Time" is a driving, pulse-pounding, heavy piece...about how rushing around all the time isn't that great and you should take it easy.
Metal Scream: "In the Lap of the Gods" has a lot of them. Roger Taylor used to perform them live at every concert just to prove they weren't synthesized. "Gimme the Prize" from the Highlander soundtrack showed that Freddie could do this too, even though he hated the song.
Applies to a lot of their work, with "Bohemian Rhapsody" being the defining example. However, since the very moment people could analyze it, many have claimed to "get" it, even if Freddie himself has said that the song has no real personal meaning.
"Mama, just killed a man" from "Bohemian Rhapsody" is sometimes heard as "Mama just killed a man" (as in the mother killed someone and not the protagonist). "Bismil'lah" (Arabic for "by the grace of God") is often misheard as "Miss Miller" or even "Max Miller". "The algebra is the devil put aside for me", or some variation thereof, is another common one.
"He used to be a man with a stick in his hand" from "Headlong" may be misheard as "He used to be a man with his dick in his hand".
"Sheer Heart Attack" from News Of The World kind of just... stops. Not to the effect of the band just abruptly stopping, but... imagine if you were listening to the song and someone came over and turned off the device that was playing it immediately after the chorus.
To an extent, "Tenement Funster". The song builds up to something akin to a Grand Finale near the end, but when it actually happens, the song technically just segues into "Flick Of The Wrist". Even on most versions of Queen's First EP (which also has the song), the song fades out during the transition without a proper ending. Of course, many people argue that the song's ending can be heard beneath said transition, but it's still jarring nonetheless.
Non-Indicative Name: Jazz. The songs on the album draw from a variety of musical styles, like most Queen albums, but there's nothing on it even remotely resembling jazz.
Posthumous Collaboration: Deliberate on Freddie's part for Made in Heaven. Freddie recorded as many vocals as he could for the band to work with, but they still had to dig deeper than that to make a full album. For example, Brian sings the last verse of "Mother Love" because Freddie didn't finish his vocal. A lot of Freddie's vocal and piano work on Made in Heaven comes from long before 1991. All in all, only three songsnote "Mother Love", "You Don't Fool Me", "A Winter's Tale" are actually written and completely recorded after Innuendo.
"Son and Daughter" features the line "The world expects a man to buckle down and shovel shit." The word was never uttered in live versions, simply truncating the sentence at 'shovel', or saying 'it' instead.
Product Placement: An accidental one. "Killer Queen" opens with the line "she keeps Moët & Chandon in her pretty cabinet", which was a mere comment on how classy the fictional girl was. The winery benefited when the song became a big hit, and as a reward, they sent the band and producer vats of champagne as well as passes for Wimbledon and Grand Prix.
"I Want It All" was interpreted both as an anti-apartheid song and as an LBGT anthem, though neither of those meanings were intended by the band. The anti-apartheid interpretation is rather ironic in that Queen was one of the few major groups not to abide with the UN cultural boycott on apartheid South Africa, and they ended up fined and blacklisted. Queen members later argued that they weren't a political group and that the crowd was integrated, missing the point on the policy of deinvestment.
"I Want To Break Free" was also adopted as an LGBT anthem. In contrast, audiences in South Africa and South America appreciated it as an anthem against oppression.
"Hammer to Fall" describes the futility of war in the face of our ultimate mortality. It was interpreted by some as a Cold War protest song, though Brian May has vocally denied this.
"Radio Ga-Ga" can be seen as a direct rebuttal to "Video Killed the Radio Star", calling for radio to stay viable in the face of MTV (which, in 1982, was nothing more than a visual radio station). The updated version used in the play We Will Rock You directly attacks the mass-produced, digital pop that appeared in the 2000s.
The Quiet One: John Deacon, almost literally; he was the only member who didn't sing, and said very little in group interviews, generally only speaking when a question was directed specifically to him. Since the band went their separate ways in 1991, John mostly retired from the music industry, only going back into the studio to record the "No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young)" single. He was later presumably okay with Queen + Paul Rodgersnote once May and Taylor managed to convince him that they weren't replacing Mercury, something of a Berserk Button for him, but declined to take part.
Retcon: Everybody knows Brian made his guitar with his father and he calls it Red Special, right? Yeah, only that the story wasn't always told like that: in the early days, not a single mention of May Sr's contribution was made — perhaps the band's publicists thought it was more impressive to just credit Brian for it, it was more 'rock and roll' that way — and the nickname 'Red Special' only came much, much later in the story, and it might have been originated by either the press or the fandom, although now Brian uses it as well.
Rule of Cool: During the video for "Princes of the Universe", Connor MacLeod from Highlander challenges Freddie Mercury to a swordfight. The duel ends in a DRAW. Think about that for a second... Add in that Freddie is fighting with the microphone stand.
Also, the traditional song "Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside" which plays at the end of "Seven Seas of Rhye".
Self-Backing Vocalist: Their trademark was to massively overdub their vocals to create a choral effect. Depending on the song, they could have only Freddie ("Love of My Life"), only Brian ("Leaving Home Ain't Easy"), only Roger ("Tenement Funster"), Freddie + Brian ("All Dead, All Dead"), Freddie + Roger ("Rock It"), or all three of them, as in the majority of their work. Sometimes they even sang each part (alto, tenor, baritone) together in order to make the resulting bounced sound really big.
Self-Deprecation: They all played other instruments besides their main one, but were usually more than modest about it. Freddie often half-joked on stage that he could only play three chords on guitar, Brian called his own piano skills "sub-par", Roger (in the 80's) said his voice was getting worse with every passing day, John was often shy about his own abilities on other instruments or when it came to songwriting (lyrics in particular, Freddie too) and said he never sang on any albums because he felt he couldn't compete vocally with the other three. Freddie famously replied to a question about how he functioned as an artist with "I'm not an artist, I'm just a musical prostitute, my dear".
'70s Hair: Brian May has kept his for more than forty years.
The music video for "Radio Ga Ga" was based upon, and also featured actual footage from, the Fritz Lang classic Metropolis — which Freddie supplied a song for in a modern overdub. The "The Works" tour's stage setup was also based on the same film, with a cityscape in the background and large gears. The lyrics to the song also specifically mention Orson Welles' infamous The War of the Worlds broadcast.
"Bring Back That Leroy Brown" (from Sheer Heart Attack) is a homage to Jim Croce, who had died the previous year.
"Let Me Entertain You" specifically mentions Elektra and EMI, Queen's then record labels in America and Europe, respectively.
Both Redfield siblings from the Resident Evil series seem to be Queen fans. Chris owned a bomber jacket with "Made in Heaven" emblazoned on the back, while his sister Claire had two biker vests, one with the same "Made in Heaven" design and another with "Let Me Live."
The song "Dragon Attack", from 1980, mentions their chief engineer (later promoted to producer) Mack.
Around mid-80's, John Deacon lost his license for a year because of a DUI. Roger Taylor referenced that in his song "Don't Lose Your Head."
Another Deacon-related one: he once went AWOL during some recording sessions leaving just a note on his bass saying 'gone to Bali', which shocked and upset the rest of the band. The line 'we went to Bali' was incorporated to "Was It All Worth It", which Freddie thought at the time would be his swan song (he didn't think he'd live long enough for another album).
Sixth Ranger: Spike Edney was the band's touring keyboardist in the 1980s (when Freddie decided he wanted to spend more time moving about and interacting with the audience) and also provided additional guitars and backing vocals. He was sometimes referred to as the band's fifth member, and has since played with Brian and Roger in the solo projects as well as with Queen+Paul Rodgers.
Song Style Shift: "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a famous example of this, but this is found in several of their earlier more progressive songs. For example, "The Prophet's Song" is a hard rock song with an extended a capella section in the middle, where Freddie goes crazy with the studio overdubs.
Soprano and Gravel: Done occasionally, expecially with their more operatic songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Seven Seas of Rhye", with Freddie alternating between a harsh, growling tenor and a clean, piercing falsetto. Within the band itself, in contrast to Freddie and Brian, Roger frequently deployed a much harsher, snarlier voice, closer to really angry Roger Waters ("Fight from the Inside" is clear proof of this, or "Fun It" — it's really easy to tell Freddie and Roger apart there).
Freddie Mercury wrote "It's A Hard Life" as a direct sequel to "Play the Game". "Somebody To Love" is a sweeping rock opera to follow up "Bohemian Rhapsody".
The album Hot Space was meant to be a spiritual successor to the massive success of the Funk-influenced "Another One Bites the Dust," although its success was limited.
The opening lines of "It's a Hard Life" share a significant snippet of melody with Vesti la Giubba from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.
More notably, the entirety of A Day At The Races can be thought of as a "sequel" to A Night At The Opera. They're both named after Marx Brothers films, the album art is almost exactly the same with a black background rather than white, and many of the songs parallel each other. "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Somebody to Love", "'39" and "Long Away", "The Prophet's Song" and "White Man", "You're My Best Friend" and "You and I", and very specifically, both albums open with Epic Riff-driven Hard Rock tunes ("Death on Two Legs [Dedicated to...]" and "Tie Your Mother Down").
Additionally, "In The Lap Of The Gods", "My Fairy King", "Liar" and "March Of The Black Queen" could all be seen as predecessors to "Bohemian Rhapsody".
Though they're written by and partially sung by different members, "Fun It" and "Another One Bites The Dust" have similarities. The drum intros sound particularly similar.
Although it may not seem like a lot at first, Queen II and Jazz actually have quite a bit in common. They both have album artwork that is primarily in black and white, they're both very heavy, Up to Eleven albums compared to the band's other work, and a lot of techniques used on Queen II were reused on Jazz (namely, the "sitar" like sound created by sticking piano wire under the guitar frets and a multitracked guitar that emulates the sound of a string section). Finally, you can draw a number of parallels between the songs on both albums; "Mustapha" almost sounds like Freddie trying to recreate "The Fairy Feller's Masterstroke" with a more effective 'punch' to the listener.
Stop and Go: "Ogre Battle" uses it rather subtly to add some weight to the "He gives a great big cry..." verse. The break is even longer in live performances of the song, with Freddie often stopping to ask the audience '[what they] think of the show so far', a reference to [[Morecambe and Wise]].
They did a similar thing in live versions of "Son and Daughter", with the acapella "I want you" followed by a pause and Freddie asking the audience what comes next.
"Scandal" is a take that against the celebrity-obsessed media, who were giving both Freddie (over his health problems, resulting in a picture of him looking haggard and emaciated on the front page of The Sun) and Brian (over his divorce and subsequent marriage to actress Anita Dobson) a hard time in the late eighties.
"We Are the Champions" was described by Freddie as being a "take that" directed to the music press, which almost always gave the band horrendous reviews (ex: Rolling Stone describing Queen as "the first fascist rock band" etc.) yet they continued to be one of the world's most popular and best selling bands. When the rest of the band heard Freddie do the first run-through of the song they "fell our laughing", knowing exactly whom he was slagging.
And then there's "Death On Two Legs (Dedicated to...)", a SCATHING attack on their former manager Norman Sheffield. On the Live Killers version, Freddie ramped it up a bit more by saying it was dedicated to "a motherfucker of a gentleman". "Flick of the Wrist", from the preceding album is written along the same lines, and reputedly directed at the same motherfucker. It's a full-blown Reason You Suck Song.
"Fight From The Inside" and "Sheer Heart Attack" (both written by Roger) are Take Thats at the then-emerging punk scene.
Three Chords and the Truth: Usually averted, as lots of Queen songs have quite a few more than three chords, and Brian May is highly respected for his virtuosity as a guitarist. However, Freddie Mercury joked about it at the 1986 Wembley concert — "This shitty guitar never plays the chords I want it to play. It only knows three. Let's see what happens." — before launching into "'Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
Uncommon Time: "Innuendo", with alternating 5/4 and 3/4 passages in its middle section.
Ur Example: "Stone Cold Crazy" was one of the earliest Hard Rock songs not to be interchangeable with Blues Rock, and it was a precursor to and big influence on several styles of Metal (Speed Metal and Thrash Metal especially). As mentioned above "Dead On Time" falls in here too. Metallica covered "Stone Cold Crazy", releasing it first as a B-side and then on their all-covers album Garage Inc. They also played it at the Tribute Concert, cementing its status as Metallica's homage/thank you to the band.
Villain Protagonist: "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Put Out The Fire" & "Tie Your Mother Down" all qualify to some extent. "Tie Your Mother Down" seems harmless enough, locking the girl's father out of the house and tying down her mother is one thing, but the line "take your little brother swimming with a brick" pushes it over the line into this.
Was It Really...? / Worth It : The gist of the closing song from The Miracle, known as "Was It All Worth It?". According to the band, despite all the effort and heartache they put into it all, even after they knew that Freddie had AIDS, 'It was a Worthwhile Experience!'
Weapon of Choice: The Red Special for Brian. So much so that when he played on Paul Rodgers' set at the "Strat Pack" concert, which was a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster, Brian brought the Red Special along, theme of the concert be damned.
Word Salad Lyrics: Freddie once openly admitted that "Bohemian Rhapsody"'s lyrics have no real meaning to them. "Another One Bites The Dust" would be another example of a Queen song with (presumably) no real lyrical meaning. Originally, John Deacon wanted to write a song about cowboys, but he ended up rewriting the words enough that they didn't really mean anything in the end.
Killer Queen: "Dynamite with a laser beam". It doesn't even make any sense in context!
Wrestling Doesn't Pay: It actually took them longer than one would think to start making money from music. Even when their albums really began to sell well, they were being paid £60 a week (not bad in 1973) but at the same time were stuck in a pretty bad management contract which resulted in them owing their ex-manager Norman Sheffield (the "motherfucker of a gentleman" targeted by the song "Death On Two Legs") something like £200,000.
You Are the New Trend: Freddie's look throughout the 80's became the stereotypical look for gays, especially the slicked/coiffed hair, moustache, and hairy chest.