On July 13, 1973, the music world discovered the most glittering queen in rock history - "Queen", who released their debut eponymous album.
We assume that most of you are already familiar with the story of the band's formation and the recording of their first album, especially following the release of the blockbuster movie "Bohemian Rhapsody", and yet we are here to try to renew something for you or at least put things in order.
So the story of the album and the band begins somewhere in the late 60s with a meeting between two students, guitarist Brian May and bassist/singer Tim Staffell who formed the band "Smile". The two recruited another student, drummer Roger Meddows-Taylor and the three began performing at clubs in London.
Singer Farrokh "Freddie" Bulsara, who studied art with Tim Staple, came to one of "Smile"'s shows at Staple's invitation and immediately became a fan. Freddie Mercury was at the time a singer of several bands, including "Wreckage", but he always aspired to join the ensemble of "Smile".
In March 1970, Staple decided to leave "Smile" in favor of a band called "Humpy Bong" and Freddie immediately jumped at the chance, ending his relationship with "Wreckage" and joining May and Roger Taylor. On June 27, 1970, Freddie Mercury took the stage for the first time with the band but it was still called "Smile".
While searching for a bassist for the band, Mercury persuaded the other two members to change the band's name to "Queen". Freddie Mercury was also the one who designed the band's logo.
Finding a suitable bassist for the band was not easy. Over the course of a year, members of the band replaced bassists like socks, and were unable to find someone worthy to fit in. In early 1971 a friend of May and Taylor recommended John Richard Deacon to them. The band auditioned John Deacon in the auditorium at Imperial College London and was immediately impressed by his performance. Deacon was also an electronics student and the band members thought it was a great advantage, especially Brian May who later took used Deacon's skills, among other things, to build a special guitar amplifier for him.
The band's debut in the final and classical lineup and under the name "Queen" was held on July 2, 1971, at "Surrey" College in England. The band continued to perform in clubs and colleges around London for about two years, with no ability to obtain a recording contract.
The opportunity fell on the band when they received an offer to try out new equipment for free at the recording studio "De Lane Lea Studios". The band took the opportunity to record a demo that included five songs: "Keep Yourself Alive", "The Night Comes Down", Great King Rat", "Jesus", and "Liar".
Despite the low quality of the demos, the band members managed to convince Barry and Norman Sheffield, owners of the famous "Tridant" studios, to give them the option to record an album for free. Tridentate Studios was a highly sought-after studio at the time, where albums such as Lou Reed's "Transformer" and David Bowie's Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust were recorded.
Under these circumstances, the summary was such that Queen would be given full and unrestricted access to all the innovative recording equipment that was in the studio, including technicians who would accompany them. At the same time, the band will only be able to record in the small hours of the night, when the studios are not occupied with paid recordings.
The recordings took place in June-November 1972 using the innovative recording equipment of Trident Studios, while the band uses, among other things, a large number of recording channels, merging them (in layers) to produce different sounds. For this reason, Brian May insisted on including on the back cover of the album the caption that no synthesizers were used during the recordings, presumably for fear that listeners would think the special sound was achieved through the use of electronic equipment.
During the recordings, the band was required, by producer Roy Thomas Baker, to re-record the five songs from the demo recorded at "De Lane Lea Studios". The band was very angry at the demand to record everything again. They really liked the result in the demos but Baker insisted that the songs be recorded again with the new recording equipment. So it turned out that certain songs were recorded seven or even eight times, and still the band did not like the result, until the technician Mike Stone came and helped them reach satisfactory results. It also bought him the right to produce the band's next five albums. The original demos of these five tracks, are in the bonus EP of the extended edition of the album from 2011. Anyone who listens to them will find that there is indeed a certain preference for the demo versions, especially when it comes to the drum sound.
Although the recordings were completed as early as November 1972, the album was released only about eight months later, as Trident Studios had difficulty finding a record company that would agree to distribute the album. Eventually, Trident did it by themselves with the help of EMI.
The album, which combines several styles, mainly metal and progressive, was released at a time when Glam Rock was at its peak and received good reviews. Five of the ten songs on the album were composed by Mercury, Brian May composed four more (one of them in collaboration with Staple) and Roger Taylor wrote and sang on one song.
The album opened at a fast pace with "Keep Yourself Alive" which was also released as the band's first single. The song was written by Brian May even before John Deacon joined the band and already from the opening we can notice May's innovative guitar sound that includes the Phaser effect, and is a special stamp that can not be missed even 4 decades later.
"Doing All Right" slows down the pace a bit with a section that opens quietly and calmly and was written by Brian May and Staple back in the "Smile" days. It is one of Queen's only songs in which May plays the piano and the first song in which Freddie Mercury will play the piano during the band's performances.
The first side of the vinyl is sealed with the song "My Fairy King", also written by Mercury, and is the first song in which he plays the piano. This is also the first time that you can clearly hear the amazing combination and vocal harmonies of the band members, which will be tightened, perfected, and will later form the band's all-too-familiar DNA. The vocal harmonies here have been achieved, among other things, through overdubbing (recording layer upon layer of voices), a technology that will also be used in the song "Bohemian Rhapsody". This song apparently influenced Freddie Mercury to change his family name to "Mercury" and includes the lyrics: "Mother Mercury, look what they've done to me".
The other side of the album opens with "Liar" another song that Mercury wrote back in 1970, before John Deacon joined the band. One of the heaviest songs on the album and the only one where Freddie Mercury uses the Hammond organ, and probably also one of the band's favorite songs, as he was part of the band's setlist (in one form or another) many years after its release.
"The Night Comes Down" is one of the first that Brian May wrote after Queen's founding. The song is one of the five demo songs recorded at "De Lane Lea Studios". In 2011 the original demo version was released as a bonus and you can mostly hear the differences in the sound of the drums. It's a nostalgic May song that talks about the loss of childhood and mentions among other things the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", by the Beatles.
"Modern Times Rock 'N' Roll" was written and sung by Roger Taylor. A quick song in which the guitar riff sounds at times like "Budgie" in the song "Breadfan", which was released about a month before the release of Queen's debut album.
The track "Son and Daughter" is another one written by Brian May
and appeared as a side cover of the single "Keep Yourself Alive". A heavy song led by the guitar-bass riff in which it is reminiscent of Black Sabbath and is undoubtedly influenced by the heavy metal of the early 70's.
In the song "Jesus" Freddie Mercury tells of Jesus from Nazareth, even though he is not a Christian. The song features only two chords during the verses and a long instrumental section towards the end. Brian's guitar solo includes an effect that gives the song a somewhat psychedelic tone, which is heard in Queen's other songs.
The album concludes with the short instrumental section "Seven Seas of Rhye" which was written by Mercury and will become a full song and the band's first hit, in "Queen II" the next album.