In 1968, Brian May and Tim Staffell, both students at Imperial College, decided they wanted to form a group. Brian placed an advertisement on the college notice board for a “Ginger Baker type” drummer, and a young medical student called Roger Taylor auditioned and got the job. They called the group “SMILE”. Smile were signed to Mercury Records in 1969, and had their first experience of a recording studio in Trident Studios that year. Tim Staffell was at Ealing College of Art with Freddie Bulsara, and introduced him to the band. Freddie soon became a keen fan. Sadly, in 1970 “Smile” decided to call it a day, as nothing seemed to be happening for them. Tim went off and joined a band called Humpy Bong, and Freddie left his band “Wreckage” and joined up with Brian and Roger – it had all begun.
Freddie changed his name by deed poll to Mercury, changed the band’s name to Queen, and John Deacon was asked to audition as their bass player (they had had three temporary ones so far in their short history). In February 1971, John Deacon was taken on as the fourth member of Queen. The band rehearsed tirelessly and played several small gigs at Imperial College, where they rehearsed for close friends. Then they were offered the chance to ‘test’ a new recording studio called De Lane Lea. In return for trying out the new equipment, they could also make free demo tapes. They did. No one was interested! They had signed a recording contract and publishing and management agreements with Trident in 1972, and during that year were paid just 60 per week. Queen were given the ‘down time’- or out of hours studio time – at Trident Studios, where they began work on their first album.
In 1973, Trident and EMI signed a contract for a recording deal for Queen, and July of that year saw the release of “QUEEN”, their first album. The band were offered a big break – their first major tour as support band to Mott The Hoople. It began in Leeds in November 1973, and it was said by many people during that tour that ‘Queen were more than a support act ….’ “QUEEN II” was finally released in March 1974 – it should have been earlier, but there was a minor printing error on the sleeve that Queen insisted on having corrected! The band embarked on their first headlining tour of Britain, starting in Blackpool in March 1974. In April 1974, the band embarked on their first-ever USA tour as guests to Mott The Hoople. But in May of that year, whilst on tour, Brian collapsed with hepatitis, and the band had to cancel the rest of their dates.
Work on their third album began without Brian and with a lot of help from Roy Thomas Baker. Brian finally felt well enough to go into the studios to record his guitar parts, although he was still ill and spend much time between takes in the studio bathroom being very sick! But eventually, the album was finished, and “SHEER HEART ATTACK” was released in November 1974. It was a huge hit both sides of the Atlantic as the world came to realise that Queen were certainly a force to be reckoned with!
In January 1975, Queen left for the USA on their very first headlining tour. Ticket sales were phenomenal, and demand was so high that they had to add more shows, doing two shows in one day at some venues, both shows being sold out. Quite a few shows on that tour had to be cancelled, as Freddie had developed a severe throat problem, but he soldiered on and performed as many as possible, although doctors had advised him against it. Also in January 1975, Queen engaged the services of a Music Business lawyer, Jim Beach, to negotiate them out of their Trident agreements, as Trident were no longer being as supportive as they should have been, and the band were unhappy with the situation. Their first Canadian gig was in Edmonton on April 2nd, where they were joined on stage by support act Kansas. April of ’75 saw Queen set to pay their first-ever visit to Japan.
When they arrived at the airport, there were over three thousand fans there to greet them, as Sheer Heart Attack was Number One in Japan at the time. It was a scene reminiscent of Beatlemania in the Sixties, and the band were quite surprised at their ‘pop star’ welcome! In May 1975, Freddie was presented with an Ivor Novello Award by the Songwriters Guild for “Killer Queen”.
Queen began work on their new album in June. Links with Trident were finally severed – to the band’s great relief – in August, and by September Queen had signed with new management: enter John Reid. When the band decided to release Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, everyone told them it was far too long and just would not be a hit at 5 minutes and 55 seconds. But Freddie gave a copy of the single to friend and London DJ Kenny Everett, informing him that it was for him personally, and that he must not play it on air. But of course he did – fourteen times in two days!! From then on, every major radio station played the song in full, and not edited versions as was first thought. It was a colossal hit, and really established Queen as THE band of the era. The video for the single, directed by Bruce Gowers using ideas from the band themselves, was considered to be the one that began the whole video craze – they just didn’t know what they were starting! The single stayed at Number One for an amazing NINE weeks!
The album was, at the time, one of the most expensive ever recorded, but when “A NIGHT AT THE OPERA” was released in November 1975, it was a massive hit, and gave them their first platinum album. Freddie had designed a Queen logo for the “Queen” album, which was re-worked and used as the cover for “Night At The Opera”. The now-famous ‘crest’ features the band’s star signs – two fairies for Virgo, a crab for Cancer and two lions for the two Leos. The launch party for the album was held in the exclusive Opera Bar at the London Coliseum Theatre.
In January 1976, Freddie was presented with another Ivor Novello Award, for Bohemian Rhapsody. Also in January, the band set off on their third American tour, which took them all over America and continued until the end of March. They then flew direct to Japan, arriving yet again to a riotous reception. By this time, all four Queen albums were in the UK Top Twenty, which was an unheard-of feat. They undertook an extensive tour of Japan, and then flew on to Austria. Their tour ‘Down Under’ began at the Perth Entertainment Centre.
They flew back to the UK to begin work on their next album, “A DAY AT THE RACES”, but recording was halted while the band took off on a short UK tour. On September 18th, 1976, Queen decided they wanted to say thanks to their dedicated fans, and so – in true extravagant style – they staged a huge free concert in London’s Hyde Park. The crowds were estimated at between 150 and 200 thousand people – the largest audience Queen had played to up to that time, and to date still the highest-ever attendance record for a concert in Hyde Park.
It was September, and the band were hard at work on their new album. “A DAY AT THE RACES” was released in December 1976. The band all attended a special horse race at Kempton Park to promote the album, and in ‘A Day At The Races Stakes’, a special race sponsored by EMI, they all backed the same horse without telling each other – and it won! Five days before its release, the advance orders for “A Day At The Races” were in excess of half a million – the highest orders EMI had ever received for any album.
1977 had only been around for four days before Queen jetted off to America to rehearse for their forthcoming tour. They were on the road constantly through January, February and most of March in the USA and Canada. Roger decided, at the end of all that, to record a solo single, which he paid for out of his own pocket. “I Wanna Testify” was released in August. In May of 1977, Queen flew out of Stockholm to begin an extensive European tour. Their concert at Earls Court in London featured the famous ‘Crown’ lighting rig. It was 54 feet wide, 26 feet tall and weighed in at 5,000 pounds. It cost the band 50,000.
In October 1977, the fan club members were asked for the first time to take part in one of the band’s videos. “We Are The Champions” was filmed at the New London Theatre. After initial filming was finished, the band remained on stage and played an impromptu gig to say thanks to the fans who had turned up and worked so hard. October ’77 also saw the band presented with a Britannia Award for the Top British Single: Bohemian Rhapsody, of course!
Queen released “NEWS OF THE WORLD” on October 28th, 1977. The cover was a drawing that Roger had discovered, by Science Fiction artist Kelly Freas. Roger asked him if he would mind adapting his illustration for the album cover, and Freas readily agreed.
In November they were off to the USA again for rehearsals for the forthcoming tour. For the first time, their finances enabled them to charter a private plane for the tour – it made life on the road that much more comfortable. The tour began on 11th November – their second USA tour that year. They all arrived back in the UK just in time to spend Christmas with their families. That Christmas, “We Will Rock You” was knocked off the French Number One slot after 12 weeks …… by “We Are The Champions”!
In February 1978, Queen decided they should set up their own management structure. They parted company with John Reid more amicably than their split with Trident – this severance agreement was actually signed in the back of Freddie’s Rolls Royce during a break in filming “We Will Rock You” in the back garden of Roger’s house in Surrey! A short (by Queen standards!) tour of Europe began in April 1978 – again in Stockholm. In July, the band started work on their new album. They recorded it in Montreux and France – the first time they had ever recorded outside Great Britain.
As publicity for the forthcoming single “Bicycle Race”, the band hired Wimbledon Stadium, and fifty naked girls had their own bicycle race. The original cover of the single featured the rear view of one of those naked girls, but due to public outcry in some countries, panties had to be drawn on! More touring in the USA and Canada began in October. November 10th saw the release of “JAZZ”, the band’s seventh album. The sleeve was packed to contain a fold-out poster of the naked bicycle race. The Americans banned it from the actual album sleeve, and inserted an application form instead so that fans could send away for their poster. The launch party for “Jazz” was held in New Orleans, and has since gone down in history!
The band hosted the party themselves in order to invite both EMI, their American record company, and Elektra, their USA representatives. It was the first time that both companies’ executives had met, and they both ensured that ALL of their directors attended, each to try to outnumber the other! The party was a completely over-the-top affair, featuring mud wrestlers, midgets, topless waitresses, and a host of other weird and wonderful characters.
The North American tour finished in late December, and the back flew back to the UK for Christmas, but they didn’t get too much time to rest, as by January 1979 they were off to Europe yet again. The tour kicked off in Hamburg, and by March were ensconced in Mountain Studios in Montreux, working on their ‘live’ album. The band enjoyed the peace of Montreux and liked the studio there, so they decided to buy it (the studio, not the town!) When Freddie was asked by resident engineer David Richards why they had bought it and what they intended to do with it, Freddie quipped ‘…dump it in the lake, dear’!!
The band flew out to Japan for yet more touring in April 1979. In June, they approached the All England Lawn Tennis Club and asked if they could use the Centre Court at Wimbledon (after the tournament, of course!) for a concert. Permission was refused. The band’s first live album (and their only double album to date), “LIVE KILLERS”, was released in June 1979. It was an album released by very popular demand. Queen were approached to write the musical score for the science fiction film “Flash Gordon”. When the idea was first discussed with producer Dino de Laurentis, he simply asked ‘…but who are the queens?’!! The band agreed to work on the score, and started work during June in Munich.
The end of 1979 found Queen embarking on ‘The Crazy Tour’. It included such illustrious venues as Tiffany’s in Purley, the Lewisham Odeon, Alexandra Palace, and finally, the Hammersmith Odeon. They were one of many bands who performed at the venue to raise money for the starving people of Kampuchea. During that Crazy Tour, the bands’ tour manager, Gerry Stickells, collapsed backstage and had to be rushed to hospital. Gerry had been with Queen on every tour since 1976 (and has done very one since!)
At the start of 1980, the band were working hard on their new album, “The Game” – it was the first album to use the electronic wizardry of synthesisers. In June they were off to tour North America – again! Roger also started work on his first solo album in 1980. “THE GAME” was released in June of that year, and it went FIVE times platinum in Canada alone! ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ became the band’s biggest- ever, worldwide-selling single to date. It became a huge ‘crossover’ hit in the USA, topping the charts in Rock, Soul and Disco. The band received a ‘Dick Clarke’ award as best band; a top Billboard award for ‘Top Crossover Single’; and was nominated for various other awards including Grammys and Canadian ‘Juno’ awards.
On December 8th 1980, the soundtrack album for “FLASH GORDON” was released. At the end of 1980, Queen had sold over 45,000,000 albums worldwide. In February 1981, after another Far East tour, the band flew to Rio de Janeiro for the start of their first tour of South America. Queen were the first rock band to undertake a stadium tour of South America, paving the way for many more bands to follow. The band’s equipment had to be flown in a privately hired ‘Flying Tiger’ 747 cargo plane from Tokyo – the flight between Tokyo and Buenos Aires is the longest air route between capital cities in the world.
Their first South American gig was Buenos Aires, on February 28th 1981. They then filled three more Argentinean World Cup soccer stadiums, playing five sold-out stadium gigs in just eight days. They then played two nights at the massive Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paolo. On the first night, 131,000 people attended, and Queen created rock & roll history as it was the largest paying audience for a single band anywhere in the world. During those two nights at the Morumbi Stadium, 251,000 people saw the Queen spectacle – that’s a larger audience than most bands can expect in their whole career! Every single one of Queen’s albums was in the Top Ten in Argentina during their tour – a first for any band.
Whilst they were in Sao Paulo, the band celebrated the fact that the single, ‘Love Of My Life’, had been in the Sao Paulo singles chart for over 12 consecutive months. In April 1981, Roger released his first solo album, titled “FUN IN SPACE”. Queen were back in South America – it was a return trip, being hailed as ‘The Gluttons For Punishment Tour’! Unfortunately, their last two Venezuelan gigs in Caracas had to be cancelled, as the ex-President of the country had died. So the band moved on to play in Mexico, in Monterrey and Puebla – just outside Mexico City. Whilst there, the band’s promoter, Jose Rota, was arrested and jailed. Jim Beach had to pay over $25,000 bail money to release him so the tour could continue!
“Greatest Hits”, “Greatest Flix” and “Greatest Pix” were released simultaneously in October 1981. “Greatest Hits” – the album – entered the charts as soon as it was released, and has rarely been out of the British charts since! “Greatest Flix” – the video – was the first real collection of promo videos released commercially by any band. “Greatest Pix” – the book – was compiled by Jacques Lowe, who was President Kennedy’s personal biographer during his term of office. It was Jacques’ personal selection of the greatest Queen pictures of the previous decade.
The band’s twelfth album, “HOT SPACE”, was released on May 21st, 1982 whilst the band was in the middle of an extensive European tour. On June 5th that year, they played the huge open-air Milton Keynes Bowl. The whole show was filmed by Tyne Tees Television, under the direction of Gavin Taylor, to be shown on Channel Four’s “The Tube” programme at a later date. In September 1982, the Japanese company, Mercury Records (nothing to do with Freddie!) released an album called “Gettin’ Smile”. It was at first thought to be a bootleg, but after listening to the album, Roger and Brian declared it to be the REAL Smile, although neither of them recalled having recorded so much with that band! In December 1982, Queen made it into the Guinness Book of Records as Britain’s highest-paid executives.
In January 1983, Freddie began work on a solo album, and Roger began work on his second solo album. During the early part of the year, Brian had flown out to Los Angeles and gathered together a few close friends in the Record Plant studios there. Brian had some basic ideas to work on, but it was generally a lengthy jam session. However, Brian had no intention of wasting the talents of Edward Van Halen, Alan Gratzer, Phil Chen and Fred Mandel – and so kept the tapes rolling throughout the whole session. The result was the mini album “STAR FLEET PROJECT”, which was released in October 1983.
The band went back into the studios in August 1983 to start work on their next album. Work commenced at the Record Plant in LA – the first time the band had recorded in America. After a number of months, recording switched from LA to Munich – a city that the band spent so much time in during that recording session that they almost thought of it as home!
In February 1984, the band released their thirteenth album – “THE WORKS”. “Radio Ga Ga”, taken from that album, became a worldwide hit, reaching Number One in nineteen different countries. The video for the single, directed by David Mallett, featured fan club members again. The handclapping chorus became a favourite with live audiences all over the world. Another single from “The Works” was “I Want To Break Free”, and that had an even more outrageous video also featuring members of the fan club. It featured the band dressed as the characters of a popular British television soap opera – “Coronation Street”. When asked why, Roger said he had become bored with serious epic videos, and thought it was about time they had some fun and proved they could still laugh at themselves. MTV in America refused to show the video.
In June 1984, Roger released his second solo album, “STRANGE FRONTIER”. Also in June, a company called Guild Guitars launched a special copy of Brian’s home-made Red Special guitar. It was called the BHM1, and Brian had been closely involved in all the aspects of its production. Sadly, about a year later, Brian and Guild had some discussions about the design of the instrument which resulted in Guild ceasing production.
In August, Queen flew out to Belgium to start “The Works” tour in that country. October saw them in Bophuthatswana, South Africa, and a series of gigs at the famous Sun City Superbowl. The gigs themselves were fraught with problems, as Freddie had serious voice complications resulting in cancellations. But the problems were mild compared to what the band returned to. Their visit caused much public outcry, although the band defended their actions, saying they were a non-political band and that they had gone out to play music for the people, and for no other reason.
Queen’s first-ever full-length video was released in September 1984. “We Will Rock You” was filmed during the band’s 1981 Montreal concerts. During September, Queen had no fewer than NINE albums in the UK Top 200.
1985 was the year of ‘Rock In Rio’. It was billed as the biggest rock festival to be held anywhere in the world, and Queen were headlining the event. (Remember that bit about ‘not being a support act for long…’?) The whole festival was recorded for broadcast throughout South America, but Queen were the only band able to obtain the rights to release their performance on video. “Live in Rio” was released in May 1985.
The band performed their first-ever concert in New Zealand on April 13th, 1985 in Auckland. The band were met outside their hotel on arrival by a group of chanting anti-apartheid demonstrators. Tony Hadley, singer with British band ‘Spandau Ballet’, flew over from Australia where his band was on tour to see the Queen show, and was honoured to be asked to join Queen on stage for their encore.
Freddie’s first solo album, “MR BAD GUY”, was released on April 19th whilst the band was on tour in Australia. The gig in Melbourne had to be played with no lighting rig at all, as the whole computer system that controlled the lights had broken down. After an Australian tour peppered with problems – not least being the incessant rain – the band flew across to Japan. Their concert at the Tokyo Olympic swimming pool was filmed by NHK to be shown on network Japanese television.
July 13th 1985, was a day that went down in history as the Live Aid Global Jukebox took the world by storm from London’s vast Wembley Stadium and from Philadelphia in the USA. Queen were just one of a multitude of top bands who all performed a short, 20-minute set. The world was watching, and Queen were unanimously voted – by press and public alike – as the band that stole the show. That event was a turning point for Queen.
They had decided some time previously to take a break from each other, but that day brought them together with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. ‘One Vision’ was the first release to come from that new inspiration.
Queen were approached by Russell Mulcahy to record the soundtrack to his first feature film – a fantasy tale about an immortal Scotsman – called “Highlander”. In an interview, Mulcahy stated that Queen had been the first band he had thought of for the score.
In March 1986, John formed a new band, called The Immortals, to write and record some of the music for a forthcoming film called Biggles. They recorded just one track – “No Turning Back” – and the band folded. On June 2nd, Queen released their fourteenth album, the soundtrack to Highlander, entitled “A KIND OF MAGIC”. The album entered the UK chart at Number One and remained in the top five for thirteen consecutive weeks.
On June 7th, the Queen machine was in action again as the band embarked on their ‘Magic Tour of Europe’. The first UK gig was Newcastle’s St James Park football stadium. The band, and promoter Harvey Goldsmith, donated all the proceeds from that concert to the International Save The Children Fund. On July 11th, the ‘Queen Tornado’ – as Freddie had dubbed it – hit London and two sold-out shows at the vast Wembley Stadium. During the set, four enormous inflatables, modelled on the characters from the Kind of Magic album, were released from amongst the audience into the night. The following night’s show was filmed by Tyne Tees Television, again directed by Gavin Taylor, to be shown on TV at a later date.
When that concert was finally shown on television, it became the first-ever simulcast between Channel Four and the Independent Radio network in Britain. This feat has never since been repeated – possibly because, in order to achieve this, a satellite dish had to be delivered to every single independent radio station in the UK so that they could receive the sound by satellite whilst receiving the pictures by the normal land lines.
On 27th July, Queen made history again (something of a habit with this band!) when they played the beautiful Nepstadion in Budapest, Hungary. It was the first time a major rock band had played a stadium date in the Eastern Bloc, and it was completely sold out well in advance. The concert was filmed by the Hungarian State Film Agency, MAFILM, in connection with Queen Films – they had to commandeer every 35mm camera in Hungary to film it!
On August 9th, the band flew into Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire, in a specially repainted helicopter featuring the characters from the Kind of Magic album cover. It was the final date on the Magic Tour, and the biggest audience so far – estimated at well over 120,000 people. It caused one of the biggest traffic jams in history as everyone tried to arrive in plenty of time! Over ONE MILLION people saw Queen on that European Magic Tour – in excess of 400,000 in the UK alone.
In November 1986, EMI Records released the entire Queen catalogue of albums on the Compact Disc format – the first time any band’s complete collection had been made available simultaneously. In December, Queen’s fifteenth album – and their second live album – was released. Entitled “LIVE MAGIC”, it entered the British chart at Number Three. On 13th December, the band’s film ‘Live In Budapest’ opened in Budapest at 9 a.m., and proceeded to play to nine sold-out houses in that one day. Seven completely full screenings were shown each day for a week.
During 1986, in the UK alone, Queen sold a staggering 1,774,991 albums. On February 3rd, Freddie released a cover version of the great old Platters song, The Great Pretender. In the video to accompany the song, Freddie recreated many scenes from his own and Queen videos, and actor Peter Starker, Roger Taylor and Freddie all donned wigs, made up their faces, and became the female backing singers! It was an expensive video!
One of Freddie’s all-time heroines was opera diva Montserrat Caballe, and in March 1986, he met with her in her home city of Barcelona. An astonishing partnership was forged with Montserrat agreed to record an album with Freddie. He penned a song about Barcelona for her, and the two began to write and record that album. Freddie and Montserrat appeared on stage together for the first time in May 1987 at the Ibiza ’92 festival, held at the famous Ku Club on the holiday island. They performed ‘Barcelona’.
In August 1987, Roger advertised for, auditioned and chose musicians to form a new band, The Cross. He wanted a band he could write with and, more importantly, tour with during Queen’s increasingly lengthy ‘quiet’ periods.
The single ‘Barcelona’ was released in Spain in September 1987, and 10,000 copies were sold in just three hours. The Spanish Olympic Committee adopted the song as the theme for the Olympic Games being held in the city in 1992 – then decided against it, which caused much anger amongst the fans.
Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher are an Austrian director/producer team who followed Queen all over Europe during the Magic Tour, filming them on stage, back stage, resting, playing and generally ‘touring’. They then searched the archives for footage of live shows, interviews or out-takes from videos. After that, they interviewed the band, their friends, their fans and other ‘stars’. Finally, in November 1987, a trilogy of documentary-style videos was released, called “THE MAGIC YEARS”. The trilogy received numerous awards, including the famous Silver Screen award in the USA (the biggest film and TV festival in the world) and the IMMC award at the Montreux Golden Rose TV festival. Also during 1987, Queen were presented with the prestigious Ivor Novello award for their ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Music’.
In January 1988, Queen went into the studios to start work on their next album. On January 25th, The Cross released their debut album called “SHOVE IT”. The Cross also embarked on their first European tour, playing club and university dates throughout the UK, then clubs in Germany.
Freddie and Montserrat appeared together again on October 8th at the huge La Nit event staged in Barcelona, which was held to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic Flag from Seoul. Freddie and Montserrat closed the event, held in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain, with Barcelona, The Golden Boy and How Can I Go On – tracks taken from their forthcoming album.
“BARCELONA”, the duet album from Freddie and Montserrat, was released on October 10th, 1988. The launch party was a typically extravagant affair held in the Crush Bar of the beautiful Covent Garden Opera House – a fitting venue!
On December 4th, The Cross played a one-off gig at London’s Hammersmith Palais, at a party held exclusively for fan club members. Special guests on stage were Brian and John.
Queen released their sixteenth album on May 22nd 1989, entitled “THE MIRACLE”. It entered the UK chart at Number One and went on to become a massive worldwide success, reaching Number One in most European countries. To promote the release, the four members of the band gathered in a Radio One studio and allowed themselves to be interviewed by DJ Mike Reid – a scoop for him, as the band had not given a joint interview in many years.
As it was the end of a decade, there were numerous ‘Best of the Eighties’ style programmes on television, especially in the UK, and Queen were voted the ‘Best Band of the Eighties’ by the viewers of Independent Television and readers of its magazine TV Times. It was an accolade they were immensely pleased with, and they all appeared together on the show to collect it.
In late November 1989, Queen were already back in studios working on the next album – they had felt so inspired by the huge success of The Miracle.
On February 18th, 1990, Queen were honoured yet again when they were recognised by the British Phonographic Industry (at last!), and presented with an award for their ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Music’. They all collected the award, and went on to host a huge star-studded party at London’s Groucho Club.
The Cross released their second album on March 26th, called “MAD, BAD AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW”, a title taken from a quote used to describe the eccentric Lord Byron! The Cross also undertook a short German tour.
Brian, meanwhile, wrote and produced the haunting music for a version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, performed at London’s Riverside Theatre.
In November 1990, Queen signed a major new recording deal in North America with the Disney-financed Hollywood Records. Hollywood immediately began the task of pushing Queen back up the popularity ladder, and plans were laid to re-master and re-release the entire back catalogue on CD – up till then, the collection had not been available on CD in North America.
On December 7th, The Cross played their only UK date for some time at London’s Astoria Theatre, at yet another Queen fan club party. Brian joined them on stage for the encore.
On January 14th 1991, the band released the six-and-a-half-minute long epic “INNUENDO” as a single. It was a massive success, giving the band their third UK Number One single and ensuring them the Number One slot throughout Europe. The album of the same name was released on February 4th, and crashed straight into the UK chart at Number One, hitting the high spot again throughout Europe – and it even charted top thirty in America.
In March 1991, The Cross went into studios to start work on their third album, and Brian flew out to Montreux in July to continue work on his long-awaited solo album. The Cross album was completed in July, and release was schedule for early September for a great third album, entitled “BLUE ROCK”. Queen went into the studios in London to begin work on their next album in late April. The album was only ever released in Germany, on Electrola records.
On May 30th, 1991, Freddie filmed what was to become his final video for Queen – the haunting “Days of Our Lives”. A version featuring Disney animation was made for the USA.
Brian organised the Rock section of the Seville Guitar Legends festival, and amongst those chosen by Brian to perform their music were Nuno Bettencourt, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Joe Walsh – to name but a few. The concerts were performed live in October on the site of the Seville Expo ’92 exhibition.
Greatest Hits Two was released in October 1991, a double album featuring 17 tracks. They also repeated their earlier success by releasing Greatest Flix II and Greatest Pix II – this time compiled by Richard Gray. A special box was also released called Box of Flix, featuring Flix One and Two plus four bonus tracks. Needless to say, both Hits II and Flix II were Number One!
On November 23rd, Freddie announced to the world that he had AIDS. Just the next day, his fight was over, and he died peacefully at his home surrounded by friends and family. The world was in shock. Freddie had kept his illness very private, and only those closest to him had been aware of just how close to the end he really was. Fans from all over the world sent flowers and cards, and many even travelled to London to be at Freddie’s house. A quiet family cremation service was held three days after his death, conducted in the Zoroastrian faith that Freddie’s parents followed so strictly.
In April, Brian had been commissioned by a London advertising agency to write a piece of music for an advertising campaign for Ford cars. The resulting track, “Driven by You”, was so good (and proved so popular) that Brian released it as his first solo single on November 25th. It made the top ten in the UK charts.
As a tribute to Freddie, and to raise funds for the Terence Higgins Trust to continue the fight against AIDS – as Freddie’s last wishes requested – Bohemian Rhapsody/These Are The Days of Our Lives was released as a double A-sided single. It entered the UK chart at Number One, where it remained for five weeks, raising over one million pounds for the AIDS charity.
In December 1991, Queen had no fewer than 10 albums in the UK top 100.
In February 1992, the annual BritAwards recognised Freddie with a special posthumous award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Music’, and – out of three Queen nominations – Days Of Our Lives won the Best Single of 1991 award. At that awards ceremony, Roger and Brian announced plans for a massive open-air concert at London’s Wembley Stadium to celebrate Freddie’s life and give him a send-off to remember.
The tickets went on sale the next day, with no announcement of who was going to play apart from Brian, Roger and John, and all 72,000 tickets sold out in just six hours.
On Easter Monday, April 20th 1992, many of the world’s top stars joined Roger, John and Brian on stage at Wembley Stadium to pay an emotional tribute to Freddie. The stadium was packed to capacity, and it was televised live to over one billion people.
In April 1992, Queen were awarded an Ivor Novello award for Best Single with ‘Days Of Our Lives’, and Brian also won an award for ‘Driven By You’ for Best TV Commercial Music.
September 1992 saw the release of the long-awaited Brian May solo album, called ‘Back To The Light’. The album went into the UK charts at number 6 and achieved double gold status.
The Brian May Band was then formed. Having warmed up in Chile, Argentina and Brazil in November 1992. The Brian May Band embarked upon a World Tour, beginning in the USA and Europe as special guests to Guns N’Roses. They then went on to headline their own sell-out tour of North America, Japan and Europe, finishing in Portugal in December 1993.
In the summer of 1992 The Mercury Phoenix Trust was founded to distribute the money raised by the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS awareness. It is a registered charity.
Funds generated in the U.S.A. through Fox Television’s prime time broadcast of the concert and the re- release of Bohemian Rhapsody as a single (a sum in excess of $1 million) were distributed to AIDS charities all over the United States. In the UK over 1 million was donated to The Terence Higgins Trust from the re-release of Bohemian Rhapsody. In addition another 2.2 million has been distributed to date to over 100 different established charities and body Positive self-help groups in the UK, the rest of Europe and Africa.
Prior to Christmas 1992, a double video of the Freddie Tribute Concert was released, with all proceeds being donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust.
The Freddie Mercury Album was released in November 1992 with the first single ‘In My Defence’ on 30 November 1992. This single was followed by ‘The Great Pretender’ in January 1993 and ‘Living On My Own’ in Spring 1993. This latter single won a posthumous Ivor Novello Award as the 1993 International Hit of the Year.
1993 saw the release of the George Michael Lisa Stansfield Queen mini album ‘Five Alive’. This mini album and the single ‘Somebody To Love’ were released worldwide in aid of the Trust. They reached the top ten in 31 countries worldwide and the single reached number one in the UK on 22nd April.
In February 1994 EMI released ‘The Brian May Band Live At Brixton Academy’ on album and video, the first live recordings of the band.
In September 1994, Roger Taylor released his solo album ‘Happiness?’. This was preceded by the May 3rd release of a single, ‘Nazis 1994’, which addresses the issue of Europe’s increasing rise of Neo-Nazism. The second single ‘Foreign Sands’ was released throughout Europe at the end of September 1994. Roger Taylor’s band toured the UK and Italy in November 1994 – January 1995.
After four years in the making, November 6, 1995 saw the worldwide release of “Made In Heaven”, Queen’s twentieth and final album. Begun in April 1991, the album was the last work to be recorded by the band with Freddie Mercury, recording continuing through to the last months of Freddie’s life.
The album, much of the finishing work undertaken by John, Brian and Roger after Freddie’s death, carries a dedication to the ‘immortal spirit of Freddie Mercury’, in recognition of his request that the material be completed and be heard by the public.
The finality of the album is underlined in two particular tracks, “A Winter’s Tale”, the last song written by Freddie, and “Mother Love” a Brian and Freddie song which features the last vocal track Freddie laid down.
Much of the recording on “Made In Heaven” was carried out at Queen’s studio in Montreux, Switzerland, the town where Freddie was also living at the time. This landmark point in the history of Queen is immortalised in the album sleeve – a landscape view across the lake which Freddie’s home overlooked.
To many, “Made In Heaven” represents not only Queen’s most personal album, but also the band’s finest.
Always recognised for their innovative music videos, Queen wanted to look at an entirely new way of presenting the tracks of the album in a visual form. This was achieved by joining forces with the British Film Institute in a unique venture to produce a series of short films based around each of the album tracks using the talent of new young directors working with the BFI. The first of these was Evolution, a film made by director Simon Pummell inspired by “Heaven For Everyone”. As well as being seen on television, the film is expected to be seen also on cinema screens. Under the BFI project, a further six-eight films are anticipated to be made.
The release of the album also provided a fitting occasion to reflect on the highlights and achievements of Queen’s 25 years. A week after its release, November 13, comes the release of Ultimate Queen, a deluxe box set of 20 Queen albums presented in a wall mounted presentation case. Available as a limited edition, Ultimate Queen contains the complete studio work of the group with the classic live albums “Live Killers”, “Live Magic” and “Live At Wembley”. Individually numbered, each case presents the album collection on high quality litho printed picture CDs accompanied by an embossed 12-page colour booklet.
As a companion to the box set, Queen also released the definitive video documentary, “Champions of the World”. In two hours of film and music, the video contains a wealth of material not previously available. More than simply re-telling the band’s history, “Champions of the World” also provides a rare insight into the lives of John, Brian, Freddie and Roger.
The release of the album is also celebrated on television with two Channel 4 specials on Queen: a new one-hour documentary, “The Queen Phenomenon”, to air on December 4 at 10pm, and “Queen At Wembley”, a live recording of one of the highlights of the group’s 1986 Magic Tour, to be screened on December 6 at 11:00pm.
On November 6 Queen fans worldwide were able for the first time to communicate with each other and connect with the band with the launch of the Queen web site on the internet. Considered one of the most advanced sites available, it incorporates seven locations offering audio samples, video clips, stills artwork, communication and information centres, as well as a shopping mall. The site address is: http://queen- fip.com .
On November 8 sculptor Irena Sedlecka commenced work on the full size version of the statue of Freddie Mercury to be unveiled in 1996.
December will see Queen back on the airwaves in a major way with a two hour documentary radio series being produced by Unique Broadcasting for broadcast on Radio One FM during the month.
This will be followed in January by an even more extensive radio series of five hours to be broadcast across the Independent Radio Network.
November will also see Freddie’s image on display at the Museum of the Moving Image on London’s Southbank with the installation of a holographic movie created from his likeness; in essence, a 3-D image on film.
While “Made In Heaven” will be the last original Queen album there is no doubt that the future will see further projects from Roger, John and Brian which will also likely include film score work.