THE QUEEN (Band) Story , MHI – Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1970. Their classic line-up was Freddie Mercury (lead vocals and piano), Brian May (lead guitar and vocals), Roger Taylor (drums and vocals) and John Deacon(bass guitar). Their earliest works were influenced by progressive rock, hard rock and heavy metal, but the band gradually ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly works by incorporating further styles, such as arena rock and pop rock.
Before forming Queen, May and Taylor had played together in the band Smile. Mercury was a fan of Smile and encouraged them to experiment with more elaborate stage and recording techniques. He joined in 1970 and suggested the name “Queen”. Deacon was recruited in March 1971, before the band released their eponymous debut album in 1973. Queen first charted in the UK with their second album, Queen II, in 1974. Sheer Heart Attack later that year and A Night at the Opera in 1975 brought them international success. The latter featured “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which stayed at number one in the UK for nine weeks and helped popularise the music video format.
The band’s 1977 album News of the World contained “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”, which have become anthems at sporting events. By the early 1980s, Queen were one of the biggest stadium rockbands in the world. “Another One Bites the Dust” (1980) became their best-selling single, while their 1981 compilation album Greatest Hits is the best-selling album in the UK and is certified eight times platinum in the US. Their performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert has been ranked among the greatest in rock history by various publications. In August 1986, Mercury gave his last performance with Queen at Knebworth, England. In 1991, he died of bronchopneumonia – a complication of AIDS, and Deacon retired in 1997. Since 2004, May and Taylor have toured under the “Queen +” name with vocalists Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert.
Estimates of Queen’s record sales range from 170 million to 300 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists. In 1990, Queen received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music from the British Phonographic Industry. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Each member has composed hit singles, and all four were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2005, Queen received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. In 2018, they were presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Brian May – guitar, keyboards, vocals (1970–present)
- Roger Taylor – drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals (1970–present)
- Freddie Mercury – lead vocals, keyboards, guitar (1970–1991)
- John Deacon – bass, guitar, keyboards (1971–1997)
Long-term Queen + vocalists
- Paul Rodgers (2004–2009)
- Adam Lambert (2011–present)
Current touring members
- Spike Edney – keyboards, piano, rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1984–present)
- Neil Fairclough – bass guitar, backing vocals (2011–present)
- Tyler Warren – percussion, drums, backing vocals (2017–present)
Former touring members
- Morgan Fisher – keyboards, piano (1982)
- Fred Mandel – keyboards, piano (1982)
- David Grosman – bass guitar (1998–2004)
- Jamie Moses – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1998–2009)
- Danny Miranda – bass guitar, backing vocals (2005–2009)
- Rufus Tiger Taylor – percussion, drums, backing vocals (2011–2017)
- Mike Grose – bass (1970)
- Barry Mitchell – bass (1970–1971)
- Doug Bogie – bass (1971)
1988–1992: Mercury’s final years
After fans noticed Mercury’s increasingly gaunt appearance in 1988, the media reported that Mercury was seriously ill, with AIDS frequently mentioned as a likely illness. Mercury denied this, insisting he was merely “exhausted” and too busy to provide interviews; he was now 42 years old and had been involved in music for nearly two decades.Mercury had in fact been diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987, but did not make his illness public, with only his inner circle of colleagues and friends aware of his condition.
The band continued recording albums, starting with The Miracle (1989) and continuing with Innuendo (1991). In 1990, Queen ended their contract with Capitol and signed with Hollywood Records; through the deal, Disney acquired the North American distribution rights to Queen’s catalogue for $10 million, and remains the group’s music catalogue owner and distributor in the United States and Canada. In February that year, Mercury made his final public appearance when he joined the rest of Queen to collect the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Throughout 1990, media reports persisted that Mercury was seriously ill, but he continued to deny them.
Innuendo was released in early 1991 with an eponymous number 1 UK hit and other charting singles released later in the year, which included “The Show Must Go On”. This song, released as a forerunner to Greatest Hits II, featured archive footage of Queen’s performances between 1981 and 1989, and along with the manner of its lyrics, fuelled reports that Mercury was dying. Mercury was increasingly ill and could barely walk when the band recorded “The Show Must Go On” in 1990. Because of this, May had concerns about whether he was physically capable of singing it, but May recalled that he “completely killed it”. The rest of the band were ready to record when Mercury felt able to come into the studio, for an hour or two at a time. May says of Mercury: “He just kept saying. ‘Write me more. Write me stuff. I want to just sing this and do it and when I am gone you can finish it off.’ He had no fear, really.” The band’s second greatest hits compilation, Greatest Hits II, followed in October 1991; it is the tenth-bestselling album in the UK and has sold 16 million copies worldwide.
On 23 November 1991, in a prepared statement made on his deathbed, Mercury confirmed that he had AIDS. Within 24 hours of the statement, he died of bronchial pneumonia, which was brought on as a complication of AIDS. His funeral service on 27 November in Kensal Green, West London was private, and held in accordance with the Zoroastrian religious faith of his family. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was re-released as a single shortly after Mercury’s death, with “These Are the Days of Our Lives” as the double A-side. The music video for “These Are the Days of Our Lives” contains Mercury’s final scenes in front of the camera. This track had featured at the beginning of the year on the Innuendo album, and the video for it was recorded in May 1991 (which proved to be Mercury’s final work with Queen). The single went to number one in the UK, remaining there for five weeks – the only recording to top the Christmas chart twice and the only one to be number one in four different years (1975, 1976, 1991, and 1992). Initial proceeds from the single – approximately £1,000,000 – were donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an AIDS charity.
Queen’s popularity was stimulated in North America when “Bohemian Rhapsody” was featured in the 1992 comedy film Wayne’s World. Its inclusion helped the song reach number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks in 1992 (including its 1976 chart run, it remained in the Hot 100 for a combined 41 weeks), and won the band an MTV Awardat the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. The compilation album Classic Queen also reached number four on the Billboard 200, and is certified three times platinum in the US. Wayne’s World footage was used to make a new music video for “Bohemian Rhapsody”, with which the band and management were delighted.
On 20 April 1992, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was held at London’s Wembley Stadium to a 72,000-strong crowd. Performers, including Def Leppard, Robert Plant, Tony Iommi, Roger Daltrey, Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, David Bowie, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Seal, Extreme, and Metallica performed various Queen songs along with the three remaining Queen members (and Spike Edney.) The concert is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as “The largest rock star benefit concert”, as it was televised to over 1.2 billion viewers worldwide, and raised over £20,000,000 for AIDS charities.
1995–2003: Made in Heaven to 46664 Concert
Queen’s last album with Mercury, titled Made in Heaven, was released in 1995, four years after his death. Featuring tracks such as “Too Much Love Will Kill You” and “Heaven for Everyone”, it was constructed from Mercury’s final recordings in 1991, material left over from their previous studio albums and re-worked material from May, Taylor, and Mercury’s solo albums. The album also featured the song “Mother Love”, the last vocal recording Mercury made, which he completed using a drum machine, over which May, Taylor and Deacon later added the instrumental track. After completing the penultimate verse, Mercury had told the band he “wasn’t feeling that great” and stated, “I will finish it when I come back, next time”. Mercury never returned to the studio afterwards, leaving May to record the final verse of the song. Both stages of recording, before and after Mercury’s death, were completed at the band’s studio in Montreux, Switzerland. The album reached number one in the UK following its release, their ninth number one album, and sold 20 million copies worldwide. On 25 November 1996, a statue of Mercury was unveiled in Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva, almost five years to the day since his death.
—Elton John, on Queen being without a lead singer since the death of Freddie Mercury.
In 1997, Queen returned to the studio to record “No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)”, a song dedicated to Mercury and all those who die too soon. It was released as a bonus track on the Queen Rocks compilation album later that year.In January 1997, Queen performed “The Show Must Go On” live with Elton John and the Béjart Ballet in Paris on a night Mercury was remembered, and it marked the last performance and public appearance of John Deacon, who chose to retire. The Paris concert was only the second time Queen had played live since Mercury’s death, prompting Elton John to urge them to perform again.Brian May and Roger Taylor performed together at several award ceremonies and charity concerts, sharing vocals with various guest singers. During this time, they were billed as Queen + followed by the guest singer’s name. In 1998, the duo appeared at Luciano Pavarotti’s benefit concert with May performing “Too Much Love Will Kill You” with Pavarotti, later playing “Radio Ga Ga”, “We Will Rock You”, and “We Are the Champions” with Zucchero. They again attended and performed at Pavarotti’s benefit concert in Modena, Italy in May 2003.Several of the guest singers recorded new versions of Queen’s hits under the Queen + name, such as Robbie Williamsproviding vocals for “We Are the Champions” for the soundtrack of A Knight’s Tale (2001).
This featured, among others, “Queen + Wyclef Jean” on a rap version of “Another One Bites the Dust”. A live version of “Somebody to Love” by George Michael and a live version of “The Show Must Go On” with Elton John were also featured in the album. By this point, Queen’s vast amount of record sales made them the second-bestselling artist in the UK of all time, behind the Beatles. On 18 October 2002, Queen were awarded the 2,207th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for their work in the music industry, which is located at 6358 Hollywood Blvd. On 29 November 2003, May and Taylor performed at the 46664 Concert hosted by Nelson Mandela at Green Point Stadium, Cape Town, to raise awareness of the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. A new song, “Invincible Hope”, featuring Mandela’s speech and credited to Queen + Nelson Mandela, was performed during the concert and later released on the 46664: One Year On EP. During that period May and Taylor spent time at Mandela’s home, discussing how Africa’s problems might be approached, and two years later the band were made ambassadors for the 46664 cause.
2004–2009: Queen + Paul Rodgers
At the end of 2004, May and Taylor announced that they would reunite and return to touring in 2005 with Paul Rodgers (founder and former lead singer of Free and Bad Company). Brian May’s website also stated that Rodgers would be “featured with” Queen as “Queen + Paul Rodgers”, not replacing Mercury. Deacon, who was retired, did not participate. In November 2004, Queen were among the inaugural inductees into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and the award ceremony was the first event at which Rodgers joined May and Taylor as vocalist.Between 2005 and 2006, Queen + Paul Rodgers embarked on a world tour, which was the first time Queen toured since their last tour with Freddie Mercury in 1986. Taylor said: “We never thought we would tour again, Paul came along by chance and we seemed to have a chemistry. Paul is just such a great singer. He’s not trying to be Freddie.”The first leg was in Europe, the second in Japan, and the third in the US in 2006. Queen received the inaugural VH1 Rock Honors at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 25 May 2006. Foo Fighters paid homage, performing “Tie Your Mother Down” to open the ceremony before being joined on stage by May, Taylor, and Rodgers, who played a selection of Queen hits.
On 15 August 2006, May confirmed through his website and fan club that Queen + Paul Rodgers would begin producing their first studio album beginning in October, to be recorded at a “secret location”. Queen + Paul Rodgers performed at the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute held in Hyde Park, London on 27 June 2008, to commemorate Mandela’s ninetieth birthday, and again promote awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The first Queen + Paul Rodgers album, titled The Cosmos Rocks, was released in Europe on 12 September 2008 and in the United States on 28 October 2008. Following the release of the album, the band again went on a tour through Europe, opening on Kharkiv’s Freedom Square in front of 350,000 Ukrainian fans.The Kharkiv concert was later released on DVD. The tour then moved to Russia, and the band performed two sold-out shows at the Moscow Arena.Having completed the first leg of its extensive European tour, which saw the band play 15 sold-out dates across nine countries, the UK leg of the tour sold out within 90 minutes of going on sale and included three London dates, the first of which was the O2 Arena on 13 October. The last leg of the tour took place in South America, and included a sold-out concert at the Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires.At the end of 2004, May and Taylor announced that they would reunite and return to touring in 2005 with Paul Rodgers (founder and former lead singer of Free and Bad Company). Brian May’s website also stated that Rodgers would be “featured with” Queen as “Queen + Paul Rodgers”, not replacing Mercury. Deacon, who was retired, did not participate. In November 2004, Queen were among the inaugural inductees into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and the award ceremony was the first event at which Rodgers joined May and Taylor as vocalist.Between 2005 and 2006, Queen + Paul Rodgers embarked on a world tour, which was the first time Queen toured since their last tour with Freddie Mercury in 1986. Taylor said: “We never thought we would tour again, Paul came along by chance and we seemed to have a chemistry. Paul is just such a great singer. He’s not trying to be Freddie.”The first leg was in Europe, the second in Japan, and the third in the US in 2006. Queen received the inaugural VH1 Rock Honors at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 25 May 2006. Foo Fighters paid homage, performing “Tie Your Mother Down” to open the ceremony before being joined on stage by May, Taylor, and Rodgers, who played a selection of Queen hits.
Queen and Paul Rodgers officially split up without animosity on 12 May 2009.
Rodgers stated: “My arrangement with [Queen] was similar to my arrangement with Jimmy [Page] in The Firm in that it was never meant to be a permanent arrangement”. Rodgers did not rule out the possibility of working with Queen again.
2009–2011: Departure from EMI, 40th anniversary
On 20 May 2009, May and Taylor performed “We Are the Champions” live on the season finale of American Idol with winner Kris Allen and runner-up Adam Lambert providing a vocal duet. In mid-2009, after the split of Queen + Paul Rodgers, the Queen online website announced a new greatest hits compilation named Absolute Greatest. The album was released on 16 November and peaked at number 3 in the official UK Chart. The album contains 20 of Queen’s biggest hits spanning their entire career and was released in four different formats: single disc, double disc (with commentary), double disc with feature book, and a vinyl record. Before its release, Queen ran an online competition to guess the track listing as a promotion for the album. On 30 October 2009, May wrote a fanclub letter on his website stating that Queen had no intentions to tour in 2010 but that there was a possibility of a performance. On 15 November 2009, May and Taylor performed “Bohemian Rhapsody” live on the British TV show The X Factor alongside the finalists.
—Jim Beach, Queen’s Manager, on the change of record label.
On 7 May 2010, May and Taylor announced that they were quitting their record label, EMI, after almost 40 years. On 20 August 2010, Queen’s manager Jim Beach put out a Newsletter stating that the band had signed a new contract with Universal Music. During an interview for HARDtalk on the BBC on 22 September, May confirmed that the band’s new deal was with Island Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. Hollywood Records remained as the group’s label in the United States and Canada, however. As such, for the first time since the late 1980s, Queen’s catalogue now has the same distributor worldwide, as Universal distributes for both the Island and Hollywood labels (for a time in the late 1980s, Queen was on EMI-owned Capitol Records in the US).
On 14 March 2011, which marked the band’s 40th anniversary, Queen’s first five albums were re-released in the UK and some other territories as remastered deluxe editions (the US versions were released on 17 May).The second five albums of Queen’s back catalogue were released worldwide on 27 June, with the exception of the US and Canada (27 September).The final five were released in the UK on 5 September.
In May 2011, Jane’s Addiction vocalist Perry Farrell noted that Queen are currently scouting their once former and current live bassist Chris Chaney to join the band. Farrell stated: “I have to keep Chris away from Queen, who want him and they’re not gonna get him unless we’re not doing anything. Then they can have him.” In the same month, Paul Rodgers stated he may tour with Queen again in the near future. At the 2011 Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI) Awards held in London on 4 October, Queen received the BMI Icon Award in recognition for their airplay success in the US. At the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards on 6 November, Queen received the Global Icon Award, which Katy Perry presented to Brian May. Queen closed the awards ceremony, with Adam Lambert on vocals, performing “The Show Must Go On”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”.The collaboration garnered a positive response from both fans and critics, resulting in speculation about future projects together.
2011–present: Queen + Adam Lambert, Queen Forever
On 25 and 26 April, May and Taylor appeared on the eleventh series of American Idol at the Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles, performing a Queen medley with the six finalists on the first show, and the following day performed “Somebody to Love” with the ‘Queen Extravaganza’ band. Queen were scheduled to headline Sonisphere at Knebworth on 7 July 2012 with Adam Lambert before the festival was cancelled. Queen’s final concert with Freddie Mercury was in Knebworth in 1986. Brian May commented, “It’s a worthy challenge for us, and I’m sure Adam would meet with Freddie’s approval.” Queen expressed disappointment at the cancellation and released a statement to the effect that they were looking to find another venue. Queen + Adam Lambert played two shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, London on 11 and 12 July 2012. Both shows sold out within 24 hours of tickets going on open sale.A third London date was scheduled for 14 July. On 30 June, Queen + Lambert performed in Kiev, Ukraine at a joint concert with Elton John for the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation. Queen also performed with Lambert on 3 July 2012 at Moscow’s Olympic Stadium, and on 7 July 2012 at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, Poland.
On 12 August 2012, Queen performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The performance at London’s Olympic Stadium opened with a special remastered video clip of Mercury on stage performing his call and response routine during their 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium. Following this, May performed part of the “Brighton Rock” solo before being joined by Taylor and solo artist Jessie J for a performance of “We Will Rock You”.
On 20 September 2013, Queen + Adam Lambert performed at the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Queen + Adam Lambert toured North America in Summer 2014 and Australia and New Zealand in August/September 2014. In an interview with Rolling Stone, May and Taylor said that although the tour with Lambert is a limited thing, they are open to him becoming an official member, and cutting new material with him.
In November 2014 Queen released a new album Queen Forever. The album is largely a compilation of previously-released material but features three new Queen tracks featuring vocals from Mercury with backing added by the surviving members of Queen. One new track, “There Must Be More To Life Than This”, is a duet between Mercury and Michael Jackson. Queen + Adam Lambert performed in the shadow of Big Ben in Central Hall, Westminster, central London at the Big Ben New Year concert on New Year’s Eve 2014 and New Year’s Day 2015.In 2016, the group embarked across Europe and Asia on the Queen + Adam Lambert 2016 Summer Festival Tour. This included closing the Isle of Wight Festival in England on 12 June where they performed “Who Wants to Live Forever” as a tribute to the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida earlier that day. On 12 September they performed at the Park Hayarkon in Tel-Aviv, Israel for the first time in front of 58,000 people. As part of the Queen + Adam Lambert Tour 2017–2018, the band toured North America in the summer of 2017, toured Europe in late 2017, before playing dates in Australia and New Zealand in February and March 2018. On 24 February 2019, Queen + Adam Lambert opened the 91st Academy Awards ceremony held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. In July 2019 they embarked on the North American leg of The Rhapsody Tour, with the dates sold out in April. They will tour Japan and South Korea in January 2020 followed by Australia and New Zealand the following month.
Music style and influences
Brian May playing his custom-made Red Special at the O2 Arena in London in 2017. He has used this guitar almost exclusively since the band’s advent in the early 1970s.
Queen drew artistic influence from British rock acts of the 1960s and early 1970s, such as the Beatles, the Kinks, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Who, Black Sabbath, Slade, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Genesis and Yes,in addition to American guitarist Jimi Hendrix, with Mercury also inspired by the gospel singer Aretha Franklin.[ At their outset in the early 1970s, Queen’s music has been characterised as “Led Zeppelin meets Yes” due to its combination of “acoustic/electric guitar extremes and fantasy-inspired multi-part song epics”. In his book on Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, Eddie Trunk described Queen as “a hard rock band at the core but one with a high level of majesty and theatricality that delivered a little something for everyone”, as well as observing that the band “sounded British”. Rob Halford of Judas Priest commented, “It’s rare that you struggle to label a band. If you’re a heavy metal band you’re meant to look and sound like a heavy metal band but you can’t really call Queen anything. They could be a pop band one day or the band that wrote ‘Bicycle Race’ the next and a full-blown metal band the next. In terms of the depth of the musical landscape that they covered, it was very similar to some extent to the Beatles.”
Queen composed music that drew inspiration from many different genres of music, often with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. The music styles and genres they have been associated with include progressive rock (also known as symphonic rock), art rock, glam rock, arena rock, heavy metal, pop rock, psychedelic rock, baroque pop, and rockabilly. Queen also wrote songs that were inspired by diverse musical styles which are not typically associated with rock groups, such as opera, music hall, folk music, gospel,ragtime, and dance/disco. Their 1980 single “Another One Bites the Dust” became a major hit single in the funk rock genre. Several Queen songs were written with audience participation in mind, such as “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. Similarly, “Radio Ga Ga” became a live favourite because it would have “crowds clapping like they were at a Nuremberg rally”.
In 1963, the teenage Brian May and his father custom-built his signature guitar Red Special, which was purposely designed to feedback. May has used Vox AC30 amplifiers almost exclusively since a meeting with his long-time hero Rory Gallagherat a gig in London during the late 1960s/early 1970s. Sonic experimentation figured heavily in Queen’s songs. A distinctive characteristic of Queen’s music are the vocal harmonies which are usually composed of the voices of May, Mercury, and Taylor best heard on the studio albums A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. Some of the ground work for the development of this sound can be attributed to the producer Roy Thomas Baker and engineer Mike Stone. Besides vocal harmonies, Queen were also known for multi-tracking voices to imitate the sound of a large choir through overdubs. For instance, according to Brian May, there are over 180 vocal overdubs in “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The band’s vocal structures have been compared with the Beach Boys.
Directed by Bruce Gowers, the groundbreaking “Bohemian Rhapsody” promotional video sees the band adopt a “decadent ‘glam’ sensibility”. Replicating Mick Rock’s photograph of the band from the cover of Queen II – which itself was inspired by a photo of actress Marlene Dietrich from Shanghai Express (1932) – the video opens with “Queen standing in diamond formation, heads tilted back like Easter Island statues” in near darkness as they sing the a cappellapart. David Mallet directed a number of their subsequent music videos, some of which use footage from classic films: “Under Pressure” incorporates 1920s silent films, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, the 1984 video for “Radio Ga Ga” includes footage from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), while the 1995 video “Heaven for Everyone” shows footage from Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage(1904). The first part of Mallet’s music video for “I Want to Break Free” spoofed the popular long-running British soap opera Coronation Street. The music video for “Innuendo” combines stop motion animation with rotoscopingand band members appear as illustrations and images taken from earlier Queen music videos on a cinema screen in the same manner as in the British film Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Directed by Bruce Gowers, the groundbreaking “Bohemian Rhapsody” promotional video sees the band adopt a “decadent ‘glam’ sensibility”. Replicating Mick Rock’s photograph of the band from the cover of Queen II – which itself was inspired by a photo of actress Marlene Dietrich from Shanghai Express (1932) – the video opens with “Queen standing in diamond formation, heads tilted back like Easter Island statues” in near darkness as they sing the a cappella part.
One of the industry’s leading music video directors, David Mallet, directed a number of their subsequent videos. Some of their later videos use footage from classic films: “Calling All Girls” was a homage to George Lucas’s THX 1138; “Under Pressure” incorporates 1920s silent films, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu; the 1984 video for “Radio Ga Ga” includes footage from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927); and the 1995 video “Heaven for Everyone” shows footage from Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904). The first part of Mallet’s music video for “I Want to Break Free” spoofed the popular long-running British soap opera Coronation Street.
The music video for “Innuendo” combines stop motion animation with rotoscoping and band members appear as illustrations and images taken from earlier Queen music videos on a cinema screen in the same manner as in the British film Nineteen Eighty-Four. Queen also appeared in more conventional music videos. “We Will Rock You” was filmed outdoors in Roger Taylor’s back garden during a cold day in early January 1977. Filmed at the New London Theatre later that year, the music video for “We Are the Champions” features the band – with Mercury in a trademark Harlequin outfit – performing infront of an enthusiastic crowd who wave Queen scarves in a manner similar to English football fans.
In 2002, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was voted “the UK’s favourite hit of all time” in a poll conducted by the Guinness World Records British Hit Singles Book. In 2004, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Many scholars consider the “Bohemian Rhapsody” music video ground-breaking, crediting it with popularising the medium. Rock historian Paul Fowles stated that the song is “widely credited as the first global hit single for which an accompanying video was central to the marketing strategy”. It has been hailed as launching the MTV age. In December 2018, “Bohemian Rhapsody” became the most-streamed song from the 20th century, and the most-streamed classic rock song of all time. The number of downloads of the song and original video exceeded 1.6 billion across global on-demand streaming services. Acclaimed for their stadium rock, in 2005 an industry poll ranked Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985 as the best live act in history. In 2007, they were also voted the greatest British band in history by BBC Radio 2 listeners.
—1980s MTV VJ Martha Quinnspeaking in July 2015 on the 30th anniversary of Live Aid.
As of 2005, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Queen albums have spent a total of 1,322 weeks (twenty-six years) on the UK Album Charts, more time than any other act. Also in 2005, with the release of their live album with Paul Rodgers, Queen moved into third place on the list of acts with the most aggregate time spent on the British record charts. In 2006, the Greatest Hits album was the all-time best-selling album in UK Chart history, with sales of 5,407,587 copies, over 604,295 more copies than its nearest competitor, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Their Greatest Hits II album is the tenth best seller, with sales of 3,746,404 copies.
The band have released a total of eighteen number one albums, eighteen number one singles, and ten number one DVDs worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists. Queen have sold over 170 million records, with some estimates in excess of 300 million records worldwide, including 34.5 million albums in the US as of 2004. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the band is the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single, and all four members were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2009, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the latter was voted the world’s favourite song in a 2005 Sony Ericsson global music poll. The band received Ivor Novello Awards for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, in 1987, and Outstanding Song Collection, in 2005, from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. In 2018 they were presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Queen are one of the most bootlegged bands ever, according to Nick Weymouth, who manages the band’s official website. A 2001 survey discovered the existence of 12,225 websites dedicated to Queen bootlegs, the highest number for any band. Bootleg recordings have contributed to the band’s popularity in certain countries where Western music is censored, such as Iran. In a project called Queen: The Top 100 Bootlegs, many of these have been made officially available to download for a nominal fee from Queen’s website, with profits going to the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Rolling Stone ranked Queen at number 52 on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”,while ranking Mercury the 18th greatest singer, and May the twenty-sixth greatest guitarist. Rolling Stonereaders voted Mercury the second greatest frontman. Queen were named 13th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock list, and in 2010 were ranked 17th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list. In 2012, Gigwise readers named Queen the best band of the past 60 years. Eddie Trunk argued that Queen’s importance, in common with Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple, was “not as fully recognized” in the United States because elsewhere they “often played to much bigger crowds in stadium venues”. Queen had stopped touring the US in 1982 as their success there had started to wane, but they remained a touring “juggernaut”, filling stadiums and arenas internationally in the 1980s until their final tour (with Mercury) in 1986.
Queen have been credited with making a significant contribution to genres such as hard rock and heavy metal. The band have been cited as an influence by many other musicians. Moreover, like their music, the bands and artists that have claimed to be influenced by Queen or have expressed admiration for them are diverse, spanning different generations, countries, and genres, including heavy metal: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica,Dream Theater, Trivium, Megadeth, Anthrax, Melvins, Slipknot and Rage Against the Machine; hard rock: Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Steve Vai, the Cult,the Darkness, Kid Rock and Foo Fighters; alternative rock: Nirvana, Radiohead, Trent Reznor, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, the Flaming Lips, and The Smashing Pumpkins; shock rock: Marilyn Manson; pop rock: The Killers, My Chemical Romance, and Panic! at the Disco; and pop: Michael Jackson, George Michael, Robbie Williams,Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Psy.
In the early 1970s, Queen helped spur the heavy metal genre’s evolution by discarding much of its blues influence. Queen’s 1974 song “Stone Cold Crazy” has been cited as a precursor of speed metal. Metallica recorded a cover version of “Stone Cold Crazy”, which first appeared on the Rubáiyát: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary album in 1990, and won their second Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1991. Thom Yorke of Radiohead received his first guitar at 7 years old, encouraged after seeing Brian May in a broadcast of a Queen concert. At 10 years old, Yorke made his own homemade guitar, trying to imitate what May had done with his Red Special, but he was not satisfied with the result. Subsequently, Queen was one of the first influences in the music of Radiohead.
In other media
In May 2002, a musical or “rock theatrical” based on the songs of Queen, titled We Will Rock You, opened at the Dominion Theatre on London’s West End. The musical was written by British comedian and author Ben Elton in collaboration with Brian May and Roger Taylor, and produced by Robert De Niro. It has since been staged in many cities around the world. The launch of the musical coincided with Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. As part of the Jubilee celebrations, Brian May performed a guitar solo of “God Save the Queen”, as featured on Queen’s A Night at the Opera, from the roof of Buckingham Palace. The recording of this performance was used as video for the song on the 30th Anniversary DVD edition of A Night at the Opera.Following the Las Vegas premiere on 8 September 2004, Queen were inducted into the Hollywood RockWalk in Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.
The original London production was scheduled to close on Saturday, 7 October 2006, at the Dominion Theatre, but due to public demand, the show ran until May 2014. We Will Rock You has become the longest running musical ever to run at this prime London theatre, overtaking the previous record holder, the musical Grease. Brian May stated in 2008 that they were considering writing a sequel to We Will Rock You. The musical toured around the UK in 2009, playing at Manchester Palace Theatre, Sunderland Empire, Birmingham Hippodrome, Bristol Hippodrome, and Edinburgh Playhouse.
Sean Bovim created “Queen at the Ballet”, a tribute to Mercury, which uses Queen’s music as a soundtrack for the show’s dancers, who interpret the stories behind tracks such as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Ga Ga”, and “Killer Queen”. Queen’s music also appears in the Off-Broadway production Power Balladz, most notably the song “We Are the Champions”, with the show’s two performers believing the song was “the apex of artistic achievement in its day”.
In conjunction with Electronic Arts, Queen released the computer game Queen: The eYe in 1998. The music itself—tracks from Queen’s vast catalogue, in many cases remixed into new instrumental versions—was by and large well received, but the game experience was hampered by poor gameplay. Adding to the problem was an extremely long development time, resulting in graphic elements that already seemed outdated by the time of release.
Under the supervision of May and Taylor, numerous restoration projects have been under way involving Queen’s lengthy audio and video catalogue. DVD releases of their 1986 Wembley concert (titled Live at Wembley Stadium), 1982 Milton Keynes concert (Queen on Fire – Live at the Bowl), and two Greatest Video Hits (Volumes 1 and 2, spanning the 1970s and 1980s) have seen the band’s music remixed into 5.1 and DTS surround sound. So far, only two of the band’s albums, A Night at the Opera and The Game, have been fully remixed into high-resolution multichannel surround on DVD-Audio. A Night at the Opera was re-released with some revised 5.1 mixes and accompanying videos in 2005 for the 30th anniversary of the album’s original release (CD+DVD-Video set). In 2007, a Blu-ray edition of Queen’s previously released concerts, Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid, was released, marking their first project in 1080p HD.
Queen have been featured multiple times in the Guitar Hero franchise: a cover of “Killer Queen” in the original Guitar Hero, “We Are The Champions”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, and the Paul Rodgers collaboration “C-lebrity” in a track pack for Guitar Hero World Tour, “Under Pressure” with David Bowie in Guitar Hero 5, “I Want It All” in Guitar Hero: Van Halen, “Stone Cold Crazy” in Guitar Hero: Metallica, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. On 13 October 2009, Brian May revealed there was “talk” going on “behind the scenes” about a dedicated Queen Rock Band game.
Queen have also been featured multiple times in the Rock Band franchise: a track pack of 10 songs which are compatible with Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and Rock Band 3 (three of those are also compatible with Lego Rock Band). Their hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” was featured in Rock Band 3 with full harmony and keys support. The band also appeared in the video game Lego Rock Band as playable Lego avatars.
In March 2009, Sony Computer Entertainment released a Queen branded version of the company’s karaoke franchise, SingStar. The game, which is available on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, is titled SingStar Queen and has 25 songs on the PS3 and 20 on the PS2. “We Will Rock You” and other songs by Queen also appear in DJ Hero.
“One Vision” was featured on the successful video game Grand Theft Auto IV on the fictional radio station Liberty Rock Radio 97.8, while “Radio Ga Ga” features on Grand Theft Auto V character trailer for Michael and the game’s soundtrack.
Film and television
The soundtrack for the film Flash Gordon (1980) was by Queen. The band also contributed music to Highlander (the original 1986 film), with “A Kind of Magic”, “One Year of Love”, “Who Wants to Live Forever”, “Hammer to Fall”, and the theme “Princes of the Universe”, which was also used as the theme of the Highlander TV series (1992–1998). In the United States, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was re-released as a single in 1992 after appearing in the comedy film Wayne’s World. The single subsequently reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (with “The Show Must Go On” as the first track on the single) and helped rekindle the band’s popularity in North America.
Several films have featured their songs performed by other artists. A version of “Somebody to Love” by Anne Hathaway was in the 2004 film Ella Enchanted.In 2006, Brittany Murphy also recorded a cover of the same song for the 2006 film Happy Feet. In 2001, a version of “The Show Must Go On” was performed by Jim Broadbent and Nicole Kidman in the film musical Moulin Rouge!. The 2001 film A Knight’s Tale has a version of “We Are the Champions” performed by Robbie Williams and Queen; the film also features “We Will Rock You” played by the medieval audience.
“I Was Born to Love You” was used as the theme song of the Japanese television drama Pride on Fuji Television in 2004, starring Takuya Kimura and Yūko Takeuchi. The show’s soundtrack also contained other songs by Queen. “Don’t Stop Me Now” has featured in the BBC television show Top Gear, and in 2005 the song was voted as “The Greatest Driving Song Ever” by the series’ viewers.
Keeping in a tradition of naming each season’s episodes after songs by 1970s rock bands, the eighth and final season of That ’70s Show had episodes named after Queen songs. “Bohemian Rhapsody” served as the season premiere. With an entry for the year 1977, Queen featured in the VH1 series I Love the ’70s, broadcast in the US. The Simpsons has made storylines which have featured Queen songs such as “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions” (both sung by Homer), and “You’re My Best Friend”. The latter also appears in Family Guy, as does “Another One Bites the Dust”, while an episode of the show, “Killer Queen”, is named after (and features) the song.
On 11 April 2006, Brian May and Roger Taylor appeared on the American singing contest television show American Idol. Each contestant was required to sing a Queen song during that week of the competition. Songs which appeared on the show included “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, “The Show Must Go On”, “Who Wants to Live Forever”, and “Innuendo”. Brian May later criticised the show for editing specific scenes, one of which made the group’s time with contestant Ace Young look negative, despite it being the opposite. Taylor and May again appeared on the American Idol season 8 finale in May 2009, performing “We Are the Champions” with finalists Adam Lambert and Kris Allen.On 15 November 2009, Brian May and Roger Taylor appeared on the singing contest television show The X Factor in the UK.
In 2007, Queen featured as one of the main artists in the fifth episode of the BBC/VH1 series Seven Ages of Rock – focusing on stadium rock, the episode itself was named “We Are the Champions”. In the autumn of 2009, Gleefeatured the fictional high school’s show choir singing “Somebody to Love” as their second act performance in the episode “The Rhodes Not Taken”. The performance was included on the show’s Volume 1 soundtrack CD. In June 2010, the choir performed “Another One Bites the Dust” in the episode “Funk”. The following week’s episode, “Journey to Regionals”, features a rival choir performing “Bohemian Rhapsody” in its entirety. The song was featured on the episode’s EP. In May 2012, the choir performed “We Are the Champions” in the episode “Nationals”, and the song features in The Graduation Album.
Bohemian Rhapsody (Film)
In a September 2010 BBC interview, Brian May announced in that Sacha Baron Cohen was to play Mercury in a biographical film about the band. Time commented with approval on his singing ability and visual similarity to Mercury. However, in July 2013, Baron Cohen dropped out of the role due to “creative differences” between him and the surviving band members. In December 2013, it was announced that Ben Whishaw, known for playing Q in the James Bond film Skyfall, was a possible replacement for Baron Cohen in the role of Mercury, but Whishaw pulled out a few months later amidst uncertainty about how the film was progressing.
The project regained momentum in 2016. It was announced on 4 November that the film had secured the backing of 20th Century Fox, New Regency and GK Films. By this time, the film’s working title was Bohemian Rhapsody, after the band’s song of the same name. Freddie Mercury was to be played by Rami Malek, and shooting was scheduled to begin in early 2017. The motion picture was written by Anthony McCarten, with a story by McCarten and Peter Morgan, who received Oscar nominations for his screenplays The Queen and Frost/Nixon.
Released in October 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody focuses on Queen’s formative years and the period leading up to the celebrated performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert. The film has grossed over $900 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing musical biographical film of all time. Despite receiving mixed reviews, it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Malek received wide acclaim and numerous accolades for his portrayal of Mercury, including the Academy Award for Best Actor. While the Live Aid segment was praised, criticism came from not exploring more complex themes involving Mercury, with the New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski stating, “What we ultimately wanted from Bohemian Rhapsody was not carbon-copied concerts, but behind-closed-doors insight into a deeply private, complicated, internationally beloved superstar.” After the release of the film, “Bohemian Rhapsody” re-entered the US Billboard Hot 100 for the third time (having previously charted in 1976 and 1992), charting at number 33 on 12 November 2018.
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- “Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock”. p.26. Voyageur Press, 2009
- Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock. p.96. Voyageur Press, 2009
- “Tie Your Mother Down” has been included in all of the band’s tours from the summer of 1976 to the most recent Return of the Champions tour, Queen Concertography.
- Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock. p.155. Voyageur Press, 2009. Books.google.com.
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- Cunningham, Mark (October 1995). “AN INVITATION TO THE OPERA: Roy Thomas Baker & Gary Langan: The Making Of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘“. Sound on Sound.
There was no stipulation that we wouldn’t have any synths, but the statement ‘No synths’ was printed on the album sleeves because of peoples’ lack of intellect in the ears department. Many people couldn’t hear the difference between a multitracked guitar and a synthesiser. We would spend four days multi-layering a guitar solo and then some imbecile from the record company would come in and say, ‘I like that synth!’
- Billboard 12 July 1980. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- queen, official, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon. “Sonisphere – Statement from Queen”. Queenonline.com.
- “Press Release: Queen To Play Hammersmith”. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- Sutcliffe, Phil (2009). Queen: the Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock (2015 ed.). Minneapolis, MN, USA: Voyageur Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-7603-4947-2.
Corey Taylor: ‘The older I got, the more I got into Queen, and I got into the harmonies, which were just unreal … It was one of those things where you go, ‘Man I wish I would’ve started listening to this earlier.’ I think Freddie Mercury was one of the best singers ever lived. I think he would look around at a lot of this stuff today and laugh his ass off ’cause it would be so funny to him. Then again, he’d probably be a god to some of these people because he was such a great frontman, such a good singer, and just incredibly gifted man.’
- Sutcliffe, Phil (2009). Queen: the Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock (2015 ed.). Minneapolis, MN, USA: Voyageur Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7603-4947-2.
Tom Morello: ‘There is no band remotely like them. There aren’t even imitators that come within a hundred city blocks of Queen, and that can be said about very, very few bands. It’s one of the few bands in the history of rock music that was actually best in a stadium. And I miss Freddie Mercury very much.’
Sutcliffe, Phil (2009). Queen: the Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock (2015 ed.). Minneapolis, MN, USA: Voyageur Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7603-4947-2. Wayne Coyne: ‘Musically they really are phenomenal. Freddie Mercury was just a beautiful singer, and they all are so great as musicians and have so many great moments where it’s like, oh my God, here’s a band that didn’t hold back.’
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- Nester, Daniel (2004). God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press. ISBN 978-1-932360-51-6.
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- Sutcliffe, Phil; Hince, Peter; Mack, Reinhold (2009). Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock. London: Voyageur Press. ISBN 0-7603-3719-5.