For week's dose of facts, we uncovered ten morsels about Queen, whose bassist John Deacon celebrates his 60th birthday today. This year marks several important anniversaries in the Queen universe, most of all the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death in late November. It's also been two decades since their last album of new material, Innuendo, was released. The last, Made In Heaven, would come in 1995, assembled from discarded Mercury vocals and piano lines.
Perhaps the thing that gets lost in the shuffle, behind all the flashy stories of Mercury's personal life and the band's hit singles, is Queen's recording and artistic prowess. Every member was a musical powerhouse in their own right, and they took great pains in the studio to make sure everything was perfect. Queen managed to make brainy sound grand and elaborate, and remains massively influential. Last year on the date of Mercury's death we listed just a few of today's bands and artists who bear their mark.
We collected ten facts that you may have not known about Queen, from recording techniques to the secrets behind the band's famous crest logo. Hopefully, if all the pieces can come together, by this time next year we will finally be seeing a trailer for the upcoming Queen biopic set to feature Sacha Baron Cohen as Mercury.
For the "I Want To Break Free" promo clip, it was drummer Roger Taylor's idea for the band to dress as women. You may remember the image of Mercury, with moustache in full bloom, vacuuming the living room with a pointy, buxom chest working it's magic. Still don't quiet get the cuts to the dark tunnel with the people with lights on their heads though, or the acrobats writhing on the floor.
"Sheer Heart Attack" doesn't appear on the album of the same name. It made News of the World a few albums later, which incidentally also features the most bitchin' cover ever. Robots and shit.
Mercury composed "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" while in a hotel bathtub. He had management bring him a piano tubside.
When A Night At the Opera was released in November 1975, it was the most expensive album ever recorded. The band used six different studios to record it, and Mercury spent months alone recording his vocals. Also, according to the band, they used no synths.
Queen's live shows were a spectacle that had yet to be seen by the rock public. Later, appearing onstage with a backing tape and using video screens would become commonplace in arena rock.
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Guitarist Brian May is an astrophysicist and has co-written respected books and articles on astronomy. Plus, he builds and innovates guitar hardware on the side. If that wasn't enough, he also plays guitar on Lady Gaga's newest single, "You And I," which has more than a passing shade of Queen to it.
Mercury never got his overbite fixed, for fear that it would affect his singing voice. He also had a recorded vocal range of three to four octaves. Mariah Carey has five.
In the wake of 9/11, "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Killer Queen" were both temporarily forbidden to be played on the radio, for fear that they were offensive to a wounded country.
Queen's crest logo was designed by Mercury, a former art student who incorporated the band's collective zodiac signs (lions, crabs, and fairies) into the final product. Also, Queen is a better name than the band's previous moniker - Smile.
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Over 120 separate vocal tracks were layered together on "Bohemian Rhapsody." If you listen to the isolated vocal tracks, you can hear that Mercury had basically written a symphony using his voice as the sole instrument, with the music almost an afterthought.
One night, over a producer buddy's huge studio speakers, his ProTools setup came alive as we watched every single Freddie Mercury vocal cue on the anthem come together. There are something like 280 channels of vocals on this song alone, with the 120 turning into 280 with studio magic, taking almost three weeks to get on tape.