For many, the success and fascination of the British rock band Queen is primarily associated with lead singer Freddie Mercury. The story of the incredible band is one made for movie screens – and that’s exactly where director Bryan Singer is taking it with his new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody”, featured in our what to watch guide this month and to be released on October 31st. The film follows the band’s rise to success from the very beginning up until 1985. This week on the blog, we are also paying tribute and recounting the story of Queen.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Beyond all the glitter and glam of Freddie Mercury, the Queen story of course cannot be told without mentioning the other band members. John Deacon on bass, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor were outstanding musicians and performers. Some of the most famous Queen songs were also written by them: for example Another One Bites the Dust by John Deacon or Radio Ga Ga by Roger Taylor.
”Is this the real life? / Is this just fantasy? / Caught in a landslide / No escape from reality”
(Lyrics from Bohemian Rhapsody)
The first lines of Queens Bohemian Rhapsody are already very telling. The incredible journey to becoming one of the biggest bands ever, the elemental force they developed on stage and the tragic end.
Queen is born
The acquaintance of Brian May and Roger Taylor sparks the origin of Queen. They played together in the band Smile. Tim Staffell was the lead singer of the band and he also played a part in the formation of the band. It was he who introduced the other two Smile members to Farrokh “Freddie” Bulsara, whom he knew from his art studies. Freddie Bulsara had moved with his family from Zanzibar to London in 1964.
He first joined Smile as a roadie. When Staffell left the band, May and Taylor founded the band Queen with him in 1970. The name was Freddie’s idea. When Deacon joined the band shortly after, and Farrokh Bulsara began calling himself Freddie Mercury, the essential ingredients for later success were all there.
The Queen sound
Freddie Mercury had a clear idea of what Queen’s style should be, right from the beginnings of Queen. He brought something operetta-like, playful and unpredictable into the songs. Style and stage presence also differed strongly from what was fashionable at the beginning of the 70s. Queen performed with make-up and fancy costumes, and travesty became a recurring element. In addition there were pyrotechnics, fog and other effects at their concerts – all in all a lot of glamour. They quickly made a name for themselves on the London music scene with their live shows.
Only a short time passed until the band secured their first record deal. In 1972 they were signed by EMI and in 1973 the first album Queen I was released. While this album received very little public attention, the successor Queen II featured Seven Seas of Rhye, the first small hit. The song was played on BBC radio and reached the top 10 in the British charts. With this success behind him, Freddie Mercury quit his job as a salesman at Kensington market, and from then on there was no stopping the band.
The kings of live performance
From 1974 Queen’s success went through the roof. They released an album every year until 1978 (such as A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races) and reached top chart positions internationally with some of the greatest hits of the band (including Bohemian Rhapsody). Queen was on tour almost all the time and founded the myth as the best live band on the planet. For Freddie Mercury, the biggest stages were only just big enough. The concerts in London’s Hyde Park (1976) or the concert in Wembley Stadium (1986) ten years later are also incredible performances from today’s perspective.
In the 80’s Queen opened up to new musical influences. They incorporated disco and funk elements and collaborated with other artists. The collaboration with David Bowie for Under Pressure is legendary. Mercury, in particular, recognised the music video as an experimental field very early on. The videos for Bohemian Rhapsody and Radio Ga Ga prove this in an impressive way.
The final years of Queen
Queen remained one of the most successful bands in the second half of the 80s, although Freddie Mercury probably knew about his HIV contraction in 1986 at the latest. But nobody can say for sure. The last Queen concert with Freddie Mercury as frontman took place on August 9, 1986 in Knebworth Park in front of about 120,000 people. The tour to the 1989 released album Live Magic was cancelled because of the increasingly bad health of Mercury.
In November 1991 Freddie Mercury died of an HIV infection. He continued to take it upon himself to write songs and record them in the studio until his death. It took great effort to record the last Queen album Innuendo. By then he was already too weak to take part in the video shoot for The Show Must Go On. But he kept his incredible voice until the end.
Queen’s story was not over with Mercury’s death. An album with songs that he had recorded shortly before his death was released in 1995. Brian May and Roger Taylor went on tour as Queen in 2005 with a guest singer, however this was not received positively by all fans. The video recordings of legendary Queen concerts like the one mentioned in Wembley are also available on DVD and Blu-ray. And of course fans can also see if the on-screen Mercury of the film can live up to the original.
Wembley sound in the living room with Teufel Ultima
The Teufel Ultima 40 give Queen a worthy (stereo) stage and bring the unique power of the Queen sound into your living room – after all, our most successful Ultima speaker range now has a legendary status itself.
- ▶ 3-way floor-standing speaker for Hi-Fi sound for music, movies and gaming
- ▶ New innovative phase plug for the tweeters
- ▶ Double-tube bass system for bass that is both diffused and powerful
- ▶ Revised design with matte surface and shiny elements on tweeters and mid-range drivers
Teufel Music: our Queen playlist
Enjoy your favourite Spotify playlists with Teufel Streaming speakers
Image rights: courtesy of FOX