When you think of Queen, hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are The Champions” usually come to mind, but few remember the start of their career with “Queen,” their debut album, released on July 13, 1973.
Officially formed in 1971, the band made up of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon in its early days he spent his days giving concerts at universities and colleges, or handing out demo tapes to record companies.
While recording a set of songs at De Lane Lea studio in London, producer Roy Thomas Baker, famous for having worked with the likes of Jimmy Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa, introduced them to Norman Sheffield of Trident Studios. , who decided to make a space for them.
Taking advantage of their savings and ventures to meet expenses, among In 1971 and 1972 the four of them were recording at Trident at unusual hours.
In the early mornings of those days, the band and the technical team progressed as much as they could. The result was more than interesting, but it wasn’t until 1973 that Sheffield contacted EMI and the possibility of releasing the album could be finalized, with Baker as the main producer.
And while other names like “Top Fax,” “Pix & Info” and “Deary Me” were considered, finally they reached the agreement that the long duration would be called “What in”. The work finally saw the light on July 13, 1973 and reached number 24 in the British charts.
In the midst of the post-Beatles era, the United Kingdom was abuzz with groups seeking success in different ways.
One of them was the “glam rock”, in which the fantastic narrative shone and the transforming characters like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the stories that mixed legends with bohemian experiences.
“From the beginning, Queen was that. When you look at the story of Freddie Mercury, of his childhood, of his youth, it is very obvious that he had the ability to mess with JRR Tolkien-type stories,” Colombian critic Manolo Bellon told EFE. , author of books such as “The ABC of Rock” (2007), “Surcos del Pop” (2011) and “The Beatles: The Story” (2003).
Apart from Bowie, Queen was also marked by groups like T. Rex and its iconic ‘frontman’ Marc Bolan, Peter Gabriel’s Genesis, Roxy Music and Led Zepellin.
A “RAW” ALBUM
But we must not forget that both Mercury on vocals and piano, like May on guitar, Taylor on drums and Deacon on bass were serious newbies to recording, and the sound of “Queen” proves it.
“It is an album in which the sound is musically raw. If one is not used to it and does not listen to Queen from the beginning, listen to the Queen of later albums and it is a completely different band,” Alberto Marchena Jr., one of of the co-creators of the Colombian radio system W Radio and Radioacktiva and current director of the 40 Principales, of the Prisa Group, in the South American country.
The history of rock is full of ‘raw’ beginnings, different, which later give way to changes and brilliant careers.
That’s what happens “when you look at what the Rolling Stones recorded” early in their career, for example, in 1964’s ‘Little Red Rooster’, a Willie Dixon song popularized in 1961 by Howlin Wolf’.
“Then in 1969 they do ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,’ and one says ‘it’s the same Mick Jagger who sings that and listen to what he sang before,'” says Bellon.
And he adds: “Artists always -and this almost inevitably happens- receive the influences of what they listen to and that’s where they start”.
In the credits of “Queen” a very particular phrase is read: “…and nobody played the synthesizer”, to emphasize that the initial sound of the group wanted to be more pure, with hallmarks like May’s guitar.
“The magic of the group was also a combination of things that came together very well, because Mercury’s songs fed very well from Brian May’s guitar. Regardless of how different they were when it came to writing, Mercury’s songs they fed very well on the musical part of the rest of the band”, emphasizes Marchena Jr.
You don’t miss the synthesizer if you hear how the drums of Roger Taylor solos in the middle of “Keep Yourself Alive”, the first song on the album, whose origins go back to Smile, Queen’s predecessor band.
It’s also not missing when you feel the precision of Deacon’s bass on “Liar”, one of those songs where you can clearly see Mercury’s incredible songwriting talent.
These songs are accompanied by “Doing All Right” (another piece originating from Smile that would have a “modernized” version for the soundtrack of the biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” from 2018), “Great King Rat”, “My Fairy King “, “The Night Comes Down”, “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Jesus” and an early version of “Seven Seas Of Rhye” that would be completed in “Queen II” (1974).
The rest, as the world knows, is history.