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Few bands embodied the pure excess of the '70s like Queen. Embracing the exaggerated pomp of prog rock and heavy metal, as well asvaudevillian music hall, the British quartet delved deeply into camp and bombast, creating a huge, mock-operatic sound with layered guitarsand overdubbed vocals. Queen's music was a bizarre yet highly accessible fusion of the macho and the fey. For years, their albums boastedthe motto "no synthesizers were used on this record," signaling their allegiance with the legions of post-Led Zeppelin hard rock bands. Butvocalist Freddie Mercury brought an extravagant sen more

Few bands embodied the pure excess of the '70s like Queen. Embracing the exaggerated pomp of prog rock and heavy metal, as well asvaudevillian music hall, the British quartet delved deeply into camp and bombast, creating a huge, mock-operatic sound with layered guitarsand overdubbed vocals. Queen's music was a bizarre yet highly accessible fusion of the macho and the fey. For years, their albums boastedthe motto "no synthesizers were used on this record," signaling their allegiance with the legions of post-Led Zeppelin hard rock bands. Butvocalist Freddie Mercury brought an extravagant sense of camp to Queen, pushing them toward kitschy humor and pseudo-classicalarrangements, as epitomized on their best-known song, "Bohemian Rhapsody." Mercury, it must be said, was a flamboyant bisexual whomanaged to keep his sexuality in the closet until his death from AIDS in 1991. Through his legendary theatrical performances, Queenbecame one of the most popular bands in the world in the mid-'70s; in England, they remained second only to the Beatles in popularity andcollectibility in the '90s. Despite their enormous popularity, Queen were never taken seriously by rock critics -- an infamous Rolling Stonereview labeled their 1979 album Jazz as "fascist." In spite of such harsh criticism, the band's popularity rarely waned; even in the late '80s,the group retained a fanatical following except in America. In the States, their popularity peaked in the early '80s, just as they finishednearly a decade's worth of extraordinarily popular records. And while those records were never praised, they sold in enormous numbers, andtraces of Queen's music could be heard in several generations of hard rock and metal bands in the next two decades, from Metallica toSmashing Pumpkins.

The origins of Queen lay in the hard rock psychedelic group Smile, which guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor joined in 1967.Following the departure of Smile's lead vocalist, Tim Staffell, in 1971, May and Taylor formed a group with Freddie Mercury, the former leadsinger for Wreckage. Within a few months, bassist John Deacon joined them, and they began rehearsing. Over the next two years, as all fourmembers completed college, they simply rehearsed, playing just a handful of gigs. By 1973, they had begun to concentrate on their career,releasing their debut album, Queen, that year and setting out on their first tour. Queen was more or less a straight metal album and failed toreceive much acclaim, but Queen II became an unexpected British breakthrough early in 1974. Before its release, the band played Top ofthe Pops, performing "Seven Seas of Rhye." Both the song and the performance were smash successes, and the single rocketed into the TopTen, setting the stage for Queen II to reach number five. Following its release, the group embarked on its first American tour, supportingMott the Hoople. On the strength of their campily dramatic performances, the album climbed to number 43 in the States.

Queen released their third album, Sheer Heart Attack, before the end of 1974. The music hall meets Zeppelin "Killer Queen" climbed tonumber two on the U.K. charts, taking the album to number two as well. Sheer Heart Attack made some inroads in America as well, settingthe stage for the breakthrough of 1975's A Night at the Opera. Queen labored long and hard over the record; according to many reports, itwas the most expensive rock record ever made at the time of its release. The first single from the record, "Bohemian Rhapsody," becameQueen's signature song, and with its bombastic, mock-operatic structure punctuated by heavy metal riffing, it encapsulates their music. Italso is the symbol for their musical excesses -- the song took three weeks to record, and there were so many vocal overdubs on the recordthat it was possible to see through the tape at certain points. To support "Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen shot one of the first conceptualmusic videos, and the gamble paid off as the single spent nine weeks at number one in the England, breaking the record for the longest runat number one. The song and A Night at the Opera were equally successful in America, as the album climbed into the Top Ten and quicklywent platinum.

Following A Night at the Opera, Queen were established as superstars, and they quickly took advantage of all their status had to offer. Theirparties and indulgence quickly became legend in the rock world, yet they continued to work at a rapid rate. In the summer of 1976, theyperformed a free concert at London's Hyde Park that broke attendance records, and they released the hit single "Somebody to Love" a fewmonths later. It was followed by A Day at the Races, which was essentially a scaled-down version of A Night at the Opera that reachednumber one in the U.K. and number five in the U.S. They continued to pile up hit singles in both Britain and America over the next five years,as each of their albums went into the Top Ten, always going gold and usually platinum in the process. Because Queen embraced such masssuccess and adoration, they were scorned by the rock press, especially when they came to represent all of the worst tendencies of the oldguard in the wake of punk. Nevertheless, the public continued to buy Queen records. Featuring the Top Five double-A-sided single "We Arethe Champions"/"We Will Rock You," News of the World became a Top Ten hit in 1977. The following year, Jazz nearly replicated thatsuccess, with the single "Fat Bottomed Girls"/"Bicycle Race" becoming an international hit despite the massive bad publicity surroundingtheir media stunt of staging a nude female bicycle race.

Queen were at the height of their popularity as they entered the '80s, releasing The Game, their most diverse album to date, in 1980. Onthe strength of two number one singles -- the campy rockabilly "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and the disco-fied "Another One Bites theDust" -- The Game became the group's first American number one album. However, the bottom fell out of the group's popularity, particularlyin the U.S., shortly afterward. Their largely instrumental soundtrack to Flash Gordon was coldly received later in 1980. With the help ofDavid Bowie, Queen were able to successfully compete with new wave with the 1981 hit single "Under Pressure" -- their first U.K. numberone since "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- which was included both on their 1981 Greatest Hits and 1982's Hot Space. Instead of proving thegroup's vitality, "Under Pressure" was a last gasp. Hot Space was only a moderate hit, and the more rock-oriented The Works (1984) alsowas a minor hit, with only "Radio Ga Ga" receiving much attention. Shortly afterward, they left Elektra and signed with Capitol.

Faced with their decreased popularity in the U.S. and waning popularity in Britain, Queen began touring foreign markets, cultivating a large,dedicated fan base in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, continents that most rock groups ignored. In 1985, they returned to popularity inBritain in the wake of their showstopping performance at Live Aid. The following year, they released A Kind of Magic to strong Europeansales, but they failed to make headway in the States. The same fate befell 1989's The Miracle, yet 1991's Innuendo was greeted morefavorably, going gold and peaking at number 30 in the U.S. Nevertheless, it still was a far bigger success in Europe, entering the U.K. chartsat number one.

By 1991, Queen had drastically scaled back their activity, causing many rumors to circulate about Freddie Mercury's health. On November23, he issued a statement confirming that he was stricken with AIDS; he died the next day. The following spring, the remaining members ofQueen held a memorial concert at Wembley Stadium that was broadcast to an international audience of more than one billion. Featuring suchguest artists as David Bowie, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Def Leppard, and Guns N' Roses, the concert raised millions for the MercuryPhoenix Trust, which was established for AIDS awareness. The concert coincided with a revival of interest in "Bohemian Rhapsody," whichclimbed to number two in the U.S. and number one in the U.K. in the wake of its appearance in the Mike Myers comedy Wayne's World.

Following Mercury's death, the remaining members of Queen were fairly quiet. Brian May released his second solo album, Back to the Light,in 1993, ten years after the release of his first record. Roger Taylor cut a few records with the Cross, which he had been playing with since1987, while Deacon essentially retired. The three reunited in 1994 to record backing tapes for vocal tracks Mercury recorded on hisdeathbed. The resulting album, Made in Heaven, was released in 1995 to mixed reviews and strong sales, particularly in Europe. CrownJewels, a box set repackaging their first eight LPs, followed in 1998. Archival live recordings, DVDs, and compilations kept appearingthrough the new millennium. The Queen name was revived in 2005, but this time with "+ Paul Rodgers" appended to it. Rodgers, the formerlead singer of Free and Bad Company, joined Brian May and Roger Taylor (John Deacon remained retired) for several live shows, one of whichwas documented on 2005's Return of the Champions, a double-disc release issued by the Hollywood label. International touring continued,as did a new studio album featuring Rodgers' vocals. Released under the "Queen + Paul Rodgers" tag, The Cosmos Rocks appeared inSeptember 2008, followed by an American release one month later. Reception was decidedly mixed. « hide

Similar Bands: The Who, David Bowie, Elton John, Meat Loaf, Freddie Mercury

Made in Heaven

294 Votes

495 Votes
The Miracle

340 Votes
A Kind of Magic

333 Votes
The Works

329 Votes
Hot Space

334 Votes
Flash Gordon

245 Votes
The Game

435 Votes

483 Votes
News of the World

600 Votes
A Day at the Races

598 Votes
A Night at the Opera

1,314 Votes
Sheer Heart Attack

657 Votes
Queen II

732 Votes

531 Votes
Queen's First E.P.

13 Votes
Live Albums
A Night at the Odeon – Hammersmith 1975

5 Votes
Live at the Rainbow '74

16 Votes
Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest

14 Votes
Queen Rock Montreal

45 Votes
Queen on Fire: Live at the Bowl

48 Votes
Live at Wembley Stadium

91 Votes
The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert

6 Votes
Live at Wembley '86

64 Votes
At the Beeb

22 Votes
Live Magic

41 Votes
We Will Rock You

17 Votes
Live Killers

90 Votes
Queen Forever

8 Votes
Deep Cuts Volume 3 (1984-1995)

3 Votes
Deep Cuts Volume 2 (1977-1982)

3 Votes
Deep Cuts Volume 1 (1973-1976)

3 Votes
Absolute Greatest

39 Votes
The Platinum Collection

185 Votes
Greatest Hits III

44 Votes
Queen Rocks

22 Votes
Greatest Hits I & II

199 Votes
Classic Queen

64 Votes
Greatest Hits II

130 Votes
Greatest Hits

259 Votes

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