Looking back at Queen‘s 1973 perfect debut album
“Queen I” -A Killer Queen
No doubt, love it or hate it, Queen left their mark in rock history. It is also certain that they left a body of work in only 20 years that is hard to beat and compare. The diversity was the key in Queen music and they went through multiple phases during their career, there is a Queen song for everyone regardless of your musical taste, even if it’s Opera. “Queen I”, their 1973 debut often disregarded on their discography,it’s one of their best, a perfect beginning.
Maybe the best known or remembered Queen phases are the late 70’s and the early to mid 80’s, certainly for north American fans they will tell you the late 70’s as during the 80’s there was a descend of the band’s popularity in the United States due to their now iconic 1984 music video “I Want To Break Free” where the band appears in drag. On a side note, I personally always been fascinated and intrigued on how American Queen fans (supposedly) or even rock fans were so critic of that music video and dropped the band just because of one funny music video, as we all remember or know, those were the years of the Hair Metal bands specially for most of the U.S Hard Rock bands where most of the “dudes” looked like ladies and rose in popularity.
Less known and less explored is Queen’s early studio “years”, and when I say early “years” I am talking about only 1. Between 1973 and 1974 Queen released their first 3 albums, a perfect trilogy. “Queen I” their debut album from 1973, the darker follow up “Queen II” and “Sheer Heart Attack” both in 1974. These 3 albums are perhaps the heaviest ones (Side to Side in their entirety) that the band released. In 1975 there were noticeable changes, not just of music direction but maybe the wish of wanting to be more diverse and not to be stick into the Heavy Metal/Glam genre, when they released “A Night At The Opera”. I invite you on this review to explore the Queen’s debut album “Queen I”
A Little Bit Of History
Freddie Mercury joined Roger Taylor and Brian May in 1970 as the singer for Smile, a local band he was fond of and a fan, after their lead singer, Mercury’s friend Tim Staffell quit. Mercury, with his flamboyance, charisma and most important his supreme vocal range got the job. Smile was no more and Mercury choose the name Queen to re-ash the band, together with the also new member, the bassist John Deacon. In addition to all this he also designed the famous Queen phoenix logo Heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant, his two favorite singers and performers, Mercury created his own signature style by fusion his love of classical music and opera and heavy rock, creating that way the Queen sound we recognize so well. After the band caught a chance to record at the back then popular Trident Studios after being signed by their owners Barry and Norman Sheffield, Queen were able to record their first album between June and November 1972. Due to the studio’s high demand by paying artists, the band could only record during the studio’s downtime. Released on the 13th July 1973 on EMI in Europe and on Elektra Records in the U.S.A, (Elektra’s Jack Holtzman the same man who signed The Doors years earlier and famous as his smart ear for talent was responsible to sign them to Elektra in the U.S) the debut album of Queen is a killer. Pun intended.
“Queen I” and Queen’s ‘s early period in images
Producer Roy Thomas Baker, certainly knew what Queen had in mind and made it possible to transfer into the grooves, even if, as in Queen’s first album case he was co-producing it with John Anthony.Starting by the opening track, “Keep Yourself Alive”, destined to become a rock classic this is a pure muscled rock track with a Brian May guitar intro featuring an already distinguished signature sound. “Doing Alright” starts off as a rock ballad, soft, with Mercury singing in a soft young lead vocals, but turns soon into a Heavy Metal frenzy with fast Roger Taylor’s drums, John Deacon’s bass guitar licks and May’s heavy distorted guitar, melting back down to a gentle soft rock ballad, and again back to Heavy Metal frenzy ending though in a gentle note. The third track titled “Great King Rat”, often played live during their 1973-1976 period it’s another great example of a Heavy Metal song, with the back beat being sort of electric folk. This song features another great Brian May guitar solo. Sadly was left out from their set lists after 1976 and you really need to know this Queen period to discover great songs like that one. “My Fairy King”, the song that follows, is the first Queen song (by track order) featuring Roger Taylor’s amazing falsetto as the song opens,this would become another one of band’s signature (“In The Lap Of The Gods”) Taylor and Mercury share vocals in this track that speaks about Mercury’s fantasy world Rhye, enchantments, it is a subject well present in their first two albums. Written by Mercury, it contains the famous line “Mother Mercury, look what they’ve done to me.” With plenty of vocals overdubs, piano and guitar driven is one of the softest songs in the album, unlike the track that comes after and opens B Side, “Liar”, one of Queen’s best songs. Written by Mercury when he still responded to the name Bulsara it starts with a cool drum beat that is shredded by May’s heavy guitar, this song should be an obligatory reference in how to craft perfect Hard Rock/Classic Heavy Metal songs. Listen to Deacon’s bass during the end of the solo and Mercury’s falsetto. Following it’s “The Night Comes Down”, starts with an outstanding bass guitar lick by Deacon .A rock ballad where you can experience the beautiful Mercury’s soft vocals and to end the song, Deacon’s virtuoso bass solo.. Fastest track on the album comes next with “Modern Times Rock’Roll“, featuring Roger Taylor on lead vocals, though live would be usually lead by Mercury. It could be easily a Motörhead song, is usually said that Queen did developed fast metal / trash metal with tracks such as “Stone Cold Crazy”, but “Modern Times Rock’Roll” is not referenced as much, so take a listen to it and be the judge of that.“Son And Daughter” it’s the song that follows, a staple during their 70’s live era, the Led Zeppelin influence can be heard all over, it is a solid Hard Rock track. Just near the end of the album is the track “Jesus”, for some, just a filler on the album and not considered one of their greatest songs, it was barely played live and mostly ignored even by the band, but the guitar solo, it is one of the best through out the album, and, pay attention to the Opera influence that would follow Queen throughout their career, during the chorus, the multi-vocal stamp that makes Queen so unique. Closing the album is a short instrumental, “Seven Seas of Rhye”, which actually and unexpectedly became the most remembered track of this album on Queen live shows post-70’s , however, as it was released on the second album with vocals and fully finished as a song. They keep playing it live until the very last tour in 1986, Live Magic. They would also do bits of “Liar” and “Keep Yourself Alive” but so short that you could barely savor it.
The Art Work
The art work of this album is fairly simple and it features the famous Queen logo in a drawing of Mercury on stage with his famous microphone pose in shades of purple, in the U.S version is slightly different with the image being zoomed in and in shades of pink. The back cover of is a montage of several different Queen pictures live and casual ones. Most pictures by Douglas Puddifoot, art work by May and Mercury.
If you never listened to Queen’s debut album go do it now. Some people will say this is a “Progressive Rock” album, others will say “Glam Rock”, but his album should be in a list of the best Heavy Metal albums of all time. This is Queen in all their glory.
“Keep Yourself Alive” (Brian May)
“Doing All Right” (May, Tim Staffell)
“Great King Rat” (Freddie Mercury)
“My Fairy King”(Freddie Mercury)
“Liar” (Freddie Mercury)
“The Night Comes Down” (Freddie Mercury)
“Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll” (Roger Taylor)
“Son and Daughter” (Brian May)
“Jesus” (Freddie Mercury)
“Seven Seas of Rhye” (Freddie Mercury)
Freddie Mercury: Lead and Backing vocals, Piano, Hammond Organ on “Liar”
Brian May: Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals, Vocal Bridge on “Keep Yourself Alive”, Piano on “Doing All Right”
Roger Taylor: Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals, Screams on “My Fairy King”, Lead Vocals on “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Vocal Bridge on “Keep Yourself Alive”
John Deacon: Bass Guitar (credited as “Deacon John”)
Recorded during: June-November 1972 Trident Studios, London, De Lane Lea Studios,, London
Produced by: John Anthony, Roy Thomas Baker, Queen
Release Date: July 13, 1973
“Keep Yourself Alive / Son and Daughter” Released: 6 July 1973
“Liar / Doing All Right” Released: 14 February 1974 (US only)
“Keep Yourself Alive”, “Great King Rat”, “My Fairy King”, “Liar”, “The Night Comes Down”, “Son And Daughter”, “Modern Times Rock N’Roll”
Listen to “Queen I” on Spotify:
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