Al­bum’s suc­cess saved band

Manawatu Guardian - - MUSIC - By Brian Kelly

At the time of its re­lease on Novem­ber 21, 1975, Queen’s A Night at the

Opera al­bum was re­port­edly the most ex­pen­sive al­bum ever recorded, es­ti­mated to be in ex­cess of £40,000.

It was Queen’s fourth stu­dio al­bum. Their pre­vi­ous al­bum, Sheer

Heart At­tack, re­leased in 1974, had brought the band main­stream at­ten­tion, with the sin­gle Killer

Queen reach­ing No 2 on the UK sin­gles charts. De­spite that suc­cess, the band was broke.

Their first record­ing con­tract was with Tri­dent Stu­dios. The deal with Tri­dent meant they would pro­duce al­bums for a pro­duc­tion com­pany, who would then sell the al­bum to a record com­pany. It meant Queen saw vir­tu­ally none of the money they earned. In fact, Brian May de­scribed the deal “as prob­a­bly the worst thing we ever did”.

Their fi­nances were in such a bad state Roger Tay­lor was asked not to drum too hard as they couldn’t af­ford new drum­sticks.

The sit­u­a­tion the band was in in­spired Fred­die Mer­cury to write

Death on Two Legs, the open­ing track on A Night at the Opera.

When Mer­cury per­formed that song on stage over the years he of­ten ded­i­cated it to the band’s first man­ager who ne­go­ti­ated the Tri­dent deal.

Ac­cord­ing to May, if A Night at

the Opera hadn’t been a suc­cess the band would have just dis­ap­peared un­der the ocean some place.

In 1975, the band ne­go­ti­ated out of their con­tract with Tri­dent Stu­dios and be­gan search­ing for a new man­ager, even­tu­ally set­tling on John Reid who was El­ton John’s man­ager at the time.

Reid ad­vised the group to “go into the stu­dio and make the best record you can make”. So, the seed was sown for A Night at the Opera. A Night at the Opera was recorded at a num­ber of stu­dios across Lon­don and takes its name from the Marx Broth­ers film of the same name that came out in 1935.

The big­gest hit sin­gle from the al­bum, Bo­hemian Rhap­sody, was writ­ten by Fred­die and dur­ing the record­ing of the song be­came known as Fred’s Thing to the band.

The ti­tle was even­tu­ally set­tled on dur­ing the fi­nal ses­sions.

That fa­mous clas­si­cal/op­er­atic break in the mid­dle of the song is full of ob­scure clas­si­cal char­ac­ters like Scaramouche, a clown from the com­me­dia dell’arte; as­tronomer Galileo; Fi­garo, from The Bar­ber of Seville; Beelze­bub, iden­ti­fied in the New Tes­ta­ment as Satan, Prince of Demons and Bis­mil­lah, which is an Ara­bic noun from a phrase in the Qur’an, mean­ing “In the name of God, most gra­cious, most mer­ci­ful”.

In 1977 Bo­hemian Rhap­sody re­ceived two Grammy Award nom­i­na­tions for Best Vo­cal Per­for­mance by a Group and Best Ar­range­ment for Voice. When the al­bum was re­leased it re­ceived mixed re­views. For many, in­clud­ing yours truly, this al­bum rates as one of the best of all time.

It meant Queen saw vir­tu­ally none of the money they earned.

Photo / Koh Hasebe/Shinko Mu­sic/Getty Im­ages

Fred­die Mer­cury, Brian May, Roger Tay­lor and John Dea­con of Queen, on their A Night At The Opera tour in Tokyo, Japan, in March 1976.

Brian Kelly is a host on Coast Break­fast ra­dio.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.