Tag Archive: Queen

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst


I write a piece on Queen’s recent release of their collection Queen Forever, a set which featured three newly released tracks from the band along with a mix of classic hits and deep cut album tracks.

Pick up your issue today to read the whole thing!


Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

BNL cover art (with text)

Copyright 2014, Patrick Lemieux


Strangely, I find myself defending my dislike for being active on Twitter to an inordinate number of my friends. Here’s the best explanation I can give:

I don’t feel I belong there.

I was slow to join Twitter, but when I finally did, I did so enthusiastically. I followed a bunch of people, everyone from internet cult celebrities to big-time famous people and a lot of folks in between. I engaged with some and replied to friends and strangers alike.

Several things happened in a short period of time to change how I felt. The interactivity turned sour and negative. I’d heartily agree with things I agreed with and debated points I felt needed debating. These would sometimes turn into full-blown arguments and hurt feelings with friends. Or if it was with a stranger, both sides simply defaulted to the “what an asshole!” view of the other and if we were lucky, we both walked away from the argument. Occasionally, neither side was lucky.

The 140 character limit is just that, limiting. It doesn’t allow for nuance, subtly or irony. Nor does it allow for proper expression of ideas, which didn’t help (and sometimes caused) many of those arguments.

I also found myself unfollowing people for a host of reasons, from the aforementioned arguments, to TV series spoilers, to simply not being able to relate to their Tweets.

I also discovered that the creativity I was spending on Twitter left less for my actual creative endeavours. Time was part of it, but it was the need to direct that energy to creating, to writing, to painting, that forced me to look at how I spent that energy. Artists and Writers are not bottomless wells of creativity, or at least most aren’t this side of Leonardo. We must focus the creativity judiciously and then work our asses off to turn that idea into an actual, tangible thing.

For me, Twitter was an enemy of that, a draining, distracting force.

So, there was that, and there was the death of Roger Ebert (a Twitter force for good if ever there was one), getting into an specific argument with a good friend, and getting into an argument with an internet celebrity. In a short span, I lost all desire and motivation to be a part of Twitter.

I create for a living and my family and friends seem not to grasp that the Twitter they view as the bastion of freely exchanged ideas and information is not the Twitter I experience. Is it me? Is it Twitter? I don’t know. It’s a social media relationship that fell apart painfully. I’m still active on Facebook and I dabble a little in Instagram (the jury is out on whether I’ll remain on that one), but I’m told over and over, “Twitter! It’s such a powerful thing! Millions of people…” and so on.

All true.

I still don’t feel welcome there, nor do I want to be more involved than I am.

I’ve written books and as each launched, I tried to do my best to blitz social media. I Tweeted and Tweeted. There were reTweets! New followers! Fantastic! But they don’t last. I would Tweet about the book, I’d Tweet about non-book things, I’d share interesting online posts by others. The reTweets lessened to nothing, followers fell away to pre-book levels. That was it. I was told it takes work and dedication to build a following, it takes time! Well, sure, okay, but when exactly do I write the books or paint the pieces I’m supposed to be promoting? No one has an answer to that, tellingly.

Another thing bothered me about Twitter? Its focus on the immediate, on what is happening right this second. TV show plots, social injustice, news-worthy events, all vital or relatively vital information flooding Twitter up to the second, literally. My new book comes out, great, people Tweet about it, some people buy it, then the next big thing comes along and I’m left Tweeting either “Here’s my new book!” or about non-book things. And we’re back to square one.

It’s not all Twitter’s fault either, I accept some of the responsibility for this break up. I’m not capable of being interesting in 140 characters or fewer, it would seem. The things I want to share aren’t those things people on the receiving end care enough about, it would seem.

My main literary works are based on Queen, Mike Oldfield and Barenaked Ladies, and I find other ways to engage those fanbases. I write articles and guest blogs. I have Facebook pages for each book. I meet fans there. Twitter, for me anyway, was not the magical button I press to receive instant fame and recognition, nor was it an invest in time and energy I was willing to make. Others have and if they can make it work, so be it.

I’m not that guy.

Please stop trying to convince me.

I’m not going to forget about Twitter and when my next book comes out, I’ll try it again, so you are all absolved of the responsibility of extolling upon me the virtues you see in Tweeting and what it can do for my career. I appreciate the advice, but please stop.


Here are my books, by the way:



I hope you’ll forgive this bit of self-indulgent, shameless promotion, but the book I co-authored launches today on Amazon!

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to this last little while, this was a big part of it, getting this book done and ready to be loosed on the world!

Here is the official press release:


Across The Board Books™ proudly announces the release of the NEW ebook…




Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

Available now on Amazon worldwide:

Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/TheQueenChronologyUS

Amazon.co.uk: http://tinyurl.com/TheQueenChronologyUK

Amazon.ca: http://tinyurl.com/TheQueenChronologyCA

Toronto, Canada – April 30th, 2013 – The Queen Chronology is a comprehensive account of the studio recording and release history of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor, who joined forces in 1971 as the classic line-up of the rock band Queen.

For nearly 40 years, Queen has both topped the charts and embedded itself in the musical landscape worldwide, with such hits as “We Will Rock You,” We Are The Champions,” “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Their rock musical, We Will Rock You, and their Queen Extravaganza official tribute production both continue to carry on the band’s legacy to audiences long after the tragic passing of singer Freddie Mercury.

Years of extensive research have gone into the creation of the Chronology, which covers the very beginnings of band members’ careers, their earliest songwriting efforts and recording sessions, through the recording and releasing of Queen’s 15 original studio albums with their classic line-up, to the present-day solo careers of Brian May and Roger Taylor. All of this information is presented date by date in chronological order, with detailed  descriptions of each song version, including those both released and known to be unreleased. Every Queen and solo album, single, non-album track, edit, remix and extended version is examined, as are known demos or outtakes, pre-Queen recordings and guest appearances. It’s  all here in one place: The Queen Chronology!

The first edition of The Queen Chronology is exclusively digital, available on Amazon for the Kindle e-book reader. Check the Amazon site in your territory!

The Authors:

Patrick Lemieux is a Canadian artist and writer. His articles for Queen’s Official Website (www.queenonline.com) include The Lost History Of A Queen Track, A Chronicle Of Magic, The Journey Back To The Light, A Mystery In The Wreckage and co-authored with Adam Unger The Elektra Edits. He also painted the cover art for The Queen Chronology.

Adam Unger is the owner and webmaster of QueenVault.com and has contributed articles to Queen’s Official Website, including B-Sides and The Elektra Edits (co-authored with Patrick Lemieux).


I sent that out to various outlets.

As noted, I painted the cover. I wanted to create an image that was both expressive and somewhat expressionistic, rather than be literal portraits. There was a lot I wanted to convey in the painting, like the energy and excitement of the band, their stage presence and also the dream-like quality of of the past. It’s been nearly 22 years since Freddie Mercury died and though the legacy lives on, their past becomes somewhat how fans feel about it, the nostalgia and longing for “the good old days.” It was that vivid, slightly unfocused imagery I have when I listen to a Queen song. A mixture of my own emotions and what I know of the band.

Here’s the print version of the piece, presented for your consideration:

Light & Electricity [PRINT - Sample] Print size: 11" x 17" Print price: $19.99 + tax & shipping

Light & Electricity [PRINT – Sample]
Print size: 11″ x 17″
Print price: $19.99 + tax & shipping

The Lost Christmas Songs

The winter wonderland in my head every December, even if reality disagrees.

I’m Canadian.

You may not have known that about me.

I mention this because in Canada, by the end of October, we’ve scratched both Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en off our lists and the next major holiday for many is Christmas. Of course, many others don’t celebrate Christmas as such, not being of a Christian faith. It can get into sticky political correctness territory here, so all I’ll say is this: come December, do what makes you happy! I’m doing the Christmas thing!

I love the lights, the tacky, bright decorations, Santa Claus at the mall and I love a lot of the music I hear in stores. Some songs I really don’t like, but they get played anyway. Over the years, though, I’ve built up a mental list of Christmas and related songs I almost never hear during the holidays unless I play them myself. These are what I call The Lost Christmas Songs.

In no particular order…

01) Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

A non-album track from 1984. The guys who gave us Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions made one shot at an exclusively Christmas single and it was actually a hit (#21 in the UK) that year. It has all the Queen trademarks of lush harmonies and production and has aged reasonably well considering it comes from the ’80s.

02) Cashing In On Christmas – Bad News

Funny Christmas songs are as much a part of the holidays as the straightforward classics, but many are just parodies of existing songs, changing the words. Not this 1987 track, from comedic rockers Bad News. It’s its own song and a very good one too (though it borrows its intro from the Troika written for “Lieutenant Kije”). It pokes fun at the many (many!) artists who record Christmas albums just to cash in on the season, rather than those artists having a legitimate artistic expression about this time of year. And it’s a catchy tune!

03) Silent Night – Mike Oldfield

“Silent Night” is hardly a lost Christmas song, for sure, but this performance, the B-side of his 1992 “Tattoo” CD single, is a beautiful instrumental version. Sit by the window and watch it snow while listening to it and you’re imagination will be transported somewhere magical.

04) Nut Rocker – B. Bumble And The Stingers

A rock and roll suite of selections from Tchaikovsky’s  The Nutcracker and it’s just as much fun as you’d imagine. This 1962 single was later covered live by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who released it as a single, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra did a version on their album Night Castle.

05) Little Drummer Boy – Alex Lifeson

From the collection Merry Axe-mas, this track sees the guitarist from the prog-rock band Rush performing a gentle acoustic rendition that will warm your heart.

06) Christmas At Ground Zero – “Weird Al” Yankovic

This is a tough one and I almost didn’t include it out of deference to my US readers. The horror of 9/11 has made the term “ground zero” almost exclusively linked to New York City and the World Trade Center twin towers. What “ground zero” actually always refers to is the point of impact of an explosion on the ground. In 1986, when the song was written and released, it referred to a nuclear explosion. The song humorously describes the holiday aftermath. Not a parody, as Al is famous for, but an original song that sounds like an early-’60s Wall-Of-Sound number. The world lost much on 9/11, but it’s time to take this song back!

07) I Dream Of Christmas – Anita Dobson (with Brian May & John Deacon)

Written by Queen’s guitarist at the same time as “Thank God It’s Christmas.” Queen chose the one track to record, so Brian brought the other to Anita as he was producing her first solo album. A sweet little track, maybe a bit sacchrine for some, but it comes by it honestly.

08) Troika (Lieutenant Kije) – Prokofiev

I mentioned this piece earlier and I can guarantee you’ve heard part of it. It’s been co-opted for the backing of numerous Christmas songs, like “I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake and Helen Love’s “Happiest Time Of The Year.” Well, here’s your chance to get to know the original and if you’re like me, once Prokofiev’s original sleigh ride music grabs you, you won’t care for the pieces that stand on its shoulders.

09) Christmas In Heaven – Monty Python

The closing number from their film The Meaning Of Life. Python humour is an acquired taste, but this calypso-themed celebration of everything great in Heaven (where it’s Christmas all the time!) is no less silly than what you hear on the radio all December long.

10) A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Not specifically a Christmas track, but it certainly fits the season. A single in 1995 from their album Made In Heaven, it was a #6 hit in the UK and is a gentle reflection on winter.

11) What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Has A Comb)? – Star Wars: Christmas In The Stars

This single, from the album Christmas In The Stars, reach #69 on the Billboard charts in 1980. I freely admit, it’s utter cheese, but so what?! I’ll take it over lame-as-all-fuck “Christmas Shoes” any day. With Disney buying Lucasfilm, don’t be surprised if this album gets re-issued. And no, this album has no connection to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978.

12) Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night) – Enya

A Gaelic rendition of “Silent Night” that loses none of its power in the translation and arguably gains a good deal more elegance sung by Enya. Those put off by the religious tone of the English-language version can enjoy this recording for the music, melody and vocals without the words getting in their way. This version appears on her 1994 single and her 2006 Sounds Of The Season EP.

13) In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

This is a very old Christmas piece with a long and varied history dating back to the  Middle Ages. Oldfield’s instrumental hit (#4 in the UK) version is based on Pearsall’s adaptation. It’s a jaunty, lighthearted folk arrangement that will put a spring in your step. More recently, Mike played part of this at the Opening Ceremony to the 2012 Olympics, so we may hear it get a resurgence in popularity in North America.

14) The Night Santa Went Crazy – “Weird Al” Yankovic

If you can’t bring yourself to play “Christmas At Ground Zero,” at least there’s this track to fall back on. Another original composition, a  rocker this time, comes from his album Bad Hair Day. Santa loses it and goes on a killing spree at the workshop. Play it loud!

15) Christmas Time (Oh Yeah) – Barenaked Ladies

The Ladies recorded a full Christmas album (Barenaked For The Holidays) and re-recorded this song for it. “Elf’s Lament,” the radio favourite from the album, overshadows this track, which is also an original composition and dates back years earlier. The first recording appears on the 1995 collection Cool Christmas, has more energy to it. (The video linked isn’t the 1995 recording, but a live version, because the 1995 is no where to be found. It retains the punchiness of the original, though.)

16) A Tale For A Winter’s Evening – Joseph Suk

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker gets most of the love when it comes to seasonal classical music when it’s not sharing it with Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy,” which is a shame because there are other great pieces dedicated to winter. If you find yourself growing weary of the modern pop Christmas standards and want something different, Joseph Suk’s Opus 9 “A Tale For A Winter’s Evening” (also known as “A Winter’s Tale” on some recordings, such as the excellent Naxos label release) is a great place to start.

17) The Four Seasons: Winter – Vivaldi

Not heard nearly as often in commercials, TV shows and movies, Vivaldi’s Winter should sound unsullied in the imagination. You’ll recognize Vivaldi’s string sound as it relates to the more well-known “Spring” and “Summer,” but it will take you somewhere bright and new if you’re not as familiar with this piece (and I’m betting you’re not, unless you’re into classical music).

18) Winter Legends – Arnold Bax

Bax himself described Winter Legends as “a northern nature piece full of sea and pine forests and dark legends.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Winter Legends is sort of a power ballad of classical music, intense and full of energy long before the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocked Christmas. It may be a bit dark for some, but it’ll balance out the sweet cheeriness of holiday music when it gets to be too much unbridled joy for one person.

19) Father Christmas – The Kinks
(Reader Suggestion) A tongue-in-cheek track about what kids really want for Christmas: money! Edgier than most humorous holiday songs, but that’s what The Kinks do best. This 1977 punk-rock single was later included on re-issues of their album Misfits. Thanks for the suggestion, Brian Pat!

I’ve heard people lament that every Christmas it’s the same old thing. The same songs are re-recorded over and over, they say, and they’re mostly right. It’s hard to write either a brand new Christmas song or even an original take on an existing song. My list above has some of both. There’s no reason I can fathom that in the sea of  versions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)*,” songs like “Thank God It’s Christmas” get overlooked by radio programmers looking for something else to liven things up. Maybe all the songs listed aren’t quite fit for the mainstream airwaves, but load these onto your MP3 player and fire them up at the next Christmas party. The other people in the room probably haven’t heard most of these.

If you have Lost Christmas favourites, let me know and I’ll add them to the list**.

Merry Christmas!

That’s what I’m talking about.

* Darlene Love’s original recording of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” kicks so much ass no one ever need bother trying to top it. That means you, Bono!

**Unless I know the song and hate it, then it’s not making the list. 😉

I love Halloween!


I grew up in a quiet neighbourhood in a small town and though the end of summer meant a return to school, it also meant Halloween was coming. Decorations and costumes would appear on store shelves and I’d start thinking about what I was going to be when I went trick or treating. The leaves would go red, yellow and orange, the nights became that perfect touch cooler and the more imaginative neighbours would dress up their property as graveyards, mad science labs and haunted houses. Perhaps there’s a bit of nostalgia filter going on as I look back, but who cares? It’s a season of atmosphere, mood and things that go bump in the night. It’s the season of the witch!

So, having a party this Halloween? Awesome! Sitting on your porch giving out candy? Also awesome!

We’ve got 60 days till Halloween, so here is a useful list of 60 songs you can use for your party or whatever involves music. I’m sure many of you will know of songs I don’t mention here and if they’re perfect for what you’re doing, go for it and add them!

My criteria were two-fold: a) be thematically appropriate to Halloween and its many aspects (horror, science fiction, fantasy, etc.); and b) keep the momentum going! This last one is less obvious, I find. Many dark, Halloween-sounding possible inclusions can either be too slow, too vague or too serious. You don’t want to depress the listeners, you want them to have a good time.

The List:
(And note that the position of a track doesn’t reflect its quality or popularity, it’s about having ebbs and flows in the music and spacing out the really well-known tracks.)

01) Thriller – Michael Jackson
Nothing sets the tone for evening as well as this song. It’s a classic for a reason. When you’re ready for the party to get rolling after all the guests have arrived, start here.

02) Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Picket & The Crypt-Kickers
It’s a bit cliché, but it’s also fun and everyone knows it. Good to get it in there early. Feel free to use a cover version (the Misfits do an excellent one) if the original is too cheesy for you.

03) Hot Patootie (aka Whatever Happened To Saturday Night) – Brian May
The original is from The Rocky Horror Show musical and it was made famous by Meat Loaf in The Rocky Horror PICTURE Show. Either version works, but I prefer this one for parties.

04) Halloween (Main Theme) – John Carpenter
Time to get a little dark and remind the guests that it’s not ALL fun and games.

05) Tubular X – Mike Oldfield
From the first The X-Files movie, Oldfield’s reworking of the famous X-Files theme. Mark Snow’s original is good, but for a party, it’s a touch slow and very short (about 1 minute long). At almost 4 minutes, Oldfield’s is the perfect length and has moody interludes.

06) People Are Strange – Echo And The Bunnymen
A cover of The Doors’ classic (and use The Doors’ original if you can’t find this version). It gets some additional seasonal cred by having been featured in the vampire movie The Lost Boys.

07) Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie
Should be self-explanatory! 🙂

08) Grim Grinning Ghosts – Barenaked Ladies
The Ladies covered this for Disney and it appears on The Haunted Mansion: Haunted Hits CD. This is probably the last time I say this in the list, but the original or another cover is a perfectly acceptable alternative!

09) Horrorbeach – HorrorPops
A perfect ’50s/’60s surfer instrumental homage, in the vain of The Ventures and The Shadows. Fun and spooky!

10) Man Of Mystery – The Shadows
Speaking of The Shadows…

11) In The Hall Of The Mountain King – The Who
Found on their album The Who Sell Out (Deluxe Edition), this is a cool rock cover of Grieg’s popular incidental music from Peer Gynt.

12) Theme From Swan Lake – Ray Coniff
From his Concert In Rhythm LP, this rendition of the classic Tchaikovsky piece has a good jazzy tempo. This theme (not this version, though) was used for the famous 1931 Bela Lugosi version of Dracula.

13) He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask) (Movie Mix) – Alice Cooper
Alice wrote this for Friday The 13th – Part VI: Jason Lives and it appears at the end of the film. The Movie Mix (my preferred mix) is on his boxed set, The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper. The original album version is on his 1986 album Constrictor. Either work.

14) Rock And Roll (Part 2) (Small Soldiers Remix) – Gary Glitter
At first, this may seem an odd choice, but trust me, this remix is just the right touch of eerie. The track has samples from the movie (about toy soldiers with minds of their own) of actor Tommy Lee Jones asking “are you scared”? You should be, in a fun way, those toys meant business!

15) Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Used in several ’90s movies, like Scream (and Dumb & Dumber, unfortunately, which dents its Halloween credibility a bit), it’s a devilish, catchy number.

16) Werewolves Of London – Warren Zevon
The best and most fun werewolf song ever written.

17) Moribund The Burgermeister – Peter Gabriel
A weird, but great, song about a town possessed (I think…?). Perfect atmosphere.

18) Moon Over Bourbon Steet – Sting
A jazzy bit directly inspired by the novel Interview With The Vampire, years before the Tom Cruise movie came out.

19) (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
You should know this one, everyone else does!

20) The Storm – Jim Steinman
Steinman will appear on this list a few times, and rightly so, as no one does Wagnerian Rock with delightfully over-the-top production like him. This classical instrumental from his Bad For Good album is just as the title describes, a thunderous, scene-setting symphonic masterpiece.

21) Bad Moon Rising – Creedance Clearwater Revival
CCR’s timeless track.

22) Ghouls – HorrorPops
A driving little ditty about dating monsters who only want to see horror movies and try to get lucky with the girl. Yup.

23) The Enemy Within (Part 1 Of “Fear”) – Rush
Rush did a trilogy (in four parts…don’t ask) on the subject of Fear. All are great (except maybe Part 4…don’t ask), but this is the most party-music-friendly track in the set.

24) Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.

25) Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
Featuring Michael Jackson singing the famous chorus, this ’80s classic came from a time when popular music embraced the spooky and weird with gleeful abandon.

26) His Eyes – Psuedo Echo
Like Somebody’s Watching Me, this Psuedo Echo track is all atmosphere and pop, this time wrapped up in New Wave synthy goodnesss. This song also appeared in Friday The 13th – Part V: A New Beginning.

27) Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
The Twilight Zone (both the TV series and this song) and Halloween go together like chocolate and peanut butter!

28) Enter Sandman – Metallica
Dreams and nightmares set to classic rock!

29) Hands Of Death (Burn Baby Burn) (Spookshow 2000 Mix) – Rob Zombie & Alice Cooper
From the collection Songs In The Key of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files, this meeting of the two reigning rock icons of the macabre is a must.

30) Release The Bats – The Birthday Party
Nick Cave’s previous band gave us this quirky song about vampire bats. It doesn’t get much more Halloween than vampire bats!

31) Bat Out Of Hell – Meat Loaf
Another Jim Steinman composition, who worked with Meat Loaf through much of their respective careers, this track was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, his film Psycho and ’50s teen tragedy songs, and was written for Steinman’s Neverland rock musical.

32) Tubular Bells 2003: Introduction (Single Remix) – Mike Oldfield
The original version is a beautifully delicate piece that is probably a bit too subtle for the purpose of a party, despite being known by most as the music used in The Exorcist, but this is a remix of Oldfield’s own 2003 re-record of the entire album (yes, he re-recorded all 50 minutes of it, but don’t fear, the original is still available, too). For me, it’s perfect for a Halloween party.

33) Science Fiction Double Feature – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The opening track of the movie (and the stage musical) pays tribute to the classic science fiction and horror films of writer (and singer of this version) Richard O’Brien’s childhood.

34) I’m Flash
35) Space Pirates – Flash Fearless Versus The Zorg Women, Pts 5 & 6
Alice Cooper sings these two tracks off the concept album Flash Fearless, which itself is a homage to old Saturday morning serial adventures like Flash Gordon and Commando Cody, the kind you’d see at a science fiction double feature! You can find these two tracks on Alice’s Life & Crimes boxed set, as well.

36) Carmina Burana: O Fortuna – Carl Orff
The thunderous vocal track of countless film ads. You and everyone in the room will hum along!

37) No Exit – Blondie
Opening with a piece of Bach’s famous Toccata in D Minor, this rock/rap fusion about gangsta vampires (…yes, indeed) also features clever uses of other classical themes (like In The Hall Of The Mountain King).

38) I’m Going Slightly Mad – Queen
A tongue-in-cheek song about being “one card short of a full deck.”

39) Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group
The rock instrumental ode to the most famous mad scientist of literature and film, Dr. Frankenstein.

40) Doctorin’ The Tardis (12″ Version) – The Time Lords
The Time Lords (aka The KLF) created the first real hit mash-up (before mash-ups were a thing, really) by backing the famous Doctor Who theme with samples from Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll Part 2 and Sweet’s Blockbuster!

41) Weird Science – Oingo Boingo
There are two versions of this, the soundtrack version to the movie of the same name (for which it was written) and the later album re-record. Either works! If you need Halloween credentials past being a mad scientist song, later-composer Danny Elfman was in the band (you know, the guy who wrote the music for many Tim Burton films!)

42) Feed My Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
The Monster this time, not the doctor (I know, I know, Frankenstein’s not The Monster’s name, tell that to Alice…).

43) The Invisible Man – Queen
A rarely considered song for Halloween, but it’s the only song I know of about the character of the Invisible Man, one of Universal Picture’s classic movie “monsters.” It’s got a pop-rock riff similar to Ghostbusters and practically begs to be on a Halloween playlist! Time to give it its due.

44) The Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
‘Nuff said.

45) Clones (We’re All) – Alice Cooper
Science out of control with a catchy synth riff.

46) Cyborg – Brian May
A video game character forever destined to battle evil in a computer.

47) Who Made Who – AC/DC
The machine revolution has begun with this song from the soundtrack album of Stephen King’s film Maximum Overdrive.

48) The Headless Horseman – Joe Satriani
Riding through the Halloween night, Washington Irving’s famous spectre of books and film may still be out there…somewhere…

49) Night On Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky
The epic orchestral account of witches casting spells atop the mountain!

50) Welcome To My Nightmare – Alice Cooper
You shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a lot of Alice Cooper on this list, he’s made a career out of all the things that make Halloween great.

51) This Is Halloween – Marilyn Manson
A cover of the famous track from the film A Nightmare Before Christmas.

52) This Corrosion – The Sisters Of Mercy
Jim Steinman teaming with Andrew Eldrich for a gothic rock opus.

53) Theme From Friday The 13th – Part 3 (3D) (12″ Version) – Hot Ice
An extended version of Harry Manfredini’s disco-styled Theme From Friday The 13th – Part 3 (3D).

54) I Put A Spell On You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Seriously, listen to this song. They just don’t make’em like this anymore!

55) Fire – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
…or like this!

56) Race With The Devil – The Gun
As cool and insane as a race with the Devil probably would be!

57) Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones
A classic.

58) Monster Friend – Tea For The Voyage
A fun ska number about the difficulty of a man faces dating a woman whose friend is an indescribable hell beast. Literally.

59) The Curse Of Millhaven – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
A jaunty number about about a killing spree, much more fun than it you’d think and good luck not singing along with the chorus.

60) Nature Trail To Hell – “Weird Al” Yankovic
Not a parody of any one song, but of the style of ’80s horror pop songs like “Thriller,” sending up that decade’s slasher movies and killer icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.

Honourable Mentions:
(Really, they’re on the list, but 60 tracks for 60 days left to Halloween made for a better looking list. Screw it, it’s my blog!)

61) Horrorteria – Twisted Sister
A two-part track, from their album Stay Hungry, this was dedicated to Stephen King himself!

62) A Nightmare On My Street – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff’s tribute to A Nightmare On Elm Street, wisely employing Elmer Bernstein’s theme from the original film. A bit ’90s cheese, but come on, these two liked the movies as much as we did!

63) Maniac House – Katrina & The Waves
The neighbours nobody wants.

64) La Villa Strangiato – Rush
Supposedly based on a dream of guitarist Alex Lifeson’s, this 9:33 long instrumental has him in Wonderland, chased by monsters, and other bizarre things!

65) A Kind Of Magic – Queen
A remix of one of the songs Queen wrote for the fantasy film Highlander, this ode to the mysteries of the movie’s immortals is fun and danceable.

66) Teenage Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
Also featured in Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, comes a rocker in the vein of B-movies like “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” and (literally) “I Was A Teenage Frankenstein.” I guess some some kids’ growing pains were worse than others.

67) Bad Things – Jace Everett
Fans of the HBO series True Blood will instantly recognize this, since it’s used as the theme. That context and the eerie undertone qualify it for inclusion on this list.

68) Song From The Bottom Of A Well – Kevin Ayers
Finally! Somebody uploaded this song to YouTube. I’ve had this list up for two years and at least can share this song with you! I guess this makes up for “Maniac House” being taken down.

By no means is this list definitive. Some sites list songs I didn’t mention here, either because I don’t know them or they don’t fit the parties I throw. Or I forgot about them. So let me know in the comments section what you like here or what I missed, or what you love to listen to at Halloween!

I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions!

Have a fun, safe Halloween, folks.

Trick or treat, smell my feet…

[The following article ran in two parts on Queen’s Official Website, on August 1st & August 7th, 2012. Thanks to site administrator Nick Weymouth. ]

Brian May (Copyright owner and year unknown)

The Journey Back To The Light

By Patrick Lemieux

The end of 1987 was a tumultuous period for Queen’s guitarist, Brian May.

Sadly, on June 2nd, 1987, Brian’s father, Harold May, had passed away. The loss did not help Brian’s struggle with depression.

The band was on a much needed break after the release of their 1986 album A Kind Of Magic and a successful, if taxing, European tour. The four men were exploring solo efforts outside of Queen, and from the summer through to winter, Brian had been working on the debut album of actress Anita Dobson. As circumstance would have it, the relationship between the two would complicate Brian’s life and marriage to his wife, Chrissy.

It’s at this point that the seeds of a solo album were beginning to germinate.

While living in Los Angeles, Brian became friends with singer/songwriter Elizabeth Lamers and songwriter Frank Musker. Together, they wrote the song “Too Much Love Will Kill You.” As Brian would explain, he was in a dark place, mentally and emotionally: “It happened when I was in America when I was trying to get away from life, and I wrote it with a couple of friends whom I just met, who sort of helped me get it out of my system. It was like a cathartic thing.” (1992 Back To The Light EPK). He would later tell the Orange County Register in 1993 that the song “was the first song written for the album, dating back six years.”

Brian put a lot of work into “Too Much Love,” as evidenced by a set of recordings known to fans as The Bell Boy Tape. This cassette was reportedly given to a hotel bell boy by Elizabeth Lamers herself, after which it changed hands and now legitimately belongs to a collector. This story of the bell boy has entered into Queen lore, but Elizabeth Lamers herself wrote to tell me, “[it is] a rumor that appeared on the internet years ago and now has become legend. Hmm. I never gave a cassette tape of any version of that tune to anyone in any hotel. I’m sure I had copies around and it is possible that I misplaced one but there was never any handing off of unreleased material by me or Frank or Brian. Perhaps the intrigue and the bell hop make it a better story.” Without knowing who started the rumour or why, it would now seem prudent to consider the bell boy story apocryphal in light of Ms. Lamers’ facts. That the cassette itself exists is not in dispute and it’s known to contain an instrumental backing track, a version with Brian singing solo and a duet with both he and Ms. Lamers. The tape’s owner also confirms that a pair of Brian’s demos, titled “Sleepy Blues” and “Moody Keyboards,” is also present among the recordings.

1988 would not bring much relief in May’s life, though he took refuge in recording and song-writing, saying in 1993, “If ever I had an idea that didn’t fit the [Queen] format, it would always get put away someplace on a piece of paper or a piece of tape. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I decided it would be a good thing to use some of these ideas in a solo album. I really started it as a form of therapy. I was very depressed at the time; at one point, I was really very suicidal. At such moments, it’s only the fact that I’ve got kids that stops me from driving off bridges” (Guitar World Magazine).

Around early 1988, so the story goes, Brian was asked by skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan to write him a song. Brian penned “Let Your Heart Rule Your Head,” apparently even recording a version of the song with him. Donegan’s reported album, for which the song was written, never came about, but Brian did now have another song to add to his unpublished catalogue.

In March of 1988, Brian booked time at both Sarm and Town House Studios, where he began work recording “Let Your Heart Rule Your Head” and a cover of the Small Faces’ song “Rollin’ Over,” respectively. It was around this time that May decided to assemble a home recording studio at Allerton Hill, which he explained to Gold Compact Disc magazine in 1992: “I’ve always resisted the idea of having a studio there because I’ve always felt that you should be able to get away from your work … but it never worked out like that anyway. The reason I did my own album at home was because of the feeling of pressure that you can get working in one of the major recording studios.

“It’s often a case of, ‘Well here I am, standing in this studio, just playing about, and it’s costing more than £1,000 a day’. It just seems so wasteful, so I thought, ‘Well, why not do the album at home?’ And anyway, I wanted to get back to basics.”

A song Brian also started in March of 1988 was “Back To The Light.” Talking to Rip magazine about the song, Brian said he “stood on that stage [in 1993] and could remember so clearly putting those first words of ‘Back to the Light’ down on tape in a makeshift studio. I did it because I knew I had to do something to keep myself going.” Far from being the song born out of success in overcoming personal adversity, “Back To The Light” was a cry of hope by a man who wished to someday get there. At the time, Brian had no idea whether he’d reach his goal.

Also reflecting the sombre mood of his life were the tracks “I’m Scared” and “Last Horizon,” both begun at the fledgling Allerton Hill studio that March. “Last Horizon” was experimented on by way of two different approaches, which Brian explained to fans on his website in 2004: “I tried the tune two different ways, one with a gentle syncopated beat, and one with the straight 4-4 slow rock beat.”

“I’m Scared,” Brian told Guitar World magazine in 1993, “goes back a long way. I kept doing different versions of that, as I kept finding out that I was scared of more and more things. And I figured that most of us are. We just keep it inside. I think it’s good to let all that stuff out sometimes. Do a bit of screaming.”

Hounded by the press for his involvement with Anita, Brian would write another song, “Scandal,” which he brought to the table as Queen set out to record a new album that summer. Trying to put his solo project aside to focus on his duties with Queen, Brian also penned the track “I Want It All.” His oft-told story behind the song was that it was a favourite phrase of Anita’s, “I want it all and I want it now!” He also presented the band with “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” rounding out his direct contribution to the song-writing credits for the new Queen album, which, by his own admission, seemed somewhat less than their previous releases. As he told Guitar World, “There were only a few days during that time when I managed to play guitar solos. It’s really a miracle that I did anything on that album at all.”

One such solo would become the instrumental track “Chinese Torture,” which would only be included on CD editions of the album as a bonus track.

The band worked on the album from the summer into the winter, recording at Olympic and The Town House Studios in London, and their own Mountain Studios in Montreux. Still, however, the draw of his potential solo album and the personal pressures drew Brian to continue working on it in conjunction with, if not in favour of, recording Queen’s thirteenth studio album, The Miracle. February of 1989 found Brian discussing this with Record Collector magazine: “Most of the time I’ve been working on my own. The solo project is mainly about getting all the stuff I’ve had in my head onto tape, but I’ve found that some of the ideas I had in mind for solo work have ended up on the Queen album. I think that the best ideas should really be concentrated towards the group, because it’s still the best vehicle I can find – as the group is so good!

“To describe the material is quite difficult. I put the songs on one tape in a very rough form and thought, ‘Where am I?’, because they are so varied, more so even than Queen material. I’ve got ballads which are very soft and personal, and I’ve got stuff which is very hard, pure heavy metal. There are weird acoustic songs, and God knows what else! There isn’t a direction to the album yet, and I think that’s one problem that I have to sort out.” It’s possible that at this stage “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” completed by the band for The Miracle album, was still a contender for inclusion.

Mastering for The Miracle tracks, and “I Want It All” in particular, would continue through March of 1989. Once completed, the band decided the track order and “Too Much Love Will Kill You” was left off the album entirely.

Freddie’s declining health due to AIDS precluded the band touring, an escape Brian would have welcomed, but shooting the videos for The Miracle’s singles did offer a few days relief. On the DVD commentary for the “Breakthru” video, Brian speaks of being able to get away from the turmoil of his personal life while taping it in the country in the spring of 1989. According to Brian, his marriage to Chrissy was over by this point, which only added more weight to the already crushing drepression he was going through. The two would ultimately divorce that year. Speaking to Guitar World magazine, he says, “I was going through a time when I realized I couldn’t live with my wife, which meant that I couldn’t be with my kids. And also – this may sound trivial in comparison – the group had decided not to tour at that point. So suddenly here was a great hole in my professional life, too. I couldn’t have any outlet on stage. And I think the balance of my life just got completely destroyed. I didn’t know who I was anymore.”

The Miracle was released in the UK on May 22nd, 1989, and with the lack of a tour to support it, Brian was faced with a life that was falling apart around him. The death of his father, the end of his marriage, and Freddie’s illness were all contributing to a downward spiral. Yet, there was the idea of a solo album. There were tracks already put down, in various states of completion, and Brian felt it could be a form of therapy to keep labouring on it.

On September 19th, 1989, Philip Sayer, actor and friend of Anita Dobson, died of cancer at the age of 42. In the magazine Guitar For The Practicing Muscian (1993), Brian explains this event as the inspiration for the song he wrote then, called “Just One Life,” “what crystallized that song for me was going to a memorial concert given for a friend of [Anita]. This was a guy I’d never met. At the end of what they did, they recited and they sang songs and told stories. At the end of it I felt I knew this guy through the influence he’d had on his friends. I began to think “This is what a person is.” A person is the effect that he leaves on the people around him or at least that’s part of it. I was trying to find out what is a life. I was looking at his life, at Freddie’s life, at my father’s life. I just lost my father. I was trying to tie all the threads together to try and get closer to what it was all about.”

The Swansea Grand Theatre itself, of which Sayer was a member, has this to say about the event: “There was a memorial tribute at The Aldwych Theatre just after he died, it was a very moving experience hosted by Sir Ian McKellan, with contributions from the Sion Probert, Denis Lawson and Maureen Lipman. Among the audience that night was Queen’s Brian May, who was with his partner, Anita Dobson. Anita was a great friend to Philip. Brian May was so moved by the evening that, even though he had not even met Philip Sayer, he wrote a song dedicated to him.”

As fall turned to winter in 1989, Queen turned their attention back to studio work to record another new album. By now, with Freddie Mercury’s health noticeably diminishing, the rest of the band knew he was ill, but did not know the details. The push to keep working brought the band back into Mountain Studios in Montreux in November of 1989. Roger Taylor and Brian May both described the approach used, that the band would work for three weeks, then take two weeks off, then return for three weeks and repeat the process.

It was at Mountain Studios that Brian recorded early material for “Just One Life,” as well two new songs he considered for his solo album. As he explained in 1991: “I was in the studio for a couple of days to get some things out of my system. I thought that maybe I’d be left with a solo album, maybe with a Queen album, I just didn’t know and I came up with ‘Headlong’ and ‘I Can’t Live With You’ – the guys liked them.

“‘Headlong’ came from me, at our studio in Montreux, a home recording studio for us that’s very state-of-the-art, lovely for creating. The ideas came in a couple of days. At first I thought about it as a song for my solo album, but, as always, the band is the best vehicle. As soon as I heard Freddie sing it, I said, ‘That’s it!’ Sometimes it’s painful to give the baby away, but what you gain is much more. It became a Queen song.”

Brian would also contribute three more songs to the album that eventually became known as Innuendo: “The Hitman,” “The Show Must Go On” and “Lost Opportunity.” The last track would be relegated to the B-side of the “I’m Going Slightly Mad” single, but Brian’s input on the album, compared to The Miracle, was a return to form. In fact, 1990 would see Brian throw himself into guest appearances on other artists’ releases as much as he was working with Queen. He recorded guitar work for both charity singles by Rock Against Repatriation and Rock Aid Armenia, and did music for a stage production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which opened in November.

On February 18th, 1990 Brian spoke on behalf of the band at The British Phonographic Institute ceremony, where Queen received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

Brian’s speech went as follows: “On behalf of the group, I’d like to say thank you very much to everyone in the industry and, perhaps more importantly, outside the industry who stuck behind us all these years. Because in doing so, you gave us a lot of freedom to pursue what we loosely call our art to any extent we felt like at the time. And to go out on a lot of strange limbs which seemed very precarious at the time, but we didn’t quite fall off. And finally, to get to the point where this happens to us, which is great. And I’d like to say a special thank you to the British petroleum industry for giving us this magnificent award in recognition of all the amounts of vinyl which we’ve recycled over the years. Thank you.”

As they left the stage, Roger added, “Thank you very much.”

And Freddie gave a gentle wave, “Thank you. Goodnight.”

By November of 1990, the Innuendo album was complete and the band focused on its promotion. Also, Hollywood Records in the US was now signed to handle Queen’s catalogue and future releases in North America. The company planned a massive campaign to remaster and re-issue the back catalogue, as well as various solo releases, such as Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe’s Barcelona album. The band recorded a video for “Headlong” and interviews for the press releases.

Over New Years, so Brian would tell Q Magazine in January of 1991, Freddie and Roger discussed continuing to record, despite having completed Innuendo. May would join them in Montreux that month and work would begin for what would become Freddie’s final recordings.

Taking a break from recording to promote Innuendo’s release, Brian and Roger appeared on Rockline Radio in the US in February. Brian was asked on the air by a fan of the state of his solo album and Brian had this to say: “I’m still working on it. It’s the ongoing saga of the Brian May solo album. It’s still in the cards, and maybe by this, I’m hoping, by this summer it will be finished and I will put it out. See I have a lot of stuff, but it just needs making into an album. It’s a difficult task, making a lot of decisions.”

In May, Brian returned to the US for a promotional tour of both Innuendo and the Hollywood Records re-issues of Queen’s albums, visiting radio stations and performing impromptu guitar solos.

While he was in Los Angeles that summer, Brian was approached by the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and asked to write a tune for their new Ford UK ads.

“These ad guys threw some slogans at me and I thought, ‘Well, I can do it if I relate it to my own experiences and my own feelings.’ And the phrase “Driven By You” immediately jumped out as a description of the way I saw the power struggle between two people in a relationship. It just poured out. I wrote a version for me, and I wrote a version for the ad people. And it worked out great. It was a good kick up the backside for me too, because these people work quickly and do high-quality work.” (Guitar World, Jan. 1993)

Brian recorded the different versions of track, the TV Ad Version, his solo version and a short, mostly instrumental version later titled “Driven By You Two,” at Mountain Studios between continued efforts by Queen, and Freddie in particular, to record new material. By now the rest of Queen was told by Freddie that he had AIDS and that he did not know how long he had left, but that he wanted to record as much as he could in the time remaining.

Ford UK ran the new “Driven By You” ads with Brian’s music in July and the response was both positive and encouraging for Brian to finish the song and to plan for its proper release in November. More significantly, the reception to “Driven By You” had a greater affect on Brian’s work on the solo album entirely, as he told Gold Compact Disc magazine in 1992: “I had a rough idea of what the album was going to be like, round about that time, but I didn’t get down to the serious work until about a year ago, when Driven By You happened.

“I worked on the song and the advert in parallel, and the interesting thing is that the song meant one thing to me, and another thing to the agency people. I was really stimulated by the way that advertising people work … I mean, they’re so quick. I delivered them a version of Driven By You, and it was on the television commercial the next day!”

Around this time, Brian was presented with the opportunity to assemble his choice of musicians to perform with, at the Guitar Legends festival in Seville, Spain. He jumped at the chance and among the performers were B.B. King, Paul Rodgers, Mike Moran, Neil Murray, Steve Vai, Joe Walsh and Cozy Powell. According to Neil Murray, this was the start of the working relationship between he and Brian, as Neil would go on to perform bass parts on Brian’s solo recordings.

Powell, a good friend of May’s, was going through difficulties of his own, having been in a horse accident in 1991 that led to a crushed pelvis. Talking to Rip Magazine (1993) he said that “The show gave me a goal to go for. There was a period after that when the phone stopped ringing, because a lot of people didn’t know I was available or thought I was injured. You think, ‘Shit, nobody wants to hear me anymore. My career must be over.’”

October 19th, 1991, Brian and his gathered musicians performed at the Guitar Legends festival. Among the pieces played was “Last Horizon,” one of the tracks Brian had been working on for his album.

After the festival, Cozy Powell would start work on a solo album of his own. One of the early tracks Powell recorded was the instrumental “Somewhere In Time.” Both Brian and John Deacon were invited to record on it. They put their tracks down in November of 1991.

On November 24th, 1991, Freddie Mercury passed away at his home at Garden Lodge, London.

According to Brian, “Cozy came in with a backing track and said play something on it. It was the night before Freddie went, but for the first time I had this complete conviction that it was imminent, and I felt that he was going at that point. I used that track and wrote the song about how I felt at that point.” (Rock CD magazine, 1992)

Brian would add lyrics to “Somewhere In Time” and create the song “Nothin’ But Blue.” The guitar Brian used on both of the recordings was a gift from fellow guitarist Joe Satriani.

On November 25th, 1991, Brian’s single for “Driven By You” was released. The B-side was the track dedicated to Philip Sayer, “Just One Life.” Brian had also recorded a “Guitar Version,” replacing most of the vocal with him playing the Red Special. Included on the 12” single was the TV Ad Version of “Driven By You.” A promo CD was also issued containing various radio edits.

The surviving members of Queen withdrew from the public eye after the death of their lead singer. It wasn’t until January 12th, 1992, that they would return to the media to announce the forthcoming Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert For AIDS Awareness.

Meanwhile, along with co-organizing the concert, Brian busied himself with recording and working on the solo album, including the track “Love Token,” which features Neil Murray, Cozy Powell and Mike Moran. Talking to Guitar World magazine, who commented on how heavy the song was, Brian explained, “Yeah, I enjoy that. I have an outlet for that now, whereas sometimes the band had to be a bit more broad, stylistically. Now I can get more into the heavy stuff. And I do enjoy it, I must admit. [It’s] one of my mamma/poppa songs. I’ve got a few of those. I’m gonna have a little anthology of mama vs. papa songs one day.”

Cozy Powell again presented Brian with a track to work on for Powell’s own album, this one titled “Ride To Win.” Brian took to the song and felt that, like with “Somewhere In Time,” this was a track in which he could express his feelings in lyric. Brian reworked the track, adding his lyrics, and created “Resurrection,” which he discussed with The Orange County Register in 1993: “After all these years of looking for this optimism, I finally found it. The end was in sight. I could visualize myself getting out and playing to real people again. I was beginning to get my life into shape, private life-wise. There’s a lot of joy in that for me. You can’t fake that. You can’t play that stuff unless you feel that way. It was a long way till I was able to give vent to that kind of stuff.”

And with Rip magazine (1993): “At the beginning, when I was trying to find my way about five years ago, it was all a mystery. All I knew was that I was in pain and couldn’t see my way out. By the end of it, when I was doing ‘Resurrection,’ I felt like I understood what all these things meant, and there was some glimpse of the light I was looking for. It’s all metaphors, really. [The song] ‘Back to the Light’ was supposed to be me looking for a way out, finding optimism again. In ‘Resurrection’ I thought I’d really found it.”

“‘Resurrection’ […] appropriately, was the last written.” (The Orange County Register, 1993)

On April 20, 1992, Queen and their guest artists performed the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Brian took the opportunity to premiere “Too Much Love Will Kill You” as part of what he hoped would be for Freddie “the greatest send-off in history.”

The days and months that followed would find him at Allerton Hill finishing his album, framing the songs he spent five years writing and recording with a bookending lullaby, part of the instrumental piece “The Dark.” To create the track, Brian culled material recorded way back in 1980, during Queen’s Flash Gordon sessions, at The Town House Studios.

“On ‘The Dark,’ I wanted this frightening wall of sound coming out to contrast this very small voice – the kid in the cot.” (Guitarist magazine, 1992)

Brian also took the opportunity to revisit “Driven By You,” writing on his website in 2004: “On my solo track ‘Driven By You’ the original single version was built around my own programmed drums, but for the album version I asked the wonderful, now sadly departed Cozy Powell to play drums.” Interestingly, the album would retain the version previously released as a single, without Cozy on it. UK audiences would hear the Cozy Powell version as a B-side to the CD single of “Too Much Love Will Kill You” and US audiences would receive it as a bonus track to album.

The “Too Much Love” single B-side would also present fans with an early version of “I’m Scared,” which was later re-recorded by Brian with Neil Murray and Cozy Powell, and remixed for the album by Justin Shirley-Smith in 1992.

In completing “Last Horizon,” Brian had his two versions of the track, one with the syncopated beat and the other in 4-4 time. “When it came to putting the whole album together, I liked BOTH versions, and then I discovered that one made a good introduction to the other. So we ‘spliced’ them together, with the snare beat which opens this second piece.” (BrianMay.com, 2004)

By July 20th, 1992, the hard-fought battle with his first full-length album outside of Queen was complete. Writing the introductory liner note, Brian explains briefly the nature of the journey he undertook creating the album, saying, “The man who finished making it today is very different from the man who started it five years ago.”

The album, titled “Back To The Light,” was released in the UK on September 28th, 1992 and in the US on February 2nd, 1993.

Back To The Light (UK Album Sleeve) (Copyright Parlophone, 1992)

The track listing was as follows:
The Dark
Back To The Light
Love Token
Resurrection (with Cozy Powell)
Too Much Love Will Kill You
Driven By You
Nothin’ But Blue
I’m Scared (Justin’s Mix ’92)
Last Horizon
Let Your Heart Rule Your Head
Just One Life
Rollin’ Over
US CD Bonus Track: Driven By You (Radio Remix)

Back To The Light (US Album Sleeve) (Copyright Hollywood Records,1993)

Brian toured for the album worldwide, through ’92 and ’93, promoting it heavily and continuing to deal with what was, at the time, a life after Queen, forging a new identity as a solo artist.

Again, though, Brian would set the solo work aside to return to the band in 1994 to work on the recordings left by Freddie and to try to build a new Queen album. It’s fitting that in doing so, the band pulled their 1988 recording of “Too Much Love Will Kill You” out of the vault and included it. The song that began Brian’s work on his solo album now stood amongst tracks that, in a way, represent the different facets of Queen, including their solo efforts outside the band, and reflecting the theme of the struggle that is life; a struggle Brian knew all too well when he finished Back To The Light.

[Note: The original article noted the incorrect year for the death of Harold May (1988 instead of 1987). This was my mistake and I’ve corrected it here. As such, I had to move that reference to its appropriate chronological position in the article.]

[The following is an article I wrote for Queen’s Official Website, www.queenonline.com. It ran there in two parts, on June 20th and June 25th, 2012. Thanks to Queen’s site administrator Nick Weymouth. Here are Parts I and II together, annotated with images and links to the songs referenced, so you can hear what the article is discussing.]

Queen, in a pre-show promo shoot for Live Aid (copyright unknown, 1985)

A Chronicle of Magic – The Making of an Album (Part I)

July 13, 1985.

Live Aid.

By all accounts, Queen stole the show at Wembley Stadium. They had taken their duty seriously and put together a set for their allotted 18 minutes of stage time which cleverly exploited their strengths as a live act. The band had rehearsed and refined the performance at the Shaw Theatre in London and when they finally stood on the Live Aid stage, they gave it everything they had. Each member of the band was indelibly marked by the experience and would embark on one of their most ambitious and productive years as a result.

Queen, taking their bow after their 18-minute Live Aid set. (copyright unknown, 1985)

August, 1985.

Their 1981 Greatest Hits collection and their recent 1984 studio album, The Works, were seeing chart success again. Discussions arose for a new boxed set which would contain all of their studio albums, their live album and their handful of non-album tracks. It was all enough for Queen, at singer Freddie Mercury’s insistence, to return to the Musicland Studio in Munich to record again.

Bassist John Deacon admits he was on holiday when work began. Drummer Roger Taylor brought to the band a song he said later was “half-nicked from Martin Luther King.” He would describe it as a single page poem, “all about ‘One This’ and ‘One That’.” By August, this poem would become a demo known now as “A Kind Of Vision.”

September, 1985 to January, 1986

For 14 days in September, Queen allowed Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher, the “Torpedo Twins,” to film the band as they worked on the song which would become “One Vision,” the successor to “A Kind Of Vision.” John Deacon returned by this point and joined the band in Munich. Despite later claiming limited involvement in writing the song, he is seen in the documentary footage to be present in discussions and offering input.

During the filming of the “One Vision” documentary, guitarist Brian May worked on an instrumental piano piece he later identified as “Butterfly.” Comparisons have been drawn between it and the later Brian-penned “Some Thing That Glitter” (aka “I Loved A Butterfly”). It’s possible that the latter grew out of the former, as Brian has throughout his career drawn on songs written much earlier.

Queen in Musicland Studios, Munich, recording “One Vision,” September, 1985. (copyright unknown, 1985)

“One Vision” was completed and a remixed B-side was created, “Blurred Vision,” as well as a 12” version, “Extended Vision.” Both “One Vision” and “One Vision (Extended Vision)” were provided videos which accompany the documentary footage made that month. During the filming of the “One Vision” music video, John Deacon recalls, an argument broke out between Freddie and Roger about whether the single’s A and B side tracks should appear on the forthcoming boxed set, which would be only a month or so after the single’s release. John’s own position was that since fewer people would be buying the box, it wouldn’t affect the single’s sales. Ultimately, it was ruled that they should include it; otherwise, it was felt, the set would not represent the complete catalogue of Queen’s releases as planned.

Meanwhile, principal photography on the film Highlander was finished. In London, director Russell Mulcahy had 20 minutes of footage edited together with the expressed purpose of showing it to the band and their manager, Jim Beach. They had been asked to contribute a song to the film.

The band’s initial reply was “no.” The reason being they wanted a rest.

However, they were inspired by what they saw in the footage Mulcahy showed them. This event has been well-documented, as was guitarist Brian May’s drive home with Jim Beach where he started writing “Who Wants To Live Forever.”

Work began in earnest. As the director explains in a recent interview with Den Of Geeks.com, “They came in early on the film and the composer was a guy called Michael Kamen…He also had a rock and roll background.” He goes on to say, “Queen came on board, they wrote some songs and then he would then take some of them and at the end, or halfway through [the piece], intercut the score. It wasn’t just like we finished the film and asked for a song. They were very much involved in edit and during the months of post-production.”

Brian confirms Mulcahy’s statements about their involvement in a 1986 interview, where he said the band “spent three or four months just working on passages from the film.” He also said the process “was complicated by the fact that they kept changing the film while we were doing it.” Mulcahy, in the Highlander DVD commentary, talks about the various cuts and reshoots which occurred during the film’s post-production stage, though there appears to have been no significant set-back or delay as the film was cut together.

Brian May worked closely with composer Michael Kamen, integrating Kamen’s orchestral score into “Who Wants To Live Forever” even as Kamen wove Brian’s love theme into the film. Roger re-visted the “A Kind Of Vision” demo and worked it into a new song, based on a line from the film he felt was powerful, “A Kind Of Magic.” Freddie penned the song “Princes Of The Universe,” a track based on the immortal characters in the film. The band, says Roger, “sort of made [Princes] up in bits.” Brian confirms this, noting, “A lot of interaction went into the creation of it.”

A Roger Taylor instrumental track written for the film, later known as “A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling,” features in it twice, most significantly at length near the end. It should be noted here that the music and songs the band wrote for Highlander were intended as soundtrack material, to be grafted into the film and to work as a part of it, rather than to be stand-alone tracks as they might appear on an album. By the time Queen was well into working on the Highlander material, though, they knew there would be an album at the end of it. Discussions arose toward the end of the year about what to call the eventual album, but it would take a while to decide.

Highlander was not the only project Freddie Mercury was involved with in October. He had previously agreed to record a song for his friend Dave Clark, who was putting together a rock musical titled Time. Freddie recorded the track “In My Defence” for the soundtrack album at Abbey Road Studios. According to the 2000 Freddie Mercury – The Solo Collection boxed set, Freddie originally insisted that the rest of Queen (Brian, Roger and John) back his performance on this track, which, aside from not having written it, would effectively have made it a Queen or Queen-collaboration recording. Instead, though, the track uses the original session musicians brought in by Dave Clark.

“One Vision” single, using a negative and reversed image of the original Live Aid pre-show photo seen above. (copyright Queen Productions, 1985)

November 4th saw the release of the “One Vision” single and it reached #7 in the UK. In December, the band released The Complete Works, the boxed set of their eleven studio albums (Queen through to The Works) and their live album, Live Killers. An extra LP was included, collecting their seven non-album tracks, including “One Vision” and “Blurred Vision,” titled Complete Vision.

Seemingly late in the Highlander sessions, at least according to the film’s director, Brian writes the “Kurgan’s Theme.” It turns out to be the director’s least favourite of Queen’s tracks for the movie, because of the heavy metal style. Mulcahy had visited the band regularly in Munich while they worked on demos for the film and was directly involved with them, including, as Brian put it, arguing with them and getting drunk with them. Mulcahy would share the sentiment years later, saying one of his fondest memories of the Highlander project was “working with Queen and becoming very good friends with everyone.”

The band was back in London by January, working on a John Deacon composition, “One Year Of Love.” A demo exists from Townhouse Studios, dated January 25th. This looks to be a later addition to the Highlander tracks, or at least a later-completed track, as work on the film was drawing to a close at this point, both in the film’s post-production process and in the studio for Queen. The film’s director, Russell Mulcahy, would comment that John was not happy about “One Year Of Love” being placed in a bar scene, on the radio, in the background, which Mulcahy would explain as being a traditionally bad place to put a song, but that with the abundance of material Queen recorded, finding homes for all of it was a challenge.

Around this time, in addition to “Who Wants To Live Forever,” Brian also put to tape a piano instrumental based on the theme, simply titled “Forever.”

Amidst the Highlander sessions, Mulcahy asked Freddie to record the “Theme from ‘New York, New York,’” the 1977 film whose title track was performed by Liza Minelli. Freddie was adamantly against it, but relented when Mulcahy played him the Minelli recording.

January also saw Freddie record two more tracks for Dave Clark’s Time: The Musical. Freddie completed the title track, “Time,” and a demo for “Born To Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The demo, sadly, was lost over the years, following the decision to not have Freddie record the finished version for the musical’s soundtrack.

Roger also kept busy co-producing the band Magnum, at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, with David Richards. Richards, the house engineer and producer at Mountain Studios, was also working with Queen on the Highlander tracks when the band was in Switzerland. They owned the studio at the time and would use it when other acts were not booked in. Magnum was working on their album Vigilante and Roger also provided backing vocals on the songs “When The World Comes Down” and “Sometimes Love.”

Though not written for the film, “One Vision” was licensed for the movie Iron Eagle, released in the US on January 18th. It appeared prominently throughout and on the soundtrack album.

Soundtrack album for the film Iron Eagle, which featured “One Vision” as the lead-off track. (copyright EMI/Capitol Records, 1985)

Six months had passed since Live Aid and Queen were again busy, now dividing their time between recording for a motion picture and their various solo outings. 1986 would shape up to be no less productive, as a milestone year awaited the band…

A Chronicle of Magic – The Making of an Album (Part II)

February, 1986.

When the Highlander tracks were completed, Queen had to decide how next to proceed. They were in the midst of a creative period and had a lot of material on tape from the film. The question was whether the album was to be a Highlander soundtrack or a straightforward Queen album. Brian would fall on the side of preferring a soundtrack approach. Roger, however, thought the idea of a soundtrack would put people off.  The question may have gone unanswered by Queen for some time as they began worked on the Highlander tracks with the intent of creating finished songs.

It was at this point that Freddie famously began work re-tooling Roger Taylor’s song “A Kind Of Magic.” Freddie knew Roger would be away for a week in Los Angeles, so he set about adapting the song to what he felt would be a more commercial piece. When Roger returned, he liked what Freddie had done and the two finished off the remix in the lighter style. Not only that, an extended version of the remix was created for the future single. That this track was a contender for the follow-up single to “One Vision” would soon become a point of contention as the band worked on other Highlander tracks and the film itself neared its theatrical release.

“Princes Of The Universe,” completed from the elements composed for the film, was another contender for the single spot sought by “A Kind Of Magic.” The film’s release in the US was set for March 7th, however it would not land in the UK until August 29th, so Queen was left with a dilemma. “Princes Of The Universe” seems to have been the stronger contender, as it directly corresponded with the film. For its video, they had enlisted Highlander’s director, Russell Mulcahy, and the film’s star, Christopher Lambert, to help them recreate portions of the film in addition to including clips from it. This would be all well and good for the US market, which would see the film in March, but, as Freddie said in 1986, “…they’re not going to see the film here [in the UK] till about July [actually, it turned out to be late-August]. And they’re not going to know what it means.”

So, the only resolution was that two singles would go out simultaneously in different territories. The North American audience would get “Princes Of The Universe,” to tie in with the film, and the European market would get the more stand-alone remix of “A Kind Of Magic.” A video for “Magic” was prepared, as well. And again, Russell Mulcahy was brought onboard to direct it. Unlike the “Princes” video, this one would contain do direct visual tie to Highlander, allowing it to be viewed without having seen the movie.

Among the other pieces worked on during this period was Roger’s “A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling.” Taylor seems to have begun reworking the Highlander instrumental into a song at this point, “Don’t Lose Your Head,” evidenced by the somewhat mis-attributed title given to “Red Roses” on the 12” “A Kind Of Magic” Picture Disc single B-side as “Don’t Lose Your Head (Instrumental Version).” As both “Don’t Lose Your Head” and “A Dozen Red Roses” stem from the same instrumental material, it may be hair-splitting to worry about which developed first. We do know which was ultimately released first.

With the “Princes Of The Universe” and “A Kind Of Magic” singles sorted out, they were sent to be pressed and delivered to retailers. The videos were completed and sent to TV media outlets and the launch of Queen-related Highlander music was set.

March, 1986, to April, 1986.

On March the 7th, Highlander was released in the North America.

Highlander quad poster (copyright The Cannon Group Inc., 1986)

On March the 17th, in the UK, the remix of “A Kind Of Magic” was issued as the single, paired with the B-side “A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling” and its own video. It was a #3 UK hit single.

“A Kind Of Magic” 12″ Single sleeve (copyright Queen Productions Ltd., 1986)

On April 7th, in North America, “Princes Of The Universe” was released as a single, backed with “A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling,” The “Princes” video aired on TV alongside it. Ultimately, the single would not chart very well.

All the while, Queen worked on the album, completing Highlander tracks into songs and writing new material. There is substantial evidence that, by March, the band had not yet agreed upon a title for the album. None of the singles released this month mention the name of the album the band was working on, but rather boldly proclaim they are from the film Highlander. The film itself, at the end of the final credits, carries the much-discussed tag: Soundtrack Album Available On EMI Records And Tapes. This could even mean that the band had not decided yet whether the album was a soundtrack or not, or it’s equally plausible that the producers were considering a soundtrack album of composer Michael Kamen’s score without any of the Queen music in it. So far, aside from “One Vision” (whose release predated Highlander) all the released songs were connected to the film. In interviews at the time, it’s referred to by the band simply as the “the album.”

John Deacon soon found himself focused on a second film project. He had been asked to contribute a track to a film adaptation of the popular World War 1 book series Biggles. John formed the band The Immortals, with Robert Ahwai and Lenny Zakatek, for this one-off track. It’s no coincidence that John chose that as the band’s name, as immortals are the central characters in Highlander. This track remains one of the few projects John would undertake outside of Queen. Not being a singer, he felt limited in his ability to ever create a solo album.

“Princes Of The Universe” singles, released in North America (copyright Queen Productions Ltd., 1986)

Back on the Highlander front, “Who Wants To Live Forever” was completed as an album track, as was the “Kurgan’s Theme” track from the film as “Gimme The Prize,” with Brian lacing it with audio clips from the film. John’s “One Year Of Love” and Roger’s “Don’t Lose Your Head” round out the last of the original Highlander material. Joan Armatrading recorded incidental vocals for “Don’t Lose Your Head” and her involvement might have lead to Roger Taylor writing “Heaven For Everyone” around this time. The word is he might have written it for her. “Heaven” would be finished and recorded by Roger’s band, The Cross, the following year. The “Theme from ‘New York, New York’” would seem to not get any further than the take used in the film.

At this stage, only two new songs would be completed for the album, both unrelated to Highlander. One, “Friends Will Be Friends,” was started by Freddie before it became a collaborative effort with John Deacon. The two would also work on “Pain Is So Close To Pleasure,” this one begun by John.

With both the Highlander and non-Highlander songs completed, various alternate mixes were prepared for use as future singles and album bonus tracks. “One Vision,” recorded months earlier, would get a re-mixing for the album also. The single remix of “A Kind Of Magic” would stand now as the album version. Its extended 12” mix would be edited as a bonus track, “A Kind Of ‘A Kind Of Magic’.” As well, the title of the album was decided on, A Kind Of Magic, as was the track listing:

Side One:

A Kind Of Magic album (copyright Queen Productions Ltd., 1986)

One Vision

A Kind Of Magic

One Year Of Love

Pain Is So Close To Pleasure

Friends Will Be Friends

Side Two:

Who Wants To Live Forever

Gimme The Prize (Kugan’s Theme)

Don’t Lose Your Head

Princes Of The Universe

CD Extra Magical Ingredients:

A Kind Of ‘A Kind Of Magic’

Friends Will Be Friends Will Be Friends…


Left off the album entirely would be “Blurred Vision” and “A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling,” both of which would become collectable B-sides.

May, 1986.

With A Kind Of Magic completed, the band started rehearsing for the upcoming European tour. In record stores, the soundtrack LP for Dave Clark’s Time: The Musical hit the shelf, partnered with Freddie Mercury’s related solo single for “Time,” off the album. John Deacon’s single, “No Turning Back,” with The Immortals was also released (the Biggles soundtrack album would be released in June).

At Sarm East Studios in London, when not rehearsing for the tour, Freddie could be found working with Billy Squier, a friend of the band (with whom Freddie, Roger and Brian had worked previously). They completed two tracks for Squier’s forthcoming album, Enough Is Enough: “Love Is The Hero” and “Lady With A Tenor Sax.” The album and the “Love Is The Hero” single later came out in September.

June, 1986.

A Kind Of Magic was released on June 2nd and went gold in its first week, reaching #1 on the UK Album charts, despite mixed press reviews. Some of the reviewers failed to grasp that much of the album was related to Highlander and it had a tough time cracking the US charts in 1986. Queen chose not to tour in North America for the new album, but played to sell-out crowds in Europe.

July 11th and 12th, 1986.

In the middle of the Magic Tour, Queen performed live at Wembley Stadium. It had been a year since they played there as part of Live Aid. The shows were both recorded and their later release shows the band at the top of their live game. Much has been made of Freddie’s seemingly prophetic statement about false rumours of the band’s break up and that they would stay together until they died. While at home in London that week, Freddie gave an interview to David Wigg, where he said, “I’ve got a new-found force that there’s more left in Queen. I may change my mind at the end of the tour and that say that’s it, but I think we really want to stay together.”

Queen, Live at Wembley Stadium, July 12th, 1986. (copyright Queen Productions Ltd., 1986)

August, 1986, and beyond…

The final concert of the Magic Tour was at Knebworth, England, on August 9th, and would be the last for Queen’s classic line up. Freddie Mercury’s health rendered touring for the next two albums impossible. Still, A Kind Of Magic had four successful UK singles:

One Vision (UK #7)

A Kind Of Magic (UK #3)

Friends Will Be Friends (UK #14)

Who Wants To Live Forever (UK #24)

Queen chose to ultimately develop the project not as a soundtrack, but as a Queen album. However, they did not shy away from maintaining its relationship with the movie. Included in the liner notes was the claim that “Some songs on this album appear in different form in the film ‘Highlander’.” It was inescapable, really, with some singles emblazoned with the Highlander title on the sleeve and one of the videos connected directly to it. The album’s liner notes would not specifically distinguish between which track was from the film and which was not, but it would do something else altogether curious.

As noted earlier, “One Vision” was included in the film, and soundtrack album for, Iron Eagle, despite not having been written for that movie. The album’s liner notes beneath “One Vision” advertise it as “From the motion picture ‘Iron Eagle’.” The later live album from the Magic Tour, titled Live Magic, would do the same for the song. This credit would seem counter to the idea of presenting the album as a whole, rather than as a collection of movie songs.

Highlander would go on become a cult classic and spawn a franchise in which some instalments made significant use of the songs Queen wrote for the movie, though the band themselves were not involved in those projects. Freddie, John, Roger and Brian would take a break from Queen after the Magic Tour. However, the time spent on solo projects over the next two years would see them return to the studio as a band and embark on a particularly creative period leading to the next album, The Miracle.

No official soundtrack album was released at the time for Highlander. A Kind Of Magic was closest they got, a Queen album with six of its nine songs (or eight of its twelve on the 1986 CD) coming from the movie. A collection of highlights from the first three Highlander film scores was released in 1995, containing some of Michael Kamen’s music, but no tracks performed by Queen. Brian May, on the 2003 Greatest Video Hits DVD commentary for “Friends Will Be Friends,” said that he’d like to go back and produce a proper soundtrack album, including Kamen’s score and pieces like the “Theme from New York, New York.”  Sadly, that same year, Michael Kamen died of a heart attack, seeming to put an end to the idea for the time being.

And yet, it could still happen. Queen fans are known for their desire to hear what’s in the vaults. The alternate mixes, takes, and unreleased material, such as the “Theme from ‘New York, New York’,” would certainly please many listeners. For now, they can still watch Highlander and experience the differences in the music compared to the finished product on the album, not to mention the various single and extended mixes which accompanied it.

26 years later, if you’ll forgive the word play, there is still magic in the music.

“Pain Is So Close To Pleasure” North American single. (copyright Queen Productions Ltd., 1986)

The following article I wrote for Queen’s Official Website, as part of an open submission series called Fan Features. Check out the other interesting articles there, updated every Friday.

Queen: Sheer Heart Attack album (1974) (copyright Queen Productions Limited)

It was October of 1974.

Queen had just finished recording their third studio album, Sheer Heart Attack. The lead-off single, “Killer Queen,” had reached #2 in the UK singles charts. Its AA-side, “Flick Of The Wrist,” would go virtually unnoticed, but that would not stop the single from becoming the big breakthrough the band had been looking for to follow the success of their previous hit “The Seven Seas Of Rhye,” off Queen II.

Getting to this point had not been easy. Their debut album, Queen, met with limited attention, as did their first single, “Keep Yourself Alive,” which failed to chart in 1973. “The Seven Seas Of Rhye” was a hit at #10 in the UK, but the parent album received mixed reviews by music critics in the early days of 1974. Queen were undaunted and pressed on with a tour promoting Queen II, venturing for the first time to North America to support Mott The Hoople in the spring. Their involvement was cut short when guitarist Brian May developed Hepatitis, nearly lost his arm and had to be hospitalized, all after a dirty needle was used to give him an inoculation for the band’s trip to Australia, administered back in January. Brian recovered and joined the band in the studio to finish Sheer Heart Attack through the summer and early fall of that year.

October also saw the band record its fifth BBC session at Maida Vale 4 Studios in London, where they augmented and added to the earlier studio recordings of four tracks from the album (“Now I’m Here,” “Stone Cold Crazy,” “Flick Of The Wrist” and “Tenement Funster”). However, another tour was looming, scheduled to start at the end of the month and looking to stretch well into the following year. The album itself was already mixed, mastered and sent to get pressed. Everything was ready for Sheer Heart Attack and its tour to carry the band to what they hoped would be that final push needed to establish them as a musical force to be reckoned with.

Yet, Brian had one last ingredient in mind. It was something he’d been toying with for a while. On the cool Saturday of October 27th, Brian had booked some studio time with engineer Mike Stone. He had an idea to record an arrangement of Britain’s national anthem, “God Save The Queen,” to use as a closing piece for the concerts in the upcoming tour. It was regal enough, and Queen were just ballsy enough, for it to work. With drummer Roger Taylor’s overdubs, the track was completed that day and taken on the road for the first concert of the tour three days later, on October 30th.

Queen live at the Rainbow Theatre, London, Nov., 1974 (copyright Queen Productions Ltd.)

The tour lasted until May 1st of 1975. It was a success and Queen even filmed their appearance at the Rainbow Theatre, London, in November of 1974, following Sheer Heart Attack’s release. January had seen a second UK hit from the album in “Now I’m Here.” Elektra Records in the US were working to carry the band’s success further with another US single release in the summer. Roger Taylor, in the May 24th, 1975, issue of Record Mirror, mentioned that “In America, they’re going to put “Keep Yourself Alive” out again.” The band went into the studio in June and re-recorded “Keep Yourself Alive.” This recording was shelved and Elektra instead re-issued their earlier 1973 edit of the original Queen album version. In preparation for the single’s release, an interesting thing occurred, a curiosity mostly overlooked in Queen biographies and discographies.

Queen’s 1975 “Keep Yourself Alive” US re-issue 7″ single A-side (copyright Elektra Records)

The single’s A-side was “Keep Yourself Alive,” despite Elektra not using Queen’s 1975 re-recording (which later became known as the “Long Lost Re-take”). Its B-side would contain something altogether new for fans: the 1974 recording of “God Save The Queen,” recorded the previous October for the Sheer Heart Attack Tour. It should also be noted that for this 7” single, Elektra also included the complete, uncut, non-segued version of “Lily Of The Valley,” off Sheer Heart Attack. Two B-side tracks on one 7” and one of the tracks was effectively a new release, exclusive to the US market. “God Save The Queen,” upon the release of the “Keep Yourself Alive” single in North America, was, for all intents and purposes, a non-album track at that point. The recording had more to do with the Sheer Heart Attack album, by way of the reason it was recorded at all (to close out each concert on that tour), than how Queen fans tend to remember it.

Elektra Records released the re-issued “Keep Yourself Alive” 7” single in the US in July of 1975, but it failed again to have any real chart success. Between August and November of 1975, Queen recorded their fourth album, A Night At The Opera. The band went all out on this album, an all or nothing bid to try everything they could think of in terms of studio production. “Bohemian Rhapsody” would turn out to be the piece de resistance of A Night At The Opera. It was the album’s lead-off single, garnering the band their first #1 UK hit, released October 31st of 1975, before the album itself was fully completed. When it came to the eventual track listing for the album, “Rhapsody” found itself closing Side Two. Everything on the album built up to the epic hit track at the end. None of the songs recorded for the album, as good or great as they were, seemed convincing enough to following Freddie Mercury’s masterpiece.

Except that there was a track recorded a year before, little over a minute long and entirely instrumental.

“God Save The Queen” would reprise its role as a true closer not just for concerts but for this album. It was the only logical choice the band had and the recording made in October of 1974 had yet to appear on an album. Since July, it had been a rare non-album track, Queen’s second at the time, following “See What A Fool I’ve Been,” the B-side to “The Seven Seas Of Rhye.” If Queen had not thought to use it, or had recorded an equally fitting track to end A Night At The Opera, this recording of “God Save The Queen” might have remained among the list of non-album tracks in Queen’s catalogue, becoming a collectable on par with “A Human Body” and “Soul Brother,” to name a few. Instead, Queen re-mixed the October, 1974, recording. The original single version starts with the track at full volume, where the mix on Opera fades in, shaving off a few seconds. This means that the single version is still collectable for those fans interested in tracks which differ from the known album versions. So, like the unique version of “Lily Of The Valley,” “God Save The Queen” as it appears on the 1975 “Keep Yourself Alive” single is still sought after. It represents the original form of the recording and encapsulates a five month period where it was effectively a new, non-album Queen track.

The B-side to the 1975 “Keep Yourself Alive” US re-issue single (copyright Elektra Records). The début release of Queen’s version of “God Save The Queen.”

Because it closes A Night At The Opera so perfectly, because the original single was fairly rare (and still is), and because Brian May himself only recently enlightened Queen fandom about why he made the recording in the first place, it’s easy to overlook the original context of their version of “God Save The Queen,” and to assume it was a part of Opera all along.

Perhaps it’s overstating the importance of 1 minute and 14 seconds of music among the hundreds of hours Queen recorded, but “God Save The Queen” stands as a look into the organic nature of the band’s recording and album-crafting process. It’s a journey made by the track over the course of a year, whereby it eventually found a home on what could be argued is Queen’s definitive album.

And it still closes Queen concerts well into the 21st Century. Not bad for a track recorded in a day back in October of 1974.

[Originally published on Queen’s Official Website, QueenOnline.com, Wednesday, May 16th, 2012. Administrator/Editor: Nick Weymouth]