Album Of The Day: Queen A Night At The Opera
- Released in November 1975 the fourth Queen album takes its name from the Marx Brothers film of the same name. The band was watching the film one night whilst recording the album and decided to name the album after the film. The album reached the number one position in the UK album charts for four non consecutive weeks. In America whilst it did not make the number one position (It reached number 4) it did go on to become a triple pl...atinum seller becoming one of Queen’s biggest selling albums in America.
For many fans of the band myself included and indeed most of the UK this album was the one that really broke the band. The fact that the album also contained the massively successful and highly influential single Bohemian Rhapsody obviously has some bearing on the sales of the album but in reality Queen had worked long and hard to get to this point in their career. The opening track Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To...) was a direct attack on the bands previous management and Freddie Mercury who wrote the song was completely unapologetic even when Norman Sheffield who incidentally wasn’t even directly mentioned ,sued for defamation. The song was a popular one however as it managed to stay in the bands live set well into 1980
Other less controversial songs are you’re My Best Friend John Deacon’s first single for Queen which also went on to become a sizeable hit, the folksy 39 from Brian May and the rather raucous I’m In Love With My Car from Roger Taylor. The nostalgic Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon was another facet of Freddie’s varied taste and the song has a vaguely vaudeville feel which Freddie would explore on the next album with the song Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy. The rock fans were also catered for with The Prophet’s Song one of Brian May’s songs which started life when he was recovering from hepatitis during the recording of the bands previous album Sheer heart Attack. Another key song in the Queen canon is also featured on A Night At The Opera and that is Love Of My Life which when performed live would become a massive audience participation song
Having already mentioned it I guess there is no escaping from Bohemian Rhapsody and if there is only one Queen Song that you know the odds are it will be this one. Possibly unfairly overshadowing everything on the album the song has now become considered THE Queen Song and has been discussed by many people including fans and music scholars over the years. There is of course no denying the strength of the song which had its origins in the late sixties and early seventies in what Freddie used to call his “Cowboy Song” which contained the lyric “Mama.....Just Killed A Man”. The track is a master class in how to construct and multi track a song and make it into something rather special. When the decision to make the track the lead single many people scoffed due to the length of the song but in very short order the single became the bands most successful single reaching number one in the UK singles chart and staying there for an astonishing nine weeks. It would also reach number one again in early 1991 following the death of Freddie Mercury.
More importantly the video for the song was a groundbreaker and while there had been promo films before Bohemian Rhapsody record companies really picked up on just how important a promotional tool the video was and many claim i9t ushered in the MTV age although MTV were not to launch for more than 6 years. Filmed in Elstree studios over a four hour session the video cost just £4,500 and remains possibly one of the most famous promotional videos bay any band.
When the single came out I like many others bought the single and waited for the album and the tour. We were not to be disappointed when the album came out and as a Queen fan I had already booked my tickets to see the band at the Liverpool Empire. The support band Mr. Big were another EMI band who would go on some 18 months later to enjoy their own big hit with Romeo although at the time of the Queen tour they were a little more rocky than the future single might suggest. The tour was the bands most successful tour the band had undertaken up to that point and many were disappointed when the tour sold out very quickly and they were unable to buy tickets. They like many had to make do with the televised concert performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test on Christmas Eve in 1975.
Since the original album came out there has been the thirtieth anniversary edition which came complete with a DVD containing the two videos for Bohemian Rhapsody and You’re My Best Friend and specially made videos for all the remaining songs on the album. If you can get a copy of this I would recommend it because it is now exceedingly rare. We have more recently had the remastered version which contains a bonus EP containing outtakes and backing tracks from songs recorded at the time.
So there it is one of my favourite Queen albums and I guess that is the case for many others too I am playing it now and am immediately transported back to the winter of 1975 when Queen really did seem to be everywhere not just a landmark album for Queen but a landmark album for rock music :) JKYou can request Queen tracks on Classic Rock radio by going to the website and clicking on the Request Icon Here: