Monday, March 1, 2010

1974: Queen become U.K. headliners

1974 saw the release of not one, but two, classic Queen albums: "Queen II" and "Sheer Heart Attack."

In support of Queen II’s release on March 8, 1974, the band began their first U.K. headlining tour at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on March 1.

Ticket stub from – check them out for more Queen info.

The groundwork for their headline status began with the transformation from the hard rock band Smile to Queen, in April 1970: core members Brian May and Roger Taylor were joined by fellow student, and friend of Smile bassist Tim Staffell, Farrokh Bulsara, soon to become Freddie Mercury. A rotating door of bass players was finally resolved with the addition of John Deacon in February ’71.

After getting a 4-song demo together in the fall, Queen searched for a record deal, to no avail; the band continued to rehearse their stage show, playing occasional gigs while the members completed college over the course of the next year. Queen eventually secured management, who snagged them an appearance on BBC Radio One’s “Sounds Of The Seventies” program, exposing the band to listeners across the country. Queen signed with EMI in March ’73, and then picked up a separate U.S. deal with Elektra Records.

By the time the band’s self-titled debut was released by EMI in July ‘73, Queen felt they had outgrown it musically, since most of the tracks were written and recorded in their formative period. Going top 25 at home, without a hit single, the album featured their unique blend of theatrical hard rock, soaring harmonies, May’s orchestral guitar work and Mercury’s operatic voice.

In a strange twist of timing, the band recorded Queen II in August '73, and then went on on the road in support of the debut, playing almost three dozen shows between mid-September and year’s end, picking up new fans as openers for both Mott The Hoople and 10cc.

On February 21, 1974, Queen performed (well, mimed) “Seven Seas Of Rhye,” the first single from their soon-to-be-released second album, on the influential “Top Of The Pops” show.

Queen - Queen II - Seven Seas of RhyeQueen - Queen II - Seven Seas of Rhye

Queen – Seven Seas Of Rhye
“Top Of The Pops” - February 21, 1974

The song and performance were a huge success; EMI rush-released the single to radio two days later, and the band was off and running.

Rock trivia: “Seven Seas Of Rhye” is the last track on both the band’s debut and Queen II; the version on the debut is an instrumental; a full version completes the sophomore album.

On the heels of the TOTP appearance, the band kicked off their Queen II tour in Blackpool on March 1, 1974, playing 21 dates in the first month alone.

By mid-April, Queen had their first hit on their hands, as “Rhye” reached #10 on the UK singles charts, pushing Queen II to #5.

Here’s another killer track from Queen II

Queen - Queen II - Ogre BattleQueen - Queen II - Ogre Battle

Queen – Ogre Battle
Sheer Heart Attack tour
Rainbow Theatre, London - Nov 20, 1974