AOTM: Think You Know Queen? Think Again…

British rock group Queen in concert, from left to right; Freddie Mercury (Frederick Bulsara, 1946 – 1991), John Deacon, and Brian May. Original Publication: People Disc – HU0463 (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

How much do you really know about our AOTM Queen? If you’re a Queen aficionado, then maybe what I’m about to share with you is old news. However, if you’re only familiar with their music, you have been missing out on some fascinating information.

The Queen you need to meet:

All of the musicians are very intelligent…Brian May has a degree in Astronomy, and an honorary PhD. He has designed a planetarium show, and co-authored an astronomy book titled Bang! The Complete History of the Universe. The book was originally published in 2006, has now been translated into 20 different languages, and is on its third updated edition (queen.com). Roger Taylor is more than an awesome drummer, he also holds a BS in Biology. Taylor was enrolled in London Hospital Medical College for dentistry in the late 60s, and later obtained his degree in biology (queen.com). Bassist John Deacon was the youngest member of the band and developed a keen interest in electronics from his father. In fact, he designed his own amp to use while performing called the “Deacy Amp” (queen.com). The amp is used by Brian May as well, and was finally manufactured for sale in 2010. Queen’s frontman, Freddie Mercury, is equally as intelligent and innovative as the rest of the band. Mercury received his degree in Art and Graphic Design from Ealing Art College. He would go on to design Queen’s crest and also some of the album artwork, but, Freddie’s choice to not be a stereotypical rock front man helped shape Queen’s image in later years (complex.com).  The singer was very interested in all the arts including ballet, opera, and theatre. He would eventually perform in a ballet in 1977 at the London Coliseum (queen.com). All four members are known for their music prowess; however, they’re more than just musicians.

Brian May’s original Red Special guitar was partly designed by his father…May’s father was an engineer and helped design the first Red Special when Brian was in high school. The story goes that the guitar body was made from an old mantelpiece a neighbor threw out, and the whammy bar was from old bicycle parts. This design is what gave May his original tone (songfacts.com). Over the years, there have been versions of this guitar made by both professionals and amateurs, but the Red Special finally has a home at Brian May Guitars, which May himself has overseen.

(Brian May gives a rundown on playing the Red Special and its original creation. YouTube video courtesy of Premier Guitar’s YouTube Channel.)

Freddie Mercury had a stamp collection…Mercury was an avid stamp collector as a child. He collected most of them from the age of nine through twelve years old. The stamps in the collection come from a variety of places including Great Britain, Zanzibar, and Monaco. Even in his youth, Mercury was showing his artistic side in the stamp collection. According to author Simon Garfield, he designed his collection with a lot of color and one page using stamps to design an ‘F’ (smithsonianmag.org). After Mercury’s death, the collection was sold to The Postal Museum in London. All the proceeds from the sale went to the Mercury Phoenix Trust.

All four members wrote hit songs for the band… The diverse sound of Queen can be attributed to the songwriting. All members of the band wrote at least one hit song in their lengthy career:

  • “Another One Bites the Dust” written by John Deacon
  • “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” written by Freddie Mercury
  • ‘Fat Bottomed Girls” written by Brian May
  • “Radio Ga Ga” written by Roger Taylor

They are one of the few rock bands to have multiple songwriters, and this created something very unique.

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991), singer with Queen, standing in front of a drumkit as he sings into a microphone on stage during a live concert performance by the band at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom, on 5 June 1982. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Mercury’s vocal range was four octaves…Although he said he never had any formal vocal training, Freddie Mercury had a distinctive, phenomenal voice. Speaking-wise, his voice landed in the baritone range; however, his singing voice could be brought down to the F below the bass clef, and as high as D four octaves above that. For albums, Freddie would hit the high notes (songfacts.com). On stage, he wouldn’t go as high due to nodules on his vocal chords (he never got surgery for this issue), but that didn’t take away from his vocal ability. According to Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, a group of scientists who studied his singing, Freddie’s voice vibrated faster than most people’s, and even though he was known as a tenor, he was most likely a baritone (consequenceofsound.net). Additionally, Freddie once turned down a chance to sing an opera duet because he was worried people wouldn’t recognize his voice in baritone range. This led the researchers to believe Freddie had a vocal ability that could take him out of his normal range for singing.

In conclusion, there is much more to explore and learn about this talented group of musicians. Let’s face it; Queen breaks the stereotypical mold that many perceive for rock gods. Rather than being a basic band from a basic city with basic rock standards doing all the basic things rockers do, the musicians have made an impression that puts any lesser rock band to shame.  Queen definitely broke the mold both musically and individually.

 

Related Links:

Queen Releasing a Set of 25 Albums — In Italy

An Epic Trip to Celebrate Freddie Mercury’s 72nd Birthday

Queen Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys

WOGB Artist Spotlight: Rob Anthony Revisits His Musical Roots

WOGB Exclusive Interview: Kip Winger

 

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