By Steve Newton
I f***in’ love early Queen. That crazy guitar tone Brian May had on the band’s self-titled 1973 debut album was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It kinda freaked me out, in a wonderful way.
The fantasy elements and heavy prog stylings of the 1974 Queen 2 concept album also won me over big time, and later that same year they released Sheer Heart Attack, which I got for Christmas as a teen.
I still remember playing it on my parents’ stereo and wondering if there was anything more rockin’ than May’s monster riffs on “Now I’m Here”. (I also appreciated that the lyrics mentioned my other fave band at the time, “Hoople”).
Of course, the next year they would put out the definitive A Night at the Opera, which boasted Freddy Mercury’s deathless “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I liked that tune a lot, though no more than May’s overlooked acoustic-guitar gem, “39”.
I started to lose interest in Queen around the time of the 1977 News of the World album. I never got into the whole “We Will Rock You”/”We Are the Champions” thing.
I thought it was cheesy.
But that didn’t stop me from going to see the band at the Pacific Coliseum that year. They were amazing. Not even opening act Thin Lizzy could blow them off the stage.
Queen fans with a similar fondness for its early material should know that today the band announced the upcoming release, on September 9, of Queen: Live at the Rainbow ’74. The album will be released in a number of formats–including my personal fave, the motherf***in’ Super Deluxe Boxed Set!
Here’s some promotional bumph released today. It was probably written by somebody who didn’t get Sheer Heart Attack for Christmas or see Queen with Thin Lizzy, but what can you do?
Sunday March 31, 1974 is a landmark date in the history of rock music. It is now celebrated in the multi format release of a rare recording made at legendary London venue The Rainbow, of a concert by a then up-and-coming band called Queen. Few who turned up for that iconic performance could have predicted they would go on to become arguably the world’s best and most successful rock group, although many more may have suspected it after this stunning show.
Among the unique material contained in this release are over a dozen tracks never previously released on any official Queen live album. The release will come in CD, Vinyl and standard DVD or SD Blu-Ray formats available as standard releases or special limited edition sets as well as digital formats.
That concert, being heard live for the first time in the soon to be released Queen: Live at the Rainbow ’74, marked the culmination of the band’s countrywide tour, their first as headliners – hot on the heels of a tour supporting Mott the Hoople, late in 1973, on which they were widely regarded as having blown the hit band off the stage. Queen got rave reviews, almost unheard of for a support band, and it was obvious that in future they would be top of the bill. The band’s momentum had been building since the release of their eponymous album in July 1973 and, following their success on the Mott tour, at the beginning of 1974 they were tipped as Band of the Year in UK music paper Disc and Music Echo.
Just before the March Rainbow gig, Queen performed their new single Seven Seas of Rhye on must-see UK TV music show Top of the Pops. The highly coveted slot was a lucky break – they filled in for an absent David Bowie, who was unavailable – and the band made the most of it, delivering a thrilling performance that pushed the song into the Top 10.
Although the group now had a first hit single under its belt, and second album Queen II had just been released to critical acclaim, many felt that playing The Rainbow was overambitious. It was the premier London venue of the time, on a par with L.A.’s Palladium and New York’s Fillmore East. But the band had paid its dues, slugging it out in clubs and college halls for four years, and never doubting their own potential. The band’s confidence was vindicated when the venue quickly sold out the capacity of more than 3,000 seats – with some fans paying as much as £1.20 for a ticket!
Queen’s performance was spectacular from the second that Freddie Mercury strutted onto the stage in his soon to become trademark white “eagle suit”, a tight -fitting number specially made for him by top fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, which featured flowing winged sleeves. He pranced and posed, capturing the audience in seconds with his extraordinary voice and stage presence, while Brian May provided the counterpoint with his remarkable and ground-breaking guitar playing. The powerful “engine room” (as they liked to call it) of drummer Roger Taylor and bass player John Deacon completed a sound unlike anything British audiences had previously heard. Enraptured fans clapped and cheered, and gave the band a standing ovation.
That electrifying show was recorded by Roy Thomas Baker, co-producer of Queen’s first four studio albums, and slated to be the band’s third album (and debut live album) – a career defining release like James Brown’s Live At The Apollo or The Who’s Live At Leeds. Intended to be a recording that captured the magic of a live band firing on all cylinders, Queen: Live at the Rainbow ’74 would undoubtedly have been a big success. But Queen’s ferocious creative momentum produced a stack of new songs begging to be recorded and instead of releasing the live album the band went into the studio to record what was to become 1974’s breakthrough album, Sheer Heart Attack. As a result the already completed Rainbow live album was shelved and consigned to the archives.
Later in 1974 Queen had their first chart-topping single, Killer Queen, which encapsulated their brand of driving rock and clever lyrics. It appeared on Sheer Heart Attack, which was released in the autumn, was a massive hit and remains to this day many fans’ favourite Queen album. To celebrate this success and crown a remarkable year, Queen returned to The Rainbow in November 1974 for two sell-out gigs that were even more spectacular than the one in March. These concerts included the typically flamboyant performance of Now I’m Here with which they had been wowing audiences on the tour. It featured Freddie apparently appearing in a spotlight on opposite sides of the stage almost simultaneously. The concerts received massive acclaim from fans and critics alike, and won over many who had until then doubted the band’s potential.
Track list for two-CD digi-pack and four-LP vinyl boxed set:
CD 1: QUEEN II TOUR.
Live at the Rainbow, March ’74
2. Father To Son
3. Ogre Battle
4. Son And Daughter
5. Guitar Solo
6. Son And Daughter (Reprise)
7. White Queen (As It Began)
8. Great King Rat
9. The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke
10. Keep Yourself Alive
11. Drum Solo
12. Keep Yourself Alive (Reprise)
13. Seven Seas Of Rhye
14. Modern Times Rock ’n’ Roll
15. Jailhouse Rock (Medley)
Stupid Cupid (Medley)
Be Bop A Lula (Medley)
17. See What A Fool I’ve Been
CD 2. SHEER HEART ATTACK TOUR
Live at the Rainbow, November ’74
2. Now I’m Here
3. Ogre Battle
4. Father To Son
5. White Queen (As It Began)
6. Flick Of The Wrist
7. In The Lap Of The Gods
8. Killer Queen
9. The March Of The Black Queen
10. Bring Back That Leroy Brown
11. Son And Daughter
12. Guitar Solo
13. Son And Daughter (Reprise)
14. Keep Yourself Alive
15. Drum Solo
16. Keep Yourself Alive (Reprise)
17. Seven Seas Of Rhye
18. Stone Cold Crazy
20. In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited
21. Big Spender
22. Modern Times Rock ’n’ Roll
23. Jailhouse Rock
24. God Save The Queen