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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Looking for jewels of classic rock? Try Queen's early albums

By Daniel Kerwin

Instead of constantly waiting for the next Lady Gaga single to be released, what if you started looking backwards in your quest for new music? This of course isn’t a new strategy, most people have a wide selection of go-to oldies they listen to, but unfortunately most people settle for buying best-of albums when listening to older music. I was guilty of this until recently even when listening to my favorite band.There is no band I’ve listened more to than Queen. If you’re not very familiar with their music, you’re missing out big time. Lead singer Freddie Mercury did the world the great service of recording perhaps the greatest rock vocals ever. There are also perhaps no greater best-of collections than Queen’s three best-of albums. For years that was all the Queen music I listened to, but I recently decided to buy four of their first five albums: “Queen” (1973), “Sheer Heart Attack” (1974), “A Night at the Opera” (1975) and “A Day at the Races” (1976). I couldn’t believe what I was missing.

Queen’s breakthrough hit was “Killer Queen” from “Sheer Heart Attack,” the band’s third album, and “A Night at the Opera” is regarded as their best overall album, which includes their defining hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but the band was already at the top of their game from their very beginning.

The very first track on their intro album “Queen” may have become my favorite Queen song of all time. The song, “Keep Yourself Alive,” is just as good as anything you’ll find in Queen’s greatest hits, I can’t believe it didn’t make the album. The song is fast paced and exhilarating, featuring all of Queen’s greatest assets: harmonious backing vocals sung by the whole band, melodious guitar riffs by lead guitarist Brian May, and of course Freddie’s vocals.

Another one of Queen’s strengths is the sheer variety in their style of music, and these first few albums showcase this to the fullest. Each member of the band contributed to writing the band’s songs, and each songwriter created a unique sound. May obviously focused on writing guitar heavy songs, but most of them still include Freddie as the main vocalist. His best songs from these four albums include “Keep Yourself Alive,” and “Brighton Rock” from “Sheer Heart Attack,” “The Prophet’s Song” from “A Night at the Opera,” and “Tie Your Mother Down” from “A Day at the Races.”

The band’s drummer, Roger Taylor, wrote songs that didn’t include Freddie on vocals, which automatically diminishes their value, but they provide a necessary change of tone and probably gave Freddie much needed rest when he was performing on stage. The songs of Taylor’s that I found catchiest were “I’m in Love with My Car” from “A Night at the Opera” and “Drowse” from “A Day at the Races.”

However, my favorite songs by far are the ones written by Freddie. His songs are by far the most melodious and playfully written, and his songwriter credits include both “Killer Queen” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” If you want to find songs you probably haven’t heard before to get a good variety of his unique songwriting talent, start with “Great King Rat” from “Queen,” “Flick of the Wrist” from “Sheer Heart Attack,” “Death on Two Legs” from “A Night at the Opera” and “The Millionaire Waltz” from “A Day at the Races.” Freddie also throws in a couple of shorter songs that sound like throwbacks from the 1920s, a style you won’t hear from any other rock band. The best examples of this style are “Bring Back That Leroy Brown” from “Sheer Heart Attack,” and “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” and “Seaside Rendezvous” from “A Night at the Opera.”

The last member, bassist John Deacon, wrote hits such as “You’re My Best Friend” from “A Night at the Opera,” and the entire band combined to write another song that merits a spot on one of their best-of albums, “Stone Cold Crazy” from “Sheer Heart Attack.” Although I’ve mentioned a ton of songs in this article, you’re bound to find more awesome songs on these albums, I’ve never heard a Queen song I don’t like – any song sung by Freddie warrants listening to, he was just that good.

If you’re a casual Queen fan interested in just a small sample of their earlier work, I’d definitely recommend “A Night at the Opera” as the go-to album, it lives up to its hype. If you’re a more dedicated Queen fan, start at the beginning with “Queen” and see how far you can go. That’s what I plan on doing.

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  • M

    Michelle KerrSep 11, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Hello. remarkable job. I did not imagine this. This is a splendid story. Thanks!

  • P

    Peter GrahamSep 10, 2019 at 7:23 am

    You made some first rate factors there. I seemed on the internet for the issue and located most individuals will go together with together with your website.

  • S

    Sebastian KerrSep 6, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Very good article. I’m going through a few of these issues as well..