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Articles > Queen Articles > 03-09-1976 - The Advocate (OH) - British rock quartet
British rock quartet known for black-white garb
The British rock quartet Queen is touring around America and for those who haven't heard of it there are predictions it's going to be one of the big ones. Those who have heard of it, and are fans, are those who push its recordings straight up the best-selling charts the minute they're released and who know all about its black and white "trademark" and its theatrical stage show.
Is it weird? Not really, says lead singer Freddie Mercury. "If we were weird on stage, I don't know what you 'd say the Tubes would be. It is not a show full of bombs going off. It is music that's the key factor. We're aware that people have come to listen to our music. We couple it with a bit of flashiness and the show business accoutrements that go with it. But the music is not just one big noise. We can be very sophisticated; in fact, we are."
Queen arrives for a tour in America, however, with 25 to 30 in its road crew. One person stands near each performer on stage, just to work quickly if something goes wrong with that performer's musical instrument. Others work lights and amplification systems. Mercury, 29, is interviewed in his hotel suite on a cold New York day, barefoot, wearing white denim shorts, a black and white caftan top, silver snake bracelet around one wrist and black nail polish on one hand, no face makeup. The shorts, like any things in the group's persona, just happened. "We keep all the good bits and if certain things don't work we forget them." On a previous tour, on a sunny, warm day in Los Angeles, somebody suggested that Mercury sing the encores in shorts and he did. Now he does it, even in wintertime.
The best-known nonmusical trademark of the group is its black and white garb. "In the early days, we just wore black. It was very bold and theatrical. Then we introduced white, for variety, and it just grew and grew."
The group's "coat of arms," which Mercury, who once studied at Ealing School of Art, drew, however, is beautifully colored — pink, blue, gold, white and green. A blue Q, edged in gold, has pink and blue rays radiating outward. Atop the Q is a crab for guitarist Brian May, who is a Cancer. On either side are lions for drummer Roger Meddows-Taylor and bass guitarist John Deacon, who are Leos. Also.on each side are Mercury's Gemini symbols and atop it all is a Phoenix rising from flames.
The latest album, on Elektra, "A Night At the Opera," is No. 16 on the Feb. 14 best-selling chart and the single "Bohemian Rhapsody," is No. 32 and climbing, on the chart of the same date. "It is an album of very strong songs," Mercury says. "Each one can stand on its own. This is our strongest album in that way. It was hard to title." The title of the alburn doesn 't mean, he says, that it's a concept album, with all songs following a central theme like a rock opera. In fact, it may be the group's most varied album, going from acoustic folk to vaudeville and 1920s- and 1930s influenced songs, to high-energy rock. "Bohemian Rhapsody" has a quality they think of as opera, though, it is "our way of doing what we think is opera."
The group is an expensive one to move around the world, Mercury says, with all its equipment and its huge road crew. He gives that as the reason for changing from the previous management company to John Reid enterprises, which also manages Elton John."That's why we have John Reid — he has lots of money." And what do Mercury and his fellow musicians think about the predictions and thrust toward superstardom? He says, "We haven't really sort of conjured up anything of what we're trying to do in that line. Every band has that desire to be big. That's one of the things that keeps you going. You've got to have some kind of goal — to get bigger is one. Our aim is to be respected as musicians more than that. I think you can be a very, very big group and still not be respected as musicians. You can be regarded as a phenomenon that is going to dry up very soon. I 'd like to be long lasting and then thought about when I'm dead as a musician who was of some worth and some value. That would be nice."
Each of the four members of Queen writes songs, then they meet for a "routining" session in which they make suggestions and arrange the songs, argue some over which songs to record and then make the record. Previous LPs were :"Queen I," which hit bigger in the U.S. than in Britain, though the group probably is bigger in Britain than in America now; "Queen II," and "Sheer Heart Attack," which is a gold record. The single "Killer Queen" is from the third album. As soon as a record is out, the group goes on tour to promote it, spending about six months "slogging" around the world — Britain, America, Japan, Australia, Europe.
"The last few years we haven't had as much time as I 'd like for a holiday. But when the wheels are turning, you can't sit back," Mercury says. "We get back home and we have to start writing, which takes time, and routining for the next album. We 're finicky and fussy and have very high standards. It takes a while to get a quality batch of songs."
And the name Queen? Mercury thought of it before they had a recording contract. "I just felt it was strong and universal; it had a power and regal sense. It's very hard to try and conjure up our kind of music in one word. But our music is very powerful and at.times very regal. Actually, it's just a name."