Saturday, July 13, 2013

40 Year Itch : If I Crossed A Million Rivers

Thundering right out of the gates with its lead off track "Keep Yourself Alive", Queen released its debut album on July 13th 1973 and immediately drew comparisons to Led Zeppelin.

"With its first album Queen has produced a driving, high energy set which in time may be looked upon with the same reverence Led Zep I now receives" said the Chicago Tribune

Rolling Stone's Gordon Fletcher added "There's no doubt that this funky, energetic English quartet has all the tools they'll need to lay claim to the Zep's abdicated heavy-metal throne, and beyond that to become a truly influential force in the rock world. Their debut album is superb.".

It took them long enough. 

     Queen played very few gigs. Its members were all college students. Guitarist Brian May was working on his Ph.D. in astronomy. It took Queen almost all of 1971 just to record five demos at the state of the art De Lane Lea studios in Wembley. Checking out the studio, producers Roy Thomas Baker and John Anthony heard the demos and signed the band to their management company Tribute. What did Queen get out of the deal? An opportunity to record their album only when the studio wasn't booked. 

Usually between 3 am and 7 am.

Pulling all nighters, Queen recorded all the songs by November of 1972 but had to wait another 9 months for the album to be released by EMI and Elektra. 
Thus the poignant point in the liner notes:
"Representing at least something of what Queen's music has been over the last three years."

Despite good reviews, Queen's debut did not sell. It wasn't glam enough for the now waning glam rock scene nor hard enough for the hard rock crowd. There are multi-tracking moments that will remind listeners of what Queen would become but not enough.

A strange footnote: 

While recording the album Freddie Mercury  and the boys agreed to record a cover of the Beach Boys' hit "I Can Hear Music" as  Larry Lurex.

What would push Queen to the next level? Certainly not publicity photos like the one below.

 In August of 1973 they were back in the studio working on Queen II.

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