Queen’s 40th anniversary is now upon us, and the band plans to pull out all the stops to celebrate this historic occasion. “2011 is an important year for Queen,” said Brian May “and there will be a lot of activity.” Adds Roger Taylor, “I can’t believe it’s been that long and that we are still around in such a big way. I’m amazed and grateful!” This yearlong event will be marked by a series of releases, re-releases, special limited-edition items and events around the world.
It was in March 1971 that bassist John Deacon joined May and Taylor’s buzzed-about London group, which had changed its name from Smile to Queen nine months earlier, following the addition of multitalented singer/pianist Freddie Mercury, thus completing the classic lineup. The four simpatico musicians proceeded to take the world by storm. The band has released a total of 18 chart-topping albums and 18 #1 singles, while selling more than 300 million albums worldwide, making them one of the biggest rock acts of all time. They’ve received seven Ivor Novello awards in the U.K., were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, the UK Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and even received their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in October 2002.
As live artists, Queen literally conquered the world. Acknowledged as one of the greatest stadium bands of all time, Queen performed over 700 concerts, reaching into every corner of the world. They achieved rock history by being the first band to open up South America and the Eastern Bloc, with world record- breaking concerts in Argentina, Brazil and Hungary.
This is a timeless band whose music retains such immediacy and undiminished power that new fans continue to discover and embrace it, along the way inspiring a host of diverse artists from Lady Gaga (who took her name from Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga”), and Katy Perry, through to the Foo Fighters.
It’s worth noting that Queen’s videos have collectively generated well north of 300 million views online—a remarkable figure that figures to expand exponentially with the launch of a dedicated Vevo channel this spring, in yet another iteration of the anniversary rollout.
As the centerpiece in the 40th anniversary celebration, Queen’s entire 15-album studio catalog is being reissued in a series of deluxe editions. Every note is being tweaked, every piece of artwork is being cleaned, freshened up and resourced, wherever necessary, with the legendary Bob Ludwig doing the remastering, working from the original source material. The albums will be released in three waves, staggered over the next year, with the first wave—comprising the first five LPs—coming this May.
Each studio album will be released in a new two-CD edition, the first containing the updated, remastered original LP, the second disc packed with rarities—and we don’t use the term lightly. Some of these gems have never before seen the light of day, even in crappy bootleg form. To cite a particularly fascinating example, five first-album demos recorded at London’s De Lane Lea Studios in December 1971 were pulled from the only existing copy on the planet—an acetate from May’s personal archives. Not even his bandmates had a copy.
“A huge amount of work has already been put in behind the scenes to unleash a completely newly mastered set of the original Queen LPs and CDs,” May noted. “I know our fans will appreciate the attention to detail, bringing the early albums closer than ever to the magic of the vinyl originals, but with the benefit of up-to-the-minute quality technology.”
In other anniversary activity, the gallery exhibition “Stormtroopers in Stilettos” opens in London on Feb. 25, with plans in place to tour the exhibit around the world. According to May, this unprecedented event “will highlight in some innovative ways the growth of the ‘Early Queen.’” On April 12, Hollywood will reissue Queen’s debut single, “Keep Yourself Alive” b/w “Son and Daughter,” on seven-inch vinyl in a limited edition coinciding with Record Store Day. And on April 19, the label will issue the band’s Greatest Hits II for the first time in North America. This classic collection includes the rock standards “Under Pressure” and “Radio Ga Ga,” plus many other classics from the second half of Queen’s run, including the worldwide smashes “I Want It All” & “Innuendo.” Additionally, the “Queen on Vinyl” reissue program will be completed this year with the release of the final five studio albums.
In the UK, Queen’s Greatest Hits 1 holds the record of being the biggest selling album of all time ahead of albums by The Beatles, Oasis, Dire Straits, and Abba.
This is just the beginning of what promises to be a treasure trove of must-have pieces for Queen fans. More will be revealed in the coming months, so stay tuned.