Hailing from London, Queen is one of the most prolific bands in the history of rock 'n' roll. Like divine royalty, Queen colonized the United Kingdom's album charts, outstaying the Beatles and Elvis Presley for a total of 1,322 weeks, or 27 years on the charts.
Formed from the ashes of the 1968 band Smile, Queen never struggled to surface. Only two years after guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor, and vocalist Farrokah Bulsara ("Freddie Mercury") completed their lineup with bassist John Deacon, Queen recorded their self-titled debut in 1973. Influenced by the then budding heavy metal and progressive rock scene, Queen (1973) received many accolades though the album never bloomed into mainstream. But Queen returned to the studio to craft and complete what would be deemed as their "heaviest and darkest release" only nine months after the release of Queen. Queen II (1974), conceptually divided into "Side White" and "Side Black" with corresponding photos of the band dressed in white or black, is a thematic and technical masterpiece and the album's cover, featuring an iconic shot of all four members, inspired the music video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" and may be the public's most familiar vision of Queen.
1974 through 1979 were the most powerful years of Queen's reign. After their first two albums were released with large success, May, Taylor, Mercury, and Deacon went on to record their third album, Sheer Heart Attack, which reached number two in the UK and went gold in the US. The 1974 album, featuring mega hits such as "Killer Queen," "Now I'm Here," and "Stone Cold Crazy," highlighted Queen's eclectic style and drew from multiple genres like British music hall, heavy metal, ballads, ragtime, and Caribbean.
Posted at number 230 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time," the reception of Queen's third album surpassed the success of their second and third albums. A Night At the Opera (1974), dropping a year after Sheer Heart Attack, was the most expensive album ever produced at the time of its release. Featuring vocal harmonies composed with the voices of May, Mercury, and Taylor and breakout hits such as "Bohemian Rhapsody," "I'm In Love with My Car," and "Love of My Life," Sheer Heart Attack has gone triple platinum since its release.
Drawing from a wide array of genres like opera, country, ragtime, gospel, vaudeville, folk, dance/disco, glam rock, hard rock, heavy metal, pop rock, progressive rock, and psychedelic rock, Queen has orchestrated a total of 16 studio albums (three without Mercury, after his untimely passing), eight live albums (five without Mercury), and 14 compilation albums. They've generated a total of 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles, and 10 number one DVDs worldwide, securing themselves a spot as one of the world's best-selling artists.
"There was all that time when we knew Freddie was on the way out, we kept our heads down," Brian May said after Mercury's premature passing. Before Mercury lost his life to AIDS on November 23, 1991, Queen put on an epic performance for two nights and 360,000 people during the Rock in Rio festival in January of 1985. Even after Mercury's death, Queen continued to stage monstrous shows. In celebration of Mercury, Queen gathered a star-studded bill of Def Leppard, Lisa Stansfield, Elton John, David Bowie, Robert Plant, Tony Imommi, Annie Lennox, Guns N' Roses, Extreme, Roger Daltrey, George Michael, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson, Zucchero, Metallica, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, and Spinal Tap for the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on April 20, 1992, a little over a year after Mercury's death. The concert, dubbed by the Guinness Book of Records as "The largest rock star benefit concert," raised over 20,000,000 pounds for AIDS charities.
Whether through their monumental concerts, their exaggerated onstage antics, or their music's discourse on a lifestyle in the limelight, Queen perseveres. And two of its remaining members, Brian May and Roger Taylor, continue working in the music and entertainment industry. In 2002, May and Taylor collaborated with British comedian and author Ben Elton and producer Robert De Niro to create a "rock theatrical" centered around Queen's greatest hits and entitled We Will Rock You. Opening at London's prime theater, the Dominion, We Will Rock You has become the longest running musical ever to run at this West End venue. Scheduled to close on October 7, 2006, We Will Rock You continues to tour and make its way through UK theaters, and recently Brian May confirmed a sequel may be "in the works."