Friday, November 21, 1975

Queen released A Night at the Opera

Originally posted 12/2/2012. Last updated 2/26/2019.

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
  1. Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…) (Freddie Mercury/Queen) [3:43]
  2. Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon (Freddie Mercury/Queen) [1:07]
  3. I’m in Love with My Car (Queen/Roger Taylor) [3:04]
  4. You’re My Best Friend (John Deacon/Queen) [2:52] (5/22/76; #16 US, #7 UK)
  5. ’39 (Brian May/Queen) [3:30]
  6. Sweet Lady (Brian May/Queen) [4:03]
  7. Seaside Rendezvous (Freddie Mercury/Queen) [2:19]
  8. The Prophet’s Song (Brian May/Queen) [8:20]
  9. Love of My Life (Freddie Mercury/Queen) [3:38] (7/14/79, #63 UK)
  10. Good Company (Brian May/Queen) [3:23]
  11. Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury/Queen) [5:54] (11/8/75; #2 US, #1 UK, #16 AR, sales: 1.0 m)
  12. God Save the Queen (Queen/traditional) [1:15]

Released: November 21, 1975


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.3 UK, 10.0 world (includes US and UK)


Peak: #4 US, #14 UK, #12 AU, #2 CN


Genre: classic glam rock


Review:

Queen’s A Night at the Opera can be simultaneously viewed as the group’s “crowning achievement” PR and “an extravagant indulgence.” PR On the latter front, “this is where the band let its over-the-top tendencies loose.” RS500 The group “celebrate their own pomposity” AMG in “a self-consciously ridiculous and overblown hard rock masterpiece.” AMG In his book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, Tom Moon called it “the campiest rock concept album ever.” TM

On the other front, it was the most expensive album made up to that time, taking months to record in as many as six studios simultaneously. PR That “detailed, meticulous productions” AMG was a mutual effort from Queen and producer Roy Thomas Baker, who “was more than happy to oblige the boys, piling on the overdubs until the analog 16-track tape shed almost all its oxide and literally went transparent.” GW

The Queen sound by definition was filled with electric guitars in harmony, a rock-solid rhythm section, and many layers of vocals,” CRS but even by their own standards, Queen “broke down all the barricades on A Night at the OperaAMG with a mix of “hard rock, wistful ballads, music hall pastiche and perfectly crafted pop with classical trimmings.” PR It was “the disc that established them as a completely unique entity in rock music, quite distinct from the Seventies glam/proto metal pack with which they’d formerly been grouped.” GW “It’s prog rock with a sense of humor as well as dynamics.” AMG

“Delivered with sly winks and high-gloss dazzle, these put Queen closer, sensibility-wise, to the theatrical entertainments of a bygone age than anything on pop radio.” TM “Fully half of the album tends toward camp - there are seafaring sing-alongs (‘39) and vaudeville-style soft-shoe tunes (Seaside Rendezvous) and a few themes that might have been inspired by a toy calliope (Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon).” TM

However, “tucked between the kitschy, amazingly detailed period pieces are several conventional pop songs.” TM The album “encompasses metal (Death on Two Legs, Sweet Lady), pop (the lovely, shimmering You're My Best Friend)...mystical prog rock (…The Prophet’s Song)” AMG, and “the zooming, cleverly harmonized confession I’m In Love with My Car.” TM They all serve as “head-spinningly intricate, illustrations of Queen’s ability to conjure music of preposterous flamboyance that somehow still manages to flat-out rock.” TM

They “eventually bring it all together on the pseudo-operatic Bohemian Rhapsody.” AMG The group fretted that “this strange song with suicidal overtones, mood changes, and a pseudo-operatic section” CRS “was a bit over the top; it would either be a huge success or an equally huge failure.” CRS It proved to be the former, becoming the group’s most beloved song and one of classic rock’s staples.


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Saturday, November 8, 1975

Patti Smith released Horses: November 8, 1975

Originally posted November 8, 2012.

image from pitchfork.com


Release date: 8 November 1975
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Gloria: In Excelsis Deo/Gloria / Redondo Beach / Birdland / Free Money / Kimberly / Break It Up / Land: Horses/ Land of a Thousand Dances/ La Mer (De) / Elegie

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 47 US, -- UK

Rating:


Review: A case could be made for Patti Smith, “the waif-like poetess,” WR “as a punk rock progenitor based on her debut album.” AMG She “and her crack band blazed a new trail in this brazen hybrid of literary smarts and feral rock.” UT “The simple, crudely played rock & roll, featuring Lenny Kaye’s rudimentary guitar work, the anarchic spirit of Smith’s vocals, and the emotional and imaginative nature of her lyrics – all prefigure the coming movement as it evolved on both sides of the Atlantic.” AMG “Like a lot of the proto-punk artists, Smith was romanticizing rock ’n roll’s past” EK while also “breaking new ground…the hallmark of great artists.” JM

Smith’s vocals are “an acquired taste, and the music is at times a jarring mix of ’60s Nuggetry (thank you Lenny Kaye) and free-form avant-garde” EK fused with “classical verse, feminism, [and] punk.” TL “Art, bohemia, poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, sex, and salvation crash and burn together.” VB There are “a couple of rather esoteric nine-minute readings…and Patti’s somewhat casual relationship with phonics can make for a challenging listen if you don’t have a lyric sheet right handy.” EK Despite that, she demonstrates an “ability to construct an album that simultaneously looks forward and backward;” JM she also deserves “props for her flair for the theatrical.” JM In addition, John Cale (formerly of the Velvet Underground), deservies recognition for his production which “respected Smith’s primitivism in a way that later producers did not.” AMG

The album’s most important contribution may have been how she was “interested in bringing together high art and low three-chord rock & roll.” AZ While she “emerged from the same punk scene as the Ramones, [this is] a far cry from [their] three-chord jokiness.” RV “The melodies carry the influence of Van Morrison, Wilson Pickett and The Doors.” RV “The loose, improvisatory song structures worked with her free verse to create something like a new spoken word/musical art form: Horses was a hybrid, the sound of a post-Beat poet, as she put it, ‘dancing around to the simple rock & roll song.’” AMG Her “vision of extremist poetry and rock music” BL makes the album “sound like it belongs on a syllabus for a class few people would willingly take.” TL

“Smith’s background as a rock critic and poet is equally in evidence.” NRR “This seems to be the ultimate insider’s album.” EK It is “a rock critic’s dream, a poet as steeped in ‘60s garage rock as she is in French Symbolism.” AMG This is “Rimbaud with punk guitars.” BL

“Despite her obvious mastery of rock ‘n roll,” JM Smith was “some what of an anomaly.” JM “It’s a sad fact that pop music has been, and in many ways continues to be, a boys’ club.” EK However, with Horses, “a woman had finally taken the reins of the rock chariot” JM showing “she could beat the boys at her own game.” JM Her boyfriend, Robert Mapplethorpe, “took the sleeve photo, which showed Smith a creature beyond gender, the music’s perfect pictorial analogue.” WR “Her artistry, honesty and female empowerment paved the way for future femme rockers Liz Phair, Alanis Morrissette and PJ Harvey.” RV

Gloria

“The album’s most memorable words are its first: ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.’” TL She and her band “swagger through a complete reinvention of Van Morrison’s Gloria.” TL “This song sets the tone of an alienated woman striving for catharsis with naked lyrics and vigorous guitar riffs.” RV “You realize you are in the presence of a master, someone who can take the poetic pretensions of the Lizard King and do them up right. Someone with the same blend of lasciviousness and aloofness as Jagger in his prime.” EK It makes for “one of the greatest side one/track ones of all time.” EK

She reimagines songs like that and Land of a Thousand Dances by adding her own “provocative and unflinching lyrics,” NRR resulting in something which feels “far more romantic and revolutionary than any mere poetry.” TL It “takes a skilled musician to turn the ‘jock rock’ mainstay…into a three-part suite comparable to The Doors’ ‘The End.’” RV

Land

“Smith exposes her soul like no other rocker when she intones, on Break It Up, ‘I ripped my skin open and then I broke through.’” RV The title track I”was an eight minute stream-of-consciousness ending in sonic orgasm.” WR While “some of Smith’s songwriting gets buried in its stylistic affectations (there’s a great song under Redondo Beach’s fake reggae),” AZ this is still “a rock record of overwhelming power” TL built on “Smith’s persona of volume, cunning and exile, and it comes through distinctly.” AZ “Clearly a landmark.” BL


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Queen charted with “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Updated 1/21/2019.

image from rockbandaide.com

Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen

Writer(s): Freddie Mercury (see lyrics here)


Released: 10/31/1975


First Charted: 11/8/1975


Peak: 2 US, 11 CB, 4 HR, 16 AR, 114 UK, 12 CN, 12 (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 5.45 US, 2.8 UK, 8.24 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 431.0


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

Called “one of the most complex singles ever recorded,” KL-216 “Bohemian Rhapsody” begins as a ballad, veers into opera, and ends as rock. Recording took place over three weeks in six studios CR-208 with 180 overdubs. KL-216 More than 70 hours went into the completion of the operatic parts. KL-216 There is a myth TB-154 that the tapes became nearly transparent RS500 from more than 180 overdubs. KL-216

Theories abound about the song’s meaning. Some say it is about a man calling to God for help on the eve of his execution. WK Others claim it is about Mercury’s attempt to break away from a lover after his first gay encounter. WK It has also been suggested that the lyrics have no meaning; they were just written to fit the music. WK Lead singer Freddie Mercury never did explain it, only saying that it was a about relationships. The band still protects the song’s secret. WK

When record execs wouldn’t release it, Mercury gave a copy to a DJ friend. This prompted fans to try to buy the non-existing single, which finally led to its release. WK It went top 10 in the U.S. and topped the British charts with more than a million sales. MG

The song was so complicated to play live that the band shot a promo clip which has come to be considered instrumental in the dawning of the video era. KL-216

In the wake of Mercury’s death in 1991 and inclusion in the 1992 movie Wayne’s World, the song re-charted, peaking at #2 in the U.S. In the U.K., it topped the charts again – the only song to ever do so – giving it a total of 14 weeks on top. It also sold another million copies. MG


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

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