Saturday, December 20, 1975

Styx released “Suite Madame Blue” on Equinox album

First posted 3/10/2021.

Suite Madame Blue

Styx

Writer(s): Dennis DeYoung (see lyrics here)


Released: December 20, 1975 as an album cut on Equinox


First Charted: --


Peak: 7 CL (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): NA


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 6.344 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

In 1975, America was prepping for major celebrations of its bicennential the next year. 1976 wasn’t just the year that the country looked back, but the year that Styx looked forward. They had yet to become the juggernaut of classic radio, but they could see the possibilities. They’d broken through to top 40 radio with the #6 hit “Lady” which won them a major label record contract after four albums with Wooden Nickel.

Their first album with A&M, Equinox, arrived in December 1975 and during the next year, gave the band two top 40 hits with “Lorelei” and “Mademoiselle.” However, the album also produced “Suite Madame Blue,” which wasn’t a single but arguably became bigger than either of the official hits. The song became a staple at classic rock radio and a regular feature in the band’s concerts.

Dennis DeYoung, singer and keyboardist with the band, has called the song Styx’s “Stairway to Heaven,” FR a reference to the iconic Led Zepplien masterpiece and that each “starts slow and gathers steam as it roll on till the climatic end.” FR He wrote the song in response to the impending preparations for the bicennential celebration. Instead of writing a rah-rah patriotic tune, though, he took a more cynical look with lines like, “Red, white and blue / Gaze in your looking glass / You’re not a child anymore.”

He said, “You started seeing commercials for the B-Centennial mug and the Bi-Centennial panties and all of that.” FR He told Classic Rock Revisited: “The 200th anniversary of America was being totally taken over by commercialization…I had grown up in the so-called glory days of the United States of America, which was post World War II until 1970. To live in this country at that time was really the golden age. The fallibility of the United States was something that struck me and that set the tone for ‘Suite Madame Blue.’” SF


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Styx charted with Equinox

Equinox

Styx


Charted: December 20, 1975


Peak: 58 US


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US


Genre: classic arena rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Light Up (DeYoung) [4:17] (1975, 13 CL)
  2. Lorelei (DeYoung/ Young) [3:19] (2/14/76, 27 US, 30 CB, 28 HR, 26 RR, 9 CL, 6 CN)
  3. Mother Dear (Curulewski/ DeYoung) [5:25]
  4. Lonely Child (DeYoung) [3:47]
  5. Midnight Ride (Young) [4:17]
  6. Born for Adventure (DeYoung/ Curulewski/ Young) [5:12]
  7. Prelude 12 (Curulewski) [1:21]
  8. Suite Madame Blue (DeYoung) [6:30] (7 CL)


Total Running Time: 34:32


The Players:

  • Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards)
  • James “JY” Young (guitar, vocals)
  • John Curulewski (guitar, vocals, synthesizers)
  • Chuck Panozzo (bass)
  • John Panozzo (drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.785 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Equinox was “a pivotal album in Styx,s career.” UCR After four albums with Wooden Nickel, they were signed to the major label A&M after their 1973 single “Lady” was rediscovered and became a surprise top-10 hit. The album sold 350,000 copies upon release and eventually went gold. WK

With “their synthesizer-led dramatics alongside Dennis De Young’s exaggerated vocal approach, the material on Equinox was a firm precursor of what was to come .” AMG It also showed a band “simultaneously inspired and disjointed“ UCR with “persistent progressive ambitions (‘Mother Dear,’ ‘Suite Madame Blue’)” UCR as well as “burgeoning mainstream aspirations (‘Light Up,’ ‘Lorelei’).” UCR

It also marked the final appearance of founding guitarist John Curulewski. He left before the band went on tour, leaving them scrambling for a replacement. They found singer and guitarist Tommy Shaw, who would become a mainstay of the band through its classic years.

The lead single, Light Up, extolled the virtues of smoking pot and having fun with friends. It didn’t make any traction on the charts, but gained an audience on album rock radio. It “is a brilliant display of keyboard bubbliness, with De Young's vocals in full bloom.” AMG

The second single, Lorelei, proved much more successful, reaching #27 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Although it was the only song to chart from Equinox, the album itself is a benchmark in the band’s career since it includes an instrumental nature reminiscent of their early progressive years, yet hints toward a more commercial-sounding future in its lyrics.” AMG

The “hard rock juggernaut Midnight RideUCR is the only song on the album written exclusively by James “JY” Young while Born for Adventure, written “about legends such as Robin Hood,” WK is written by him alongside DeYoung and John Curulewski. Curulewski sings the verses while DeYoung handles the chorus on prog-rocker Mother Dear. Lonely Child is “a melodic power ballad featuring 12-string guitars” WK

That song and “Suite Madame Blue show tighter songwriting and a slight drift toward radio amicability.” AMG Despite never finding any chart success, “Blue” found a place on album rock radio and became “the most well-known song on the album.” WK The song was inspired by the then-upcoming U.S. Bicentennial celebration and the over-commercialization DeYoung saw attached to it. It became a staple in the band’s concert repertoire.

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First posted 3/24/2008; last updated 5/18/2021.

Friday, November 21, 1975

Queen released A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera

Queen


Released: November 21, 1975


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


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


Genre: glam rock/classic rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) 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 (Deacon) [2:52] (5/22/76, 16 US, 9 CB, 15 HR, 7 RR, 2 CL, 7 UK, 2 CN, 40 AU, sales: 0.2 million)
  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, 30 CL, 63 UK)
  10. Good Company (Brian May/Queen) [3:23]
  11. Bohemian Rhapsody (Mercury) [5:57] (10/31/75, 2 US, 1 CB, 4 HR, 3 RR, 1 CL, 16 AR, 1 UK, 1 CN, 1 AU, sales: 13.78 million)
  12. God Save the Queen (Queen/traditional) [1:15]


Total Running Time: 43:08


The Players:

  • Freddie Mercury (vocals)
  • Brian May (guitar)
  • John Deacon (bass)
  • Roger Taylor (drums)

Rating:

4.356 out of 5.00 (average of 22 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

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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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 8/5/2021.

Saturday, November 8, 1975

Queen charted with “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen

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


Released: October 31, 1975


First Charted: November 8, 1975


Peak: 2 US, 11 CB, 4 HR, 3 RR, 1 CL, 16 AR, 9 CO, 114 UK, 12 CN, 12 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 2.8 UK, 12.61 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1358.8 video, 1457.8 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

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

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

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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Last updated 4/11/2021.