Queen are an English rock band formed by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and Roger Taylor in London, England in 1970 from the remains of Smile, with John Deacon completing the lineup the following year. Britain's most successful band of the past three decades, Queen became popular during the mid-to-late 1970s and to this day retain an extremely large international fan base.
Although formerly overlooked by critics, especially those in the United States, Queen have more recently been recognized as making an influential contribution to arena rock, glam rock, hard rock, heavy metal,, progressive rock, and rap amongst others. In the Music Of The Millennium poll conducted by Channel 4 in 1999, Queen were voted the second greatest band in music history.
The band has also been cited as a strong influence on many later artists and in 2001 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2003 Queen became the first and only band to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004 the band was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and in 2006 was the first inductee in to the VH1 Rock Honors. Queen have also been inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame (at Guitar Center on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard), and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Queen have recorded a total of eighteen #1 albums, seventeen #1 singles, and eight #1 DVDs worldwide, making them one of the world's best-selling music artists.
Queen's logo, also known as the Queen Crest, was designed by Mercury before the release of their first album. An instantly recognizeable symbol to many fans and non-fans alike, the logo features the zodiac signs of all four members: two lions for Leo (Deacon and Taylor), a crab for Cancer (May), and two fairies for Virgo (Mercury). The lions are embracing a stylized letter Q, the crab is resting atop the Q with flames directly above it, and the fairies are sheltering below each lion respectively. There is also a crown inside the Q and the whole logo is over-shadowed by an enormous phoenix. Mercury has stated that the logo is a sign of the times (i.e. the 70's) and it was usually displayed on the front of Taylor's bass drum at early Queen concerts.
In conjunction with Electronic Arts, Queen released the computer game Queen: The Eye in 1998, to commercial and critical failure. The music itself - tracks from Queen's vast catalogue, in many cases remixed into new instrumental versions - was by and large well received, but the game experience was hampered by poor game play. Adding to the problem was an extremely long development time, resulting in graphic elements that already seemed outdated by the time of release.
Under the supervision of Brian May and Roger Taylor, numerous restoration projects have been underway involving Queen's lengthy audio and video catalogue. DVD releases of their famous 1986 Wembley concert (titled Live At Wembley Stadium) and 1982 Milton Keynes concert (Queen On Fire: Live At The Bowl), and two Greatest Video Hits (Volumes 1 and 2, spanning the '70s and '80s) have seen the band's music remixed into 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound. So far, two of Queen's most acclaimed albums, A Night At The Opera and The Game, have been fully remixed into high-resolution multichannel surround on DVD-Audio. Known for their densely layered arrangements and backing, this medium seems tailor-made for Queen's music. Brian May has said he would like to see the entire Queen catalogue reproduced in this format, as it is closer to what the band envisaged for their work years ago. A new 5.1 mix of A Night At The Opera, including the first surround versions of The Prophet's Song and God Save The Queen, was created in 2005 for the 30th anniversary of the album's original release (CD+DVD set).
Queen contributed music directly to the movies Flash Gordon (1980, directed by Mike Hodges) and Highlander (the original 1986 film, directed by Russell Mulcahy). The theme song, "Princes of the Universe", was also used in the Highlander TV series (1992 - 1998).
Several other films have prominently featured their songs, including Iron Eagle, National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon, Wayne's World, Small Soldiers, High Fidelity, Super Size Me, A Knight's Tale, The Girl Next Door, Revenge of the Nerds,The Mighty Ducks and Shaun of the Dead. A cover of "Somebody to Love" by Anne Hathaway was recorded for the 2004 film Ella Enchanted. In 2001, a version of "The Show Must Go On" was performed by Jim Broadbent and Nicole Kidman in the movie musical Moulin Rouge!. "Bohemian Rhapsody" was re-released after appearing in Wayne's World, and subsequently made number 2 on the US billboard chart.
Keeping in the tradition (since Season 5) of naming each season's episodes after songs from a famous '70s era rock band (Led Zeppelin for the fifth season, The Who for the sixth and The Rolling Stones for the seventh), the eighth and final season of That '70s Show consisted of episodes named after Queen songs. "Bohemian Rhapsody" served as the season premiere.
In 2002, a musical or "rock theatrical" based on the songs of Queen, entitled We Will Rock You, opened at the Dominion Theatre on London's West End. The musical was written by British comedian and author Ben Elton in collaboration with Brian May and Roger Taylor, and the help of Robert de Niro. It has since been staged in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain; Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane, Australia; Cologne, Germany; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Las Vegas, Nevada. The original London production was scheduled to close on Saturday 7th October 2006 at the Dominion Theatre. Due to public demand, however, the show has now been extended indefinitely. We Will Rock You has become the longest running musical ever to run at this prime London theatre, overtaking the previous record holder, the Grease musical.
The launch of the musical coincided with Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. As part of the Jubilee celebrations Brian May performed a guitar solo of God Save the Queen, as featured on Queen's A Night at the Opera, from the roof of Buckingham Palace. The recording of this performance was used as video for the same song on the 30th Anniversary DVD edition of A Night at the Opera.
Sean Bovim created "Queen at the Ballet", a tribute to Freddie Mercury, which uses Queen's music as a soundtrack for the show’s dancers, interpret the stories behind tracks such as "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Radio Ga Ga" and "Killer Queen".
As of 2005, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, Queen albums had spent more time on the UK album charts than those of any other musical act.
Queen are remembered for their original blend of theatrics, showmanship, consummate musicianship, kitsch, and extravagance that were not usually found, or valued, by other recognised acts of their generation. During the early phase of their career, it was typical for a critically-acknowledged rock band to have blues, psychedelic, working-class roots with heavy emphasis on a male audience base. These factors, which were instilled in rock music in the late 1960's and early 1970's, were largely absent from Queen so that critical recognition was truly scarce. From the outset, the band had no aspirations to be a 'voice' of the oppressed or down-trodden sectors of society. Moreover the band elected not to openly express their political and/or humanitarian views in the same manner as other well-known artists such as Bob Geldof, Bono, Sting, Bob Dylan, etc.
Also, much of the material on the first two Queen albums (released in 1973 and 1974) had been composed, and performed live, a number of years earlier (e.g. 1970 and 1971). Unfortunately the material, when it was released officially, was regarded as dated and contrived by many critics that had not already been exposed to Queen's music. Similarly the band's two main audiences at the time, namely the glam-rockers and hard-rockers, were not particularly receptive to the mish-mash of the two contrasting styles. To add even more fuel to the fire, it was generally perceived that Queen started out with excessive financial backing and managerial favouritism that had not been previously earned.
Today numerous critics and fellow musicians have since acknowledged the band as making a significant contribution to the evolution of rock music. Many characterictics of the band that were once considered pretentious and tastelessly self-indulgent are now regarded in a positive light. Moreover, bands and acts that were once considered 'superior' to Queen by yesterday's fraternity of critics are seen as their 'equals' by today's critics. Nowadays Queen are extremely well-respected for both the musical eclecticism of their studio output and their impressive, innovative live shows. The bands successful use of promotional videos would help pave the way for the video to become an essential medium in popular music. Queen were also amongst a handful of bands that provided the initial impetus for stadiums and large arenas becoming regarded as serious rock concert venues. What is more, both Mercury and May (and Taylor and Deacon to a lesser degree) are regarded as influential members in their respective musical disciplines.
Queen wrote songs in many different genres while still adopting a tongue-in-cheek attitude. For example, glam rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, progressive rock, punk rock, heavy metal, pop, rhythm 'n blues, funk and disco, country, gospel and soul, and even music-hall and ragtime.
Much like its music, the collection of bands and artists that have claimed to be influenced by Queen, or a member of Queen, is quite diverse. Artists that cite them as an influence include: 10cc, Anthrax, Bad News, Ben Folds Five, Blind Guardian, Def Leppard, Dr. Dre, Dream Theater, Electric Six, Extreme, Foo Fighters, Franz Ferdinand, George Michael, Green Day, Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden, Jane's Addiction, Jeff Buckley, Jellyfish, Joan Osborne, Judas Priest, Katie Melua, Keane, Marilyn Manson, Meat Loaf, Megadeth, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Nirvana, OK Go, Pharrell Williams, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Robbie Williams, Sparks, Steve Vai, The Darkness, The Flaming Lips, The Melvins, The Smashing Pumpkins, The White Stripes, Tori Amos, Trent Reznor, Van Halen, Ween, among others.
Michael Jackson was a friend of Mercury in the early 1980s and cited the Hot Space album as a driving influence behind the making of his 1982 album Thriller on which Mercury was originally scheduled to appear. Queen have also been cited as a major influence on the "neo-classical metal" genre by Swedish-American guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. Well-known opera diva Monserrat Cabelle has stated on a number of occasions how Mercury, and Queen to a lesser extent, was instrumental in introducing opera listeners to rock music and vice versa.
The Official International Queen Fan Club was set up in 1973 after the release of the band's first album. At its peak, membership reached 20,000. According to Guinness World Records it is the "Longest-Running Rock Group Fan Club."