Queen drummer Roger Taylor admits the sound on early album ‘wasn’t what I wanted’
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Roger and bandmate Brian May have been giving a new round of interviews as the original incarnation of the band celebrates a milestone. It is 50 years since the two uni students (astrophysics and dentistry) joined up with graphic art student Freddie Mercury and electronic whizz John Deacon. Across fifty weeks, the band will also release a countdown series of videos, Queen: The Greatest, highlighting classic moments from their extraordinary history. Looking back, Roger revealed his unhappiness with one particular album.
Roger was talking about his drummer heroes and highlighted Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, who not only inspired him but ignited his dissatisfaction with some of Queen’s own work.
He said: “He (Bonham) hit hard but he knew how to hit right and he had the best drum sound ever. Just look at how much When The Levee Breaks has been sampled.
“I loved his drumming and that big sound of his was a huge influence on me.”
Roger went on to tell Rhythm magazine: “It’s why I was never really happy with the drums on our first album, Queen.”
He did not mince his words about why: “They sounded dead.”
Looking back, though, Roger accepts that this had much to do with prevailing techniques in the early 1970s.
He said: “At the time, though, deadening and tape were very fashionable – especially at Trident Studios where we recorded in that famous drum booth.
“That sound is good is good for certain things but it’s not what I wanted.”
As he grew in confidence and the band was able to assert more of their own direction, Roger was able to start creating the sound he preferred.
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Roger said: “Drums are a tuneable instrument and they are meant to have a note..
“And I was much more happy with the more natural, open sound on our second and third albums, Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack.
“Dynamics are also such an important part of the sound too. Hit too hard and you’ll smother the drum – and you just won’t get the tone out of it.”
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The first Queen album was recorded across six months in 1973 and the debut single was Keep Yourself Alive.
Roger may not have got what he wanted in the recording booth, but the band was already beginning to assert their wishes and vision elsewhere.
Unhappy with the first brighter and slightly psychedelic video for the track directed by Mike Mansfield, they demanded it was reshot in much darker and moodier fashion.
The single is their only one not to chart in the UK but it clearly announced that the band was already a force to be reckoned with.
In another interview, Roger also remembers X-rated sights and sounds surrounding teh band as they recorded the original album in London’s notorious Soho area.
He said: “You could see the working girls at night through their laced curtains. So while we were mixing, we would have a little bit of diversion.”
ROGER TAYLOR INTERVIEW IN RHYTHM MAGAZINE
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