Complete BBC Sessions 1973-1977 (Digital Queen Archives Q-001AB)
The BBC sessions for Queen provide excellent recordings of a very young and eager band. The band released a small amount of these tracks officially in 1989 on At The Beeb (re-released in 1995 as Queen At The BBC), but these release is not nearly as definitive as it could be. Complete BBC Sessions 1973-1977 on Digital Queen Archives was released in April 2004 and provide a near definitive two disc edition of Queen’s radio appearances in the early part of their career and in excellent sound quality.
Radio sessions are always special recording to have for several reasons. They normally occur when a band is first starting out and trying to make a name for themselves, and the exposure on the radio (back in the seventies) was great for publicity.
Queen’s appearances on the BBC serve as an interesting contrast to other band’s relationship to the medium. Sessions exist for the first three albums and while there are some differences in the tracks, they are quite similar to the studio counterparts. The sessions seemed to exist to promote the band and the album rather than their virtuosity.
No sessions were recorded for A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races, but for 1977’s News Of The World Queen recorded their final session for the BBC. This one is perhaps their strangest and most adventurous of the lot.
This release presents the six sessions over a four year span with twenty five tracks. DQA also add the September 13th, 1973 “In Concert” broadcast taped from the Hippodrome. The sound quality of the tracks on this release is perhaps the best heard. Another good version of these sessions can be found on As It Began: The BBC Archives (Godfather GR 225/226). The Godfather has nice sound but is not as complete as this version.
Disc 1 (66:46): My Fairy King, Keep Yourself Alive, Doing Alright, Liar (Langham 1 studio London – February 5th, 1973). See What A Fool I’ve Been, Keep Yourself Alive, Liar, Son And Daughter (Langham 1 studio London – July 25th, 1973), Ogre Battle, Great King Rat, Modern Times Rock’n Roll, Son And Daughter (Langham 1 studio London – December 3rd, 1973). Modern Times Rock’n Roll, White Queen, Nevermore, (Langham 1 studio London – April 3rd, 1974)
The first session was recorded on February 5th, 1973 at Langham One Studio, London, and broadcast on February 15th. Queen recorded four songs from the first album and all have been officially release on Queen At The Beeb. “My Fairy King” starts off the session and sounds identical to the take found on Queen. “Keep Yourself Alive” contains very minor variations in the lyrics compared to the studio version. “Doing Alright” is very similar except that Taylor sings the final verse instead of Freddie. And finally “Liar” is similar except for minor variations in the lyrics.
Queen’s second visit to the BBC was five months later on July 25th in the same studio. This was broadcast on Radio 1 on September 24th, 1973. Nothing from this session has been released officially but they do appear on Freddie’s Boys At The Beeb (JOK 4 Bulsara Records 001) on vinyl. The first song in this session is “See What A Fool I’ve Been” which would be released as the b-side to “Seven Seas Of Rhye” in February 1974, several months after. The studio version is about a dog, but this version’s lyrics are much different, singing about a train and the highway. (Live versions would include lyrics from both versions).
“Liar” is very similar to the take on Queen, but “Son And Daughter” is expanded greatly past the studio version. Freddie comes closer to singing the obscenity, singing, “buckle down and shovel sh…….” Where the studio version ends, this version continues with a long guitar solo and a new closing verse. Taylor has some spoken dialogue in the silence before the final verse, saying: “Steal yourself, this is valid…” The final track is “Keep Yourself Alive” that is again very similar to the studio version.
Session number three was recorded some months later on December 3rd, 1973 again recorded at Langham One Studio. It was broadcast on December 6th and all of the songs were included on Queen At The Beeb. The first track is a new song from the unreleased Queen II, “Ogre Battle.” This version doesn’t have the spacey guitar intro as the studio version, and doesn’t segue into “The Fairy Feller’s Masterstroke.” The other three songs are from the first album. “Great King Rat” makes its only appearance in the sessions and, except for minor lyric changes, is identical to the studio recording.
“Modern Times Rock N Roll” has minor variations in the including the little interlude before the chorus, Taylor says, “It’s not that I’m bright I’m just happy go lucky” instead of “Yeah baby listen, let me tell you what it’s all about…” This version also has a different instrumental ending. Finally, “Son & Daughter” is similar to the version played in the second session which includes the guitar solo and final verse not on Queen.
The fourth BBC session, and the final one on disc four, occured right about the time Queen II was released in the spring of 1974. This session was taped on April 3rd and broadcast on April 15th, 1974. None of these songs has been released officially. The first song is “Modern Times Rock And Roll” from the first album. This rendition is slower, heavier and longer than either the studio version of that which was taped in the third session. It has a longer instrumental ending and Freddie even joins in shouting “rock and roll” at the end with Roger.
“White Queen” is essentially the same as the studio track and “Nevermore” is similar except for a guitar added by the end. This session also has “The March Of The Black Queen” which the label omitts from this collection since it is identical to the version found on Queen II. Sources claim that either the band ran out of time to record a fourth song, or were unhappy with what they did record so the BBC broadcast the studio recording instead. Whichever the reason, its omission here isn’t significant.
Disc 2 (57:47): Now I’m Here, Stone Cold Crazy, Tenement Funster, Flick Of The Wrist (Maida Vale 4 studio London – October 16th, 1974). Spread Your Wings, It’s Late, My Melancholy Blues, We Will Rock You (slow & fast) (Maida Vale 4 studio London – October 16th, 1977). Introduction (radio DJ), Procession (taped intro), Father To Son, Son And Daughter, Ogre Battle, Band introduction by radio DJ, Liar (Golders Green Hippodrome, London – Sept. 13th, 1973)
Queen’s fifth BBC session, and second one for 1974, was recorded on October 16th and broadcast on November 4th just days before the release of their third album Sheer Heart Attack. These four songs have never been officially released but three songs are found on He Made It On His Own (Gypsy Eye GE-144).
“Now I’m Here” is almost identical to the studio version. The biggest difference is a shorter fade at the end. “Stone Cold Crazy” is also almost identical to the studio verson except there is an echo effect on Freddie’s vocals. “Tenament Funster” has a different vocal performance than the studio version and has a proper ending. “Flick Of The Wrist” has a different guitar solo and the final “baby you’ve been had” is sung acapella.
The sixth session was recorded for John Peel on October 28th, 1977 at Maida Vale Studio, London and broadcast on November 14th, right about the time News Of The World was released. This has never been issued but can be found on the vinyl Freddie’s Boys At The Beeb (JOK 4 Bulsara Records 001) and previously on silver disc on We Will Rock You (On Stage CD 12018). It starts off with “Spread Your Wings.” The performance is similar to the studio version except that the tempo speeds up by the ending in an arrangement not found anywhere else.
“It’s Late” strangely includes the “orgasm” section of “Get Down, Make Love” in an arrangement never duplicated anywhere else. “My Melancholy Blues” is similar to the studio version except that Brian accompanies the melody on guitar.
“We Will Rock You” is unique. The slow version starts off, and after one verse and the guitar solo there is an explosion and a female voice reading from Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha: “…believed in a creator God, Brachma. The Buddha rejected Brahmism and mocked at its rituals. As for Brachma, the Buddha didn’t deny his existence, but regarded him as a deluded spirit, who imagined he had created the universe.” The track then proceeds with the fast version used to open their shows between 1977 to 1982.
Some copies of this session have audience cheering, but this lack the noise. The entire session is fascinating because it appears as if Queen wanted to squeeze as much of News Of The World into a short radio program in order to promote the new album. The arrangement of “It’s Late” is an example of their economy in the studio when pressed for time.
The final session on Complete BBC Sessions 1973-1977 is the much released “In Concert” appearance at Golders Green Hippodrome on September 13, 1973. This is the broadcast without “See What A Fool I’ve Been” and the final rock and roll medley. It sounds brighter than First Procession (Gypsy Eye GE 242) and As It Began: The BBC Archives (Godfather GR 225/226). The complete version surfaced several years ago it surfaced and was released on Queen Will Be Crowned: Live 1973 (Digital Queen Archives Q-005). (A third version, sourced from the BBC transcription discs was issued on Pop Spectacular (Wardour-016)).
The tape begins with DJ Alan Black introducing “one of the brightest new bands around” before a primitive version of “Procession” followed by the first performance of “Father To Son.” Afterwards Black says: “well that opener from Queen is a new song called ‘Father To Son’ which will be, I understand, on the new Queen album when that comes out but that’s sometime in the future because the new album is still very much around and doing nicely. The band asked me to point out they will not in fact, play the nuber that came off the first album as a single ‘Keep Yourself Alive.'”
“Son And Daughter” is extended with the echoplex delay laden guitar solo that was imported from the old Smile track “Blag” and would be developed in “Brighton Rock” the following you. “Ogre Battle” is a “Freddie Mercury composition” and contains a stab at the guitar chaos introduction. Before “Liar” Black introduces the band including John Deacon as “Deacon John” as he’s credited on the first album and in the background Freddie is heard saying, “No, it’s not.”
Overall, except for the improved “In Concert” tape pressed on several titles this is as close as definitive as we shall have for Queen’s BBC sessions. The packaging is quite simple with effective use of the photo sessions from the second album.