Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in 1946. He met bass player Tim Staffell in the late 1960s who had recently formed a band with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. The band, named Smile, appealed to Mercury’s tastes and he developed a close association with its members.
Mercury would soon become an official member of the band, while Staffell departed in 1970. Mercury, May and Taylor decided to change their name to Queen and the following year they connected with bass player John Deacon.
Queen are now known as one of the biggest, most influential, and culturally permeable bands of all time. But they weren’t a runaway sensation in the early 1970s. The classic four-piece lineup performed its first show in mid-’71, but it would be another two years before their first album came out.
Songs from that self-titled record, such as the singles ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ and ‘Liar’, had been kicking around since the band’s very early days. They found a manager in 1972, but struggled to get any serious attention from record labels. That was until London’s Trident Studios managed to strike a licensing deal with EMI Records and get Queen on shelves.
The album gained critical approval, but its heavy metal-inspired sound wasn’t enough to set the charts on fire. 1974’s Queen II fared a little better, although the heavy metal focus again failed to produce any penetrating singles.
Album three, November 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack, demonstrated a change in tack. Its lead single was ‘Killer Queen’, which showed off a more pop-oriented sound. The song’s success – reaching #2 in the UK and the US top 20 – encouraged the band to adhere to this sound on future releases.
From there, Queen became synonymous with success. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ appeared the following year and before long Mercury was socialising with genuine royalty.