Having sold more than 300 million albums around the world, not only are Queen one of the most successful bands of all time, they’re also one of the most loved. As a result, their legendary career has been documented in a number of books throughout the years. But which should you choose if you’re looking to expand your Queen knowledge? Here, we've created a list of 12 of the essential Queen books for you to explore.
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Best Queen books: Our picks
Queen In 3D by the band's guitarist Brian May is as close to a proper autobiography as you're going to get, with the musician applying his lifelong love of the art of stereography to the contents to give a unique and deeply personal insight into both his life and the workings of his colossal band.
Full of intimate photographs (many taken by May himself) that span the band’s entire career, most can be viewed in glorious 3D with the packed in Lite Owl stereoscope – and you can spend hours completely immersed in the heartfelt prose and those mesmerising images. If you liked those chunky red View-Master devices back in the 80s, then we're pretty sure you'll love Queen In 3D.
Neal Preston was Queen’s official tour photographer from the mid-70s until 1986 and this lavish publication, produced with the full blessing of the band, covers every facet of their touring life during that busy period.
Although the text is a little sparse, the beautiful images of a band at the top of their game are simply stunning and for every picture fans will have seen umpteen times before, there are numerous others that have – until this publication – remained in Preston’s archive. Contributions from both Brian May and Roger Taylor add authenticity and, if you’re especially keen, feel free to drop £10,000 on one of just 10 editions of the signed Super Deluxe edition.
An entertaining tome with a jaunty narrative that reads like a lengthy magazine feature. And, with the likes of Reinhold Mack and Mick Rock, not to mention Slash, Rob Halford and Billy Squier adding weight to rock writer Sutcliffe’s musings, there’s something to grab the attention on every page.
Adorned with images of passes, ticket stubs and the sleeves of obscure singles alongside a raft of live, group and candid shots, the feelings of both exhilaration as the band finally takes off and despair as Mercury’s health begins to fail are palpable. The passages concerning 1981’s rambunctious South American tour are unmissable and even the discography merits numerous re-reads.
This exhaustive collection has been put together by the Queen Productions team and includes lyrics for every song from each album up to and including their final album – 1995’s Made In Heaven. Some are augmented by the band members’ original scribblings and there’s a complete, albeit rather bare, discography too.
The list even includes the little-known likes of Mad The Swine which was originally penned for the band’s debut but not actually committed to tape until 1991. Although the copy is illustrated with a disappointingly perfunctory choice of images, it’s engaging to see the hand-written words of the likes of mega-singles Hammer To Fall, I Want to Break Free and Fat Bottomed Girls up close.
Offering an impressive level of detail, this is arguably the definitive Queen bio. Blake fills gaps in the band’s timeline with contributions from both school friends and former bandmates such as Smile keyboardist Chris Smith, the latter confiding that "Freddie had a lot to do with dressing Brian” as Queen fine-tuned their early image. Riveting stuff.
The descriptions of the four members’ formative years and the random events that caused their paths to ultimately come together ensure the book’s page-turning appeal, and although later chapters touch on the hedonism as the band hit the big time, it’s the early years that demand the most attention. This comes highly recommended.
Peter Hince, also affectionately known as Ratty, headed Queen’s road crew during their heyday and, as such, was ideally placed to relate some highly revealing stories from the those lauded times.
Written in a pleasantly laid-back style, we can report that we read the entire thing in a single weekend and it’s to Hince’s credit that he refrains from dishing any unnecessary dirt while spilling the beans. The reader is placed at the very centre of Queen's touring maelstrom. One of the many highlights is an involved description of what it took to cajole Freddie Mercury, in full diva mode, to get up on stage. A highly enjoyable Queen book.
As co-owner of Trident Studios, Norman Sheffield found himself in the company of legends. David Bowie recorded Space Oddity at the facility, while the Beatles laid down Hey Jude there, and it is, of course, where Queen recorded the lion’s share of their debut album.
Other artists are assigned dedicated chapters, but much of this thought-provoking book is dedicated to Sheffield's managerial tenure with Queen. Freddie Mercury’s poisonous lyrics to Death On Two Legs leave us in no doubt as to how the band felt about the relationship, but you certainly feel pangs of empathy for Sheffield as his side of the tale unfolds. The book also includes the original 1972 Queen contracts plus a smattering of rare images.
This meticulously researched Queen book does exactly what it says on the tin. The stories behind every song the band released are enriched with well-written profiles of not only all four members, but also the likes of Mary Austin and the aforementioned Norman Sheffield.
Addressing each album in turn, a hefty introduction to each gives way to a deep analysis of the tracklist that includes creative and technical details, snippets of info, credits and more. Who knew that it was co-producer John Anthony who was responsible for the shout of ‘Look out!’ as Modern Times Rock ‘N Roll from the band’s debut comes to a climax? A truly first-class read.
Queen performed more than 700 concerts during their career and not only is each listed in chronological order here, the vast majority of entries also include specific setlists, assorted trivia, facts, reviews from local press, fan recollections and more. Indeed, an alternative title could well have been From Truro to Knebworth and it’s fun to look up specific gigs and reminisce.
In addition to a useful live discography is a lengthy listing of bootlegs, which, again, makes for fascinating reading. And as if all this content wasn’t enough, there’s even a chronicling of improvised workouts that were only ever played on stage; Shag Out or Tokyo Blues, anyone?
Just about any officially-licensed photograph from Queen’s formative years can be attributed to Mick Rock’s mighty lens, and this collection – which is interwoven with his first-hand accounts – is fascinating.
The centrepiece is an account of the sessions that produced the iconic image for the cover of 1974's Queen II, with Rock’s recollections made all the more intimate by the inclusion of the contact sheets from which the album’s cover shot was chosen. Whether partying with Freddie Mercury backstage at the Rainbow or hanging out in the control room during the recording of Sheer Heart Attack, Rock always had his camera to hand and the results, as this cracking Queen book demonstrates, were often spectacular.
Classic Queen can be a bit on the pricey side depending where you are, but it's definitely worth searching for.
There may be an occasional lack of depth here, but any perceived shortcomings in the narrative are more than balanced by the veritable treasure trove of recreations of rare Queen paraphernalia that have been enclosed.
Each example is housed in its own envelope affixed to pages scattered throughout the book and include items such as the invite to 1982’s Hot Space end-of-tour knees-up and an industry-only press kit for News Of The World. Our favourite is a Kempton Park race card from October 1976 that included the running of the Day At The Races Hurdle, and this is an ingenious take on the biography concept.
Here’s to a 50 years update.
One thing that the slew of Covid-related restrictions has taught us is that we shouldn’t take our mental health for granted and many of us have been looking for something to help with cerebral decompression during the past year.
Strange though it might sound, adult colouring books genuinely help to alleviate stress and this writer can vouch for the effectiveness of the exercise. There’s a whole host of them to try and although the subject matter is almost secondary to the benefits they can offer, Queen fans can chill while giving Freddie a green moustache or John Deacon blue hair here. Seriously, it’s well worth giving it a go.