Disco balls: Queen's ill-advised adventures in Hot Space

Queen standing in the street in 1981
(Image credit: Mirrorpix)

By the start oF the 80s, Queen had left their heavy rock roots far behind. Dabblings with lounge jazz, pop and even funk had become par for the course. But nothing could have prepared the world for Hot Space, their cavalier and ultimately ill-advised foray into the world of disco.

Recorded in the afterglow of 1980’s strutting Another One Bites The Dust, the band entered Munich’s Musicland studios in the summer of 1981 with producer Reinhold Mack and a state-of-the-art Fairlight sampler. And things looked to be off to a flying start when David Bowie dropped by to collaborate on a new song, Under Pressure.

“You’ve got four precocious boys and David, who’s precocious enough for all of us,” says Brian May. “I found it hard, because I go so little of my own way.”

The guitarist would find things even more difficult when they resumed sessions a few months later. Bassist John Deacon had immersed himself in R&B and funk, while Freddie Mercury was inspired by the pounding disco he heard in the gay clubs of London and New York. In this new musical climate, May found himself fighting to be heard.

“We became obsessed with introducing these elements into our music,” says May. “Fred’s attitude was, ‘Less is more, be sparse, and play a lot less guitar’.”

“They had heated discussions about everything,” says Reinhold Mack. “But the main problem was that everyone was on a different schedule. ‘Where’s Roger?’ ‘Oh, he went skiing.’ The whole thing was close to breaking up.”

These tensions resulted in a schizophrenic record. The first side of the original LP was taken up by such homoerotic disco tunes as Body Language and Staying Power, instantly alienating large swathes of their fanbase. Onstage in Milton Keynes in 1982, Mercury felt obliged to defend the record. 

“People get so excited about these things,” he sniffed. “It’s only a bloody record.”

Redeeming song: Under Pressure is a classic, but old school Queen fans should head to May’s anti-gun tirade Put Out The Fire, an oasis of guitars among the disco.

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.