When we came up with the idea of The Outer Limits feature in Prog Magazine - the feature that looks at the music of bands who one wouldn't term prog rock but whose music either possesses significant progressive traits, or have a sound that many prog fans find favour with, one band loomed large above all others as the first band to be featured.
Queen have been many things to many people. A balls out hard rock band. Purveyors of fine pop music and big hit singles. And once, in what some fans decry as a misstep, funkateers (1981's Hot Space in case you were wondering). But they could also, as this list shows, prog out with the very best of them. Happy listening...
The Prophet's Song
1975's A Night At The Opera is a career highlight in a career packed with many. Overshadowed, to a certain extent by the epic hit single Bohemian Rhapsody, it's the opening track on side two that represents Queen's progressive peak. Written by guitarist Brian May after he had a dream about a flood. Originally worked on but abandoned during sessions for Queen II. The wind effect was created by recording the sound of an air-conditioning unit through a phaser. Queen's longest song too.
March Of The Black Queen
"That song took me ages to complete" Freddie Mercury was quoted about writing March Of The Black Queen. "I wanted to give it everything, to be self-indulgent or whatever." If that doesn't sum up progressive rock I don't know what does. Queen II is often cited as the band's most overtly prog album and March Of The Black Queen is six and a half minutes of wonderfully prog pomp.
Great King Rat
If Queen II was the band's most overtly prog rock statement then Great King Rat from 1973's debut album was the signpost. Lengthy, rocking out and packed with time changes, it typifies the early Queen sound and remains a huge favourite with fans to this day.
My Fairy King
With lyrics inspired by Browning's The Pied Piper Of Hamelin and packed with the kind of vocal overdubs so beloved of Freddie Mercury, this, also from the band's debut album, almost serves as a forerunner to Bohemian Rhapsody. It was also the first chance Queen fans got to hear Mercury hammering away on the piano.
The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke
Not the longest Queen song by a long shot, but certainly The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke certainly packs a hell of a lot in to it two minutes and 46 seconds. Inspire by and named afterRichard Dadd's painting of the same name and full of fantasy based characters, Roger Taylor's called it Queen's "biggest stereo experiment". Sounds damn proggy to us.
White Queen (As It Began)
Mixing quite acoustic passages with barnstorming hard rock, White Queen (As It Began) is another pointer to where the band were headed with The Prophet's Song and Bohemian Rhapsody. Written by Brian May and inspired by Robert Graves' The White Goddess, as well as a. female student May was besotted with. Another of Queen II's proggy standouts.
Proof Queen's progressive inclinations were not restricted to their early years, the title track of 1991's Innuendo recalled the glory days of Bohemian Rhapsody, threw in a nod to Led Zeppelin's epic Kashmir and featured Yes guitarist Steve Howe, who says “I started noodling around on the guitar, and it was pretty tough. After a couple of hours, I thought: ‘I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here.'," It's also Queen's longest ever single, exceeding Bohemian Rhapsody by 35 seconds. it also went straight to Number One!
It's back to Queen II for the rocking opening cut from side two. Ogre Battle dates back to 1971, although the band apparently waited until they had freedom in the studio to do the song justice. Also, the opening of the song is, in fact, the ending played backwards. Now how prog is that?
Was It Worth It
There's not much you travel back to 1989's The Miracle for, save for the rocking big hit I Want It All and this, the final track on the album. On an album that misses the mark in most places, this evocation of the kind of musicality that was so synonymous with Queen in their early days. It's John Deacon's favourite song on the album.
It's been mentioned throughout this article so it would be churlish not to include arguably Queen's best known song. Their first Number One, one of the longest Number Ones, only song released by the same band to hit Number One over Christmas twice, yaddaa yadda yadda. Yes, we've probably all heard to too much. But it's also a triumph of vision, creativity, talent and imagination. All key ingredients in progressive rock, are they not?