Sunday, 3 June 2018

Queen - A Day At The Races (1976)

Each morning I get up I die a little....


Released December 1976

Recorded at The Manor, Oxfordshire and various London studios

Running time 44.24

After 1975's multi-million seller "A Night At The Opera", Queen's star had never burned brighter and they needed to repeat the formula, quickly. They did too. In many ways, I enjoy this album much more than it's predecessor. It is a harder, rockier album, and that is how I like my Queen.

Queen had become massive by now - million-selling rock gods like Led Zeppelin as opposed to up-and-coming chancers on the make. They now had to live up to their own success and, most importantly, try to match "Bohemian Rhapsody". A diffcult, almost impossible job. They almost pulled it off, though. They also produced the record themselves, feeling they needed a change in dispensing with the services of Roy Thomas Baker.

From "A Night At The Opera" onwards, Queen's albums were a mix of all sorts of different unconnected songs, like Beatles ones after the mid-sixties. In that respect, they lack a little in coherence or identity. Heavy tracks were followed by Mercury-penned vaudeville ones then John Deacon's poppy efforts. I have to say I prefer albums that stick to a musical theme.


1. Tie Your Mother Down
2. You Take My Breath Away
3. Long Away
4. The Millionaire Waltz

5. You And I
6. Somebody To Love
7. White Man
8. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
9. Drowse
10. Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)                          

The lead-off huge hit single, the gospel-influenced, anthemic "Somebody To Love", although not quite matching the sheer creative majesty of "Bohemian Rhapsody" was a not half bad follow up. Many thought they could not possibly come up with another classic, but they did with this one. It has gone down in history as a true Queen classic. Mercury and Taylor overdubbed their vocals so much to make them sound like a huge gospel choir. 

Brian May said of the track, one of the most complex they had recorded -

"....It was all about Aretha Franklin for Freddie, she was a huge influence… so it was very much gospel construction and allowed him to sing in the way which he loved....”

Other rockers are the riffy opener "Tie Your Mother Down", Brian May's melodic Searchers/Byrds-influenced "Long Away", the powerful "White Man", John Deacon's tuneful pop rock of "You And I", Roger Taylor's "Drowse" and the singalong closer "Teo Torriatte" with its Japanese chorus (ensuring huge sales in that country). Good move!

Incidentally, "White Man" was based on the plight of the Native American and featured a sort of stereotyped "red Indian" drum and guitar rhythm. As well as that it was the heaviest cut on the album. 

Freddie Mercury's "You Take My Breath Away" is a lovely track, but I guess it is "Love Of My Life" part two. Then, as was now usual, it seemed, came Mercury's 1920's vaudeville stuff - "Millionaire Waltz" and the admittedly catchy, "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy". These additions were never my favourites but I guess they were part of the collective DNA of the band. "Millionaire Waltz" was, however, quite a complicated studio creation, with John Deacon playing an infectious "lead bass" that drives the song behind its many chord and pace changes. Personally, I find it frothy and indulgent, but one cannot deny the ingenuity involved in its structure. Listening to it again, I have come to appreciate its quirkiness.

Overall, this was an impressive album, though. Could this quality be continued? The next few albums would tell us. 

The cover was a direct inversion of "A Night At The Opera's" white cover, featuring the Queen crest against a black background. I remember buying this album on the day of release, and just staring at the cover, admiring it, such was the excitement around Queen at the time. For me, it never got as good as this for Queen again. Despite their eighties renaissance, this was their peak. 


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