(magazine unknown, maybe early '75)
by TONY JASPER
It says fairly and squarely on the sleeve of Queen's album, Sheer Heart Attack, "composed, produced and performed exclusively by Queen".
Queen might say it sorts out the boys from the girls. It has become their hallmark as a group, this total concern, commitment and involvement in every aspect of recording.
Such a process has been there from the beginning, even if some of us remained rather unmoved by it or found early work lacking at times.
With their latest album Queen have added former cynical voices to their cause. Sheer Heart Attack fairly leapt into the album chart compiled by the British Market Research Bureau. Praise has been showered on them from every quarter.
The story behind the disc and this trait of Queen's to 'do their own thing', was told to me by John Deacon.
Deacon says the group used various studios on this album and gave the reasons. Sheer Heart Attack started its life at Rockfield but no Dave Edmunds was involved. The studio is 24 track but Deacon says they met a few technical problems.
At the same time Brian had ulcer trouble and required surgical attention. It left the other three and to some extent it became a question of what could be laid down without Brian...
Around 80 per cent of the backing was laid at Rockfield but a week was spent at Wessex laying down some vocals. Further time was spent at the studio putting some overdubs in the percussion field.
A week was spent in Air studio 4, a small over-dub room. More backing vocals followed at Wessex -- and mixing was at Trident. At some points work at various studios overlapped.
Queen did have some outside assistance from Roy Baker, listed as co-producer and Mike Stone, the engineer. Deacon said this about Stone, "He worked a great deal on Queen 2, he's so good, so he came everywhere with us. Trident loaned him out to us."
Deacon describes Trident mixes as "lovely" and even says some are "quite hairy". The latter remark comes from the fact of Trident "not being full 24 track when we mixed. We did in fact use several different machines. At one point we were using a 16 track with another Triad in front for rhythm section mixes."
Queen find 24 tracks sufficient and at this point have no thoughts of any recording on a 32 track, "24 is enough, it takes a lot of pushing up and down and can get complicated. I think you have to keep things within reason!"
Sheer Heart Attack took three months in making, "a lot of sweat, even when funkiest!" and three cuts at Trident. Deacon adds, "We then got hold of the US cut and we preferred that and so used the American cut for the English release. This is why the album was one week late. We were very pleased with it."
On the group's general approach, Deacon says "There was no cutting of corners, we get so involved and it really seems as though one album a year is for us."
It might be argued that one is insufficient for a group in the present position of Queen. Since they intend extensive touring in the States and other parts of the world, including hopefully Japan, this makes their presence less in Britain than it might otherwise have been.
"There is admittedly a problem in constantly reminding people we are still here but again no short-cuts. We don't intend to release, Queen Live. I think such a thing is somewhat of a short-cut when our sole material is already found on the studio albums and such is performed on stage."
Deacon did add, "there must be at least two more studio albums. We've no thought by the way of getting our studios. We're only just beginning to be rid of all the costs involved so far and an album like Sheer Heart Attack cost GBP 25,000."
There is a feeling of Queen now really getting everything together from recording to the live show. Deacon says the organization round them is getting better and the tour which ended last November was their best yet.
"We were very pleased, things went right, though we had problems at London's Rainbow when the mains blew. We don't pander to anyone. We play good music and do it for ourselves and hope people will appreciate what we are doing and gladly this seems to be happening, more and more.
"At present we have hardly any time in which to rest. One thing seems to follow another with rapid speed. As soon as the British tour was over, we were packing our bags for playing on the continent."
Deacon smiles when hearing mention of Queen's academic record, "It's about time newspapers gave that one a rest. We've no thought of returning to that world. I reckon I'll always be involved in music and recording from now on. Anyway, I like the world I'm in these days.
"The other day we met Paul McCartney and that was great. He even said hello to Roger and said he was doing fine. McCartney has been Brian's hero since teen days. I must say though Juniors Farm was rather a disappointing single.
"McCartney has done so much good work. Band On The Run was very good. Getting back to my earlier remark, I suppose I could be in some laboratory or something now. I don't know really but what I'm doing at present is so rewarding."
Deacon retired from this interview with some final thoughts on the energy taken from Queen in their varied activities. He said recording was a sixteen hour process and particularly so during the mixing stage of Sheer Heart Attack. Live gigging didn't allow much relaxation, though they tried to ensure things, such as journey distance, were as smooth and simple as possible. During the winter '74 tour, Queen did add a personal manager to their pay-roll.
And his final remark was one of modesty, "I'm happy in my mind with our success. It's always exciting on the way up!"