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THE ESSENTIAL Queen

As flamboyant as they were musically diverse, the larger-than-life foursome filled stadiums across the globe and shifted millions of albums, not to mention singles, with their bombastic, mock-operatic, largely unclassifiable yet hugely accessible sound. There’s no stopping Sean Egan now…

There was never another band quite like Queen. Plenty of groups have essayed rock, prog rock, opera, funk, pop and 20s pastiche – but not all on the same album. Just as no other band exhibited a facility with so many styles, no other band was made up of four members of equal songwriting ability.

Pianist and frontman Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara), guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor all wrote Queen hits. Meanwhile, if harmony singing layered to pack the punch of a musical instrument was something taken up successfully by others (notably ELO), Queen were its pioneers and masters.

Queen’s lack of restraint or proportion means that they aren’t to everyone’s taste. Their corpus is both sublime and ridiculous, containing heartfelt pathos and effete affectation, great craftsmanship and doubtful taste – sometimes all in the space of one song.

They made some of the greatest popular music ever heard. We Will Rock You, You’re My Best Friend, Don’t Stop Me Now and Crazy Little thing Called Love alone would have sealed a band’s reputation, but on top of these and other classics, Queen were responsible for the unique and epochmarking Bohemian Rhapsody.

So vast is their multi-generational fanbase that more than two decades after the death of Mercury, and even following the subsequent retirement of Deacon, Queen’s brand name continues to be a bigbucks proposition.

Not only is We Will Rock You, a musical based on their songs, still packing them in, but in recent years they have successfully toured with guest vocalists. A muchawaited Freddie Mercury biopic will be with us any time now.

Here, we take a chronological look at the desirable vinyl product of an ensemble that – love ‘em or hate ‘em – were indisputably extraordinary. Rarest entries refer to UK releases, unless otherwise stated.

40 KEEP YOURSELF ALIVE SON AND DAUGHTER (1973)

Queen’s opening salvo to the world was a galloping Brian May composition, subsequently appearing as the opening track on their eponymous long-playing debut. Although Keep Yourself Alive’s anthemic, defiant chorus is undeniably glam-like, the track is otherwise straight-ahead progressive rock, right down to a brief but impressive drum solo.

Rarest 1973 EMI (South Africa) £220

39 QUEEN (1973)

The keynote song of Queen’s first album was Mercury’s Great King Rat, a medieval epic that demonstrated the young pretenders’ unashamed kitchensink approach. Although too deep and discursive to be pop, the music on Queen is too agile to be guilty of the worst excesses of prog or heavy metal. It is, in other words, a new sound. The sound would be altered, refined and expanded down the years, but it would remain quintessentially Queen.

Rarest 1992 EMI (Czechoslovakia, green vinyl)

38 SEVEN SEAS OF RHYE/ SEE WHAT A FOOL I’VE BEEN (1974)

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