The Elektra Edits: Fan Feature by Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger
The Elektra Edits
by Patrick Lemieux and Adam Unger
Elektra Records was founded in 1950 by future Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame record mogul Jac Holzman. In the late 1960s, Elektra began venturing into the popular music of the time, aiming specifically towards a young audience. Elektra found financial success by signing bands such as The Doors and The Stooges. In 1972 Elektra merged with David Geffen’s Asylum Records. Throughout the decade, the Elektra/Asylum brand became synonymous with some of the best (now classic) rock of the day. Artists like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, The Eagles, and The Cars helped to define American popular music at the time. Jac Holzman, a man whose label helped define American rock, sent a letter to his Elektra staff describing a very non-American band: “I have seen the future of pop music and it is Queen.” Queen were signed to Elektra Records from their debut album all the way through to Hot Space. In that time, Queen scored five US Top 5 albums for the company, including a Number 1 spot for The Game. In their time with Elektra, other singles were released for the company. Some of those singles featured song versions, edits, and remixes that appeared exclusively on the Elektra label. We begin, appropriately enough, in 1973. It is October and Queen’s self-titled first album has been on US record store shelves since the month before. The lead off single is “Keep Yourself Alive.” The single had no success, but Elektra had enough faith in the track to re-release it in 1975 (more on that later). Meanwhile, the Australian “Keep Yourself Alive” release featured a censored, more radio appropriate version of “Son And Daughter.” Due to the use of the word “shit”, two verses of “Son And Daughter” were removed.
“Keep Yourself Alive” had little impact on audiences on either side of the Atlantic and Queen were pressing forward with their second album, recorded in August of 1973, before the first album even landed in North America. This presented a delay for Elektra Records, who were still promoting the debut album when February of 1974 came alone. In the UK, “Seven Seas Of Rhye” was released as Queen’s second single to promote Queen II. Elektra decided to continue to focus on the first album, Queen. So, on February 14th, the week before the UK saw “Seven Seas Of Rhye,” US record stores were hit with “Liar.”
The track was strong in many ways, heralding the dynamic songwriting and musicianship the band would expand upon in later releases. It would seem a logical choice, yet unbeknownst to the band, Elektra records had it cut down from 6:25 to 3:03, eliminating more than half the track. The result was jarring and confused, an edit that sounds, at best, fractured and at worst, unlistenable. Naturally, the single failed to chart.
“Seven Seas Of Rhye” was released in the North America in June that year, but also failed to do much of anything. It would seem Queen would have a tough time breaking through across the pond, where even their first US tour was cut short after Brian fell ill.
The tide would turn in October of 1974 with the release of the double-A side single “Killer Queen” and “Flick Of The Wrist,” off the band’s third album, Sheer Heart Attack. Rather than using “Flick Of The Wrist’s” master track, which did not feature the segues from “Tenement Funster” and “Lily Of The Valley” (the neighbouring songs on the album), Elektra pared down track by eliminating the opening entirely and fading out as “Lily Of The Valley” starts. It’s an abrupt edit, but thankfully retains most of the song.
“Killer Queen” (but not “Flick Of The Wrist”) gave Queen their first US hit. To follow it up in the summer of 1975, Elektra Records planned to release a re-recording of “Keep Yourself Alive.” Instead, an edit of the album version was issued. The 1975 release features it’s title track shortened by about 15 seconds by way of an earlier fade-out, bringing the running time to 3:29. It hardly affects the quality or presentation of the song, and casual listeners can be forgiven for not even noticing that the track ended a bit earlier compared to the version which appeared on the album. Discussed at length in a previous article, The Forgotten History of a Queen Track, the 1975 “Keep Yourself Alive” US re-issue had a double-B side in “Lily Of The Valley” and “God Save The Queen.” The first B-side track, “Lily Of The Valley,” saw a reversal of the previous practice of Elektra editing the song down. Instead, it is the full, non-segued piece. To this day, it’s the only release which features this version. The second B-side track was the original recording of the national anthem “God Save The Queen.” At the time of this single’s release, this was a brand new Queen track, exclusive to the US. UK audiences would not hear the track, and a slightly different mix at that, until later that year when Queen’s fourth album, A Night At The Opera, was released.
1976 saw the release of the fifth album, A Day At The Races. Looking to the Japanese fans, with whom Queen has had a long-standing love affair, it was only natural that their song “Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)” would be the single of choice for that Elektra Records market. A double-A side, paired with “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy,” the song was released on March 25th, 1977. “Teo Toriatte” was edited down, fading out just after the song ends as the album’s closing guitar scales come in.
For the second single off the sixth album, News Of The World, Elektra paired the songs “It’s Late” and “Sheer Heart Attack.” On the US promo release, the full-length 6:27 was the A-side and the B-side featured an edit, clocking in at 3:50. The edit removes the second chorus, middle eight vocals and the entire guitar solo. Despite that, it holds together better than you’d expect, though has nothing on the original, uncut version. The Japanese market saw this edit as the widely released single’s A-side.
After Queen released their seventh album, Jazz, they toured and released their first live album, Live Killers. Returning to the studio for June and July of 1979, Queen recorded a track that would be their first US #1 hit, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The single was released in North America in December of 1979, backed with the live recording of “Spread Your Wings,” from Live Killers. Less of an edit, as such, this version features a nice fade in over the audience cheering and closes with a similar fade out, making it a good stand-alone version of the live recording. Funny enough, some Elektra releases of the single credit this song to Freddie Mercury, not the John Deacon (who is the actual songwriter)!
Following the releases of the band’s next two albums, The Game and their Flash Gordon soundtrack, Queen celebrated its ten year anniversary by issuing their first Greatest Hits collection. The different territories would feature track listings that reflected the singles and hits unique to each. Elektra, in North America, issued their edition featuring the original single edit of “Keep Yourself Alive,” a move which, despite it not being a hit single (either in 1973 or in 1975), was perhaps partly responsible for the song eventually becoming a popular track on North American radio. It would seem Elektra had not given up on its potential.
Hot Space was Queen’s tenth studio album, released in 1982. Once again, Elektra Records would do something altogether curious. The fourth singe in the US was “Back Chat,” with the B-side “Staying Power,” released in August that year. When November rolled around, Elektra swapped the A and B sides and issued “Staying Power” backed with “Back Chat.” Not only that, a DJ-only promo 12” single was issued, featuring an extended version of “Staying Power,” remixed by John Luongo. The 12” B-side was the more common extended version of “Back Chat” (remixed by John Deacon) previously released in the UK.
After nearly 10 years, Queen and Elektra Records parted ways. Queen then signed with EMI affiliated Capitol Records in America. Queen’s relationship with Capitol lasted for 3 albums and resulted limited success. In 1991, Queen found a home with the Disney-owned Hollywood Records, a relationship that has lasted to this day.
Elektra Exclusive Song Versions
Keep Yourself Alive (US Edit) 3:29
- US Keep Yourself Alive b/w Lily Of The Valley, God Save The Queen 7” E-45268
- US Greatest Hits LP 5E-564
- US Greatest Hits CD 5E-564-2
Liar (US Edit) 3:03
- US Liar b/w Doing All Right 7” EK-45884
- US Liar (stereo) b/w Liar (mono) 7” promo EK-45884
- US Killer Queen b/w Liar 7” Spun Gold E-45080
Son And Daughter (Censored Version) 3:12
- Australia Keep Yourself Alive b/w Son And Daughter 7” EKM-45863
Flick Of The Wrist (US Edit) 3:18
- US Killer Queen b/w Flick Of The Wrist 7” E-45226
- Japan Killer Queen b/w Flick Of The Wrist 7” P-1357E
Lily Of The Valley (US Edit) 1:44
- US Keep Yourself Alive b/w Lily Of The Valley, God Save The Queen 7” E-45268 - Japan Now I’m Here b/w Lily Of The Valley 7” P-1377E
God Save The Queen (Single Version) 1:12
- US Keep Yourself Alive b/w Lily Of The Valley, God Save The Queen 7” E-45268
Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) 4:55
- Japan Teo Torriatte b/w Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy 7” P-157E
It’s Late (US Single Edit a.k.a. Short Version) 3:50
- US It’s Late (stereo) b/w It’s Late (mono) 7” promo E-45478
Spread Your Wings (Live Killers Single Edit) 5:18
- US Crazy Little Thing Called Love b/w Spread Your Wings (Live) 7” E-46579
- Japan Crazy Little Thing Called Love b/w Spread Your Wings (Live) 7” P-529E Staying Power (Extended Version) 5:52
- US Staying Power (Extended) b/w Back Chat (Extended) 12” promo 0-67954
Some other Elektra curiosities…
The 1973 Elektra release of Queen featured an exclusive sleeve. The famous silhouette of Freddie performing is cropped, appearing much larger on the cover. Not to mention it’s famous pink hue…
Promo copies of Queen’s first album feature the Queen logo in embossed gold lettering.
Japanese Elektra 7” single releases featured sleeves not found in any other territory, including their American counterparts. Many sleeves featured excellent shots of the band performing live, either in single picture or collage format.
Unlike their UK and Japanese counterparts, US Elektra 7” releases very rarely had picture sleeves. Only We Are The Champions, It’s Late, Bicycle Race, Play The Game, Flash’s Theme, Under Pressure, Body Language, Calling All Girls, and Back Chat had picture sleeves.
Greatest Hits made its first US CD appearance under the Elektra banner. This release includes the US edit of Keep Yourself Alive.
The only official appearance of the Extended Version of Staying Power appears on a US 12” promo CD. John Luongo remixed the track. John Luongo would return to the Queen catalog in 1991, remixing Liar for the Queen album release.
Elektra would regularly release 7” singles in it’s “Spun Gold” series. This series would typically include two hits on a single 7” release.
The only Elektra 12” singles were white label promo releases, including a We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions 12” vinyl.
Elektra also released Queen on reel-to-reel format. The Game (1R1-7167) and Greatest Hits (1R1-7326) were both available.