By Greg Brooks and Gary Taylor
Queen’s tenth studio album Hot Space was recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland and Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany between September 1981 and March 1982.
The four band members were greatly prolific during this period and in addition to the eleven songs that ultimately made the album, several further tracks were started but never finished. This practise was entirely normal for Queen at this time; certain ideas remaining in the archive in various states of development only to be revisited years later for subsequent albums.
The album was produced by Queen and Mack, the man who had made such a significant contribution to the previous albums The Game and Flash Gordon. Mack also engineered the LP, with David Richards – who would go on to enjoy a long working relationship with the band lasting until the very last album fourteen years later. The last track on the album, Under Pressure was produced by Queen and David Bowie.
Like The Game, two years earlier, Hot Space was a huge departure for Queen in terms of musical direction and style. With such a massive international hit, Another One Bites The Dust (1980), behind them - a No 1 in America - it probably came as no surprise that the band would want to continue down the disco/funk path to some extent. This policy did however make the album less popular with some fans; those who preferred the traditional heavier rock style they had come to expect from Queen. It should be said, though, that Hot Space does have its ‘heavy’ moments. Brian’s Put Out The Fire and Dancer, for example, contain some of the most aggressive guitar work of any album.
Released in the UK on 21st May 1982, and four days later in the USA, Hot Space reached No 4 in the UK and 22 in America, achieving Gold sales status in both territories. Although not reaching the dizzy heights of success its predecessor The Game achieved, the album faired better in Europe, reaching No 1 in Austria and No 2 in Holland, as well as top ten chart positions throughout the rest of the continent.
The album’s cover was also something of a departure and was Freddie’s idea to feature the four individual band member’s faces; each member in its own coloured square. The inner sleeve continued the vibrant theme with four more faces on a stark black background. The album title, it is rumoured, came from a late-night alcohol-fuelled conversation about the many musical open spaces the album contains.
After the success of The Game and then a huge ground-breaking South America tour in February and March of 1981, the band headed for the recording studio they had recently purchased, Mountain Studios in Montreux, to see what would happen. They had no new material to work on, just a few ideas, but this was nothing new to Queen or their various associate Producers, and soon a flurry of songs emerged. Also using the studio at this time was an old friend of the band. David Bowie was working on his own material and Producer David Richards suggested they should meet up and see what happened. No-one imagined it would work as well as it did, or that an international No 1 smash hit was to follow. After a jam session late into the night, and with a couple of demos recorded, the five musicians recognised they had the essence of a new song. After much work the following day, and a myriad of titles changes and tempos later, the piece would emerge as Under Pressure, most recognisable for John Deacon’s distinctive bass line, and the rest is history. The single would be included on the new Hot Space album as the closing track and would be the first single issued from it.
A further leg of the South American tour commenced in late September, at venues in Venezuela and Mexico, while the single was released around the world to critical acclaim and gave the band their second UK No 1. This was the first Queen single recorded with another artist. More collaborations on record would follow, with George Michael, Lisa Stansfield, Elton John, etc, but only in the post-Freddie years.
Although all band members were resident in London, Munich (where this LP was recorded) had become a favourite place, especially for Freddie who spent much of his time there. The band partied heavily during this period, again Freddie in particular, who had become entranced by the nightlife the town had to offer. All four men were influenced by what they encountered at the nightclubs.
Brian May would later recall, “In Munich we found ourselves inhabiting the same clubs for most of the night, most nights! The Sugar Shack in particular held a fascination for us. It had an amazing sound system, and the fact that some of our records didn’t sound very good in there made us change our whole perspective on our mixes and our music.”
The dance/funk-based music featured on the first side of the LP, while the second side, though not as heavily produced as some of the earlier albums, did contain some of the more traditional and distinctive Queen trademarks.
Freddie was keener than anyone to explore the trend for rhythmic sounds and grooves, and as usual took certain aspects of the funk theme to its extreme. The album begins with his Staying Power, a funk orientated song with added ‘hot and spacey’ horns by Arif Mardin, who had previously worked on records by Chaka Khan, Bee Gees and Aretha Franklin. The use of a synthesiser for the bass lines and a drum machine beat created by Freddie made this a startling opener for the album. When performed live on the forthcoming tour, the use of real drums and bass guitar, and with Brian’s Red Special guitar in menacing mode, made for a much accelerated and heavy version.
Brian’s Dancer is next; an uncommon fusion of funk and rock, and again with a bass line played on synth. There is some truly scathing guitar work on this track that would surely have been great in the Queen live situation had it been attempted. Sadly, it never was. The telephone message heard at the end of this song was recorded in Brian’s hotel room in Munich. The translation is simply “Good morning – this is your wake up call,” but Brian later recalled it always seemed to provide a severe start to the day.
John Deacon’s black music influenced Back Chat is next, with the author playing bass and rhythm guitar as well as synthesiser. This intriguing song, uncommonly stern for John, captures the raw emotion of two people in heated argument. Brian’s guitar contribution augments the feeling of anger and deterioration, and is every bit a match for John’s uncompromising lyric.
When the single Body Language was released a month ahead of the album, in April ’82, it left a lot of fans shocked and outraged, so far removed was it from the familiar and much beloved Queen sound. In fact, it was a change too far for some fans to take. The disco-based Another One Bites The Dust and rockabilly influenced Crazy Little Thing Called Love from the previous album, in addition to Freddie’s newly cropped hair, moustache and leather look, had been hard enough to take, for some, but Body Language was just too much. Written by Freddie on a synthesizer, the song would also be one of the first Queen singles not to include a guitar solo - nor indeed hardly any guitars. It surprised many fans when the song was played live on some dates on the Hot Space tours of Europe, USA and Japan, while other material from the LP was overlooked.
Action This Day – the title of which comes from a Winston Churchill phrase - is the first of two Roger Taylor songs on this album. It is dominated by synths and driven by pounding electronic drums, and also contains a brilliant synth saxophone solo in the middle. When played live the track would take on a new lease of life, with real drums and heavier guitars throughout.
To begin Side Two of the original LP, Brian’s guitar-laden Put Out The Fire is a welcomed return to Queen’s heavier rock roots. An anti-firearm song telling of the dangers of guns in the wrong hands, this unyielding track features uncompromising lyrics delivered with real and emphatic portent from Freddie. And with screaming guitars from its author and weighty percussion from Roger, it is impossible to ignore.
Freddie wrote Life Is Real as a tribute to one of his fallen heroes, John Lennon. The song features Brian on acoustic guitar and keyboards by Freddie on a sparse piano-based arrangement with a melancholic feel and somewhat desolate tone. The sorrow felt by Freddie at the senseless death of the ex-Beatle in December 1980 is very evident here, and following as it does the blatant anti-gun Put Out The Fire, without pause for breath, Queen’s message is clear. Brian revealed in an interview at the time that too often on a Queen album, certain subtle points were overlooked. Here, though, with Freddie’s song for John preceded by the words “shoot, shoot, shoot”, from the ending of the track before, the not so subtle meaning was not missed.
Calling All Girls, written by Roger, features its author on drums and rhythm guitar for a heartfelt message of love that took many fans by surprise. John also contributes some guitar here, a period in the bands history where anybody could play any instrument on any song it seems. This would later become the first Roger song to be issued as a single A-side, though not in the UK or Europe.
Brian’s predominantly Spanish lyric for Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) was inspired by the band’s close relationship with the people and fans of South America, forged during momentous concerts there in 1981. In stark and regrettable contrast, by early 1982, England and Argentina were in the midst of conflict over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (just off the Argentinean coast). In late April, Queen were No 1 with Under Pressure in Argentina, but the government there banned Queen from ever again appearing in the country, and further stopped their records being played on the radio for the duration of the conflict.
Las Palabras De Amor was Brian’s second composition to feature lyrics in a foreign language. The first time was way back in 1976 with the Japanese Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together), from the album A Day At The Races. As well as playing keyboards and electric guitar on Las Palabras, Brian would also play acoustic guitar and shared some of the vocals with Freddie. This song was perhaps the most curious on Hot Space not to feature in the live set.
For the very first time, but not the last, the Hot Space album saw John and Freddie working together on the laid back up-tempo Cool Cat. In fact, few people are aware that the song originally included David Bowie on backing vocals, but for reasons best known to the man himself, David’s vocals were later removed.
Prior to the European tour beginning, Queen renewed their contract with EMI for the UK and Europe, and signed a deal for a further six albums, the first being Hot Space.
The first worldwide single from Hot Space was the Under Pressure collaboration with David Bowie, who was also credited as the co-writer with Queen. Released in the UK on 26th October 1981, with a little known song called Soul Brother, not featured on the LP, as the B-side, the disc soon climbed to No 1 in England. The same pairing was a huge international hit, also topping the charts in Holland and Argentina, and reaching the top ten in most countries around the world.
As the two artists were unable to get together to make a promo video, it was left to director David Mallet to compile something. Using library footage, Mallet cut together an intriguing assortment of film following the general theme of stress and pressure in the modern world; rushing commuters, buildings being demolished, explosions, and old horror movie and television footage. Two official videos were made, and only slightly different to each other in content, but with only one officially released on VHS and DVD so far.
The second single was the pairing of Freddie’s Body Language and Life Is Real on April 19th. Due in part to the dramatic change in musical style mentioned earlier, which some fans resented, and the fact that the accompanying video was not being shown on British TV because of its sexual content, the single stalled at No 25 in the UK charts. The same thing happened in America, when the video was banned by MTV and other TV stations for being too risqué. Two versions of the video were made, the first with two red arrows hiding any offending nudity, and another using seven arrows for the more conservative TV stations. Though rather tame by today’s standards, in 1982 the Body Language footage (directed by Mike Hodges) was regarded as highly controversial. Despite the lack of TV airtime, the single faired better in the U.S., where it gained more radio play than in England and climbed to No 11.
The picture sleeve for the single, showing naked male and female models smeared in oil and with arrows emblazoned on their bodies, was also deemed too explicit for some American retailers, and so a plain white alternative was circulated too, and is now considered something of a rarity.
Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) emerged as the third single, but only in a limited number of countries. Released in the UK on June 1st 1982, it reached No 17 in the chart. This proved a far more acceptable choice of single, and coupled with Cool Cat the disc gained good radio play. There was no video for the single because the band was now on tour in Europe, but they did record a mimed performance for the BBC’s Top Of The Pops programme.
The next single, Roger’s Calling All Girls b/w Put Out The fire, was exclusive to America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Released on July 19th, it reached No 33 in Canada, but only 60 in the U.S. An accompanying video based on the George Lucas sci-fi film THX 1138, and directed by Brian Grant, (who had previously worked with Queen on 1980s Play The Game video) was not one of the band’s best, and received little attention.
The final Hot Space single in the UK, a remix of John’s Back Chat b/w Freddie’s typically unambiguous Staying Power, was issued on August 9th, but again due to lack of airplay and a less than rousing promo video from Brian Grant, the single only reached No 40. Released in most other countries in the world, it failed to make much impression abroad too, for similar reasons. The Back Chat and Calling All Girls videos remained officially unavailable for over two decades, until the release of the Greatest Video Hits 2 DVD in 2003.
Staying Power emerged as a single much later in the USA, on November 23, but failed to chart. In Japan, it had been released in October, this time coupled with Las Palabras De Amor, and prior to that, in July, Elektra in that country had also released Staying Power b/w Calling All Girls - the only country this pairing of tracks was released in.
Did You Know?
1. The album's title came from a discussion at dinner where the band talked about all the open spaces in the music and that these open spaces were very hot!
2. Track 5 action this day draws its title from the sign-off Winston Churchill used to finish his war memos
3. Hot space was last album promoted with a tour of the USA
4. Featured first single to be composed by the bands drummer Roger Taylor anywhere in the World (Calling All Girls)
5. The subsequent UK tour date at Milton Keynes show promoting album was recorded by Channel 4 Britain's then newest TV channel
Under PressureFirst single from the album Hot Space
Body LanguageSecond single from the album Hot Space b-side: Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)
Las Palabras De AmorThird single from the album Hot Space b-side: Cool Cat
Calling All GirlsThird single from the album Hot Space b-side: Put Out The Fire
Back Chat remixFifth track from the album Hot Space b-side: Staying Power
1. Staying Power
Hah, let me show it to you - yeah, ah, hah, yeah See what I got, I got a hell of a lot yeah Tell me what you feel, is it real, is it real You know I got what it takes, and I can take a lot Did you hear the last call baby You and me got staying power - yeah yeah You and me we got huh staying power - oh Staying power, I got it, I got it - hah I wonder when we're gonna make it I wonder when we're gonna shake it Rock me baby rock me, c'mon you can shock me Let's catch on to the groove, make it move, make it move Yeah, you know how to shake that thing We'll work it, work it, work it You and I can play ball baby You and me got staying power yeah yeah Yeah, you and me we got staying power I wonder when we're gonna make it I wonder when we're gonna shake it I've got fire down below, I'm just a regular dynamo Want some smooth company Don't lose control, just hang on out with me Got to get to know each other But we got plenty of time Did you hear the last call baby You and me got staying power yeah Huh you and me we got staying power - yeah yeah Power power power power power power power staying power hah I wonder where we're gonna stick it I wonder when we're gonna trick it Blow baby blow, let's get down and go go Get yourself in the mood, got to give a little bit of attitude Baby don't you crash, let's just trash trash trash Did you hear the last call baby, you and me got staying power Yeah hah, you and me we got staying power - I like it Staying power, yeah yeah - got'cha
I'm not invited to the party - been sitting here all night I'm all alone at the party - I don't feel all right Ain't got no black coat, ain't got no tie I gotta shape up now, c'mon baby you gotta know why Hah, take off Dancer, dancer - I can't live with it I'm gonna die without it Dancer, huh dancer, ain't no doubt about it Dancer, dancer, why don't you kick off your dancing shoes And come a ride with me - cool You're the life and soul of the funk tion It took me all night To get hold of the right introduction Blew me out of sight I taste your lipstick (yeah) I look in your eyes (yeah) You feel fantastic (yeah) My body cries - (yeah yeah yeah) That's what I said - da da da da da da Dancer, yeah (hah) dancer I can't live with it I'm gonna die without it Dancer, dancer, ain't no doubt about it Dancer, dancer, why don't you kick off your dancing shoes And come a ride with me Hah hah, hot space let's go Dancer, ha, dancer Oh I can't believe your dancing Dancer, ha dancer Can't take you home, I can't take you dancing Dancer, dancer, hey bring on the funk and dance the night away Dancer, yeah dancer, you gotta boogie Oh let's go, ooh shout, yeah, me I say Dancer, dancer, wooh (don't fight temptation) Dancer, dancer, oh yeah Dancer, dancer then dance dance dance dance "Quick all units - their boots are too big for them" Dancer, dancer dancer, dancer dancer, dancer - c'mon sugar
3. Back Chat
Back chat, back chat - you burn all my energy Back chat, back chat - criticising all you see Back chat, back chat - analysing what I say Back chat, ha, back chat - and you always get your way Oh yeah see what you've done to me Back chat, back chat - you're driving me insane It's a battle to the end - knock you down, you come again Talk back, ha talk back, you've got me on the rack Twisting every word I say, wind me up and get your way Fat chance I have of making no romance If I'm ever going to win, I'll have to get the last word in Take it from there Ooh, twisting every word I say, ha, wind me up and let me play Back chat, oh yeah, back chat - You burn all my energy Back chat, ha, back chat - criticising all you see back chat, hey, back chat - analysing what I say back chat, yeah, back chat - and you always get your way Love, ooh get down too it, c'mon now Wake up, stand up and drag yourself on out Get down, get ready, scream and shout Back off me, be cool and learn to change your ways Cos you're talking in your sleep and you're walking in a daze Don't push your luck baby, I'm ready to attack Cos when I'm trying to talk to you all you do is just talk back You stand so tall, you don't frighten me at all Don't talk back, don't talk back, don't talk back Just leave me alone, ha Ha back chat, back chat - you burn all my energy back chat, hah back chat - criticising all you see back chat, back chat - analysing what I say back chat, back chat - and you always get your way Yes you do, ah yes you do baby C'mon back chat, back chat, back chat, back chat, you know where it's at, c'mon back chat, back chat, hit me, Go for it go for it go for it - baby (back chat, back chat) Ha back chat, back chat, you been giving me the run around?, yes I have, criticising me?, oh yeah, lying to me, back chat back talk back slash, well baby yeah merci beaucoup thank you, let's go let's get on down, get on down, get on down
4. Body Language
Give me, body give me body body give me your body Don't talk, don't talk, don't talk, don't talk, baby don't talk Body language, body language, body language Give me your body Just give me yeah your body Give me yeah your body Don't talk Body language, ha ha Body language, body language You got red lips, snakes in your eyes, long legs, great thighs You've got the cutest ass I've ever seen Knock me down for a six anytime anytime - mmm ha Look at me I gotta case of body language Look at me I gotta case of body language ha ha haa Look at me I gotta case of body language Look at me I gotta case of body language Of body language of body language ha yeah Sexy body, sexy, sexy body I want your body Baby you're hot Body language hah, body language huh, body language aah Body language yeah, body language aah, body language huh Body language hah, body language hah, body language
5. Action This Day
Action This street honey is a mean street Living in this street honey needs a mean streak We've got criminals living in this street But there's a heartbeat pulse that keeps on pumping Like a jukebox playing the same dead record Or a radio in the corner keeps blaring I gotta feeling, this world is using me This town honey is a dead town Living in this town honey is a let down Coming to this town honey is a showdown But there's a heartbeat pulse that keeps on pumping Some sunshine ray through a crack in a shutter Or a sight of a light at the end of a tunnel Still there's a feeling, this world is using me Action this day, action this night Oh we've gotta learn to learn to live You can't say it ain't right Action this day, action this night Oh you've got the power, you've got the power You've got the power to love and to live You can't say it ain't right Your mind honey is a bleak place Living in your mind's living in a blank space Your mind is coming from a rat race But there's a heartbeat pulse that keeps on pumping Like a jukebox playing the same dead record Or a radio in the corner keeps blaring I gotta feeling that just won't quit, this world is using me Action this day yeah, action this night Ooh we've gotta learn to learn to live We can't say it ain't right Action this day yeah, action this night Oh you've got the power, you've got the power You've got the power to love, to live You can't say it ain't right Action hey, hey hey hey Action this day, action this day this day yeah Action this day, action action this day, action this day, ha Living in the street (action), living in the street (action) Living in the street (action), living in the street yeah Living, action this day, action this day, action this day
7. Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)
Guilt stains on my pillow, blood on my terraces Torsos in my closet, shadows from my past Life is real, life is real, life is real - so real Sleeping is my leisure, waking up in a minefield Dream is just a pleasure dome, love is a roulette wheel Life is real, life is real, life is real, oh yeah Success is my breathing space, I brought it on myself I will price it, I will cash it, I can take it or leave it Loneliness is my hiding place, breast feeding myself What more can I say I have swallowed the bitter pill, I can taste it, I can taste it Life is real, life is real, life is real Music will be my mistress, loving like a whore Lennon is a genius, living in every pore Life is real, life is real, life is real - so real Life is cruel, life is a bitch, life is real - so real Life is real, life is real, yeah, life is real
8. Calling All Girls
Calling all boys boys Calling all girls girls Calling all people on streets around the world Take this message, a message for you This message is old yeah, this message is true This message is, this message is this message is, this message is - love Take a message of love, far and near Take a message of love, for all to hear, for all to hear Some sleepless nights in wait for you Some foreign presence you feel comes creeping through Some stream of hope the whole world through Spread like some silent disease, you'll get yours too This message is, this message is This message is, this message is - ha ha - love Take a message of love, far and near Take a message of love, for all to hear, for all to hear - love Take a message of love, far and near Take a message of love, for all to hear, for all to hear Calling all boys, calling all girls Calling all boys, calling all girls Calling all girls
9. Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love)
Don't touch me now, don't hold me now Don't break the spell darling, now you are near Look in my eyes and speak to me Those special promises I want to hear Las palabras de amor, let me hear the words of love Despacito mi amor, love me slow and gently One foolish world, so many souls Senselessly hurled through the never ending cold And all for fear, and all for greed Speak any tongue but for god's sake we need Las palabras de amor, let me hear the words of love Despacito mi amor, let me know, this night and evermore This room is bare, this night is cold We're far apart and I'm growing old But while we live, we'll meet again So then my love we may whisper once more It's you I adore Las palabras de amor, let me hear the words of love Despacito mi amor, touch me now oh wooh hoo Las palabras de amor, let us share the words of love For evermore (for evermore) For evermore
10. Cool Cat
Oooh yea yea yea yea hah You're taking all the sunshine away Making out like you're the mainline I knew that Cos you're a cool cat, tapping on the toe with a new hat Wooh, just cruising, driving along with the swing king Feeling the beat of my heart ha hah Feeling the beat of my heart Ooh, you're a cool cat Coming on strong with all the chit chat Ooh, you're all right Hanging out and stealing all the limelight Messing with the beat of my heart Ooh, messing with the beat of my heart, yeah You used to be a mean kid, making such a deal of life - wooh You were wishing and hoping and waiting to really hit the big time But did it happen, happen, no You're speeding too fast Slow down, slow down - you'd better slow down - slow down Hah, you really know how to set the mood And you really get inside the groove, yeah Cool cat, tapping on the toe with a new hat Ooh, just cruising, driving along like the swing king Feeling the beat of my heart Feeling the beat of my heart yeah yeah Feeling the beat of my heart can you feel it Feeling the beat of my heart yeah yeah Feeling the beat of my heart Wooh, wooh, feelin' feelin' feelin' it honey feelin' heee hooh