8th March 2024

'Queen II": 50 Years On...

“To me, Queen II was the sort of emotional music we’d always wanted to be able to play, although we couldn’t play most of it onstage because it was too complicated”. Brian May

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Queen's second album was produced by Robin Geoffrey Cable, Roy Thomas Baker and Queen, and engineered by the ever-resourceful Mike Stone. Recorded at London's Trident Studios in August 1973, the band were at last permitted to use the studio during normal hours and, unlike the first album, took proper time to experiment with the myriad of ideas they had for new techniques, textures and sounds. Finally, Queen could record an album how they wanted when they wanted, and without the limitations imposed upon them throughout the debut work. 

Numerous problems beset the album's release. Not least, its completion coincided with the 1973 oil crisis and consequently government-enforced measures for energy conservation delayed its manufacture by several months. Furthermore, when the first pressing arrived in record shops, the band noticed a spelling error on the sleeve and complained persistently before it was finally corrected.

The album cover concept was based on a photograph of Marlene Dietrich that Freddie had seen, and Mick Rock was brought in to achieve a similar effect. The image has since become one of the most recognisable and frequently used of the band and is as striking today as it was in the 1970s.

In contrast to this iconic predominantly black portrait of Queen, the inner gatefold photograph features the band in equally grand attire, but this time dressed in white, against a white backdrop. The theme was continued inside the album too, for instead of the usual Side 1 and 2, the original Queen II LP comprised Side White and Side Black, each one representing the band members' individual songwriting talents. Freddie's contributions to the album, including the majestic March Of The Black Queen, would occupy Side Black, while Roger's track for the album, and all of Brian's, including White Queen, were presented on Side White. John had not yet begun his songwriting for Queen - his first composition would follow later in 1974, on the Sheer Heart Attack LP. The Black/White theme was a major part of Queen in 1974, not just on record or in terms of artwork and design, but on stage too, in terms of costume.

Queen II was released on March 8th, 1974, coinciding with an extensive UK tour that began at the start of the month. It would eventually climb to No. 5 in the UK chart, helped considerably by constant touring, the band’s first hit single Seven Seas Of Rhye (released two weeks earlier) and their first appearances on the BBC's Top Of The Pops television show. The album gave Queen their first UK/USA Gold status LP.