Queen formed in London, England in 1971 following the demise of the band Smile. Queen consisted of vocalist Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. In 1973 they signed their first record deal with EMI and released their first album “Queen”.
Mercury explained, "I thought up the name Queen. It's just a name, but it's very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid, it’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it."
Mixing glam-rock with hard-rock, the group’s ornate, multi-tracked recordings stood out among other songs recorded at the same time.
But beyond the flamboyant exterior there was genuine power and daring in their music. Over the years their music has ranged from rockabilly and disco-funk to heavy metal and acoustic ballads. Their most famous song “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a densely layered rock operetta, that is among the most ornate and intricate productions in music history.
While promoting their debut album, the band were writing new material and anxious to record it. Several new songs were written immediately after the first album, and some dated from even earlier.
By August 1973 the band were back in Trident Studios to record what is generally considered to be one of their best albums, "Queen II". For an album as complex as “Queen II”, It was recorded in a relatively short time, taking only a month in total.
A full version of "Seven Seas of Rhye" was recorded for the album with the specific intention of being the album's leading single. After the commercial failure of "Keep Yourself Alive", which was taken from the first album, Queen decided it needed a single that did not take "too long to happen" (without a lengthy guitar intro). So, Queen and producer Roy Thomas Baker made sure that the song began in a way which would grab people from the off.
The b-side to “Seven Seas of Rhye” was "See What a Fool I've Been" which was a song left over from the Smile days (and was actually built around May's recollection of a blues ditty he had heard on a television program; the song was "That's How I Feel" by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
“Queen II” was released in 1974. The album reached number five on the British album charts, and the Freddie Mercury written lead single "Seven Seas of Rhye," reached number ten in the UK. The band also toured as support to Mott the Hoople in the UK and US during this period.
Of all the bands and artists related in some way to glam rock, Queen are by far the most successful in terms of record sales, becoming one of rock’s most popular and influential acts.
As of 2009 their total album sales have been estimated at over 300 million worldwide, including 32.5 million in the United States alone, making them one of the worlds’s best selling artists. In 2006, their Greatest Hits album was found to be the United Kingdom's all-time best selling album. Their 1985 Live Aid performance was voted the best live rock performance of all time in a recent industry poll, and the band is also the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single.