People think of hits and harmonies when they think about Queen, like it was Freddie and three other guys; it wasn’t: Queen was a heavy band when they felt like it. All their rockers are just the tiniest bit too fast and feel like they might derail halfway through the bridge, but always make it to the depot. This is from the upcoming six-disc Queen On Air box: three discs of interviews, portions of shows from ’73, ’81, and ’86, and–best of all–the band’s Peel Sessions.
Up until around ten years ago, all of England only had one radio station: the BBC. It cut down on options, but it saved the British car industry a lot of money on radio knobs; all anyone needed was a power button. If the radio was on, then it was on the BBC: they were the 800-pound gorilla (excuse me: 57.14 stone gorilla) of the market, but because it was Great Britain there were all sorts of inexplicable rules and regulations.
There was something called the Needle Time Rule, which meant you could only play records a certain number of hours a day, plus the powerful musician’s union forced the BBC to hire musicians to record cover versions of popular songs. (I told you it was inexplicable.) So what John Peel did was have bands (lesser-known ones, mostly) go in the Beeb’s studio for 24 hours and re-cut some of their tracks; the shortened window gave the tapes a rougher and more vibrant feel, and then Peel would interview the band and play what they’d done. None of the BBC’s preciously counted needle time wasted, and the unions are happy. Clever guy, John Peel.