21 May 1982, Queen released their tenth studio album, 𝐇𝐨𝐭 𝐒𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐞. It was recorded in two distinct phases: summer of 1981 at Mountain Studios in Montreux and December 1981 to March 1982 at Musicland Studios in Munich. As well as continuing their partnership with producer Reinhold Mack, Queen also worked with engineer, Dave Richards. It peaked at No. 4 in the UK
Fans would see a notable shift in direction from their earlier work, they employed many elements of disco, funk, rhythm and blues, dance and pop music on the album. This made the album less popular with fans who preferred the traditional rock style they had come to associate with the band. There was also a shift in the recording process, working piecemeal in the studio rather than hunkering down as a quartet which drove a wedge between them.
They found themselves under certain strains with each other as their creativity took a turn. But as difficult as it may have been to come to a creative consensus, they still managed to move forward. They tinkered with synths and dance beats, relying on spare arrangements and brass flourishes to get the songs across instead of the stacked sonics that helped make them worldwide superstars.
While it marked a departure, it wasn’t entirely out of character. For one thing, Queen’s sound had never been static, and the group’s records were always eclectic enough to make room for all sorts of experiments, they hinted at the dancefloor-friendly sound they’d embrace more fully with Hot Space.
“We moved out to Munich to isolate ourselves from normal life so we could focus on the music. We all ended up in a place that was rather unhealthy. A difficult period. We weren’t getting along together. We all had different agendas. It was a difficult time for me, personally – some dark moments. We’re always pushing four different directions, not quite sure where the equilibrium position is, for balance. We fought about arriving at a sensible format for Hot Space, then decided to push into a very rhythmic and sparse area, disciplining out all the indulgences we’ve been used to putting in. We felt our fans would take it as another experiment. But we found we’d stepped out – at last! – from the music people felt they could expect from us.
- Brian May
“We weren’t extremely disappointed. But we’re conceited enough to believe that the music isn’t less popular, and we are prepared to fight to show that it isn’t.”
- Freddie Mercury
The ‘Hot Space’ album yielded Queens second BIG number one hit in the UK, ‘𝐔𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞’ This spontaneous Bowie – Queen collaboration was nothing short of magnificent. What became of an all night jam session was Freddie and Bowie trading ideas and lyrical lines would definitely live up to its title, “Under Pressure!” The next notable mention is Brian May’s “𝐋𝐨𝐬 𝐏𝐚𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐬 𝐃𝐞 𝐀𝐦𝐨𝐫 (𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐎𝐟 𝐋𝐨𝐯𝐞)” which would become the most popular UK single from Hot Space. Roger Taylor’s ‘𝐂𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐀𝐥𝐥 𝐆𝐢𝐫𝐥𝐬’ would be his first self-penned single release and is a partial return to the earlier band sound. With the quartet at full tilt, though Roger also adds elements of techno and some stunning acoustic guitar riffs.
Michael Jackson later cited Hot Space as an influence for his massive 1982 hit album, Thriller.
Another influential mention is from Extreme’s guitarist Nuno Bettencourt who described how Hot Space was an important album for him as a musician. “I think it’s interesting because that album taught me two things. It taught me that even if you’re in a band as a guitar player, music doesn’t have to be driven by guitar – it’s about the song, first. But I think the main thing is that Queen actually did an album like that – it was the fans’ least favorite, but it was one of my favorites because it took a risk and branched out.“
The narrative that quickly developed around Hot Space was one of disappointment, and doing press while they delivered what would turn out to be their final U.S. tour, the band members wavered between defensiveness and resignation regarding the reaction to the new LP.
Roger Taylor said, “We have to do what keeps our interest up. We never tried to pander to what we feel people want. A lot of people want to hear rehashes of what they liked in the past, but that would be death for us. That’s really unfair, because we have changed a lot.”
Freddie Mercury was the one who suggested that the artwork for the album. It features a graphic image of each band member in its own colored square. Bold, vibrant colors were chosen for the cover and as a result dingy record store walls across the land were suddenly beaming with a majestic hue.