Queen released ‘Keep Yourself Alive

9 October 1973 – Queen released ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ on Elektra – their very first-ever single in the USA 🇺🇸 It’s the opening song on the band’s eponymous 1973 debut album.

Brian May wrote this track, it was conceived on acoustic guitars during Queen’s practice sessions at Imperial College and the garden at Ferry Road in 1970. At the time, Queen had not yet found a permanent bassist.

The first version of “Keep Yourself Alive” was recorded in summer 1971 at De Lane Lea Studios. It was produced by Louie Austin and includes the intro played on Brian May’s Hallfredh acoustic guitar. All of the song elements were already present, including call-and-response vocals by Mercury (verses) and during the break, where Taylor sang a line and May answered it. This demo version remains May’s favourite take of the song.

The track was recorded again in 1972 at the famous Trident Studios and Co-produced by Queen, Roy Thomas Baker and John Anthony.

Queen’s first single, this has many familiar elements: the stacked guitars, the big harmonies. Brian May recalled to Mojo magazine: “Unfortunately, apart from a few places like Japan, it didn’t get much airplay. We were told ‘it takes too long to happen, boys. It’s more than half a minute before you get to the first vocal.’ So when we made the second album, we felt right we’ll show them.”

“The first recording of it ever was in De Lane Lea when we did it ourselves and I’ve still got that recording and I think it’s very good and has something which the single never had. But THEY pressurised us very strongly to redo all the tracks and we redid ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ with Roy and it was pretty awful, actually. I thought it was terrible and I was very unhappy about it and I thought the De Lane Lea one was better and I eventually managed to persuade Roy that it was better as well. So, we went back in and did it again in a way that was a bit more true to the original. But there is no way that you can ever really repeat something. I have this great belief that the magic of the moment can never be recaptured and, although we ended up with something that was technically in the playing and perhaps even in the recording a bit better than the De Lane Lea thing. I still think that the De Lane Lea one had that certain sort of magic, so I was never really happy. As it turned out no one else was ever really happy either and we kept remixing it. We thought that it’s the mix that’s wrong, we kept remixing and there must have been, at least, seven or eight different mixes by different groups of people. Eventually we went in and did a mix with Mike Stone, our engineer, and that’s the one that we were in the end happiest with. That’s the one we put out.
But, to my mind ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ was never really satisfactory. Never had that magic that it should have had.”

Brian May – 1983, BBC Radio One

Roger Taylor said In a radio in 1977, Brian had penned the lyrics thinking of them as ironic and tongue-in-cheek, but their sense was completely changed when Freddie sang them.

“Keep Yourself Alive” is cited as the highlight of Queen’s debut album. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic wrote that while Queen “too often . . . plays like a succession of ideas instead of succinct songs”, “there is an exception to that rule — the wild, rampaging opener ‘Keep Yourself Alive,’ one of their very best songs!”

👉 https://youtu.be/JofwEB9g1zg

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