27 October 1974 – Brian May and Roger Taylor record their version of ‘God Save The Queen’ at Trident Studios
Music by Henry Carey, arranged by Brian May
Produced by Queen and Roy Thomas Baker
It would be the only song from ‘A Night At The Opera’ to be recorded at Trident Studios due to numerous problems with the Sheffield brothers which finally caused Queen to separate from them.
During Queen’s 1974 tour in support of Queen II, audiences would sing the national anthem while waiting for the band to take the stage. Brian became inspired by this outpouring of support (or pre-showtime impatience) to record his own unique version, and, with the autumn 1974 ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ tour looming, he booked studio time at Trident Studios on 27th of October. This Queen-hymn features Brian’s incredibly skilled musical craftsmanship very well. It’s not just a guitar-version, but it’s cleverly arranged with some new parts (at the end) as well. This is the definition of guitar – orchestra!
He laid down a ham-fisted piano demo, rife with bum notes and missed chords. Using this as a guide, he overdubbed layers upon layers of guitar before drafting Roger to add his drum magic.
The drums were not recorded in one go.
There are two snares, one left and one right. They’re doing the pressed rolls at the start and also somewhere in the middle. In the middle Roger uses a bass-drum and two cymbals that are hit at each other, like you can see it in marching bands and orchestras. Towards the end there’s another cymbals – this time hit with sticks – which does the rolls. At the end there are two timpani (stereo: one left, one right).
It is really a very tasty version, a perfect choice to end up an album or a concert in great style. The title is very tongue in cheek, too.
The Queen-version of the English national anthem famously became their solid closing number at every concert from October 1974 and August 1986. There were a couple of occasions in Dublin, Ireland where it wasn’t considered appropriate.
The most recognizable Queen image is when Freddie strolled out onto the stage during the ‘Magic’ tour in 1986 sporting a majestic regal red crown and cape. This was a beautiful and breathtaking moment only Freddie could pull off, The King of Queen 👑
On 3 June 2002, Brian May took part in the concert ‘Party at the Palace’ where he played an incredible guitar solo of ‘God Save The Queen’ on the roof of her Majesty’s primary residence, Buckingham Palace. It was absolutely extraordinary!
“That’s something that we’ve had in our stage act for a long while, y’know, and when we were recording ‘A Night At The Opera,’ I felt it just lent itself. The whole thing is done by Brian. It’s all Brian’s guitar, every bit of it, with cymbals and things. I told you we have nobody else coming in. We don’t use synthesizers… Brian can get all those sounds with his guitar.”
Freddie Mercury – Interview with Record Mirror May 1976