best known for his powerhouse role in
Queen, Roger Taylor is anything but a drummer confined to his kit. With
rock ‘n’ roll in his veins all through his schooldays, he has always been a
highly active, vocal member of Queen.
He famously wrote Queen’s landmark
hits, “Radio Ga Ga” and “A Kind of Magic,” and was also the first to make a
solo album, 1981’s Fun in Space. To
date he has released five solo albums, which, aside from his work with Queen, further highlighted Taylor as an
musician and writer with a strong sense of identity, a wide musical
perspective, and - not least of all - a man not without a sense of irony. Just consider, for instance, the lyrics to “I’m
In Love With My Car,” his B side to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and a firm audience
favorite in the Queen live set.
active approach has not been confined to his music: when media mogul Rupert Murdoch made attempts
to buy Manchester United football club, Taylor funded the club supporters in
their attempts to block the sale, and historically helped them succeed.
in one of rock’s most famous bands begins in the late ‘60s, the time when he
first teamed up with Brian May, and later John Deacon and Freddie Mercury, to
form Queen. But before that . . . .
was born in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, on July 26, 1949, Roger became fascinated with
music in the early ‘50s, when his family moved to Cornwall. He learned his
first instrument, the ukulele, at a tender age, and enjoyed a brief taste of
things to come in a pre-teen Skiffle band whose collective talent survived just
two public performances, both apparently excruciating!
took on a different direction in 1960, when he became a rather reluctant member
of the Truro Cathedral Choir - a prerequisite of his scholarship. He taught
himself the guitar around this time, but by the following year had moved over
Roger had not only progressed to drumming in Cornwall’s most popular band, the Reaction, but had also become their lead
singer, with his drumkit placed - where else? - in the principal position, at
the front of the stage. That year, the Reaction
won a hotly-contested local talent contest and, according to newspaper reports,
were duly “mobbed by young girls.”
maintaining his keen interest in music, Roger decided to study dentistry, and
in 1967 moved to London to enroll at the London Hospital Medical College. He
later studied biology, obtaining a BSc in the subject.
Roger formed another group, Smile,
with Middlesex guitar ace Brian May.
Smile played sporadically over the next few years and even issued a single
in the United States. By 1971, Roger had long abandoned any desire to become a
dentist or a biologist, and with new additions to the line-up John Deacon and
Freddie Mercury, Smile became known
The Queen legend often refers to how Taylor
and Mercury were particularly close, and spent many hours on the town together
seeing bands who at that time were their heroes: The Jimi Hendrix Experience,
Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Who, all of whom influenced them and
helped shape the musical destiny of Queen.
writing songs for Queen from day one,
and each of the band’s fifteen studio albums included at least one of his
compositions. History notes that all four members of Queen wrote No.1 singles: Taylor dutifully provided his with “Radio
Ga Ga,” “A Kind of Magic” and “Days of
our Lives,” among hits.
In 1977 Queen released “We Are The Champions”
and “We Will Rock You.” Roger bought a Ferrari, and became the first member of Queen to launch a solo career with the
release of the single “I Wanna Testify”.
album, Fun in Space, followed in
1981, and was succeeded by 1984’s rock-based Strange Frontier. Both LPs reached the Top 30. In 1987 Roger formed
his own band The Cross, in which
after more than 20 years he finally resumed the role of lead singer. The Cross released three distinctive
albums and toured extensively in the UK and Europe.
tragic death of Freddie Mercury, Roger returned to his solo career with 1994’s Happiness?, an album on which he
explored the theme of “dealing with life and looking for happiness.” The
success of the album prompted further tours of the UK and Italy. Then came
perhaps his most potent album, Electric
Fire, which clearly showed Taylor as an acute observational songwriter.
Rich in contemporary reflections on life, the album was full of
attention-grabbing songs tackling thought-provoking and sometimes challenging
issues - national obsolescence, domestic violence, and poverty, among them. One
track, “People on Streets”, was inspired by visits Roger made to India and the
inequalities he witnessed in the fortunes of that country’s vast population.
Never shy to express himself, several super-rich and powerful world figures get
name checked in the song.
That the Queen musical We Will Rock You came into being could be seen as something of a
surprise taking into account Roger’s openly expressed view that “musicals are
completely foreign to me. It’s a genre I don’t particularly like.” But after
working closely with Brian and writer Ben Elton on shaping the musical, Taylor
found himself deeply entrenched in developing the show , breaking the rules of
musical theatre and taking on the role - along with Brian - as musical
supervisor, not only for the first production in London, but for each of the
subsequent productions throughout the world. To date, local productions of the
show have reached eight further countries.
At the same
time as setting up We Will Rock You,
Roger and Brian played a central part in the formation of the Nelson Mandela
46664 charity, performing at the first two South Africa concerts, and providing
several new songs to the 46664 album
which saw them collaborate with the likes of Bono, Anastacia, Dave Stewart and
Beyonce. Roger penned two new songs for the project, “Say It’s Not True,” a
song about finding out you’re HIV positive, and “Invincible Hope,” based on the
writings of Nelson Mandela and actually featuring the voice of Mandela reading
phases from his autobiography.
after an accidental encounter with former Free
singer Paul Rodgers, Roger and Brian felt the time was right to put Queen back on the road. Billed as Queen + Paul Rodgers, Roger and Brian
tested the water with a handpicked set of European dates. Such was the momentum built up over the six
week European tour, a US tour was booked to follow, which saw Roger and Brian
return to the USA to play for the first time in more than 20 years. The impact
of the return to the road was summed up in a review of is closing night in
Vancouver: “the night that arena rock
officially made its comeback.”
back at the kit - although the new live set sees him on vocals for a fair part
of their set - Roger comments: “it’s
given us a sense of rejuvenation. I’m even growing my hair long again. But I do
have to remind myself of my age - and I think ‘Oh come on, behave yourself!’”
evidence, did someone say, ‘unlikely?’
returned to his solo career in late 2009 with the release of the single “The Unblinking
Eye,” for the future, Roger is planning new solo material, maybe a
retrospective box set and possibly a solo tour.
PS. Hair now
short! – bad decision!