Brian May Reveals What Queen Really Thought of Led Zeppelin, Recalls One Unusual ’Belief’ Studio Engineers Had Back in the Day

A new interview with Queen guitarist Brian May appears in the latest printed edition of the Total Guitar magazine where he discusses his career and all things guitar. In some of the parts released online, May addresses Led Zeppelin and how Queen members reacted to their music back in their early career in the 1970s.

The musician addressed the issue when he was asked about some of the similarities between Queen’s “Now I’m Here” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” May replied that he was inspired by the “spirit of Zeppelin” and added:

“I owe a lot to Jimmy Page, of course – the master of the riff, and the master of getting lost deliberately in time signatures. I think that song was inspired, definitely, by the spirit of Zeppelin.”

“All those wonderful things that are happening when Bonzo [Zeppelin drummer John Bonham] is throwing in things which sound like they’re in a different time signature – that stuff has always fascinated me.” 

As May also explained in the interview, he and other Queen members felt that Led Zeppelin was ahead of their time. In fact, he also felt like Led Zeppelin already captured what Queen was trying to do. Brian explained:

“Those guys were not far ahead of us in age. But the first time we heard Zeppelin, we thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is where we’re trying to get to, and they’re already there!’ 

“So in a sense, there were times when we felt like we’d missed the boat. Like we wouldn’t be able to get our stuff out there. But our vision was slightly different from Zeppelin, musically.”

Queen - Now I'm Here (Official Video)

“It’s more harmonic and melodic, I suppose. But I would never be ashamed to say that Zeppelin were a huge influence on us, not just musically, but also in the way they handled themselves in the business, without compromising.”

“The way they handled their image, the integrity, the way they built their stage show – so many things. I suppose between Zeppelin and The Beatles and The Who, you would see where we came from. That was the kind of platform that we bounced off.”

Total Guitar also made another section of this printed interview available online where Brian May discussed one particular guitar- and studio-related issue from back in the day.

Brian May - Star Licks (Guitar Tutorial 1983) - Full Version

As he explained, having both an acoustic and an electric guitar in the mix back then was something engineers and other studio people considered to be controversial.

But Brian decided to break the rule, much to the disdain of the studio personnel, on “The Night Comes Down” from Queen’s self-titled debut album. He recalls:

“[On ‘The Night Comes Down‘], we’re doing something which people told us we couldn’t do. People in those days used to say, ‘You can’t mix electric guitar with acoustic guitar.’ Nowadays that sounds pretty funny, but it was a belief that people around studios had, you know?

Queen - The Night Comes Down (Official Lyric Video)

“They would say the electric guitar is too loud for the acoustic and I went, ‘Come on!’ It’s just a question of balancing in the mix. So with ‘The Night Comes Down,’ it’s based on acoustic guitar, my beautiful old acoustic.”

“But the guitar harmonies are all electric. And that was a beginning, sort of like a demonstration: ‘Yes we can do this, we can make our own rules!’”

However, as May also added in the interview, he wasn’t thrilled with how their debut album turned out. Explaining how he was “never happy” with its sound, the guitarist said:

“We were thrown into the studio and into a system which regarded itself as state of the art. Trident Studios were very emergent as a force in the world. And they thought they had it down.

Queen- The Night Comes Down (Live 1973)

“But the Trident sound was very dead. It was the opposite of what we were aiming for. So Roger’s drums would be in a little cubicle, and all the drums would have tape on them. They’d all be dead and down.

“I remember saying to Roy Thomas Baker, ‘This isn’t really the sound we want, Roy.’ And he said, ‘Don’t worry, we can fix it all in the mix.’ Which of course is not the best way, is it? And I think we all knew: it ain’t going to happen!”

Regarding his guitar tone in particular and how it sounded as a part of the finished product, Brian said:

“That was a bit of a fight as well, because people had discovered multi-tracking and there was this feeling that everything ought to be multi-tracked.”

Queen - Liar (Official Video)

“So you play a solo, and the first thing people say is, ‘Oh, do you want to double-track that?’ And maybe you do. But maybe you don’t – because sometimes you want to hear the personality, the attack, and the feeling in the moment when you do that one track.”

“So there [were] an awful lot of overdubs on that first album, which I would say now [were] unnecessary, and perhaps made it a bit more stiff than it otherwise would have been.”

“Having said that, I think the songs are very representative of where we were at the time. We were evolving… You can hear in the first album that we were finding our style.”

Seven Seas Of Rhye [Instrumental] (Official Montage Video)

Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor still continue to work under the Queen + Adam Lambert moniker. However, plenty of fans are still wondering whether the band’s reclusive bassist John Deacon would ever consider joining them. In an interview from 2022, May addressed the issue by saying:

“We love John and we will always will, but we don’t have any significant contact with him now. That’s the way he wants it, he wanted to cut that tie and to be a private person and we have to respect that.“

“I don’t think that it would be easy for John to slip back into the arena that we inhabit. In fact, a couple of times we have asked him, but he always says ‘that’s not what I do now.’ And we have to respect that John doesn’t want to do it.”

What Happened To John Deacon - The Sad Story

“I think it would be difficult for him anyway because things have changed a lot, and Roger and I have adapted a certain amount.“

“We’re still very old school but we‘re aware of different ways of behaving these days and different ways in which our art is channeled.”

Photos: Raph_PH (Queen And Adam Lambert – The O2 – Tuesday 12th December 2017 QueenO2121217-27 (39066623685)), Jim Summaria (Джимми Пэйдж)

David Slavkovic

David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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