If Freddie Mercury identifies with the Queen of Spades - the most arrogant and vainglorious card in the deck, he’s quick to tell you - then Roger Meddows-Taylor must be the Queen of Hearts. At the very least he’s the heart of Queen. After all, the drummer is the heart of any rock group; it’s his steady beat that keeps the rest of the band alive. Thumping away in the background, surrounded by a veritable ribcage of equipment, the drummer is the one who pumps fresh blood into the group’s sound with every beat.
Trouble is, drummers never get any attention until something goes wrong. Then open-heart surgery is required and things get very messy. There have been exceptions to this rule of course, like Keith Moon and Ginger Baker, but for the most part it holds. Roger Meddows-Taylor looks like the latest exception.
For although Queen is a new addition to the star gallery of the seventies and Roger could go virtually unnoticed behind the outlandish posturings of singer Freddie Mercury and guitarist Brian May, the 26-year-old drummer seems to be attracting a sizable segment of the spotlight. The indications are that Taylor has at least as many fans as any other member of the group, and it’s reliably reported that when they go on tour he attracts even more groupies than Mercury - although he somehow manages to stay fairly celibate on the road. “I do have a good time in America,” he modestly admits.
Nevertheless, Taylor seems somewhat surprised at all the attention he’s been getting. “It is hard for a drummer - because the drummer usually sits in the back - to exert a strong personality” he says. “Especially when you’ve got somebody like Freddie in front. But we all sing, which is a help I think. Definitely a help.”
Roger Meddows-Taylor and John Deacon (Photo Credit: Christopher Makos)
Another important element is his unique drumming style, which is extraordinarily fast and strong. And onstage he supplements it with an added ingredient of visual appeal. Before every concert the skins of his heavily-miked drums are loosened and carefully coated with a fine, resinous powder - so that while he’s drumming he appears to be surrounded by a luminous white haze.
Heavy Meddows Kid
The thing about Taylor, though, is that he’s really a guitarist at heart. He has the guitarist’s love of flash and power and the guitarist’s sense of stage presence. And ever since he was nine years old he’s been a struggling guitarist.
He was born in Norfolk, on the east coast of England, and he spent his teens in Cornwall, the summer resort area in the southwest. His background was respectable and ordinary - “the boring middle class,” he calls it - but he’s been captivated by rock ‘n roll ever since the age of eight.
“It was like a bit of a dream then,” he says. “I kept that all the way through my teens. I always wanted to do it. When I was in school I was always in little groups and stuff. I sort of stuck with it all the way through college. And eventually it got the better of everything else. It got the better of my conditioning, my middle-class conditioning, and then it broke out and that was it.”
He started playing acoustic guitar at nine, and then when he was 12 he decided to take up drums and electric guitar. “Basically I was a frustrated guitarist,” he says. “But I seemed to be better at drums. My father just bought me a drum, and I took to it and started adding to it and found I could get along well. I found myself getting better quite quickly, so that sort of spurred me on. It was at that point that I became a drummer rather than a guitarist - which I’d always wanted to be before. I think everybody wants to be a guitarist. but I’m’ a better drummer than a guitarist anyway.”
Taylor was a 19-year-old dental student in London when he joined his first real band - an outfit called Smile which also included future Queen guitarist Brian May. He quit after a year of dental college becau