Queen Before Queen: The 60's Recordings

Source: Record Collector January 1996

Submitted by: Richard Orchard



Queen's Heaven For Everyone", written by Roger Taylor, and one of the last tracks to be issued under the band's name, was poised to reach No. 1 as we went to press. The tie-in "Made In Heaven" album is now high in the charts as well. But how many fans realize that 199it will mark the 50th anniversary of Taylor's recording debut?

You won't find many of Roger's 60s efforts in official biographies or discographies. In fact, while Taylor (and the band's) formative years are usually been thrown away as an introduction to the Queen story, rather than as a subject worthy of investigation in their own right.

All that changed with the recent publication of Mark Hodkinson's "Queen: The Early Years' (Omnibus Press), and November's RC feature examining the 1960s recordings made by Brian May. Last month we promised to continue the story of Queen's ten-year musical apprenticeship, taking a closer look at Roger Taylor's Reaction, Brian and Roger's Smile, John Deacon's Opposition and Freddie Mercury's Ibex, Wreckage and Sour Milk Sea.

We have uncovered so much new material that we've decided to extend the series beyond the original couple of features. So expect the low-down on Smile and much more besides next month.

Roger's musical development began inauspiciously enough in Truro, in 1957. The Taylor family moved to this Cornish town from their native King's Lynn, in Norfolk, and enrolled the young Roger as a junior at the local Bosvigo School. It was here, having learned the rudiments of the ukelele, that Roger formed a skiffle group called the Bubblingover Boys. "None of us could actually play," Roger told Jacky Gunn and Jim Jenkins for the official Queen biography, 'As it Began'. We just stood there and strummed and twanged tuneless chords. It was dreadful!"

In 1961, Taylor was given a couple of drums for Christmas, although it would be another three years before he put them to any effect use. His first proper group was formed at Truro School, the local public school to which he won a scholarship. This was an instrumental trio which boasted a variety of names, like Beat Unlimited and the Cousin Jacks (the latter named after a local phrase for a tin niner).

"The group was myself on lead guitar, Roger on drums and a chap called David Dowding on bass," remembers Mike Dudley, a class- mate of Roger's, who lived in nearby St. Agnes. Other sources have listed the Falcons as yet another name for the band, but, I don't remember that." claims Dudley. "Though that's not to say that it didn't happen."

Mike Dudley dates the formation of Beat Unlimited to 1964. "The first picture I have of Roger and myself in a band is dated July of that year," he says. "We're rehearsing in a barn on the farm owned by Dave Dowdings parents in New Mills, an agricultural area just outside Truro. If you look closely, you can see the saddle on the wall behind Dave in the picture Roger looks about 4'6" tall and about twelve years old, although he was actually shout fifteen.

"We played the usual stuff, which everybody starts with", recalls Mike. "Shadows tunes like 'Riders in The Sky , on which Roger played guitar, 'Apache', 'FBI and 'Midnight' At that time, none of us was singing significantly. Then a singer came along whose name I can't remember and we did Rolling Stones songs, followed by Chuck Berry."

The group played for school friends and at parties, and apparently even secured a gig for the local Liberal Party. It's long been rumored that some reels of live material were recorded around this period, but nothing has ever surfaced.

In early 1965, Mike and Roger abandoned their own Beat Unlimited/Cousin Jacks and accepted an offer to join Johnny Quale and the transformed the group to a six piece.

"With Johnny Quale", remembers Mike Dudley, "we played all sorts of stuff: pop, Muddy Waters' blues, 'Wh