Read all 4 events for 25 September at diary.QueenSongs.info
Released on 4th February 1991
Recorded between March 1989 and November 1990 at Mountain (Montreux) and Metropolis (London)
Produced by Queen & David Richards
Engineered by David Richards, Noel Harris & Justin Shirley Smith
Music by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, Mike Moran & John Deacon
Lyrics by Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Peter Straker & Brian May
Arranged by Queen, David Richards, Steve Howe & Mike Moran
Roger Taylor: Percussion, Vocals, Programming, Synthesiser
Freddie Mercury: Vocals, Synthesiser, Programming, Piano
John Deacon: Bass, Synthesiser
Brian May: Guitar, Programming, Vocals, Synthesiser
Steve Howe: Guitar
David Richards: Synthesiser, Programming
Mike Moran: Piano, Synthesiser, Programming
Brian Zellis: Programming
'Innuendo' would arguably be Queen's last studio album in all sense of the word (no recycling, all songs were new), and the last one released before Freddie died. It proved to be very popular amongst fans because of its heaviness (in spite of the fact loads of drums and percussion are actually programmed), its performance quality (e.g. Fred's vocals in Show Must Go On, Brian's guitar solo in Days Of Our Lives, John's bass in Slightly Mad, Roger's drumming in the title track), its lyrics and its material, which included their very last epic (Innuendo), their very last anthem (Show Must Go On), Freddie's symbolic swan song (Roger's Days Of Our Lives), their very last Noel Coward-esque lyric (Slightly Mad) and their very last rock single (Headlong).
Queen spent almost two years writing and completing the album, employing two different locations: Mountain Studios in Montreux (where the sessions started), and Metropolis Studios in London (where they spent most of 1990). As both Brian and Roger were working on parallel projects at the same time, the album resulted in a mixture of influences and approaches. John contributed relatively few in the creative department and, for the first time since 'A Night At The Opera', didn't play guitar. And Freddie was of course battling his disease, although according to producer David Richards, he wasn't that sick during these sessions (from his perspective something was wrong, but it wasn't clear what). The idea of Mercury still feeling relatively well is reflected in the fact he wrote most of the songs and sang all lead vocals (except for Ride the Wild Wind which is sort of a duet with Roger).
Roots & Influences:
A quite popular movement with increasing amount of followers was the return of acoustic guitars to rock albums: Jethro Tull (in 1987), XTC and some members of Bon Jovi (both in 1989) had performed acoustic sets on MTV which had inspired the "Unplugged" series of concerts that started before the end of the decade. Singles like Love Song (Tesla - 1989), More Than Words (Extreme - 1990) and Patience (Guns N' Roses, 1989) could have inspired Queen's use of an acoustic interlude in the album's title track. Many other acts were also influenced by that: in 1991, Metallica would release Nothing Else Matters and Mr Big would issue To Be with You.
Death is of course a recurring theme here. While 'The Miracle' hinted at it in some points (particularly on the autobiographical Was It All Worth It?), this album deals with it sometimes directly (The Hitman, These Are the Days of Our Lives, The Show Must Go On), sometimes using humour as escapism (Slightly Mad) and sometimes with dark-themes that aren't necessarily related to death, and certainly wouldn't be pigeonholed there had they been in another album (Bijou, Don't Try So Hard).
Knowing that his days were counted, but with enough energy and will to make another album, Freddie's prime labour here was that of a songwriter: only Ride The Wild Wind, These Are the Days Of Our Lives, Headlong and I Can't Live With You haven't got creative input from his side, all of the other songs being written or co-written by him. While the album doesn't feature as many vocal overdubs as its mid-70s counterparts, and piano-playing is reduced to a bare minimum (there are some overdubs here and there, but mostly Mercury played and co-programmed synths), Freddie's work on lead vocals is highly respected.
Some songs off 'Innuendo' feature climatic sections with high notes, most of them without falsetto (there's a high C# in I Can't Live With You, high D's in Don't Try So Hard and Show Must Go On, high Eb's in Innuendo and The Hitman and high Eb, E and an impressive F in All God's People). And then there are some very low ones too: low A's in Wild Wind and Slightly Mad, and possibly a low E in the backing vocals of All God's People. All in all, his range used (counting falsetto) for this album only was four octaves and a perfect fourth.
This was a very busy period for this man, as he was working on a solo album (in fact, both Headlong and I Can't Live With You had originally been conceived for it and not meant to be Queen songs) and was facing a number of personal crises (mostly his divorce and the death of his father). His previous work on scoring a 'Macbeth' production led him to take further interest in synths, which is reflected in both Show Must Go On and his solo record.
May and Mercury are the only band members featured in every song, on guitar and vocals respectively. Moreover, there are guitar solos in every track off the album, some of which have gained huge popularity amongst fans and guitarists. Besides guitar, Brian played synthesisers (Show Must Go On, I Can't Live With You), programmed drums (I Can't Live With You, Headlong) and was heavily featured in backing vocals (Headlong, I Can't Live With You, Slightly Mad, Hitman, Show Must Go On).
At the same time as doing the 'Innuendo' album with Queen, Roger was at Montreux doing 'Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know' with his other band, The Cross. Still he managed to write two full songs here (Ride the Wild Wind and These Are the Days of Our Lives), as well as being deeply involved with Show Must Go On (original sequence came from John and him) and Innuendo (he completed the lyrics after Freddie started them off).
Although fans are fond of praising Roger's work as a live drummer, this album's actually got loads of programmed and synth-generated percussion, being Don't Try So Hard, Show Must Go On and Innuendo the only ones with purely acoustic drums. As for the rest, Brian's songs conserve his original programming (probably taylor-made for Cozy Powell) with some occasional fills added by Roger; Slightly Mad, The Hitman and Ride The Wild Wind all have Roger doing the pattern (check his signature hi-hat opening every time the snare sounds, an effect that would be very hard and quite pointless to emulate with synths), yet there are loads of computer overdubs; Bijou is completely programmed and both Days of Our Lives and Delilah probably have no acoustic drums at all. As for All God's People, it's mostly programmed except for the middle bit. Sequencing was done sometimes by the author of the song, sometimes by all the band and/or David Richards, Brian Zellis and perhaps Mike Moran in the case of his co-written number.
Besides drums, Roger co-programmed synthesisers for both Days of Our Lives and Ride the Wild Wind, and sang backing vocals here and there, although, as opposed to early works, Brian was featured more heavily than him.
Just like he'd initially been much less involved with songwriting than the others (his first song came in the third album), after 'Magic' John started to fade out again in that department (which didn't change the fact he kept co-arranging, co-producing and playing instruments). 'Innuendo' hasn't got any full song by Deacon although he did contribute to Show Must Go On (especially in germinal phase), The Hitman (mostly arrangement) and Innuendo (the rhythm pattern comes from a jam session between Roger, Brian and him).
As opposed to 'The Miracle', bass-lines are now more human than machines, and John is featured in every song except for Bijou. Besides bass, he co-programmed synths with his bandmates.