The Game


Around the time Live Killers was being released in EMI territories, Queen went to West Germany for a change of scenery and ended up recording some songs including 'Save Me' and 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love'. They were impressed enough with how they turned out that they scheduled their early 1980 sessions there and, for the first and only time since Queen II, did an entire album at just one venue.

The Game was the beginning of the Reinhold Mack era, which was to be their most commercially successful and also the most unpopular one with fans of their earlier and heavier material. The new decade brought several changes including image (short hair, Frederick's moustache), instrumentation (Roger moved to far smaller drum kits), use of technology (they were now punching in on backing tracks, which was unthinkable for them in the past), miking (both Frederick's vocals and Roger's drums were now done differently), use of drum loops to synchronise everything else, and, of course, the introduction of synthesisers.

Musicland Studios were 24-track-equipped (32-track had become the norm in London but they weren't recording there for the moment being) and housed a 7 ft Yamaha grand piano, which would be used for the recordings (Frederick's Steinway would be kept for live work, and there'd be yet another Steinway, a West German one, at Mountain Studios which Queen bought in 1979).

Available Sources

In terms of research, The Game is shockingly obscure in terms of available information. Details on the equipment at Musicland are taken from an ad (unknown year, but most likely early 80's). There's a few more on the mics thanks to Barry Promane's PhD dissertation which includes witness testimonies from Reinhold Mack.

Other than that: no known footage, no specific details on what was done when (except for the year), very few photographs (taken by Peter Hince and published by the Fan Club in early 1980) and the famous Andrew Gibb story which also originally stems from a Fan Club publication contemporary to the sessions.

Stems are available for three of the singles: 'Another One Bites the Dust' and 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' (both released on Rock Band - Downloadable Track Pack, Tuesday 20th October 2009), and 'Play the Game' (Rock Band 3 - Queen Extravaganza Pack 1, Tuesday 7th December 2010).

Documented Timeline

  • 1979:
    • June - July: Queen record at least four tracks at Musicland:
      • 'Coming Soon'.
      • 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love'.
      • 'Sail Away Sweet Sister'.
      • 'Save Me'.
    • Friday 5th October: 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' / 'We Will Rock You' is released in the UK as a single.
    • Thursday 1st November: 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' is certified Silver in the UK for having sold 250,000 copies.
    • Saturday 1st December: 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' is certified Gold in the UK for having sold 500,000 copies.
  • 1980:
    • Friday 25th January: 'Save Me' / 'Let Me Entertain You' is released in the UK as a single.
    • February - May: Album finished and mixed at Musicland.
    • Saturday 23rd February: 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' reaches the No 1 position in Billboard as the best-selling single of the week in the USA, having overtaken 'Do That to Me One More Time' by Captain & Tennille. 'Crazy Little Thing' remains at the top for four weeks, before being knocked out by Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall'.
    • May:
      • Monday 12th: 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' is certified Gold in the USA for having sold a million copies.
      • Saturday 17th: Album mastered from the Musicland mixes.
      • Friday 30th: The lead single, 'Play the Game' / 'A Human Body', is released in the UK.
    • Monday 30th June: Album released in the UK, the same day the tour kicks off in Canada.
    • Saturday 19th July: On the day of Brian's 33th birthday, The Game becomes Queen's third album in reaching No 1 on the British Charts, overtaking Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones; two weeks later, it'd be replaced by Deepest Purple: The Very Best of Deep Purple.
    • Friday 25th July: The Game is certified Silver and Gold in the UK for having sold 60,000 and 100,000 copies, respectively, in that territory.
    • Friday 22nd August: 'Another One Bites the Dust' is released as the sophomore single. The B-Side is 'Dragon Attack' on the EMI disc and 'Don't Try Suicide' in Elektra territories.
    • Monday 15th September: The Game is certified Gold in America for having earned a million dollars in sales in that country.
    • Saturday 20th September: The Game reaches the top of the Billboard Hot 200, becoming the band's first No 1 album in the USA, overtaking Jackson Browne's Hold Out; after five weeks, it's replaced by Barbra Streisand's Guilty.
    • Wednesday 1st October: 'Another One Bites the Dust' is certified Gold in the USA for having sold a million copies in that territory; that same day, The Game is certified Platinum in that same territory, also for having sold a million copies.
    • Saturday 4th October: 'Another One Bites the Dust' replaces Diana Ross' 'Upside Down' on top of the Billboard Hot 100. After three weeks, it's overtaken by Barbra Streisand's 'Woman in Love'.
    • Tuesday 25th November: 'Another One Bites the Dust' is certified Platinum in the USA for having sold two million copies in that territory.
  • 2002:
    • Thursday 14th November: The Game is certified 4 x Platinum in the USA for having sold four million copies there.
  • 2017:
    • Monday 14th August: 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' is certified Platinum in the USA for having sold a million (digital) copies there.

Documented Recording Venue

  • Musicland Studios in the Arabella House basement, Munich, Bavaria 81925, Federal Republic of Germany.

Documented Personnel

  • Performers:
    • The band:
      • John Deacon: Electric bass, acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic piano, analogue synthesiser.
      • Brian May: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic piano, analogue synthesiser.
      • Frederick Mercury: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic piano, acoustic guitar, analogue synthesiser.
      • Roger Taylor: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic drums, electric guitar, analogue synthesiser, additional percussion.
    • Guest musicians:
      • Andrew Gibb: Backing vocals.
      • Reinhold Mack: Analogue synthesiser.
  • Studio Crew:
    • Reinhold Mack: Deputy producer, chief engineer.
  • Technical Crew:
    • Peter Hince: Equipment supervision.
    • Christopher Taylor: Equipment supervision.
    • Brian Zellis: Equipment supervision.

Documented Instruments

  • Acoustic Guitars:
    • Hallfredh: Possibly for the first 'Sail Away Sweet Sister' solo.
    • Martin D-18: Probably 'Need Your Loving Tonight'.
    • Martin D-35: Probably 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', possibly 'Don't Try Suicide' and 'Save Me'.
    • Tokai Hummingbird F-120: Possibly used somewhere, though not necessarily.
  • Electric Basses:
    • Fender Precisions:
      • 1955 Masterbuilt: John confirmed having used it in West Germany on one of the tracks (didn't specify which one).
      • 196?: John had two, in natural finish, which he used as his main ones.
    • Non-Fenders:
      • Kramer DMZ: Possibly merely a spare, but he could've also used it somewhere.
      • Music Man Stingray: 'Another One Bites the Dust', and possibly something else as well.
  • Electric Guitars:
    • BHM Bespoke: Brian's main one.
    • Birch Bespoke: Brian's main spare.
    • Fender Esquire: 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' solo.
    • Fender Stratocaster & Fender Telecaster: 'Another One Bites the Dust' and, possibly, either one or both of Roger's songs.
    • Guild S-300: Possibly used for either one or both of Roger's songs.
  • Keyboards:
    • Oberheim OB-X Analogue Synthesiser: 'Play the Game', 'Another One Bites the Dust', 'Sail Away Sweet Sister', 'Coming Soon' and 'Rock It'.
    • Sauter Upright Piano: Housed at the studio, unlikely to have been used on the record, but there's always a slight chance it's in there somewhere...
    • Yamaha C-7 7' 5" Acoustic Piano: Used - most likely - on five tracks.
  • Percussion:
    • Ludwig Bespoke Acoustic Drums: Roger's main.
    • Pollard Syndrum Electric Drums: 'Another One Bites the Dust'.
    • Premier New Era Tambourine: 'Dragon Attack'.
    • Premier New Era Tubular Bells: 'Sail Away Sweet Sister'.
    • Trixon Acoustic Drums: Possibly mostly a spare, but he could've also used them somewhere.

Documented Studio Equipment

  • Microphones:
    • AKG (Various Models).
      • C-414: Reportedly, this was the main microphone used for Frederick's vocals. It was a big change from what he was used to, as before the 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' sessions he'd tended to prefer the Neumann U-87 for his voice, but Reinhold Mack suggested a new approach.
    • Beyerdynamic (Unknown Models).
    • Neumann (Various Models).
    • Sennheiser (Various Models).
    • Shure (Unknown Models).
    • Sony (Various Models).
  • Sundry Equipment:
    • AKG Echo Chambers.
    • Audio Kinetics Synchroniser.
    • Cadac Monitors.
    • EMT 140 Plate Reverb.
    • Helios 2424 Mixing Console.
    • Scott TC-2440 Equaliser.
    • Studer 24-Track Analogue Tape Recorder.

Myths, Legends & Ongoing Debates

  • Off the Wall: People seem to love making stuff up, so it's long been rumoured that John had actually penned 'Another One Bites the Dust' for Michael Jackson's 1978 album Off the Wall. There's absolutely no evidence whatsoever to even remotely suggest that. As far as it's been documented, Michael heard the song when it was released on the album and then suggested it as a single, that was all.
  • 'Play the Duet': Because of broken telephone (political correctness keeps me from calling it 'Chinese whispers'), Andrew Gibb's guest role on 'Play the Game' has been, in people's minds, expanded, from backing vocals alongside Roger, Brian and Frederick, to a bona fide duet, even though there's nothing to indicate that other than wishful thinking.
  • Roger vs Synthesisers: Despite what's shown in the biopic, Roger was actually the one who turned them into synths, and the OB-X they used on the album was his.