Hot Space is by far the most often discussed album by the band. It comes up quite a lot, as well as some recurring debates: whether or not it was worth the risk (it's debatable), whether or not it was groundbreaking (it wasn't), whether or not John Deacon liked it (he didn't). There's also, of course, 'Under Pressure', which comes up quite a lot for obvious reasons...
It was both started off and finished in Munich, with some brief sessions in Montreux and New York in the middle, and it was the first one to include drum computers (aka drum machines) as well as synth-generated bass, which largely diminished Roger's and John's input. Brian, who's often thought of as a victim, didn't see his role reduced too much, even though it's true there's not so much epic soloing compared to albums before or since, but he still played loads of guitar (lead and rhythm), sang a lot of multi-tracked backing vocals, did some programming, played piano and synthesiser and contributed more material than both John and Roger.
They were still using 24-track technology at the time, though live backing tracks weren't anywhere as common as in the seventies. Drum machines were instead used a lot (especially for the first side) and overdubs were synchronised. There were quite a few guest performers throughout these sessions: David Bowie (piano, vocals, saxophone, percussion, synthesiser and perhaps even organ), David Richards (piano), Agostino Solera (saxophones) and six uncredited horn players.
Very little's been documented precisely regarding sessions or equipment. There's some contemporary information thanks to the Official International Queen Fan Club magazine but it barely mentions mics or consoles or tape recorders. Reinhold Mack was interviewed by Barry Promane for his PhD dissertation and some details came from there.
No known footage from those sessions released so far. The bit of someone (presumably Roger) playing a guitar in the studio and Frederick with a yellow shirt included in the 2011 Days of Our Lives documentary actually comes from the Live Killers era.
Some photographs were published in Peter Hince's book Queen Unseen (2011) and some others have circulated online, including one of Brian playing a synthesiser at Mountain Studios in Montreux (he may have been, presumably, working on 'Las Palabras de Amor' as 'Dancer' reportedly didn't exist at that point).
The 24-track for 'Under Pressure' leaked online in October 2019. Ten years before that, stems for that piece had been cracked from Guitar Hero 5 (Tuesday 1st September 2009) and from Rock Band - Downloadable Track Pack (Tuesday 20th October 2009).
- June: Frederick announces, via a letter to the Fan Club, that recording sessions are due to begin in Munich at the end of the month. He also admits he's started smoking by then.
- July/August: Recording sessions either begin at or move to Mountain Studios in Montreux. Songs confirmed to have been at least partially recorded at this point are the entire second side.
- Friday 11th September: 'People on Streets' finished off at the Power Station in New York and mixed by David Bowie, Frederick Mercury and Reinhold Mack. The song is later retitled 'Under Pressure'.
- Monday 21st September - Saturday 5th December: No recordings. Band travelling around Venezuela (touring), America (holidays, business meetings, etc), Mexico (touring), Canada (touring) and England (homecoming).
- Sunday 6th - Monday 21st: Recording sessions at Musicland in Munich.
- Tuesday 22nd: Temporary break for Xmas holidays.
- Monday 18th: John and Roger travel to West Germany and continue working on the album.
- Saturday 23rd: Brian and Frederick join their bandmates in Munich.
- February - March: Recording sessions at Musicland in Munich.
- Monday 19th April: The lead single, 'Body Language' / 'Life Is Real', is released in the UK.
- Wednesday 12th May: The album, yet unreleased, has enough pre-orders to be certified Silver and Gold in the UK, for having already sold 60,000 and 100,000 copies, respectively.
- Friday 21st May: Hot Space is released in Britain.
- Monday 12th July: Hot Space is certified Gold in America, for having earned a million dollars in sales in that territory.
Documented Recording Venues
- Atlantic Studios on 1841 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City, New York 10023, United States of America.
- Mountain Studios in the Casino Barrière on 9 Theatre Road, Montreux, Vaud 1820, Swiss Confederation.
- Musicland Studios in the Arabella House basement, Munich, Bavaria 81925, Federal Republic of Germany.
- Power Station on 441 West 53rd Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York 10019, United States of America.
- The band:
- John Deacon: Electric bass, electric guitars, analogue synthesiser, drum computer, additional percussion, clavinet.
- Brian May: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic piano, analogue synthesiser, drum computer, additional percussion.
- Frederick Mercury: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic piano, analogue synthesiser, drum computer, additional percussion.
- Roger Taylor: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric drums, electric guitar, analogue synthesiser, drum computer, electric bass (?), acoustic piano (?), additional percussion.
- Guest musicians:
- David Bowie: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic piano, electric organ, analogue synthesiser, baritone saxophone, additional percussion.
- David Richards: Acoustic piano.
- Agostino Solera: Saxophones.
- Unknown: French horns.
- Studio Crew:
- David Bowie: Deputy producer ('Under Pressure').
- Reinhold Mack: Deputy producer, chief engineer.
- Arif Mardin: Deputy producer ('Staying Power').
- David Richards: Assistant engineer (Mountain).
- Stephan Wissnet: Assistant engineer (Musicland).
- Technical Crew:
- Peter Freestone: Equipment supervision.
- Peter Hince: Equipment supervision.
- Christopher Taylor: Equipment supervision.
- Brian Zellis: Equipment supervision.
- Acoustic Guitars:
- Martin D-18: John's, and possibly Brian's.
- Ovation Elite: Possibly Roger's.
- Ovation Pacemaker: Brian's, but unlikely to have been used in the studio.
- Tokai Hummingbird F-120: Possibly used by Brian.
- Electric Basses:
- Fender Precisions:
- 1955 Masterbuilt: Possibly mostly a spare, but he could've also used it somewhere.
- 196?: John had two, both in natural finish. They were his main basses, and he most likely used either one of them (or both, alternating) for most (though not all) of the album.
- 1981 Special: 'Under Pressure'.
- Kramer DMZ: Most likely just a spare, but he could've also used it somewhere.
- Music Man Stingray: Possibly 'Back Chat'.
- Electric Guitars:
- Baldwin Double-Six: 'Under Pressure' (rhythm).
- BHM Bespoke: Main.
- Birch Bespoke: Spare.
- Fender Stratocaster.
- Fender Telecaster.
- Fender Esquire.
- Fender Stratocaster.
- Fender Telecaster.
- Guild S-300.
- Hammond B-3 Electric Organ: 'Under Pressure'.
- Hohner D-6 Clavinet: 'Cool Cat'.
- Roland Jupiter 8 Analogue Synthesiser: Most of the album ('Put Out the Fire' and 'Calling All Girls' being the only exceptions).
- Steinway B 6' 10" Acoustic Piano: 'Under Pressure', and possibly 'Life Is Real'.
- Yamaha C-7 7' 5" Acoustic Piano: 'Las Palabras de Amor', 'Action This Day'.
- Acoustic Drums:
- Gretsch: Spare at Mountain.
- Ludwig Bespoke: Main.
- Trixon: Spare at Musicland.
- Premier New Era Maracas: 'Put Out the Fire'.
- Simmons SDS-V Electric Drums: 'Action This Day'.
- Selmer Baritone: 'Under Pressure'.
- Unknown Alto & Tenor: 'Action This Day'.
Documented Studio Equipment
- Mixing Consoles:
- Helios 2424: Musicland.
- Neve 8078: Mountain.
- AKG (Various Models).
- C-12: Sometimes used for vocals at Mountain.
- C-414: Reportedly, this was the main microphone used for Frederick's vocals at both Mountain and Musicland.
- Beyerdynamic (Unknown Models).
- Neumann (Various Models).
- Sennheiser (Various Models).
- Shure (Unknown Models).
- Sony (Various Models).
- Sundry Equipment:
- AKG Echo Chambers: Musicland.
- Audio Kinetics Synchroniser: Musicland.
- Cadac Monitors: Musicland.
- EMT 140 Plate Reverb: Musicland.
- Linn LM-1 Drum Computer.
- Scott TC-2440 Equaliser: Musicland.
- Studer 24-Track Analogue Tape Recorder: Musicland, Mountain.
Myths, Legends & Ongoing Debates:
- Breaking New Grounds: Most Hot Space apologists tend to defend it by saying Queen did something completely different here. Not quite: they capitalised on something they'd already done and which had worked. The concept of focusing on rhythm and not having too many simultaneous overdubs had been around since News of the World and had been further explored on The Game. Both News and The Game were arguably much better records and sold way, way more.
- John Deacon's Triumph: John was the most funk- and disco-oriented Queen member, so it makes sense to think Hot Space was largely his idea. While the stylistic direction was largely influenced by 'Another One Bites the Dust' having been a massive hit, the truth is John wrote less, composed less, produced less and played less on this album than any of his band-mates and, more to the point, he was vocally disparaging of it as soon as it came out. Liking minimalist music doesn't equal liking all minimalist music.
- Thriller before Thriller: Desperate to defend the artistic merits of this album, some people (including one of the band members) have even claimed this was the album which inspired Michael Jackson to do Thriller. While Michael did like Queen and may have been influenced by some of their records, the timelines do not match - Thriller was released six months later but it took years in the making, and by the time Hot Space was released most of Thriller had already been written and demoed. If there was any Queen influence on Michael (or any of the other several people who contributed creatively to Thriller), it most likely came from The Game, not Hot Space. Michael was so heavily influenced by Hot Space that he failed to mention it in any of his documented interviews or on his autobiography. Odd, isn't it?
- 'You Don't Fool Me': The liner notes on Greatest Hits III claimed 'You Don't Fool Me' harked back to this album, prompting loads of people to think it actually came from these sessions. It does not: 'You Don't Fool Me' was recorded between 1991 and 1995. 'Seaside Rendezvous' harks back to the 1920's - that doesn't mean Frederick wrote it two and a half decades before having been born!