Life is Real

Hot Space
Queen
Released 3 May 1982
Recorded June - July 1981, December 1981 - March 1982 at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland and Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany
Genre Rock
Length 43:29
Language English
Label EMI/Parlophone (Europe)
Elektra, Hollywood (US)
Producer Queen, Arif Mardin, Mack, David Bowie
Queen chronology

Flash Gordon
(1980)
Hot Space
(1982)
The Works
(1984)
Singles from Hot Space
  1. "Under Pressure"
    Released: 26 October 1981
  2. "Body Language"
    Released: 19 April 1982
  3. "Las Palabras de Amor"
    Released: 1 June 1982
  4. "Calling All Girls"
    Released: 31 July 1982 (US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand only)
  5. "Staying Power"
    Released: July 1982 (Japan, US only)
  6. "Back Chat"
    Released: 9 August 1982
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[1]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[2]
Stylus (favourable)[3]
The Washington Post (favourable)[4]

Hot Space is the tenth studio album by British rock band Queen, released in May 1982. Marking a notable shift in direction from their earlier work, they employed many elements of disco, pop music, R&B and dance music on the album, being partially influenced by the success of their 1980 hit "Another One Bites the Dust".[5] This made the album less popular with fans who preferred the traditional rock style they had come to associate with the band.[1]

Queen's decision to record a dance-oriented album germinated with the massive success in the US of "Another One Bites the Dust" (and to a lesser extent, the UK success of the song too).[5] The album's second single, "Body Language", did peak at #11 on the US charts.

"Under Pressure", Queen's collaboration with David Bowie, was released in 1981 and became the band's second #1 hit in the UK.[6] The song was a separate project and recorded ahead of the album, before the controversy over Queen's new sound (disco-influenced rock music).[7]

In July 2004, Q magazine listed Hot Space as one of the top fifteen albums where great rock acts lost the plot.[8] Most of the album was recorded in Munich during the most turbulent period in the band's history, and Roger Taylor and Brian May lamented the new sound, with both being very critical of the influence Freddie Mercury's manager Paul Prenter had on the singer.[9] Estimated sales of the album currently stand at five million copies.

Album styles and genres

Before 1979, Queen had a "no synthesiser" policy on their albums (because people would confuse Brian May's multi-tracked guitar effects with synthesisers).[10] Beginning with The Game album, Queen began using Oberheim OB-X synthesisers on their songs ("Play the Game" and "Save Me" are examples), and continued to do so. On Hot Space the band went even further, introducing the drum machine for the first time. A departure from their trademark seventies sound, most of Hot Space is a mixture of funk, funk-rock, dance, disco and R&B – while the "rock" songs continued in a pop-rock direction similar to their previous album (an exception is the song "Put Out the Fire").[2][5] Disliking the new sound, May and Roger Taylor were very critical of the influence that Paul Prenter, Freddie Mercury's personal manager between the early 1980s and 1984, had on the singer.[9] Prenter allegedly denied the other members access to Mercury, often taking him out of recording sessions early to go out to gay clubs.

Song information

Staying Power

Main article: Staying Power

The horn arrangement for "Staying Power" was added by Arif Mardin (who also produced Chaka Khan and added horn sections to Bee Gees and Aretha Franklin records).[11] "Staying Power" would be performed on the band's accompanying Hot Space Tour, albeit much faster and heavier, with real drums replacing the drum machine and guitars and keyboards replacing the horns (this arrangement contained no actual bass guitar, as John Deacon played guitar in addition to May; the bass sound for this arrangement was played on a Roland Jupiter 8 keyboard by Mercury). It was also played on Queen's The Works Tour, albeit less frequently than on the Hot Space Tour. In Japan, the band released "Staying Power" as a single in July 1982. The song was also issued as a single in the US in November 1982. It failed to chart in either country. Mardin's contributions were recorded in New York. The original demo of the track featured a guitar instead of horns.

Dancer

The bassline of "Dancer" was played on a synthesiser (an Oberheim OB-Xa) by May. The song itself – a fusion of rock and disco – is something of a follow-up to "Dragon Attack" from the band's 1980 album The Game in that it fuses heavy elements of music with danceable ones, as Led Zeppelin did.[11] The phone message at the end of "Dancer" is in German, and was recorded in a hotel room in Munich; it roughly translates to "good morning, this is your wake-up call". The lyrics of "Dancer" are also notable for being the only ones on the album that make reference to the album title itself.[12]

Back Chat

Main article: Back Chat

"Back Chat", written by Deacon, is the track most influenced by black music. In addition to normal bass duties, Deacon also plays rhythm guitar, electric piano and synthesiser on the song. As a single, it stalled at #40 on the UK charts. On the video commentary on Greatest Video Hits 2, Taylor made it clear that he hates the music video for it.

Body Language

"Body Language" is atypical among Queen songs, being the sole single released by the band that does not include guitar (save for during the closing strains, which are made more prominent throughout the 1991 remix). Mercury, who composed the song on synth bass, had previously explored the instrument's potential with his contributions to the Flash Gordon soundtrack.[13] The "Body Language" video, featuring scantily clad models writhing around each other, proved somewhat controversial and was banned in a few territories. The song also appeared in the 1984 documentary film Stripper, being performed to by one of the dancers.

Action This Day

"Action This Day", one of two Roger Taylor songs that appear on the album, was clearly influenced by the New Wave movement/style current at the time; the track is driven by a pounding electronic drum machine in 2/4 time and features a saxophone-like synthesiser solo, played by producer Mack on an Oberheim OB-Xa. "Action This Day" takes its title from a Winston Churchill catchphrase that the statesman would attach to urgent documents, and recapitulates the theme of social awareness that Taylor espoused in many of his songs. The band performed "Action This Day" live on the Hot Space Tour with a more conventional arrangement, replacing the drum machine and bass synth with a rock rhythm section. The verse are duets between Taylor and Mercury, and the chorus is sung by both.

  • YouTube

Put Out the Fire

"Put Out the Fire" is an anti-firearm song written by May, with lead vocals by Mercury, with May singing lead vocals in falsetto at the end of each verse. May recorded its guitar solo under the influence of alcohol (after many unsuccessful attempts).[13] The lyrics to the first verse strongly hint to John Lennon's murder by Mark Chapman, with lines such as;

"They called him a hero" (Lennon), "In the land of the free" (the west/America), "But he wouldn't shake my hand boy" (uncertain, but Lennon did sign Chapman's record), "He disappointed me", (Chapman was apparently disappointed with Lennon's rejection of God and/or his latest music), "So I got my hand gun, And I blew him away". Lennon's death was recent and raw for many people including fans such as Queen, (the Beatles were a big influence on Queen) and the Mercury penned song "Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)" preceding immediately after is no coincidence.

Though never released as a single, "Put Out the Fire", the album's most 'traditional' Queen song, later appeared on the Queen Rocks compilation in 1997. A new video was also produced for the accompanying video compilation, featuring a live performance of the song intercut with footage of fire and explosions.

Life Is Real (Song for Lennon)

Mercury wrote "Life Is Real" as a tribute to John Lennon, whose murder in 1980 had also previously prompted the band to perform his song "Imagine" on tour. Like Lennon's songs, "Life Is Real" features a sparse piano-based arrangement and a melancholy tone. It is also one of the few Queen songs whose lyrics were written before the music ("Killer Queen" being another). The title may be a reference to the lyric "love is real", from Lennon's 1970 song "Love", or the line "nothing is real", from The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever".It begins with three bell-like piano notes, meant to recall the opening bells in Lennon's "(Just Like) Starting Over", and "Beautiful Boy". Also, the first two words, "Guilt stains..." are virtually identical interval-wise (though in a different key) to Lennon's first two notes in his song, "Mother".

Calling All Girls

Main article: Calling All Girls

The first Roger Taylor song (however with Mercury on vocals) to be released as a single (albeit in selected countries, including the US and Australia, but not the UK), "Calling All Girls" failed to create much of an impact on the charts where it peaked at #60 in the US and #33 in Canada, despite its music video based on the George Lucas film THX 1138. Taylor composed "Calling All Girls" on guitar, and played the feedback noises during the song's break.[13] Queen never performed the song in Europe, and a live recording from Japan in 1982 is commercially available on the Queen on Fire - Live at the Bowl DVD, where "Calling All Girls" accompanies the photo gallery. The single was released in July 1982.

Las Palabras de Amor (The Words of Love)

Main article: Las Palabras de Amor

May's lyrics for "Las Palabras de Amor" were inspired by Queen's close relationship with their Ibero-American fans, and have been interpreted as an allegory for the Falklands War.[11] (Actually, the album was released during the war, and must have been recorded long before the war started). A top 20 hit in the UK, "Las Palabras de Amor" marked the band's fourth appearance on Top of the Pops (the first, second and third being for "Seven Seas of Rhye", "Killer Queen" and "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy"). For this mimed performance May is seen playing a grand piano though on the recording there are only synths (played by May). May also sang lead vocals for the harmonised line "this night and evermore".

Cool Cat

"Cool Cat", written by Mercury and Deacon, originally featured David Bowie on backing vocals and a few lines of spoken word to a rhythm during the middle eight. According to Mercury in a 1982 television interview, Bowie was unhappy with the results and requested them to be removed. All the instruments are played by Deacon, including the drums, guitars and synths. On the album version, Mercury sings the entire song in falsetto.[14] The alternate take with Bowie's vocals still intact is widely available on various bootleg recordings[15] and surfaces from an early 1982 vinyl Hot Space test pressing from the US. This is also the only Queen studio track on which Deacon uses the popping technique.

Under Pressure

Main article: Under Pressure

A now famous duet with Bowie, "Under Pressure" was the result of an impromptu jam session in the band's studio in Montreux.[7] When it was released in 1981, "Under Pressure" reached #1 in the UK singles chart.[6] Mercury was the primary director of this track, with he and Bowie as the main lyricists (each writing the lines they sang). Part of the chord progression is based on a rough demo of an unreleased song "Feel Like".[16] The songwriting is credited to all five participants.

Track listing

Side one
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Staying Power"  Freddie Mercury 4:10
2. "Dancer"  Brian May 3:46
3. "Back Chat"  John Deacon 4:31
4. "Body Language"  Mercury 4:29
5. "Action This Day"  Roger Taylor 3:33
Side two
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Put Out the Fire"  May 3:15
2. "Life Is Real (Song for Lennon)"  Mercury 3:39
3. "Calling All Girls"  Taylor 3:53
4. "Las Palabras de Amor (The Words of Love)"  May 4:26
5. "Cool Cat"  Deacon, Mercury 3:26
6. "Under Pressure" (with David Bowie)David Bowie, Deacon, May, Mercury, Taylor 4:02

Reception

Due to its heavily noticeable dance-pop sound, Hot Space is widely considered by both fans and critics to be one of Queen's most artistically disappointing albums.[17] Stephen Erlewine of All Music.cm said of the album: "The band that once proudly proclaimed not to use synthesizers on their albums has suddenly, dramatically reversed course, devoting the entire first side of the album to robotic, new wave dance-pop, all driven by drum machines and colored by keyboards, with Brian May's guitar coming in as flavor only on occasion." Alex Petridis of The Guardian gave the album two stars and said: "Like Queen, disco was melodramatic, unrepentantly camp, extravagantly arranged and omnivorous in its influences. Or at least it had been. By the time of 1982's Hot Space, disco had mutated into the weird, skeletal, dubby electronic sound pioneered by DJ Larry Levan, which really didn't suit Queen at all." Despite the negative reception to the album, hardcore fans of the band agree that the live versions of the Hot Space songs sound better than on the actual album such as on the 2004 live album Queen On Fire: Live at the Bowl which had live versions of "Staying Power", "Back Chat" and "Action This Day". Michael Jackson, who was close friends with the band during the time, later cited Hot Space as an influence for his own blockbuster album Thriller.[18][19]

Charts

Personnel

Additional personnel

Miscellaneous

References

External links

  • Queen official website: Discography: Hot Space: includes lyrics of all non-bonus tracks except "Put Out the Fire" and "Under Pressure".
  • Other lyrics at Queen official website: Greatest Hits III)
  • YouTube
Preceded by
Tug of War by Paul McCartney
Dutch Mega Chart number-one album
22 May 1982
Succeeded by
Select by Kim Wilde
Preceded by
Eye in the Sky by The Alan Parsons Project
Austrian Chart number-one album
1 June 1982
Succeeded by
Neuzeit by Various artists