Vodka, fast cars, wild parties, the rock star lifestyle, blonde hair, blue eyes, a successful career, and three children and a go kart track in the back garden: it's the type of life many of us dream about, but this is how you find Roger Meddows-Taylor.
Roger Taylor is best known for being the drummer from Queen, which isn't an entirely bad thing to be known for. He was born on 26 July, 1949 in Norfolk, England; later he and his family moved to Cornwall, where he began his music career by singing in the school choir. In the early 1960s he took up playing the guitar and later moved on to playing drums. Roger started playing in a number of school bands and he soon became known as a drummer/vocalist. However music was not something considered a priority by his parents, and so, when he left school in 1967, in accordance with his parents wishes, he went into dentistry. Then he changed to biology a year later.
Roger's ulterior motive for following his parents advice and moving to London was to get into the London music scene. He answered an ad for a Ginger Baker type drummer; and thus he joined the band Smile with Tim Staffel and (Queen member to be) Brian May. Smile enjoyed some success. They were signed to Mercury Records and recorded some songs, which were released in Japan. One of these songs, 'Doing All Right', was included on the first Queen album.
Unfortunately, Smile wasn't to last; their record label dropped them and the band members, disheartened and unable to depend on the band for money, started to go their separate ways. Roger started a second-hand stall with the band's friend, Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara), which they ran for around a year and a half.
The end of Smile came in 1970 when Tim Staffell left. Freddie had wanted to join the band for a while and now had the opportunity. He became the band's vocalist, in accompaniment to Brian's guitar and Roger's drums. They changed the name of the band to Queen and advertised for a bassist. John Deacon joined Queen as the perfect fourth man.
For a couple of years Queen played small gigs. They developed their own image and style and started to play more and more of their own stuff. In 1972, they got a break of sorts: in return for testing equipment, they were given the opportunity to record some songs. Although the reaction to these tapes in general wasn't that good, they managed to sign a deal with Trident Studios and EMI. In July 1973, the new band's first album, Queen, was released.
Roger, although playing drums, still continued his vocal career. His voice can clearly be heard on the band's first single 'Keep Yourself Alive' (included on their first album) and sung by Freddie. Also included on that first album was 'Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll', the first song to have been written and sung by Roger. There would be at least one song credited to Roger on every Queen album until The Miracle in 1989, when all the songs would be credited to Queen. Perhaps one of his more famous songs was 'I'm In Love With My Car', the B-side to 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which he would also sing at concerts. Roger sang all his own songs until the beginning of the 1980s, when Freddie started to sing them instead. When asked why, Roger replied, 'dunno'.
Roger released his first solo single in 1977, 'Wanna Testify', which he payed for from his own pocket but it never did well in the charts. However this did not stop him; in 1981, he released his first solo album Fun In Space. The album reached number 18 in the charts, the most popular single reaching number 49... not bad considering Queen had only been around for four years and, being hidden behind a drum kit, he wouldn't have been as easily recognized as Freddie, Brian, or John. His second solo album Strange Frontier came in 1984 and included covers of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen; it got to number 30. It is worth mentioning that, although Roger may not have made a huge impact with his solo work, he was the first Queen member to really do anything outside the band. It wasn't until 1983 that another member would have a go.
As well as performing with Queen and his solo work, Roger also worked with other musicians over the years. He played drums for a number of people, including Gary Numan, Elton John, Jimmy Nail and Shakin' Stevens. He has also been involved in the production end of the record business. Although Roger had a rich recording life away from Queen, the band always came first.
Roger's song writing ability proved a major hit in 1984, when his 'Radio Ga Ga' number, on The Works album, reached number 2 in the charts. This song came about after watching MTV while on tour in America, when his 3 year old son happened to say 'radio poo poo'. His biggest hit came in 1986 when the band were asked to do the sound track for the film Highlander. After seeing a rough cut of what had been recorded of the film so far, the band went home to start writing; and Roger came up with 'Its a Kind of Magic', a phrase taken from a line in the film. Although, when Freddie got hold of it, he changed it around a little... 'The rotter'. The single inspired the title of the live album, Live Magic, and even a documentary about the band called The Magic Years. It is widely considered to be one of the best songs in Queen's recording history.
Queen had gone from strength to strength, constantly touring and producing an album every year, arguably becoming one of the greatest bands ever. This was until 1986, when Freddie strangely announced that he no longer wanted to tour, and it wasn't until much later that it emerged that he had contracted HIV, which sadly led to his death on 24 November, 1991.
Due to Queen's lessening work load in 1987, Roger started to put together his own band called The Cross. Roger played guitar and did vocals. Their first album, Shove It, was entirely penned by Roger. The next two, however, were more of a band effort, similar to the Queen albums. Shove It came out in 1988, and included 'Heaven For Everyone', guest vocal by Freddie Mercury. It was later used on the post Freddie Queen album, Made In Heaven. It didn't make much of an impression, staying at number 58 for two weeks. Not one to be disheartened, Roger enjoyed getting back to the old days, trying to make it, doing small gigs, travelling in the backs of vans and such. In 1990, The Cross released their second album Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know and followed it with a small German tour. A third album came in 1991, called Blue Rock. After five years and three albums, Roger brought The Cross to an end after a final concert in 1992.
The End Of Queen
With the death of Freddie in 1991, Roger announced a tribute concert to take place the following year. It featured a great number of acts including, Metallica, Elton John, Guns 'n Roses, George Michael, and David Bowie, to name a few. It was a huge success, in fact, the 72,000 tickets sold out in just six hours.
Although Queen couldn't really continue after Freddie died, Roger, Brian, and John worked together again, and a new Queen album was released in 1995. Made In Heaven utilised some of the last material Queen were working on, and with it a few reworked solo songs. The album title, taken from a solo song of Freddie's (also on the album), fitted wonderfully with the style and feel of the album, and with the finished pieces, it created the perfect final 'new' Queen album.
The first and only Queen song recorded without Freddie Mercury came when Roger was handed a tape from Brian May of a song they could possibly work on along with John Deacon, 'No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)', a last song in memory of Freddie. It was released as a single and also appeared on the Queen Rocks compilation album in '97. It was also featured on the Queen Greatest Hits III album that came out in 1999.
In 1994, Roger brought out his third solo album, Happiness. The material in this album comes from a more personal viewpoint, from Rogers dislikes, such as 'Nazis '94' and 'Dear Mr Murdoch', to the melancholy of 'Loneliness' and his message to Freddie, 'Old Friends'. The album is dedicated to the Tasmanian Tiger... 'but most especially for Freddie'.
The latest Roger Taylor album (to date) came out in '98. Electric Fire, the fourth solo album continued in the same style as his last, with 'A Nation Of Haircuts' and 'People On Streets', which was taken from a line in the Queen/David Bowie song 'Under Pressure'; it also included a cover of John Lennon's 'Working Class Hero'.
Despite rumours that Roger has been looking for a new band, he is at least as likely to continue his solo career, and there is always speculation of Queen getting back together to tour and possibly record. Quite how this would happen without Freddie is uncertain. With a recording history like Roger's, it would be hard to keep him quiet for long.