For a self-described “frustrated guitarist” whose parents had wished pursued a more sensible vocation (he earned a degree in Biology) than one in the unpredictable world of rock and roll, Roger Taylor steadfastly followed his own path both in Queen and as a solo artist, carving out a formidable 40+ year career of musical adventures on his own terms.
With Queen, Taylor was 1/4 of a vital partnership, equal parts combustibility and creative invention. He was the band’s resident rocker penning such metallic finery as Modern Times Rock n’ Roll, Sheer Heart Attack, I’m In Love with My Car and One Vision. Yet he could also surprise with his versatility as a songsmith with Radio Ga Ga (techno-rock), Rock It (Prime Jive) (funk), A Kind of Magic (pop R&B) and the grandiose power ballad These Are the Days of Our Lives.
His mastery of myriad styles and idioms would carry over to his solo career; the first fruits of his solo pursuits outside of Queen came in 1977 with the one-off single, I Wanna Testify, a reworking of The Parliaments’ 1967 original single.
Four years later came Fun in Space, Taylor’s first full fledged solo album. From there, Taylor balanced his work with Queen with his extracurricular musical pursuits. over the next two decades four solo albums followed in its wake, Strange Frontier, Happiness?, Electric Fire and Fun on Earth along with three albums by off-shoot band, The Cross.
Out now are two career spanning collections showcasing the expansive stylistic breadth of Taylor’s artistry, Roger Taylor: Best, an 18-track career overview, and The Lot, a lavish 12-CD and 1 DVD presentation culling all of Taylor’s solo albums and work with The Cross plus discs rounding up all available singles and remixes. A bonus DVD features a collection of promo videos, live clips and more.
And all the while Queen, dutifully shepherded by Taylor and guitarist Brian May, rolls on with its eye on both the past, present and future–the band is currently on tour with vocalist Adam Lambert.
Years in the making, the long-awaited Live at the Rainbow ’74 CD/DVD set has finally been released to universal acclaim.
Meanwhile, Queen Forever, a new compilation album, hit streets in November, the addition of three previously unreleased tracks adding to its allure, There Must Be More to Life Than This, Let Me in Your Heart Again and a bare-bones rendition of the Freddie Mercury solo track, Love Kills. Against this whirlwind of activity, we corralled the legendary drummer on a rare day off to revisit his storied past.
Rock Cellar Magazine: At what point did you realize you’d made it as a musician and that you’d never have to go back working in the clothing stall at the Kensington Market in London?
Roger Taylor: (laughs) Oh, that question is so hard, it’s difficult to answer. I imagine I felt we’d finally cracked it when we had our first hit with Killer Queen, I would say. That was when that moment hit me. Although you convince yourself you’ve made it early on, it all comes down to if you don’t have faith and you don’t imagine that you’re more successful than you actually are then you probably wouldn’t have the impetus to go on.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Your parents initially had different ideas for you in hopes of you pursuing a serious and sensible career, when did they accept and warm up to you having a career in music?
Roger Taylor: My parents were very separate; they lived separately for a lot of my life. But they were supportive, really. I remember my Dad got me this very ancient second hand half a drum kit when I was really young, like 12 years old. He was very supportive of that but I don’t think either of my parents ever thought I’d do it for a living. But my mother put up with it during my teenage years.
I always was in bands. But my parents never really thought I could actually make a living at it. I guess when Bohemian Rhapsody was number one for so long in the UK was a turning point. I remember that my mom came to see a Queen show that we did and Bohemian Rhapsody went to number one that day and I think she was finally convinced then, it was like “he’s obviously doing this.”
Rock Cellar Magazine: She didn’t have to worry about you anymore.