Roger Taylor (born Roger Meddows-Taylor on July 26, 1949 in Dersingham, Norfolk, later moved to Kings Lynn) is an English musician best known as the percussionist and backing, sometimes lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. As a drummer he is known for his "big" unique sound and is considered one of the most influential rock drummers of the 1970s. As a songwriter he contributed songs to the band's albums from the very beginning, composing at least one track on every album, and (in the early days) usually sang lead vocals on his own compositions. He also wrote five of the band's hits, "Radio Ga Ga", "A Kind of Magic", "The Invisible Man", "Breakthru and "These Are the Days of Our Lives". He also plays multiple instruments, including guitar, bass and keyboards, as heard on his debut solo album in which he played all instruments and sang all vocals. He has played with such artists as Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, Phil Collins, Genesis, Jimmy Nail, Elton John, Gary Numan, Shakin' Stevens, Foo Fighters, Al Stewart, Steve Vai, Yoshiki Hayashi and Bon Jovi.
Rolling Stone magazine named Taylor the 74th greatest drummer in rock music on their list of the "100 Greatest Drummers", and in 2005 he was voted the 8th greatest drummer in classic rock music history in a poll conducted by Planet Rock Radio.
Let's just say that the product of drummer Roger Meddows Taylor and bassist Deacon John is explosive, a colossal sonic volcano whose eruption maketh the earth tremble. — Gordon Fletcher - Rolling Stone 149
As a drummer, Taylor possesses several trademark sounds including a pronounced opening and closing of the hi-hat on the snare back beat for rhythmic emphasis, often a low-pitched snare and toms, and the aggressive sound of large rototoms. He has played styles such as speed metal ("Stone Cold Crazy"), progressive rock ("The Prophet's Song"), and rockabilly ("Crazy Little Thing Called Love") among others. He has also played a great deal of percussion along with his standard drum kit, the most famous being the timpani solos during live shows; he is also one of the earliest drummers to use electronic trigger pads.
In addition to his drum work, he routinely played the guitars and bass on his own songs and, during the 1980s, he formed a parallel band known as The Cross, in which he was the singer and rhythm guitarist. According to Brian May, the guitar break and feedback outro to the Queen song "Calling All Girls" was played by Taylor.
As one of the band's three vocalists, Taylor's voice is notable for its raspiness, which has been compared to Rod Stewart's. He is famous within the Queen fandom for his ability to reach very high notes (e.g. the high B-flat at the end of "Bohemian Rhapsody"'s operatic section, and the high falsetto notes (highest at A) in '39). His solo career demonstrates he was very good at the low range as well; for instance, in his cover of "I Wanna Testify," he sang all four choir parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). In some Queen tracks he recorded his voice in octaves, and in "I'm in Love with My Car" he arranged and sang all the cascading harmonies. Another fine example of his vocal talents is in the music hall-esque 'Seaside Rendezvous' where he and Freddie Mercury imitate tubas, clarinets and kazoos through mere voice manipulation. One of Taylor's other talents was his ability to play fairly complicated drum parts while singing, as can be seen in numerous Queen performances.
His compositions include the hits "Radio Ga Ga", "Heaven for Everyone" and "A Kind of Magic", as well as other tunes that did not receive as much airplay, such as "Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll" (Queen), "Tenement Funster" (Sheer Heart Attack), and "I'm in Love With My Car" (A Night at the Opera) and "Drowse" (A Day at the Races), all of which were sung by him. Taylor is notorious for an incident relating to the release of "I'm in Love With My Car". Taylor desperately wanted to include it as the B-side of "Bohemian Rhapsody", but Freddie Mercury didn't agree. Taylor locked himself in a cupboard until Mercury changed his mind. Taylor, being the composer of the B-side, acquired the same number of royalties as Mercury himself (which apparently led to argument later on in their careers). The UK #1 hit "These Are the Days of Our Lives", though credited to all the band, was actually written by Taylor, as well as "Invisible Man", "Breakthru" (except the intro), and "You Don't Fool Me" (with lyrics by Mercury). A significant portion of the lyrics in Queen's epic "Innuendo" are by Taylor, with the music by Mercury.
His first solo album, Fun In Space, was released in 1981 and did quite well. He appeared on various European TV shows to promote the single "Future Management". A few years later he would perform various tracks of the album with The Cross. After Queen finished their The Works album in 1984, Taylor worked on his second solo album Strange Frontier. Released in July 1984, it included guest appearances by bandmates Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.
After Queen finished their 1986 Magic Tour, Taylor wanted to start a new band, putting an anonymous advertisement in the newspaper hinting that he was from a famous rock band and that he was seeking other musicians. This side project, The Cross, did not turn out to be very successful. They released three albums over the six years that they existed, only having some minor success in the UK and Germany. In 1993 they split up, after performing one final gig at the Gosport Festival.
In 1994 he worked with Yoshiki Hayashi, drummer and pianist of X Japan and released the song "Foreign Sand" and a reworking of The Cross' "Final Destination," which was a minor hit in the UK. The album Happiness? - dedicated to Freddie Mercury - got positive reviews around the world and Taylor promoted it with his first solo-tour through Europe, mainly performing in the UK and Italy. A single from the album, "Nazis 1994," was banned by BBC Radio 1 and several stores for its controversial lyrics. Nonetheless, "Nazis 1994" became Taylor's first hit single in England and was followed by two other Top 40 U.K. hits, "Happiness" and "Foreign Sand."
In 1998 he released his most recent offering, Electric Fire. To promote it, he did one of the first Internet-gigs - for which he got a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. The album spawned two singles: "Pressure On" and a remix of "Surrender", though neither set the charts alight.
His first album came in 1981 in the form of Fun In Space. Taylor played all the instruments and sang everything on the album, apart from about 50% of the keyboards, which were done by engineer David Richards.
With Queen still touring heavily and recording at the time of release, it was impossible for Taylor to promote the album to its fullest extent, so Taylor appeared on some European TV shows to promote the single, "Future Management", including Top Of The Pops. The only other single to come from the album was "My Country". The only single released from the album in the U.S. was "Let's Get Crazy".
His next venture came in 1984 when, after Mercury rejected a lot of his songs for the Queen album, The Works, he realized he had more than enough for an album. The album became Strange Frontier. The three singles from the album were the title track, "Beautiful Dreams" (in Portugal only) and "Man On Fire", the latter becoming a live favourite for him in later years. No attempts to promote the singles were made, Queen toured to promote 1984's The Works album, which made a Strange Frontier tour impossible, and Taylor didn't perform on any TV shows. The cover of the album is a 'pixelated' version of his portrait photo that appeared in the liner notes of the Works album.
Freddie Mercury sang backing vocals on "Killing Time", John Deacon remixed the B-side "I Cry For You," and Rick Parfitt co-wrote and played on "It's An Illusion". David Richards, the engineer and producer, also co-wrote two of the tracks. The album includes covers of Bruce Springsteen's "Racing In The Streets" and Bob Dylan's "Masters of War".
In the period of 1987 to 1993 he formed a group named The Cross.
After that in 1994 he published a new solo album "Happiness?", which was "Dedicated to the tasmanian tiger - thylacinus cynocephalus, but most especially... for Freddie".
In September 1998 he published his, to date, last solo album, "Electric Fire". He supported it with a small tour in the spring of 1999, on which Queen-guitarist Brian May joined him at the gig in Wolverhampton.
After Queen's 1986 Magic Tour, the band members went their separate ways to do various solo work. Taylor decided to form a new band with whom he could tour. He had already written and recorded the album himself before finding a band to play the songs with. He eventually placed an ad for band members in a national newspaper, hinting he was a famous rock musician. The position of keyboard player was duly offered to Spike Edney after two successful Queen tours with him handling the keys. When the auditions were over, the line-up was completed by Peter Noone on Bass, Clayton Moss on Guitar, and Josh (ua J.) Macrae on Drums. Taylor himself would take the responsibility on lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist.
The first album, Shove It, was released in 1988. In Europe, Heaven for Everyone (later a Queen song) contained Freddie Mercury on lead vocals and Taylor on backing vocals. However, on the single version and the American album version the roles were reversed. The European CD contained an extra track (compared to cassette and LP) in The 2nd Shelf Mix, the US version having "Feel The Force" as its extra track. The band promoted hard in Germany especially, with many TV performances of singles including an appearance at the Montreux Golden Rose festival in 1988. The tour took in dates in the UK and Germany. Three singles were released from the album: "Cowboys and Indians", "Heaven for Everyone" and "Shove It". Another single, "Manipulator," was released in 1988, but it wasn't included on any album. It was also the only song from the time that had joint writing credits, Taylor sharing them with Spike Edney and Steve Strange.
After finishing Queen's 1989 album The Miracle, Taylor went into the studio with the rest of The Cross for the first time. The band composed the opening track "On Top Of The World Ma" with a riff bearing a resemblance to the Led Zeppelin track Whole Lotta Love. The rest of the album consisted mainly of individually written songs, except for "Power To Love" which was a joint venture by Macrae, Noone and Moss. Clayton Moss sang lead vocals on his own track "Better Things", and Spike Edney played mandolin on "Final Destination", which was written by Taylor. "Final Destination" was released as a single, as were "Liar" and "Power To Love", the latter being the last single to be released in the UK by the group. "Final Destination" came with a live rendition of Taylor's song "Man On Fire" as a B-side, and "Liar" (Noone) had a brand new track, "In Charge Of My Heart", which was also penned by Taylor. The 12" single and CD of "Liar" also included extended remixes of both "Liar" and "In Charge Of My Heart". The instrumental section at the beginning of "In Charge Of My Heart" was used as the opening to concerts on the accompanying tour. "Closer To You" (Edney) had been planned to be released in America, but the idea was never discussed again. The group having seemingly given up on the UK market, the accompanying tour only included dates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Ibiza. Unusual for such tours, every song from the new album was played live.
In 2002, Taylor appeared on the "Twelve Drummers Drumming" Christmas card in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" set sold at Woolworths to raise money for the NSPCC – alongside the "other" Roger Taylor, the drummer for Duran Duran.