Roger Meddows-Taylor, a.k.a Roger Taylor (Born July 26, 1949) is best known as the drummer and backing vocalist of Queen. As a drummer he has a very "big" unique sound and is known for his procession and song-writing. He is cited as one of the most important arena rock drummers. He contributed songs to the band's albums from the very beginning, composing at least one track on every album, and usually sang lead vocals on his own compositions, in addition to playing most of the instruments, including guitar, bass and keyboard parts.
Taylor's life before Queen
Roger Taylor was born on July 26th 1949, to parents Winifred and Michael Taylor, in Norfolk, England. Several years later he and his family (now bigger by one: Roger's sister Clare, born 1953) moved to Cornwall. At age 8, he was inspired by his older cousin (who played guitar) to start learning the guitar. He started by teaching himself ukulele, and later taught himself to play the guitar. In his pre-teens, Roger formed a school skiffle band known as "The Bubblingover Boys", which lasted but two school performances. In 1960 Roger joined Truro Cathedral School on a musical scholarship--meaning he had to join their choir. He didn't really enjoy life as a choirboy, however (they had to sing three times every Sunday, at special events such as weddings and at midnight mass every Christmas.) By 1961 he had learnt to play the guitar but found his interest in drums. In 1963 Roger joined "Beat Unlimited" which later became "The Cousin Jacks" and "The Falcons", playing a mixture of guitars and drums. The big change came in 1965 when he joined "Johnny Quale and the Reaction" as drummer playing Shadows, Rolling Stones and pre-Soul covers, especially James Brown and Otis Redding. In 1965 "Johnny Quale" left and the band reshuffled. It became known simply as "The Reaction" with Roger on lead vocals as well as drums. In 1966 they won the local battle of the bands, the Rock and Rhythm Championship, which they had failed to do the year before.
While maintaining his keen interest in music, Roger decided his professional career lay in dentistry, and in 1967 moved to London to enroll at the London Hospital Medical College, but quickly grew bored and moved to London Polytechnic where he studied biology, obtaining a BSc in the subject. In 1968 Roger met Brian May and Tim Staffell at University and formed Smile, answering an ad for a "Ginger Baker/Mitch Mitchell-type drummer". Smile were signed to a record label and released a promotional single in America, Earth. Two seemingly official releases by the band were made in 1982 and 1997. The first being only released in Japan and the second only in Holland. Both contain the same tracks. Later, Tim Stafell left the band thinking it wasn't going anywhere. By then their good friend Farrokh 'Freddie' Bulsara (who later changed his name to Freddie Mercury) jumped eagerly into the slot of vocalist, leaving the band to look for a new bass player. After trying 5 or 6 different ones (including Johnny Quale's brother), John Deacon stepped forward and Queen was born.
Taylor the performer
As a drummer Taylor posses a unique sound, he has played styles such as speed "Stone Cold Crazy", thrash "Ogre Battle", rockabilly "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", and may other styles. He is one of the earliest "arena" drummers.
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). His solo career demonstrates he was very good at the low range as well; for instance, in his cover of "I Wanna Testify" in which he sang all four vocal parts. 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), which he also sings. An interesting situation occurred after "I'm In Love With My Car" was written. Roger desperately wanted to include it as the B-side of Bohemian Rhapsody, but Freddie didn't agree. Roger locked himself in a cupboard until Freddie changed his mind. Roger being the composer of the B-side acquired the same amount of royalties as Freddie himself.
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), You Don't Fool Me (with lyrics by Mercury). A big part of the lyrics in Queen's epic Innuendo are by Roger, too, although the music was Freddie's.
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, Roger worked on his 2nd 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, Roger wanted to start a new band, by 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 3 albums over the 6 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 together with Yoshiki, the leader/drummer/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 - got positive reviews around the world and Roger promoted it with his first solo-tour through Europe, mainly performing in the UK and Italy.
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 none of them set the charts alight.
By far the most prolific of his fellow bandmates in the solo department, he released a staggering 7 albums away from the Queen bandwagon. The first effort 1977 with his cover of The Parliaments "I Wanna Testify". He recorded it during Queen's sessions for the News Of The World album. The A-side, although a cover, was completely different from the original. The B-side was a self penned song "Turn On The TV".
His first album came in 1981 in the form of "Fun In Space". Roger played all the instruments & sang everything on the album, apart from about 50% of the keyboards, which were done by engineer David Richards. Some words of wisdom from the liner notes, "P.S. Hello listeners. I hope you enjoy and have fun with this, my very own, album. I like it. If you don't, sod you! P.P.S. 157 synthesizers"
With Queen still touring heavily & recording at the time of release, it was impossible for Roger to promote the album to its fullest extent. So Roger 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 Freddie 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, "Strange Frontier", "Beautiful Dreams" (in Portugal only) and "Man On Fire", the latter becoming a live favorite for him in later years. Not attempts to promote the singles were made, Queen toured to 1984 Works album which made a tour impossible, and Roger didn't perform on any TV shows.
Freddie Mercury sang backing vocals on "Killing Time", John Deacon remixed the B-side "I Cry For You" and Rick Parfitt co-wrote & played on "It's An Illusion". David Richards the engineer & producer also co-wrote two of the tracks. The album includes covers of Bruce Springsteen's "Racing In The Streets" & Bob Dylan's "Masters Of War"
After Queen's 1986 magic tour, it became apparent that to the band that they wouldn't tour again due to Freddie's condition. Seeing this Roger decided to form a new band as a side project, with whom he could tour. He had already written and recorded the album himself before finding a band to play them 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 2 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 & Josh (ua J.) MacRae on Drums. Taylor himself would take the responsibility on lead vocalist & rhythm guitarist.
The first album, Shove It, was released in 1988. In the Europe, Heaven for Everyone (later a Queen song) contained Freddie Mercury on lead vocals & Roger on backing vocals. However on the single version & the American album version the roles were reversed. The European CD contained an extra track (compared to cassette & 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 & Germany. Three singles were released from the album in, "Cowboys & Indians", "Heaven for Everyone" & "Shove It". Another single was released in 1988, "Manipulator", but it wasn't included on any album. It was also the only song from the time that had joint writing credits, Roger sharing them with Spike Edney & Steve Strange.
Mad: Bad: And Dangerous To Know
After finishing Queen's 1989 album The Miracle, for the first time, Taylor went into the studio with the rest of The Cross. The band together composed the opening track "On Top Of The World Ma" with a riff bearing resemblance to the Led Zeppelin track, Whole Lotta Love. The rest of the album consisted mainly of indivually written songs, except "Power To Love" which was a joint venture by Macrae, Noone & Moss. Clayton Moss sang lead vocals on his own track "Better Things" and Spike Edney played mandollin on "Final Destination" (Taylor). It was released as a single as was "Liar" and "Power To Love". The latter being the last single to be released in the UK. "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" penned by Taylor. "Closer To You" (Edney) had been planned to be released in America, but the idea was never discussed again. Having seamingly given up on the UK market, the accompianing tour only took in dates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland & Ibiza. Uncommonly, every song from the new album was played live.
Made at a time when Taylor's efforts were concentrated on Queen & Freddie himself, Blue Rock gave the other members of the band a chance to take control of the upcoming album. It was in fact mostly written by Edney with him contibuting three of his own tracks & contributing to four more. Once again the opening track was penned by the entire band, "Bad Attitude" was written (although not complete) at the Christmas fan club party of 1990. The album itself contained allot of vocals not from Taylor, mainly from Edney & Noone. Examples of this can be heard in "Put It All Down To Love" (Edney) "Life Changes" (Moss, Noone, Edney & Macrae) and "Heartland" (The B-side to Life Changes, penned by Noone). Blue Rock itself was only released in Germany (although promo copies were released in Italy & Japan), so it is pretty rare to find on the market, yet is widely accepted to be their best album. "New Dark Ages" (Taylor) was released in Germany with another live version of "Man On Fire", whilst "Life Changes" was released with the B-side "Heartland". It was however immediately withdrawn, due to the death of Freddie. The tour was in support of Magnum, so the concert lengths were short (45 mins.) and very few bootlegs survived. The tour was rapid, covering 20 dates in one month.
The kit Roger used on the latest Queen + Paul Rodgers tour is mainly a Ludwig kit (classic maple shells), with a Sleishman bass drum. He uses Vic Firth 5B wooden tipped sticks. His hardware comprises of all new Ludwig, with a DW 9000 double pedal.
The cymbals are all Zildjian. He used Paiste from 1973-82 then for 1988 and 1989.
Singles (not included on albums)
The Cross Albums