When Queen Went Vaudeville With ‘Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy’
Queen returned to recording in the summer of 1976 as international superstars, thanks to the huge hit "Bohemian Rhapsody."
A Night at the Opera had also just topped the U.K. charts, becoming Queen's first album to be platinum-certified in the U.S. These new heights gave them some pause when it came time to write new material for the subsequent A Day at the Races.
"Each time we go into the studios, it gets that much more difficult," Freddie Mercury told Circus in 1977, "because we're trying to progress, to write songs that sound different from the past. The first album is easy because you've always got a lot in your head that you're anxious to put down. As the albums go by, you think, 'They'll say I'm repeating a formula.' I'm very conscious of that."
This time around, they were also without producer Roy Thomas Baker, whose contractual obligation to Queen had expired. Queen decided to self-produce sessions that began in July 1976 at the Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, England, with assistance from engineers Mike Stone and Gary Langan — both of whom had worked with the group previously on A Night at the Opera.
By the end of the month, they'd finished six tracks. "The new songs are stronger and the playing is quite possibly better" on A Day at the Races. "The writing's better, too," Taylor told Circus, calling the album "a step ahead of our previous work."
But that doesn't mean they couldn't make room for fun, as heard on the joyous "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy." Queen later highlighted this early-session triumph by slotting it as the lead song on Queen's First EP, a collection released on May 20, 1977, featuring one song from each of their most recent albums.
"The most popular misconception of people outside the people who 'get it,' as you would say, is that Freddie took himself seriously," Brian May would later argue. "He was always slightly tongue-in-cheek; there was always a little twinkle in his eye."
Watch Queen Perform 'Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy' on 'Top of the Pops' in 1977
That's certainly true with "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy," an update on the British music-hall style that strongly recalled "Seaside Rendezvous" from A Night at the Opera.
"'Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy' is one of my vaudeville numbers," Mercury told Circus. "I always do a vaudeville track, though 'Lover Boy' is more straightforward than 'Seaside Rendezvous,' for instance. It's quite simple piano/vocals with a catchy beat; the album needs it to sort of ease off."
Joining Mercury was Stone, who chimed in to sing the bridge. That's Stone asking Mercury: “Hey, boy, where do you get it from? Hey, boy, where did you go?” Roger Taylor ended up handling Stone's line when Queen lip-synched "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" for the BBC's Top of the Pops.
The late Stone "had extraordinarily sensitive ears," May told Record Collector magazine in 2021. "I remember he used to sit at the Trident [Studios] desk, and his fingers would go up and down the EQ setting, magically tickling them and making fine adjustments 'til everything blended."
Queen's First EP became a No. 17 hit on the U.K. chart, as "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" made regular appearances on Queen's Day at the Races Tour. It remained a part of their set lists through 1977 and '78 for the News of the World Tour, before being mentioned more recently as a prime deep-cut candidate for Queen's Adam Lambert-era shows.
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