My Queensryche story starts back in 1985. At the time, I was listening mostly a German HM band called Accept, and beginning to realise that my previous favourites, Saxon, were well past their best. I heard 'Take hold of the flame' on the 'Kerrang Kompilation' LP, which also included a few other American bands I couldn't really hear anywhere else.
I managed to order a copy of 'The Warning' through my local record library, and although I wasn'y blown away by this album, I did like it. 'Roads to madness', 'Take hold of the flame' and 'No sanctuary' were a bit different to most of the other bands of this era (ie WASP, Twisted Sister, Dio etc).
It wasn't until the spring of 1987 that I heard 'Rage for order', but I knew instantly this was something very special. The intensity of the songs grabbed my attention, and their complexity kept my attention. Lyrically, I had very little idea what it was all about, my LP didn't have a lyric sheet, and Geoff's singing isn't always that clear (even now, I have to admit that most of it doesn't really make much sense). I couldn't (and still can't) pick any favourites from this album - this became something of a theme for Queensryche, they made very strong albums, from which there was no stand-out song, but there was certainly no filler.
The band's image at this time was a cause of some concern - frankly, they looked ridiculous. Not as weird as Poison or Motley Crue, and then Jane's Addiction came along to make everyone look normal. Thankfully, this was just a passing phase.
I joined the fan-club at this time, I was member #1387 (or close to that), and it was supposed to have cost me US$15 for life. I also resolved to start collecting everything I could find that had Queensryche written on it. The results of this you can see in the discography listings - I own virtually all of these titles...
Queensryche did have some competition at this time - Helloween released 'Keeper of the 7 keys part 1' (imagine 'Rage for order' speeded up), Iron Maiden were riding high with 'Somewhere in time' and Metallica were lurking with 'Master of puppets'. One advantage these bands had over Queensryche was that I could go and see them - since I heard 'The Warning', Queensryche had played just twice in the UK, both in London, and both supporting the dismal Bon Jovi.
And then, suddenly, they raised the stakes - they released 'Operation:Mindcrime'.
The first time I saw this was in the import racks of a shop in Edinburgh. I was so excited as I went down to the bank to get the money out, I would have it a full three days before it's official UK release. But it was not to be - by the time I got back, somebody else had grabbed it :-((
On the following Monday, I finally got my copy. By the time I got it home, I'd practically memorised all the lyrics, and then I finally got to listen to it. It instantly became, and I guess still is, my favourite album ever. I don't really know how to describe it - it was just everything I wanted from a record. It had light and shade, it had beauty and scars, it had love and hate. It had sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock'n'roll. I played it almost constantly. I bored nearly everyone I knew with tales of how wonderful it was.
A few months later came the rumours I had been waiting for - Queensryche were to be supporting Metallica on their European tour. Metallica were touring to support the '...And justice for all' album (which I hated), and I bought tickets for Metallica at the Edinburgh Playhouse at the (at the time) ludicrous price of £8. A few weeks after this, I found out that Queensryche were not touring the UK with Metallica, it was to be the truely awful Danzig instead. But they were going to do their own shows instead...
My friend who lived in England got tickets for the Nottingham show (as far north as they came) for 8th November 1988. It was some week - I got to see Helloween (now touring for the excellent 'Keeper of the 7 keys part 2') in Edinburgh on the Sunday, Helloween in Manchester on the Monday night, but the highlight of the week was Queensryche. Neither of us had been to Nottingham before, so when we got off the train, we traipsed around looking for the venue, Rock City. Eventually, we found it - we stood outside deciding whether to go to the pub or for something to eat, when the front door opened - out stepped Geoff and Chris. My mouth hit the floor. My friend asked what was wrong (he knew Queensryche's music but not what they looked like). I couldn't tell him, because I couldn't speak. After they were long gone in a taxi, I managed to explain.
The show itself was fantastic - they had no stage-set, no special props, they simply relied on the strength of the music. The place was almost full, I got to stand about 3 feet in front of Michael, and I had a big smile on my face from the moment they came on until 3 weeks later. I still have a tape of that show, and it still sounds as good. Back in Edinburgh a couple of days later I got to see Husker Du, but I knew that nothing was going to compare to the mighty Queensryche.
Six months later, I was back in England again, this time all the way down to London for a one-off show at the Hammersmith Odeon on the 27th April 1989. Another fabulous set, only slightly spoiled by the lacklustre audience. I left wondering whether I would buy a record of Queensryche gargling and thinking that the answer was almost certainly yes...
There were no more UK shows after this. A video appeared, 'Video:Mindcrime', which I thought was a bit of a fudge. It still annoys me this release - they should either have done it properly, or not at all. And then came the next album - 'Empire'. I was working in France when this was released, I remember driving to Perpignan and paying about 80 Francs for it. I played it in the car on the way back, and my first thoughts were that I was not impressed...there were only a couple of songs which I thought were real Queensryche songs, 'Thin line' and 'Anybody listening?'. But that just goes to show the quality of the car stereo - my head got 'hit by a two ton heavy thing' the first time I listened to 'Empire' on a walkman, and ever since I have loved it. Not as much as 'Operation:Mindcrime' but loved it nonetheless.
Back in Scotland, Queensryche kicked off their UK tour in Edinburgh on 1 November 1990, and for the first time I got to see them and sleep in my own bed that same night ;-) This was only the second show of the Building Empires tour, and it sort of showed. 'Roads to madness' and 'Jet city woman' were personal highlights, and for the first time 'Operation:Mindcrime' played in it's entirety. A great night.
The tour was a great success, and some singles followed - 4 in total, some grazing the Top 40. They returned to Europe in 1991 to play the Monsters of Rock tour with AC/DC, Metallica, Black Crowes and Motley Crue. I didn't get to see this in the UK, but I did get to see it in Paris. I travelled 800 miles to see a 50 minute set... It was strange, and a little disconcerting to see them play in daylight, and in front of an only vaguely interested crowd. Probably not one of their highlights, and although they got another European tour, and to play to audiences of 30-60,000, this was not their most successful time.
Later that year came the stunning 'Operation:Livecrime' package. A live video, CD, and book of the whole 'Operation:Mindcrime' set, possibly my favourite Queensryche release. It leaves me drained every time I see/listen to it. A triumph from beginning to end.
A year later, the 'Building Empires' video followed, an interesting look at the Queensrcyhe story so far, from the laughable early videos to the 4 'Empire' singles, and some good live performances. Well worth owning.
It was a long time before anything else came out - only 1 song ('Real world', on a film soundtrack) in the following 2 years. The music scene had changed dramatically since 'Empire' had been released - Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other Seattle bands had taken the charts by storm, displacing the almost constant stream of dance music that the public loved. I had sort of stopped going to concerts by now. Queensryche were still my favourites, although other bands were pushing themselves forward, the Manic Street Preachers, and Faith No More were high on the list.
Completely ignoring the fact that you had to be manically depressed or have song capable of being remixed 9 times to achieve success, Queensryche released 'Promised land' in October 1994. It was as if they had never been away. This was a much more introspective and complicated album than 'Empire', and possibly suffered commercially because of this. I thought it was fantastic - it's right behind 'Operation:Mindcrime'.
In February 1995, the 'Road to Promised Land' kicked off in Glasgow at the Barrowlands - musically, it was fantastic, although I don't think the band enjoyed it all. There wasn't any room on stage for the props, it was as if they had rehearsed a show, but now they couldn't put it on...
I saw the second night of this tour in Manchester, a much bigger venue. All the props worked, the band seemed much happier. They played a few more times in England, then toured Europe, and came back a month later to play the last date of the European tour at the Royal Albert Hall in London (a venue normally reserved for opera and Eric Clapton concerts). So, it was back to England... Before the show, the band made an instore appearance at Virgin in Marble Arch. I went along to this, on the promise of a few acoustic songs and a signing session. The band were over an hour late, and eventually came in and played 'Bridge' and 'Silent lucidity'. It was fabulous to see them in such close quarters. It was in the queue for the signing, sweaty cd sleeves in hand, that it dawned on me how much Queensryche meant to me. I had followed them for years, bought everything I could find with Queensryche written on it, minutely examined interviews and record sleeves for another insight, another glimpse into a song, and I had no absolutely no idea what I wanted to say to them...they were my best friends and they didn't even know I existed. I certainly didn't want to meet them like this, with me acting like a moron, so I left.
That night, they were fabulous, probably the best I had ever seen them. This was their crowning glory. I don't have a copy of this concert, but I do have a cd of this tour, and listening to that lets me relive that night in London.
And then, the bubble burst - not dramatically, with a large pop but with a quiet wheeze. 'Hear in the now frontier' was sneaked out (I was on the mailing list, and scouring the music press weekly for news on the band, and never heard a whisper). I got it home, played it and hated it. It was a poorly concieved mish-mash of ideas, Alice in Chains out-takes. I played it again, desperatley trying to find something to like about it. I couldn't. It was just rubbish.
No UK/European tour followed this album, and it seems, because of record company problems in the US, they only got to tour for about 6 months there, and that was it. And then Chris left.
One thing I had always loved about Queensryche was that they were a team. Geoff and Chris got most of the press attention, as they were the main song-writers, but you knew that they were a team. I had so many memories of the band, and each member was integral to those memories. Whatever the reasons for Chris leaving were (I think 'musical differences' were mentioned, music biz speak for 'they had a big fall-out'), it was the end of an era. Most of me wanted them to just pack it in there and then - no milking it for a few more years, no reunion tours, no pretence. Queensryche as a team were finished.
This fairy tale is far from over though, although whether it has a happy ending or not remains to be seen. A new guitarist was recruited, Kelly Gray, and a new album 'Q2K' came out in September 1999. This wasn't the dismal rubbish that 'HITNF' had been, although it's far from their greatest album. 'Harmless' is probably the best description for it - music you can hoover to. I got caught up in the internet hype for it (there was precisely zero press coverage for it), and paid an extortionate amount for an import copy. A European tour did follow, in Jan/Feb 2000. It was back to London (of course, it didn't come to Scotland) to the Brixton Academy to see - what? A dying horse? A phoenix? I'm not quite sure. Certainly they're far too old to be screaming about revolution. Kelly either didn't or couldn't play Chris' solos - was he stamping his signature on the old songs, as he certainly seems capable of playing them? What the future holds for Queensryche I don't know, and I still haven't decided whether I am going to be a part of it.
What I do know is that Queensryche gave me a huge amount of pleasure with their music, and it is because of this that I have decided to try and share the Queensryche experience with this website. Please let me know what you think...
Update 24 October 2003
We arrived in Amsterdam the day before the concert. Bon Jovi were playing Amsterdam Arena that night, and the place was in the middle of a heatwave. Vast amounts of beer was drunk, and a pavement 'decorated'. The day of the concert was upon us - the ticket said the show started at 8, so being fashionably late, we got on the train at Centraal Station just after 8. Finding the venue would be no problem, we'd just follow the crowds...at our stop, we got off along with 4 grannies.
|The Warning||Rage for order||Operation:Mindcrime||Empire||Promised land||Hear in the now frontier|
|Q2K||Greatest hits||Live Evolution||Operation:Livecrime||Tribe||Art of Live|
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