The Long Journey Queen’s ‘Brighton Rock’ Took to the ‘Baby Driver’ Soundtrack
The guitarist’s earliest attempts at his distinctive solo date back at least to “Blag,” from his time in the pre-Queen band Smile. Later, May began more seriously dabbling with different delay techniques during live performances of “Son and Daughter” from Queen’s 1973 self-titled debut album, modifying the then-standard Echoplex in order to layer his solos. But he struggled with the decrepit technology – specifically, he couldn’t get the spaces between the delayed sounds far enough apart to play against – and then, more crucially, with a pair of devastating illnesses.
All of it threatened to derail Queen’s third album, 1975’s Sheer Heart Attack, after May was forced off the road from what should have been a career-making debut U.S. tour with Mott the Hoople. Instead, May was relegated to bed, first battling a virulent strain of hepatitis and then a stomach ulcer. Suddenly, Queen’s embryonic career momentum threatened to stall out.
“I felt really bad at having let the group down at such an important place,” May said back then. “But there was nothing to do about it. It was hepatitis, which you get sometimes when you’re emotionally run down.”
Under pressure to complete the album, May’s bandmates went ahead with the recording sessions. In fact, he was still adding his own parts when the media junkets for Sheer Heart Attack got underway. “Nobody knew we were going to be told we had two weeks to write Sheer Heart Attack,” Freddie Mercury told Melody Marker in 1974. “And we had to. It was the only thing we could do. Brian was in hospital.”