Queen’s ‘The Miracle’ Set To Return In Multi-Disc Collector’s Edition
Out on November 18, the eight-disc boxset includes ‘The Miracle Sessions’ – over an hour of previously unreleased studio recordings.
Widely recognized as Queen’s strongest album of the 80’s and one of their most inspired, the 1989 released The Miracle was a global success reaching No. 1 in the UK and several major European markets, even re-establishing the band in the US where it delivered a gold album. Brian May has often cited the title track as his favourite Queen song of all time.
The hugely prolific sessions for The Miracle began in December 1987 and stretched out to March 1989. It was to be one of the most consequential periods in Queen’s history. Fifteen months previously, on August 9, 1986, Queen’s mighty ‘Europe Magic Tour’ had ended on a high, before an estimated audience of more than 160,000 at Knebworth Park in Britain. As the band left the stage that night – toasting the flagship show of their biggest tour to date – they could hardly have foreseen that Knebworth marked a line in the sand. This would be Queen’s final live show with Freddie Mercury and the first in a chain of pivotal moments that would lead towards a lengthy separation for the band.
It would take 15 months and a radical re-structuring of internal band dynamics before Queen regrouped in London’s Townhouse Studios on December 3rd, 1987, to start work on their thirteenth studio album. For the first time, Queen would share songwriting credits equally, regardless of who conceived each song, a consensus of opinion that was to have fertile results. “Splitting the credits was a very important decision for us. We left our egos outside the studio door,” says Brian, “and worked together as a real band – something that wasn’t always the case. I wish we’d done it 15 years before.”
Said Roger: “Decisions are made on artistic merit, so ‘Everybody wrote everything’ is the line, rather than ego or anything else getting in the way. We seem to work together better now than we did before. We’re fairly up-and-down characters. We have different tastes in many ways. We used to have lots of arguments in the studio, but this time we decided to share all the songwriting, which I think was very democratic and a good idea.”
This show of unity was elegantly conveyed by band art director Richard Gray’s cover for The Miracle, which depicts Queen’s four faces merged into one. “The cover art represents the unity of the group at the time: a seamless merging of four people becoming one,” May has said. “We were also dealing with Freddie’s deteriorating health and pulling together to support him.”
While Freddie could no longer tour, Queen remained a band of staggering creative resourcefulness. As John Deacon implied, they instead channeled their live chemistry into the studio: “In the first few weeks of recording we did a lot of live material, a lot of songs, some jamming, and ideas came up.”
“Party” and raw rocker “Khashoggi’s Ship” “evolved naturally, straight away,” said Freddie. Inspired by something Anita Dobson would say, and later adopted for anti-apartheid protests, the massive “I Want It All” was – though written before the band went into the studio – a forceful expression of Queen’s concert-honed heavy-rock powers. “We were never able to perform this song live with Freddie,” said May. “It would have become something of a staple core of the Queen show, I’m sure, because it was very participative – designed for the audience to sing along to – very anthemic.”
Says Roger: “Lots of the [Miracle] tracks have first-take stuff in them; we tried to preserve that freshness. We tried to capture all the enthusiasm that we had from playing together as a band.”
Queen’s writing also reflected their personal circumstances. The torn-from-the-headlines drama of “Scandal” was May’s personal swipe at the press intrusion into the bandmembers’ respective personal affairs. Singled out by Deacon for praise, Freddie’s soaring album closer, “Was It All Worth It”, has in retrospect been interpreted as a reflection on the singer’s health.
One further ingredient in the mix was David Richards, who had worked with Queen since his billing as assistant engineer on Live Killers. After further credits on A Kind of Magic and Live Magic, Richards stepped up to co-produce The Miracle, praised by May for his “whizz kid” technical prowess.
The months in the studio birthed 30-plus songs, more than Queen could possibly need for one album. Ten tracks were selected to form the release, with others later appearing as B-sides or solo tracks, or carried over to the Innuendo and Made in Heaven albums. Five hit singles supported the album.
Says Brian: “We had all these bits and pieces of tracks, and some of them were half-finished, some of them were just an idea, and some of them were nearly finished, and it sort of happened on its own really. There are some tracks which you always want to get out and work on, and so they get finished, and there are some tracks which you think, ‘Oh that’s great, but I don’t really know what to do with it at this moment’, so they naturally get left by the wayside.”
Most of these left-over session tracks remained undisturbed in the Queen archives for the past 33 years.
For the Queen hardcore, meanwhile, one of the most highly anticipated elements of the new box set is ‘The Miracle Sessions’ CD featuring original takes, demos, and rough takes of the full album plus six additional previously never before heard tracks including two featuring Brian on vocals.
Tantalizing enough that this hour-plus disc offers the first official airing of such near-mythical songs as “Dog With A Bone”, “I Guess We’re Falling Out”, “You Know You Belong To Me”, and the poignant “Face It Alone”, now available as a single. Add to that, the trove of sunken treasure spanning from original takes and demos to rough cuts that signpost the album The Miracle would become.
But perhaps the real gemstones of ‘The Miracle Sessions’ CD are the spoken segments that bookend the musical takes. As the studio tape keeps rolling in London and Montreux, the four members are caught at their most candid, giving listeners the uncanny fly-on-the wall experience of standing amongst Freddie, Brian, John and Roger as they banter, debate, swap jokes and show both joy and occasional frustration.
With the band arriving at the studio with scarce mapped-out material these sessions found Queen at their most inspired and impulsive, and that atmosphere is mirrored in not just the music but the familial exchanges that punctuate it. As Freddie said: “I think it’s the closest we’ve ever been in terms of actually writing together.”
“Before we all pass out, can I just try this?” Freddie Mercury (“I Want It All”)
“I don’t want to do the fancy bits now…I’ll do them later.” Brian May (“Khashoggi’s Ship”)
Heard for the first time in Queen history, the spoken outtakes from ‘The Miracle Sessions’ invite fans onto the studio floor to experience the band’s unvarnished dynamic, more natural and revealing than any ‘official’ press interview. These unguarded exchanges – by turns mischievous, encouraging, witty, even affectionately waspish – capture the band as they truly were during The Miracle’s late bloom, buzzing with renewed enthusiasm at their return to the studio, and driven by a rare chemistry that still threw up sparks.
Another first for the box set is the reinstatement of “Too Much Love Will Kill You”. The Miracle was originally planned to be an 11-track album, but “Too Much Love” was removed at the last minute due to unresolved publishing issues. Later, Queen’s original version was to emerge on Made in Heaven in 1995, featuring Freddie’s lead vocal. While the CD version of the album remains faithful to the familiar ten-song running order, the vinyl record in this Collector’s Edition marks the first time that ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ has been presented as part of the album, in the exact position on Side One it was allocated in 1989.
Elsewhere, The Miracle Collector’s Edition brims with rarities, outtakes, instrumentals, interviews and videos, including the last interview John gave, from the set of the video for the hard-driving single “Breakthru”. The richly packed box set also includes a lavish 76-page hardback book featuring previously unseen photographs, original handwritten fan-club letters from the band, press reviews from the time and extensive liner notes, with recollections from Freddie, John, Roger and Brian on both the making of the album and some of their most iconic videos.
Featuring a plethora of fascinating insights into a hugely pivotal moment in Queen’s storied history, this is The Miracle fans have been waiting for.