In November, members of Vinyl Me, Please Essentials will receive an exclusive colored vinyl reissue of Queen’s A Night At The Opera. The album comes in a deluxe new package, with foil details on the jacket, and on purple and pink galaxy vinyl. You can sign up to receive it here.
Below, read about why we picked A Night At The Opera, and the details of our reissue.
Andrew Winistorfer, Vinyl Me, Please Head of Editorial: The story of this Record of the Month starts with laying out this year, back in, like, March, and us realizing that we hadn’t done a “traditional” classic rock album as the Record of the Month since November 2015, when we did Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. That’s something we get from people — on social media, on our emails, on surveys — is that members want us to do more classic rock. It’s arguably the No. 1 feedback we get about what albums we’re picking, “Why not more classic rock?” So, it felt like the time was right for it.
Cameron Schaefer, Vinyl Me, Please Head Of Music: When the club started, philosophically, we wanted to mainly focus on hidden gems, stuff that is one level below the average collector’s consciousness. Classic rock albums are some of the biggest albums ever on vinyl; it feels like for some bands — like the Police, or Led Zeppelin — you can find every one of their albums in every used record store.
When we first announced Paranoid, I was actually super nervous because I thought people would think it’s too on-the-nose, and that it was way more in the public consciousness than the albums we usually do. And yet, people were really stoked: The people who have that album are maybe most excited about that one out of the ones we’ve done. It’s still all over Instagram, three years later.
It wasn’t enough to change our philosophy on curation, obviously, but we got to this place this year when we realized that we hadn’t done an album like that in three years.
And it feels like at a point, we’re neglecting an entire genre of music. We try to be pretty genre-inclusive with the Essentials Record of the Month, and at this point, we’ve done like three rap albums and multiple jazz albums in the interim, so it feels like this is overdue.
And it was you who came up with Queen, A Night At The Opera, as the pick. At first I thought, “Is this too big of an album? Or too obvious?” And then I realized I don’t own it on vinyl. And then I polled the office, and, like, of the seven to eight people who have the biggest record collections on staff, none of them had it either. That none of our vinyl-obsessed music fans on staff — with hundreds of records — own that one, and most of us didn’t own any Queen at all on vinyl, that was a lightbulb moment. What if this band that is so massive, and is such an important part of music history, and feels ubiquitous, what if it’s that they are all that, but our demo of record collectors doesn’t have them in their collection? It ended up feeling like an album that, for whatever reason, people don’t have in their collection but recognize as being an important record.
I wonder how much of that dovetails with the critical consensus of Queen in the ’70s, where they were considered over-the-top and sorta doofy, and then that music got recontextualized in the ’90s via movies — I discovered them through Wayne’s World and Mighty Ducks II — and sporting events and there’s still this lingering thing where I think Queen just don’t get as much credit as they deserve. Queen were the best prog-rock band. Full-stop. When I re-listened to A Night At The Opera, for thinking of picking it, I realized this is wilder and weirder than any King Crimson record, you know? All these bands that get touted as prog-rock legends, like Yes and ELP or whoever; Queen is several degrees weirder than all of them. And it’s because you only remember the singles: there are songs on this that sound like German beer halls.
I think we all miss rock bands that are larger than life. There’s some baggage there for sure, but there are no modern rock bands that are going for it from a personality, attitude, music and everything like Queen did. I know they got mocked for it at the time, but that takes a lot of courage to go for it like they did. There used to be bands who dressed like that and sold out stadiums.
Like a lot of those bands, their “moment” kind of got vanquished by punk rock. So the reason I immediately thought of Queen was that at the time we were looking at this, I was reading a biography of Freddie Mercury and Queen, and I was blown away by some of the stuff in it. Especially this passage about Queen recording down the hall from the Sex Pistols when they were recording their debut and after Queen had hit No. 1 with A Night At The Opera. Sid Vicious came in and kicked the door down, and said something snotty, in his Sid Vicious way, like, “Freddie, how is bringing ballet to the masses going?” And Freddie responded, “Well, Mr. Ferocious, it’s going quite well, thanks for asking.”
And that’s such a total own, man. That’s Hall of Fame fade right there. Freddie didn’t fucking care about punk; he was making the music he wanted to make. And I thought that was so badass.
The other question people will have, because this is coming out at a cosmically fortuitous time, there is that Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody out next week, and while it’s hard to believe, that was not the motivation for this pick: it was because I was reading a Queen book and thought of them as a classic rock band we should feature. I was literally reading the chapter on A Night At The Opera when we were looking for a classic rock album. So we said, “Let’s see if Queen’s label and management would be into us doing that for November,” and then we realized that it was unlikely to happen because of the movie coming out. We were like, “Oh shit, the movie’s coming out, there’s no way they’re going to let us do this,” right after we all started getting really psyched to do A Night At The Opera. I already had started thinking about ways to write about Wayne’s World. I didn’t think it was going to happen.
Yeah, and, you have no way of knowing this for sure, but I would bet if there wasn’t this big movie coming out the month we’re releasing our edition, they’d have said no. They were interested, and then we said we were looking at it for November, and they were like, “That’s perfect because there’s this movie coming out.” And we got the yes.
With a movie like Bohemian Rhapsody, you just know you’re gonna walk out of there with a rekindled fire for Queen. You know you’re going to go home and listen to Queen immediately after seeing that movie.
Yeah, I can envision a theater watching that and everyone trying to add albums to their Spotify covertly during it.
They’re a band you won’t think about, and then you hear one of their songs — no matter the context — you’re immediately like, “I forgot how good they are.”
We should probably talk our package specifically. It’s the same remaster as the 2015 reissue, right?
They remastered the album back then — with the band overseeing it — and we did some research on our end, and the band was happy with it, so it’s a case where if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. So we went with that remaster, but we had lacquers recut at Abbey Road Studios. So we have fresh metalwork, and pressed at GZ, and it sounds great. We accidentally discovered a new vinyl effect on this one; we were asking if we could put two different colors together, and they said, “Well, that wouldn’t work, but it would be this Galaxy effect thing we’re trying out.” So we did that.
And then we did some fun things with the jacket and did some blue foiling on the cover.
The original jacket had embossing on the front and was a pretty deluxe package from the get go, so to make our version different, we decided to do some fun things with the front cover, and we went with the foil instead. Similar to our Black Sabbath reissue: You can’t do that much with the jacket when the package is this great, so you look for little things you can do to make our version special, and we did that here.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.