The story behind the famous ‘Queen II’ album cover

Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine the rock scene without Queen. But in the early 1970s, the quartet members, led by none other than Freddie Mercury himself, were still trying to prove themselves in the music business. Their self-titled debut album was met with a relatively positive reaction, but nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, at that time they were still being compared to Robert Plant’s Led Zeppelin. Then came the Queen after, Queen II.

Queen imprinted her unique sound on the record while taking up space in the visual realm. Queen IIThe album cover was bold and bright, and it had to be. It was the announcement of the majority of the group, their declaration “we are here in the world”. So, keep reading for the story behind the famous Queen II album cover.

The story behind the Queen II album cover

British photographer Mick Rock took the group photo for the Queen II album cover. Sometimes called “the man who photographed the 70s”, Rock became known for his work as the photographer of David Bowie in the early 70s, as well as for his work with Queen, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and others.

But for Queen, Rock had a very specific vision for the band’s second introduction to the world.

“Queen wanted attention and the music on their debut album didn’t quite do that,” Rock said in a 2004 interview. “They realized that if you could get people’s attention, you could get them interested in music.”

So Rock started demanding attention. He led the Queen members – Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon – in a diamond formation against a black background. The four performers stare almost lazily at the camera with blank expressions as Mercury folds his hands across his chest. There is a strong sense of imminence and prestige that emanates from photography. You almost feel like you’re seeing something historic. And if you’re feeling a hint of glamour, there’s a reason for that, too. Rock was inspired by an earlier photograph of the actress/singer Marlene Dietrich in the 1932 film shanghai express for the pose of the queen.

“It made them look like a much bigger deal than they were back then,” Rock said, “but it was a true reflection of their music.”

The legacy

Rock’s photography and subsequent album cover for Queen drew customers to the store, but it was ultimately the music that kept every listener’s customers coming back. Queen II is a two-sided LP – “Side White” and “Side Black” – which initiated the band’s cult following and wide popularity, despite some initial backlash. The album was the scintillating and diverse preface to the expansive stadium sound to come.

Queen was here, they said, and here to stay.

About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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