Mike Stone: The person Brian May called “the unsung hero” of Queen

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If any one member was taken out of Queen, chances are no one would have been talking about them years later. Despite the massive amount of praise showered on Freddie Mercury to this day, it was always about the collective Queen sound that turned them from another phenomenal rock act to one of the most talented ensembles to ever walk into a studio. Even though the group could have turned anything gold when they walked behind the microphone, Brian May thought that one of the group’s greatest assets wasn’t even a musician.

As the band were beginning to get used to the studio environment, all of their cornerstone sounds were already in place. From the first note of ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ on their debut, their layered vocal harmonies roared out of the speakers, combined with May’s way of making his guitar sound like a one-man orchestra during the solo.

Once the group started to become more adventurous in the studio on Queen II, they started to incorporate effects that couldn’t be reproduced live. Taking their cues from artists like The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, the band would turn the studio into an instrument on its own, working with producer Roy Thomas Baker to get what they wanted on albums like Sheer Heart Attack.

After they found out they weren’t getting paid by their manager, the group hunkered down for their fourth outing to make the best record they could come up with. Although the band were already armed with the rock juggernaut ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Mike Stone was responsible for turning it into one of the biggest sonic adventures of the 1970s.

Working as the group’s engineer, Stone was known to be hands-on during the production, helping the group turn their wildest ideas into reality. When working on a song like ‘Lazing On a Sunday Afternoon’, the group would record vocals through a metal can, which would play back sounding distorted as if Mercury was singing through a megaphone.

Although every song had its own sonic character, May thought Stone’s ingenuity helped the group thrive in the studio. Rather than look at the band as the four musicians working in unison, May would recall that those records were made as a team effort with Stone, constantly toying with different ideas to get the sound they wanted on tape.

When speaking with Classic Albums, May would recall how important Stone was to creating the band’s greatest songs, saying, “I’ve said this more than once, I’m sure, but Mike Stone is really the unsung hero of the band to this whole thing. From A Night at the Opera to A Day At the Races, which he produced with us. The guy was really a phenomenon. I remember it being a very good time. We were a good team”.

While Stone would eventually part ways with the band after the recording of News of the World, he would later lead other rock legends to create their most daring works, collaborating with Journey for their colossal album Escape and eventually working with David Coverdale to create Whitesnake’s breakthrough singles. Even though Queen would later take the mechanics of recording to the next level in the 1980s and beyond, Mike Stone could have been considered the fifth band member across their 1970s masterpieces.

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