Smile
Brian May (left), Tim Staffell
and Roger Taylor, outside The Royal Albert Hall, London, 27 February 1969.
Background information
OriginLondon, England
Genres
Years active
  • 1968–1970
  • 1992
  • 2018
LabelsMercury
Associated acts
Past members

Smile were an English rock band based in London, and the predecessor to rock band Queen. The band was formed in 1968 by Brian May, who went on to become Queen's guitarist. It included Tim Staffell as lead singer and bass guitarist, and later, drummer Roger Taylor, who also went on to play for Queen. They recorded only six songs and disbanded in 1970. These songs were titled "April Lady", "Step on Me", "Polar Bear", "Earth", "Blag", and "Doin' Alright" (later re-recorded by Queen for their self-titled debut album in 1973). These songs exist on the vinyl LP Ghost of a Smile. "April Lady" was dedicated to Roger Taylor's girlfriend at the time.

History

In 1968, Brian May, a student at London's Imperial College, and Tim Staffell formed a group when May placed an advertisement on the college notice board for a "Ginger Baker type" drummer, and a young dental student named Roger Taylor auditioned and got the job. Smile were signed to Mercury Records in 1969, and had their first experience of a recording studio in Trident Studios that year. Staffell was attending Ealing Art College with Farrokh ("Freddie") Bulsara, and introduced him to the band. Bulsara soon became a keen fan.

The group's biggest public performance was on 27 February 1969 at the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child. Held at the Royal Albert Hall, May, Taylor and Staffell performed as a trio on guitar, drums and bass respectively.

Smile gigged quite a bit on the London scene, according to Time Out's listings. On 19 April, they played at the Speakeasy and on 31 May, appeared at the Whisky-A-Go-Go.

In March 1969, the band played at a venue known as PJ's, using claims to have previously been played on BBC Radio 1 to secure an audience. It seems likely that the claims were fictitious, however.[2][3] Shortly after they were given a one-off recording deal by Mercury Records to record three tracks, "Earth" (Staffell), "Step on Me" (May), and "Doin' All Right" (May/Staffell). These were recorded in June 1969 at Trident Studios in Soho.

Ultimately this U.S. promotional recording was never published commercially, however, in September of the same year, Mercury Records commissioned them to record three more songs: "April Lady" (Stanley Lucas), "Blag", and "Polar Bear", a "gentle song about a polar bear"[3] written and led by May, at De Lane Lea Studios. Again, the record was not released at the time.

When Staffell left in 1970 to join another band, Humpy Bong, Smile effectively disbanded.[4] Bulsara persuaded May and Taylor to continue, and at about the same time, changing his surname from Bulsara to Mercury,[4] joined the band as lead vocalist, from which emerged "Queen".[4] This new band tried a number of bass players during this period, namely Mike Grose, Barry Mitchell and Doug Bogie, none of whom fit with the band's chemistry. It was not until February 1971 that John Deacon completed the lineup, and they began rehearsing for their first album.[5] This definitive lineup lasted until Mercury's death in 1991, their last album being Made in Heaven, released posthumously in 1995.

For their debut album, Queen recorded "Doing All Right". According to the book Queen: The Early Years, Staffell has been well compensated through royalties from the sale of the album, given his co-songwriting credit for the song with May. Queen also recorded the song for their first BBC recording session with John Peel. That session, along with their third session, have been released in the UK as At the Beeb (Band of Joy Records) in 1989, and in the U.S. as Queen at the BBC (Hollywood Records) in 1995. Also in 1995, Queen issued their "Let Me Live" singles, one of which features three of the first session BBC recordings, including "Doing Alright".

Smile reunited for several songs on 22 December 1992. Taylor's band The Cross were headliners and he brought May and Staffell on to play "Earth" and "If I Were a Carpenter".[6] May also performed several other songs that night.

In 2018, Smile reunited once more in Abbey Road to re-record "Doing All Right". This release was used in Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody movie.[7]

Discography

Two legitimate releases of the six Smile tracks have since been issued:

Gettin' Smile (LP) from Japan, released 23 September 1982, on Mercury Records. The sleeve contains notoriously inaccurate lyrics and songwriting credits for the songs. This release was used for all subsequent bootlegs which contain the songs.

Ghost of a Smile (CD) from the Netherlands, released in 1997, on Pseudonym Records. The CD booklet is comprehensive and features new liner notes by Staffell. All the tracks were newly remastered. The album also features two versions of the Eddie Howell/Freddie Mercury collaboration "The Man from Manhattan" (no relation to Smile, except that May plays guitar on it).

There is a bootleg album of their early tracks circa the Smile-era titled Pre-Ordained. Most of them also appeared on the 1995 Italian bootleg In Nuce.

References

  1. ^ Hepworth, David (25 May 2011). "God Save The Queen by David Hepworth (Radio Times)". Queen Online. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Smit's Smile". Originally from Queenfans.com. (Currently offline, retrieved through web archive on 8 November 2007.)
  3. ^ a b "Pre-Queen - Smile!". 30 May 2004. Archived from the original on 2 September 2002. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Queen Biography 1970, Queen Zone, archived from the original on 23 July 2011
  5. ^ Queen Biography 1971, Queen Zone, archived from the original on 12 May 2013
  6. ^ Tim Staffell Biography Archived 8 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Reed, Ryan (5 September 2018). "Queen Unearth Live Aid Recordings for 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Soundtrack". Rolling Stone (in American English). Retrieved 10 September 2018.