The Untold Truth Of Roger Taylor

Roger Taylor, born in 1949 in Norfolk, England, is best known for being the drummer of the English rock band Queen. Taylor's interest in music started at an early age. He was part of the school choir and learned to play the ukelele and guitar before eventually focusing on the drums when he was about 10 years old. He used his mother's kitchen pans and knitting needles as a makeshift drum set before his father got him a drum kit. Taylor named Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham as one of his inspirations (per Modern Drummer). He joined different bands before eventually forming Queen.

In 1968, Roger Taylor and Brian May were in a band called Smile with vocalist Tim Staffell. Tim decided to leave the band, but not before introducing his friend, Farrokh Bulsara (Freddie Mercury) to Taylor and May. John Deacon shortly joined the new trio and the band name Smile was changed to Queen, according to Up Venue.

In the 1970s, Queen catapulted to worldwide fame, with fans loving their unique style and glam rock music. Throughout the years, Queen has been active in the music scene, despite losing some of its members. Freddie Mercury died of AIDS complications in 1991, and John Deacon retired in 1997. Both May and Taylor have performed Queen songs with different artists throughout the years, often going on tours and appearing in music festivals. Roger Taylor has also ventured on his own, releasing five solo albums, the first of which came out in 1981 (via Discogs).

Taylor wrote songs for Queen

All the members contributed to writing Queen songs either by themselves or together with other members of the band. Roger Taylor was responsible for quite a few tracks, some of which were considered Queen's greatest hits. In an interview with Modern Drummer, Taylor revealed that he wasn't a good songwriter at first, and he honed his writing skills by listening to and watching other artists. Admittedly, he said the first few songs that he wrote were not that good.

One of the songs Roger wrote was "I'm in Love with My Car," which is said to be an ode to his friend, roadie John Harris, as reported by Song Facts. Another popular Queen song Taylor wrote was "Radio Ga Ga," inspired by his toddler Felix who uttered the words "radio ca-ca," upon hearing a song on the radio that he disliked, (via Words, Music, and Stories.)

Roger Taylor was also responsible for penning "These Are the Days of Our Lives." The song is quite mellow compared to Taylor's other songs, and it would end up having an iconic music video as it was the last one Freddie Mercury would record before his death. Songs he completely wrote by himself for the band are "Sheer Heart Attack" and "Fight from the Inside." 

Roger Taylor studied dentistry and biology

The four members of Queen studied in university while making music, and they all earned their degrees, which is an impressive feat for those serious about making music. Mercury had a graphic design and illustration degree, and Deacon graduated with honors and earned an electronics degree. Meanwhile, Brian May has a degree in physics and is an astrophysicist (via Encyclopedia).

Though Taylor became passionate about music at an early age, he never let his education suffer. He finished high school with three advanced level qualifications in physics, chemistry, and biology, and he decided to study dentistry after consulting with his teachers, as reported by Queen World. Taylor initially studied at the London Hospital Medical College with a course in dentistry. However, he became bored and decided to switch to another course. In an interview with Modern Drummer, Taylor admitted that he didn't attend classes very often, but nevertheless, he was able to graduate. He finished his studies with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at North London Polytechnic.

Roger Taylor was invited (kind of) to join the band Genesis

During Queen's earlier years, members of the band Genesis approached Roger Taylor and invited him to the studio to listen to their recordings. Genesis was an English progressive rock band formed in the late 1960s. They had different members throughout their active years, including Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Roger Taylor said that although the band didn't outright ask him about joining the group, he had a hunch that's what they would have wanted to happen as their drummer had just left at that time. And so they went to the studio to listen to some music and then went to a pub afterward. "They're all lovely people, but I didn't really get the music, to be honest. It was a bit too prog for me," Taylor said. Roger Taylor decided to stick with Queen, even if they hadn't reached worldwide success back then. Phil Collins took over as Genesis' drummer soon after.

His appearance on a Royal Mail stamp caused controversy

In 1999, the Royal Mail released a collection of 100 stamps with a theme focusing on 1,000 years of British history. One of the stamps included in the collection is an ode to Freddie Mercury. The image used depicted the Queen frontman in one of their live performances, with Roger Taylor visible behind his set of drums (photo above). As reported by Entertainment Weekly, the stamp caused controversy as many did not agree that Mercury should have been honored, calling the stamp "vulgar." In addition, a columnist attacked Mercury, saying he lived a "degenerate lifestyle," which caused his death of AIDS.

Roger Taylor was also caught in the crossfire, as it was a known rule that only royals are allowed to be put on stamps while they are still living. Although Taylor wasn't the focus of the stamp, many people argued that he should not have appeared there at all. Amid the backlash, the Royal Mail issued a statement saying, "Every stamp is approved by the queen, including this one, which was also given the consent of Freddie Mercury's family and by Mr. Taylor," (via AP News). In 2020, the Royal Mail honored Queen on their 50th anniversary with a special collection consisting of 13 stamps.

Roger Taylor has a massive statue of Freddie in his garden

Roger Taylor seems to want to have a reminder of his friend, former Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, which is why he chose to place a statue of him in his garden. The 20-foot bronze statue was used as a promotional piece for the musical "We Will Rock You," and it originally stood at the entrance of the Dominican Theatre in London for more than a decade, according to Express. The statue was moved to a warehouse in 2014, so Roger decided to give it a new home. He thought that putting the statue in storage only cost money, so he decided to keep it for himself and display it at his home.

When asked about the statue in an interview, Taylor said he thought "it would be very funny to have the statue there, and I think Freddie would have found it hilarious. He would have found it really funny." Both Brian May and Roger performed Queen's music for the musical "We Will Rock You," and Roger amusingly said that Brian may have been "pi**ed off that he hadn't thought" of claiming the statue for himself, as reported by Mirror. Roger Taylor posted a photo of the statue in his garden on his Instagram, adding the caption, "old friend."

The Queen Mother met the Queen drummer's mother

In what would prove to be something of a foreshadowing event in the life of Roger Taylor, the future drummer of the band called Queen would cross paths with an actual queen. 

According to the Eastern Daily Press, Taylor was born in July 1949, to parents who lived in an apartment in King's Lynn, an area in the English county of Norfolk. Taylor was one of the very first babies born in a brand new maternity wing of West Norfolk and Lynn Hospital. Young Roger Taylor arrived after the maternity ward opened, but five days before its official grand opening on August 1, 1949, an event attended by Queen Elizabeth, later known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, once her husband, King George VI, died and was succeeded by their daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The literal queen of England spent two hours touring the new facility, performed an official dedication ceremony, and spoke with 16 mothers-to-be and brand-new mothers, including Winifred Taylor, Roger Taylor's mother.

Roger Taylor is in the Guinness Book of World Records

Roger Taylor is all over the proverbial music record books as the drummer for Queen, one of the best-selling rock bands of all time. He also makes multiple appearances in the record book of record, "Guinness World Records," for his roles in various insurmountable accomplishments. In the very early days of online streaming video, Taylor led an ensemble of six musicians in a performance originating from Cyberbarn, a theater in Surrey, U.K., in September 1998. It was remotely viewed by 9,804 people, a Guinness record for the "largest exclusive concert on the internet." 

Five years later, Queen was recognized for its collective composition skills. All four members wrote songs for the group, including Taylor, and were inducted as a single entity into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Guinness recognized the feat, as Queen was the first entire band inducted into the SHOF.

Taylor also served as executive music producer on the 2018 Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody," and he and bandmate Brian May met with Joanne Connor, an Australian woman who saw the movie 108 times in the theatre — a record for most cinema viewings of a single film.

He works well Under Pressure

In 1981, Queen scored one of its biggest transatlantic hits with the soaring power ballad "Under Pressure," a collaboration with fellow era superstar David Bowie that hit #1 in the U.K. and the top 30 in the U.S. All four Queen members and Bowie are all credited as songwriters on the tune, which came about when Queen was recording in Montreux, Switzerland. When producer David Richards heard Bowie was in town too, he asked him to join them in the studio. And then they all had a few drinks. "I think the process was we were all drunk, and in the studio, and we were just for fun playing all sorts of old songs," Roger Taylor said in "Queen: The Greatest." "And I think David said, 'Look, hang on a minute, why don't we write one of our own?'"

Once those creative juices started to flow, bassist John Deacon devised the song's propulsive, repeated bass line. He played it many times, but then the assembled musicians, a little drunk and very hungry, all went out for pizza. When they returned to the studio to resume work on what would become "Under Pressure," nobody could remember that bass riff, not even Deacon. Finally, after scrambling and assembling their memories, it's Taylor who remembered the riff, thus saving "Under Pressure."

There's a damselfly named after him

New species of all kinds of lifeforms are discovered all the time, and the researchers who identify them get to bestow upon them an official, Latin-leaning name of pretty much their own choosing. Damselflies are brightly colored flying insects somewhat similar to dragonflies, with whom they share the order Odonata, according to Britannica

Scientist and insect expert F.A.A. Lencioni, per Biotaxa, recognized four new damselfly varieties in the Heteragrion genus and published his results in 2013. According to Discover Wildlife, Lencioni wanted to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the creation of the band Queen, and so named each of the damselfly species after a different member of Queen. And so, flying around out there (primarily in Brazil, where they're most prominent and subsequently discovered) are Heteragrion freddiemercuryi, Heteragrion brianmayi, Heteragrion johndeaconi, and Heteragrion rogertaylori. According to observations of the insect published on iNaturalist, the damselfly named for Roger Taylor has a head with a bulb on either end, four long and flat wings, and a brown and yellow stick-like body.

Roger Taylor and his son were close with Taylor Hawkins

As the man behind the drum kit for one of the most popular bands on Earth in the 1970s and 1980s, Roger Taylor influenced countless musicians, but one he definitely inspired to rock was Taylor Hawkins, future drummer for Alanis Morissette and Foo Fighters. Hawkins saw Queen play at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in 1982, and it was a milestone moment. "After that concert, I don't think I slept for three days," Hawkins told Kerrang! "I was just starting to get into the drums and Roger Taylor became my hero." He also told "60 Minutes," "I wanted to be Roger Taylor and I wanted to be in Queen."

In 2001, Hawkins helped induct Queen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2019, he got to collaborate with his hero, when Roger Taylor played on "Get the Money," an album the Foo Fighters drummer recorded with his side project, the Coattail Riders, a reality Hawkins found pleasantly "ridiculous." The two iconic drummers quickly became friends, and when Hawkins died in 2022, Taylor was devastated. In an Instagram post, he likened the loss to "losing a younger favorite brother," adding that Hawkins had served as a mentor to Taylor's son, Rufus. A few days after the death, according to The Independent, Taylor dedicated his Order of the British Empire accolade to Hawkins, whom he called "sunshine in human form."

He's got a thriving solo career

If one had to guess which member of Queen had the most prolific and notable solo career, the logical answer would probably be the late Freddie Mercury, one of rock's most powerful and gifted vocalists, or guitar genius Brian May. But it's not either of those guys. The member of the Queen with the most active extracurricular professional life is drummer Roger Taylor, who, since branching out on his own in 1981, has recorded six full-length studio albums

The first, "Fun in Space," is a true solo project, as he performed all of the vocal duties, wrote and arranged all the songs, and played all the instruments (except some keyboards). Dismissing it to Modern Drummer as a "rush job" that he had to record quickly before he lost the gall to break away from Queen to do it, Taylor spent 1983 alternating between recording his band's album "The Works" and his own project, "Strange Frontier."

There's a 10-year gap in Taylor's resume after "Strange Frontier," on account of how he used that time to start and front a brand new band called The Cross. A dance-rock combo turned straightforward classic rock act, The Cross recorded three albums in the late '80s and early '90s.

Roger Taylor produced and defended Bohemian Rhapsody

Speaking to the enduring and powerful popularity of Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody," the 2018 biopic about the band, was a box office smash, earning $910 million globally and resulting in star Rami Malek winning a BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Golden Globe, and Academy Award for his starring role as Freddie Mercury. However, film critics, on the whole, found "Bohemian Rhapsody" to be just okay. According to Classic Rock, many writers took issue with the film's historical inaccuracies, particularly how it depicted Mercury revealing his HIV-positive status to his bandmates just before their monumental Live Aid performance in 1985. It provided dramatic heft, but Mercury actually gave his bandmates the news at a different time. 

Queen drummer Roger Taylor (and a producer of "Bohemian Rhapsody") didn't care for the criticisms. "It didn't fictionalize the real story, only details," he said. "When you're making a movie, which is approximately a hundred minutes long, you have to mess with the timeline to make it work."

Overall, Taylor was extraordinarily displeased with the critical derision directed toward "Bohemian Rhapsody." "There were some decent reviews, but there were many that were kinda sneering and superficial," he told Planet Rock. "I thought, 'You just don't get it, do you? You weren't moved, and whatever, but f you actually. F you all the way to the bank, actually."