I remember now...
I can't recall the first time I listened to Queensryche. It was either 1987 or 1988, likely either Rage for Order or Operation: Mindcrime. But what I do recall was that my musical world was never the same once I did. Like many, I was into Bon Jovi and Whitesnake at the time. But when I heard Queensryche's powerful blend of expert musicianship, operatic vocals and more serious and darker lyrical content, I was hooked for good.
At the time, I had no idea who the musicians were – I didn't care. All I knew was that the music spoke to me. One of many fond memories was being 12 years old, just starting 7th Grade in fall 1988 and “speaking the word” of how great Queensryche was to all who would listen. I got made fun of by guys who were into Def Leppard and some other acts that were more “pop” back then.
But as 1989 came around and the video for “Eyes of a Stranger” debuted and exploded up the charts on MTV, those same guys stopped me in the hallways to tell me that I was right about Queensryche and how much they rocked. It felt good during those awkward pre-teen years to be vindicated and ironically, Queensryche started getting that mainstream exposure around the time they opened for Def Leppard.
Anyone who is reading this can probably share a similar story. The point is, Queensryche meant something to those that discovered them. In an era where popular hard rock consisted of simplistic, poppy guitar riffs with messages about tits and ass, Queensryche straddled the line between progressive rock and heavy metal and made you think with their lyrics. The music united generations of rock fans.
Over time, Queensryche would go on to huge mainstream success and like many bands of their era, would suffer once the grunge movement – ironically coming out of Queensryche's hometown – took root. Ultimately, the original five-member lineup of the band would fracture in late 1997, as guitarist Chris DeGarmo departed, leaving fellow axeman Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and vocalist Geoff Tate to fend for themselves.
The four would go forward with a host of replacement guitarists over the years. While the quality of music those lineups produced depends on the individual listener, most fans would agree that Queensryche was never the same. The band's sound was a songwriting mixture of Tate's progressive leanings; DeGarmo's sense of melody and ability to put together complex, interesting arrangements; and Wilton's aggressive guitar riffs.
Much has happened to Queensryche in the years since DeGarmo's initial departure and the original lineup's aborted reunion attempt in 2002-2003. Most notably, Jackson, Rockenfield and Wilton kicked Tate out of the band in 2012, resulting in a vicious lawsuit between Tate and his former bandmates. Ultimately, the rights to the name Queensryche ended up in the hands of the three remaining founding members of the band, and a new lead singer – Todd La Torre – took up the formidable task of replacing Tate.
With the drama that ensued from the lawsuit and many years of conflict between the members, I've found that the history of Queensryche's original lineup has been swept under the carpet to a degree. Given the Internet's explosion over the last 20 years, circles of fans would come and go, often leading to the often-inaccurate re-telling of the band's story.
While fans can look up the basics of Queensryche's history on Wikipedia, the account written there is cold, sterile. It's informative, but written for an audience to surf in, grab what they need and go. The passion fans had for the band in the 1980s and early 1990s isn't there, and the nuances in Queensryche's story isn't represented in that account.
My hope is that AnybodyListening.net changes that. This site is written with the goal of connecting the reader with the feelings they had when they first discovered Queensryche in those early years of the band. And if you came on-board after the original lineup disbanded, this biography might give you a taste of why Queensryche was so different than their contemporaries during their peak and just why the band was heralded by fans and peers.
Someone once told me that fans had a “romantic view” of how a band creates music. Technically, that person was right, of course, but doesn't music exist as a release for both the artist and the audience? It's a business, but for those who develop a rabid affinity for a particular work, the words and music speak to them on a level that can't be properly described.
The music the original lineup of Queensryche poured out of their souls did that for me, you, and thousands of others across the world. As Queensryche now finds itself without two of the three primary songwriters from that golden period, I believe it's important to have the original band's story presented with conviction, rekindling that flame of passion from long ago.
So kick back, throw on the EP, The Warning, Rage for Order, Operation: Mindcrime, Empire, Promised Land, Hear in the Now Frontier, and those moments on Tribe where Queensryche was fully reunited, and travel back down the roads to madness with me.
– Brian Heaton
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