The Star Fleet Project.
The year 1983 gave the members of Queen some time off between the end of the Hot Space tour in late 1982 and the group recording sessions for what would be the album “The Works” which commenced in August 1983. Roger and Freddie opted to work on material for their respective solo releases “Strange Frontier” and “Mr Bad Guy.” Brian May however was working on his own project.
When did Brian May come up with the Star Fleet Album?
Brian was staying in Los Angeles and the gem of an idea was given to him by his son Jimmy who was an avid viewer of a TV show that was airing on UK television at the time. In the vein of shows such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, Star Fleet was a Japanese produced sci-fi adventure featuring puppets rather than animation.
In Brian's words:
“Star Fleet is the theme tune for a superb TV sci-fi series broadcast in England for kids of all ages. The heroes pilot space vehicles which can assemble into giant robots for land battles. The aliens fly fantastic insect-like crafts which spawn smaller fighting machines; all intent on possession of the secret of F Zero One. Having been introduced to all this by my small boy, I became equally obsessed by it, and formed the idea of making a hard rock version of the title theme.”
— Brian May
Brian May's Inspiration for Star Fleet
The show's original title in Japan was “XBomber” and it was sold to various countries around the world. In the UK the show was retitled “Star fleet” and the audio was re-dubbed by English voice actors. A new soundtrack was also produced by musician and composer Paul Bliss. His theme song, which actually played out over the end credits of each episode was the music that Brian liked and decided to record a version.
Who Performed with Brian May on Star Fleet?
Time was duly booked at The Record Planet Studios in Los Angeles. The band for the session consisted of Brian May, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alan Gratzer (of REO Speedwagon), Phil Chen (session bassist who played with Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart), and Fred Mandel (session keyboard player who also played as an additional keyboard player on Queen's Hot Space World Tour and The Works). Queen's drummer Roger Taylor provided backing vocals for the title song. Originally the project was put together for fun and Brian had no intention of releasing the material.
"I could have put away these tapes in a bottom drawer and kept them as a private record of one of the best experiences of my life. But the few people I've played them for have urged me to 'publish'...I haven't messed one scrap with the tracking done on the day. The rest is simply mixed 'naked'."
— Brian May
The Creation of Brian May's Star Fleet Album
Between the 21st and 22nd of April 1983, three songs were recorded. “Star Fleet” (an extended and rearranged version of the TV show theme,) as well as "Let Me Out", an old Brian May song which until that point had not been committed to record. During the song, Eddie Van Halen "tortures his top string to its audible death" (according to May's liner notes) and plays the rest of the song on the remaining five.
The third track "Blues Breaker" was dedicated to Eric Clapton, of whom both Van Halen and May were huge fans. This song, as well as "Let Me Out" was more spontaneous than "Star Fleet", showing both guitarists enjoying a jamming session, with Brian showing off his signature sound and Van Halen using his tapping technique to great effect (although the best example of this is at the beginning of "Star Fleet").
The songs were released in October 83 as a Mini-LP, a "challenge to the established principle that a piece of rock music must fit into either a 2x4 minute single, or a 2x20 minute LP format"
The sad death of Edward Van Halen in October 2020 caused Brian to reminisce about their time in the studio.
As Brian says now:
“A couple of days after I heard the news about Eddie, I went back to Star Fleet. I started revisiting all the feelings I had when we were in the studio doing that, and it sort of healed my soul a bit. I thought, ‘Yeah, this is what I should be doing at this time.’”
With Brian recently hinting at plans to reissue his 90s solo albums, “Back to the Light” and “Another World.” He was asked in a recent interview for Guitar World/Total Guitar magazine if he plans to include the Star Fleet EP with the reissues.
“I was looking at reissuing all my solo albums, and Star Fleet obviously is one of them. At some point, it would be lovely to revisit it in depth, but at the moment I’m not. It doesn’t feel right now. To be honest, I’m confused about what is the best thing to do. I think it needs a little time for the dust to settle. But talking with you about it in Total Guitar, I think, is okay...”
Videos from Brian May's Star Fleet Album
With the release of the album/EP, Brian produced a promo video for “Star Fleet.”It features footage from the show and a rather odd “disembodied” Brian singing.
You can also see some episodes of the series on YouTube. Fans of Gerry Anderson shows may well enjoy the similarities and fans of Japanese Anime will enjoy the giant Robots!
What do you think?
So we're now handing the mic over to you. What did you think of Brian's Star Fleet Project. It certainly was a surprise collaboration between some of the greatest musical artists in Rock and we for one feel lucky that Brian didn't keep it hidden in his "Sock Drawer"
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