Keep Yourself Alive

Song Review by

After nearly two years honing their ambitious sound (part embryonic heavy metal, part grandiose opera) through constant rehearsals, Queen was given their first lucky break in mid-1972, when newly founded Trident Studios offered them free recording time in exchange for testing their equipment. Such unusual access to top-notch recording equipment (even if during studio down-time) allowed the band ample time to craft their eponymous debut, an album which, thanks to this rare privilege, was technically superior to most first efforts. And no track better represented Queen's studio savvy and facility with technology than eventual album opener and first single "Keep Yourself Alive." Coined by guitarist Brian May, whose uncanny talent for manipulating his instrument's tone and texture were already remarkably well developed at this early stage, the song's lyrics would seem, on the surface, to describe a complacent band satisfied with their current lot. But even if his performance is not quite as commanding as on subsequent albums, just one listen to Freddie Mercury's spitting, rapid-fire delivery reveals that the song is, in truth, an irrepressible ode to sheer ambition, and reveals all of Queen's desire to achieve rock stardom no matter the cost. Still, when it was released as a single in July 1973 (backed with another May composition, "Son & Daughter"), "Keep Yourself Alive" was given mixed reviews and received little to no radio airplay. In fact, like the first album, it failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic and was considered quite a disappointment, leaving the band facing an uncertain future for the six months which preceded their successful third single "Seven Seas of Rhye," after which their fortunes finally began to rise.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Queen 1973 Hollywood 3:46
A Night at the Opera 1975 Hollywood 0:00
Greatest Hits [1981] 1981 EMI Classics 3:32
21 Years of Alternative Radio 1 1988
Various Artists
Strange Fruit 3:50
No Image 1989 Capitol
Classic Queen 1992 Hollywood 3:45
No Image 1992 Hollywood 0:00
No Image 1992 Hollywood 0:00
Rocks, Vol. 1 1997 Hollywood 3:45
Harley Davidson Road Songs, Vol. 2 1998
Various Artists
Capitol 3:50
The Crown Jewels 1998 Hollywood 3:47
Greatest Karaoke Hits 2004 EMI / Toshiba EMI
Jewels, Vol. 2 2005 Toshiba EMI
Forever Changing: The Golden Age of Elektra 1963-1973 2007
Various Artists
WEA International 3:49
Greatest Hits/Greatest Karaoke Hits 2007 EMI Music Distribution
The Singles Collection [13 CD] 2008 Parlophone 0:29
Deep Cuts 1973-1976 2011 Universal 3:48
Queen 40: Limited Edition Collector's Box Set, Vol. 1 2011 Hollywood 4:04
Queen on Air 2016 BBC / A Bbc Recording / Hollywood 3:50
Bohemian Rhapsody [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 2018 Hollywood / Hollywood Records 3:56
Stormtroopers In Stilettos Island 4:04