Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Operation: Mindcrime - How Queensrÿche Created their 1988 Opus

When you look at hard rock and heavy metal in the 1980s, Queensrÿche's opus Operation: Mindcrime is a record that soars above the crowd and has definitely stood the test of time.

May 3 will mark 29 years since the band released their first concept album, which has sold several million copies worldwide. And when it came time to record the follow-up to the hugely underrated Rage for Order record, the band probably didn't realize they'd made something that would be compared to legendary concept albums like Pink Floyd's The Wall or The Who's Tommy.

There's a Canadian connection to the idea for the story in that singer Geoff Tate came up with the concept during his time living in Montreal in 1987 and his observation of a terrorist group there. He found himself in an old Catholic church late one evening and was flooded with ideas for the revolutionary love story featuring Nikki, Dr. X and Sister Mary. Interestingly, Operation: Mindcrime was recorded at Le Studio, just north of Montreal.

"The idea for Operation: Mindcrime came in a flood one night as I sat on a well-worn wooden bench in the back of a Catholic Church," said Tate. "I had stayed behind in snow-covered Montreal in the end of the previous tour and the city and its people were my muse. One night in a bar called St. Supice, I met the man who became Dr. X. The cold, calculating, vicious personality of this man still makes me feel uneasy as I write this."

"His character and alleged involvement with a terrorist organization coupled with other personalities I had met on my travels truly were inspiration for this record," said Tate.

"We tried to paint a picture of what was going on and that's a real difficult thing to do. What we were trying to do was to paint an aural picture if you know what I mean," said Tate in 1988. "This album is the most difficult thing that we've ever had to do since we started the band. The lyrics were a lot of hard work. I got the idea not from a book I'd read or a film I'd seen, but from myself."

In the Donald Trump era of today, the story holds up remarkably well.

Tate features prominently in the songwriting, writing lyrics on all tracks except for "The Mission" (written by guitarist Chris DeGarmo), and the instrumentals "Anarchy-X" and "Waiting for 22".

"We'd been tossing around the idea of doing a complete concept album. Geoff especially wanted the band to do something massive in scope that utilised strict chronological sense," said DeGarmo in 1991. "He had a rough idea of the outline, of the Nikki, Mary and Doctor X characters way up front, and things just started to spark from his early enthusiasm. Lyrically I know Geoff considered the whole thing a massive personal challenge. Up until 'Mindcrime' he and I had pretty much collaborated on all lyrics, but he got on a roll with this one and virtually did the entire thing alone."

The band used Englishman Peter Collins to produce Mindcrime because Neil Kernon, who did Rage for Order, was working with Dokken and unavailable.

For the part of Mary, the band decided to use Seattle singer Pamela Moore, who met DeGarmo when she was working at a record store. According to Moore, they would often talk and then one day DeGarmo came in with Tate, who asked her if it was her voice on a series of radio commercial that been airing back then.

Then DeGarmo and Tate saw Moore play a live show and decided to use her as the voice of Mary. They flew her to Montreal to record vocals on "Suite Sister Mary", one of the most epic songs on Mindcrime.

In 2006, Queensrÿche (with DeGarmo out of the band) released the follow-up album Operation: Mindcrime II, which was well-received and went to No. 14 on the Billboard album charts.

Check out our post on Soundgarden's "Louder Than Love" album - one of their best

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