1975 was a year that forever changed the lives of the members of Queen. They released their classic album A Night at the Opera which contained the massive hit Bohemian Rhapsody. It was the album that almost never was. Their label told them that Bohemian Rhapsody would never work as a single because it was too long, but the band had other ideas. In this article we are going to take a look at the gear that guitar player Brian May used for the album and subsequent gigs in 1975.
Brian used a small selection of pedals in 1975 that were a key part of his tone.
- Dallas Rangemaster
- Foxx Phaser
- Maestro Echoplex
The effect that is most heavily associated with Brian’s tone is a Treble Booster of some kind. In 1975, Brian was using the Dallas Rangemaster, this was the main Treble Booster around at the time. In later years, Brian worked with other companies to build lighter and more efficient models.
The Rangemaster was designed to sit ontop of your amp, but Brian would have his mounted to his guitar strap. It would be the first thing his guitar signal would hit before going to his amplifiers.
The Foxx Phaser is a foot controllable phaser pedalthat Brian used until the 1980s.
In 1975, on stage Brian was running a pair of Echoplex units into 3 Vox AC30 amplifiers. He would run this with his three amps in a wet/dry/wet rig where the Echoplex units would affect the otter amps and the central amp would be dry. He would run both at slightly different speeds to achieve a wide sound. On his pedalboard he had a small mute switch for each unit to manually turn them off if needed.
Probably the most important piece of gear in Brian’s entire rig is his totally unique guitar, the Red Special. This is a guitar that he and his father hand built in the early 1960s from an old 18th century fireplace (The neck), an oak table (the center block of the body) and blockboard (for the rest of the body). The guitar was painted with many layers of a plastic coating paint. The Red Special was fitted with three Burns Tri-Sonic pickups that Brian re-wound by hand to have reverse polarity options.
He wired the guitar up with 6 mini switches. 3 switches for turning each pickup on and off individually and 3 for flipping the phase on each pickup. This meant that Brian could dial in a huge number of combinations to run the pickups in series or parallel. The tremolo was also hand made and the springs come from a motorcycle valve and the tremolo arm made from a bicycle saddle bag carrier and a knitting needle.
This was the main guitar used in the studio and live.
John Birch RS Replica
Brian always used his Red Special for his main guitar, but in 1975, luthier John Birch made Brian a replica to use as a backup. This guitar appeared in the We Will Rock You music video but Brian did not particularly like the sound of this guitar, as it did not sound exactly like his main guitar.
Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
Brian May carried a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe with him on your in 1974 and 75 as a backup guitar. Due to him not being able to get the sounds he wanted from the Les Paul, he ordered the John Birch replica of his Red Special.
Ovation Pacemaker 1615
Brian used this 12 string Ovation Pacemaker 1615 both on stage and in the studio. In 1975 it was used for the songs Love of My Life and 39. Brian would string each pair of the 12 string set the other way around so the thinner string is the top of each pair as opposed to the standard way of making the thinner string of each pair the bottom string.
Amplifiers and Cabinets
Since the early days of Queen, the main amp for Brian May has always been the Vox AC30. In 1975 he was using three on stage at once in a wet/dry/wet configuration. The outer units were effected by the Echoplex units and the center amp was a dry signal. The amps are run very loud, and coupled the the Treble Booster that hits the front end, this gives Brians signature overdriven tone. Brian has his amps modded these days to remove the tone stack, but it is not known if these mods were being done in 1975.