Smile were a London-based blues based rock band best known as the predecessor to renowned rock band Queen. The band was formed in 1968 by Brian May, who was to become Queen's guitarist. The group included Tim Staffell as singer and bassist, and, later, drummer Roger Taylor, who also went on to play for Queen. The group disbanded in 1970.
- Brian May (1965 - Present): Guitar, banjo, bass, keyboards, piano, vocals, harp
- Roger Taylor (1968 - Present): Drums, vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizers
- Tim Staffell (1960s - Present): Guitar
In 1968, guitarist Brian May, a student at London's Imperial College, and bassist Tim Staffell formed a group when May placed an advertisement on the college notice board for a "Ginger Baker type" drummer, and a young medical student named Roger Taylor auditioned and got the job. Smile were signed to Mercury Records in 1969, and had their first experience of a recording studio in Trident Studios that year. Staffell was attending Ealing Art College with Farrokh Bulsara (later known as Freddie Mercury), and introduced him to the band. Bulsara soon became a keen fan.
The group's biggest public performance was on February 27, 1969 at the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child. Held at the Royal Albert Hall, May, Taylor and Staffell performed as a trio on guitar, drums and bass respectively. Keyboardist Chris Smith had been fired the day before, according to Staffell. (According to Smith, he was only briefly in the band and left of his own accord because he was interested in different styles.)
Smile gigged quite a bit on the London scene, according to Time Out's listings. On April 19, they played at the Speakeasy and on May 31, they appeared at the Whisky A Go Go.
In March 1969, the band played at a venue known as PJ's, using claims to have previously been played on radio station BBC Radio 1 to secure an audience. It seems likely that the claims were fictitious, however. Shortly after they were given a one-off recording deal by Mercury Records to record three tracks, "Earth" (Staffell), "Step On Me" (May), and "Doin' All Right" (May/Staffell). These were recorded in June 1969 at Trident Studios in Soho. Ultimately this US promotional recording was never published commercially.
However, in September of the same year, Mercury Records commissioned them to record three more songs: "April Lady" (Stanley Lucas), "Blag", a May instrumental, and "Polar Bear", a "gentle song about a polar bear" written and led by May, at De Lane Lea Studios. Again, the record was not released at the time.
When Staffell left Smile in 1970 to join another band, Humpy Bong, Smile effectively disbanded. Bulsara persuaded May and Taylor to continue, changing the band's name from "Smile" to "Queen" in the process. Bulsara soon joined the band as lead vocalist. The band had a number of bass players during this period, namely Mike Grose, Barry Mitchell and Doug Bogie, who did not fit with the band's chemistry. It was not until February 1971 that they settled on John Deacon and began to rehearse for the first album. This definitively created the Queen lineup which lasted until Mercury's death in 1991.
For their debut album, Queen recorded "Doing All Right". According to the book "Queen: The Early Years", Staffell has been well compensated through royalties from the sale of the album, given his co-songwriting credit for the song with Brian May. Queen also recorded the song for their first BBC recording session with John Peel. That session, along with their third session, have been released in the UK as At the Beeb (Band of Joy Records) in 1989, and in the U.S. as Queen at the BBC (Hollywood Records) in 1995. Also in 1995, Queen issued their Let Me Live singles, one of which features three of the first session BBC recordings, including "Doing Alright".
Smile would reunite for several songs on 22 December 1992. Taylor's band The Cross were headliners and he brought May and Staffell on to play "Earth" and "If I Were a Carpenter".May also performed several other songs that night.