The year is 1983 and Brian May, the extraordinary guitarist of the legendary band Queen, sought solace from the rigors of rock stardom. Little did he know that a chance encounter with the incomparable Edward Van Halen would give birth to an audacious project that would leave an indelible mark on the music world. Now, fast forward four decades later, the iconic “Star Fleet Project” celebrates its anniversary with a triumphant re-release, a testament to the enduring power of their artistic alliance.
May, reflecting on the turbulent period that preceded this extraordinary endeavor, revealed that Queen had reached a point of exhaustion, their meteoric rise causing strains among the band members. Desiring respite from the whirlwind of relentless touring and recording, May found himself in the vibrant embrace of Los Angeles, a city pulsating with creative energy. It was there, under the golden Californian sun, that inspiration struck.
He said: “The members of Queen had become slightly, I think, irritated with each other or just too much, you know, we’d been touring, recording, touring, recording, touring, the whole time without a break. In 1983, we decided we needed a break and what I remember most vividly is waking up in L.A. one of my favourite places and thinking ‘I could do anything today, the Sun is shining, I’ve got friends here, why don’t I make some phone calls.'”
As reported by Ultimate Guitar, Seizing the opportunity, May reached out to the enigmatic Van Halen, whose own virtuosity on the guitar had captivated the world. The connection was instantaneous, as both musicians shared a mutual admiration for each other’s craft. Joined by the exceptionally talented Phil Chen on bass, the gifted keyboardist Fred Mandel, and the skilled drummer Alan Gratzer of REO Speedwagon, the stage was set for an unprecedented musical journey.
The concept behind the “Star Fleet Project” was born from May’s desire to infuse the realms of rock with the nostalgic melodies of beloved television series themes. His vision was to transform the Japanese cartoon science fiction series, Starfleet, into a monumental rock anthem. With a masterful arrangement taking shape in May’s mind, he sought to provide a platform for Van Halen’s unparalleled guitar prowess, allowing the virtuoso to unleash his creativity with breathtaking intensity.
May continued: “So I had some ideas in my head. The biggest idea was I wanted to bring this TV series theme into kind of rock domain. As I saw it. I wanted to experiment with it and I could hear stuff that I wanted to do with it. I had an arrangement in my head and I wanted to give a platform for Edward to play. I wanted to hear what he would do, given a spot. You know, like ‘go now’ – and I wanted to explore just making the song into some kind of rock anthem rather than the position that it had occupied, which was the theme tune of a very good Japanese cartoon science fiction series, Starfleet.”
Embracing a spirit of artistic exploration, May deliberately kept the project loose, inviting tangents and spontaneous ideas to flourish in the studio. He shared early demos of his compositions, particularly the anthemic “Let Me Out,” ensuring his collaborators had a glimpse into his musical vision. Yet, the overarching goal was to nurture an environment where inspiration flowed freely, unencumbered by rigid constraints.
The result of their collective brilliance was a sonic masterpiece that defied categorization. The “Star Fleet Project” seamlessly merged the realms of rock and television nostalgia, bridging the gap between the past and the present. It was a testament to the boundless potential that emerges when visionary artists converge, pushing boundaries and daring to venture into uncharted territory.
Now, four decades later, as the “Star Fleet Project” resurfaces to captivate a new generation of music enthusiasts, its significance remains undiminished. The ethereal harmonies, scintillating guitar solos, and electrifying energy captured within those recordings serve as a testament to the enduring legacy of Brian May and Edward Van Halen. Their collaboration, a moment frozen in time, continues to inspire and ignite the imaginations of musicians and fans alike, reminding us that the power of music knows no boundaries.