With the lengthy News Of The World tour behind them, the band took the summer of 1978 to work on a follow-up. There would be no way to match the success of We Are The Champions, so it was decided to explore even more musical territories, many that had not been previously attempted. The passing fad of punk rock seemed to have dissipated by the time sessions began in July; while old wave bands like The Rolling Stones had released Some Girls, meant to be a direct response to punk music, that summer, Queen avoided that path completely this time, instead choosing to record whatever they wanted to record.
Because of the band's massive wealth, they were liable for extreme taxation; they were advised to spend the year outside of England and take up temporary residency elsewhere, namely the tax exile of Montreux. Thus, Jazz, the band's seventh studio album, became their first to not be recorded at all in England, though it certainly wouldn't be the last. While new atmospheres were being explored, a familiar face was brought back: after a two album absence, Roy Thomas Baker once again became Queen's co-producer, invited back after producing Peter Straker's This One's On Me; Freddie was a friend of Straker's, and had helped finance the sessions.
Sessions started off in Nice at Superbear Studios, the same locale as David Gilmour's eponymous debut solo album and Pink Floyd's The Wall, among others. It was during these sessions that Freddie witnessed the Tour de France passing by his hotel, which gave him inspiration for a new song. After celebrating Brian's 31st and Roger's 29th birthdays in late July, the sessions switched over to Mountain Studios in Montreux, which Queen would later be encouraged to purchase as a tax write-off, though they wouldn't record in the studios until later in the 1980s.
So what of the music? Titled Jazz, it should hardly be surprising that the album features very little, if any, jazz music on it at all. Only Dreamers Ball comes close, sounding much like a boozy New Orleans blues shuffle; elsewhere, the band stick firmly in their rock (Fat Bottomed Girls, If You Can't Beat Them, Let Me Entertain You, Dead On Time, and Don't Stop Me Now) and ballad (Jealousy, In Only Seven Days, and Leaving Home Ain't Easy) roots, while more diverse excursions include funk (Fun It), typical Queen overproduction (Bicycle Race), laborious hard rock (More Of That Jazz), and indeterminate (Mustapha). It must have come as a shock for any Queen fan to hear the opening strains of Mustapha, with Freddie shouting incomprehensibly in Arabic.
Critics were quick to lambaste the album for being overcooked and pretentious, though it should be mentioned that every album since Queen II received the same criticisms. One review by the dimwitted Dave Marsh even labeled Queen as rock's first fascist band. However, with thirteen tracks spread across forty-five minutes, it was inevitable that the band would start to run out of ideas; while there are some good to excellent songs on the album, there's more filler than any previous Queen album. As a result, the band would take some time off from studio work and focus exclusively on live performances. By the time they entered the studios again in June 1979, Roy Thomas Baker was gone for good (again) and Queen's recording techniques would be challenged and maintained by new blood.
Jazz was released in November 1978 and reached #2 in the UK and #6 in the US, with a cover inspired by concentric circles spotted by Roger while visiting the Berlin Wall in the spring of 1978. The first single, Fat Bottomed Girls / Bicycle Race (the band's first double A-sided single since Killer Queen / Flick Of The Wrist in 1974; We Are The Champions / We Will Rock You was not a double A-side in the UK), was the target of a bizarre marketing campaign, in which sixty-five naked women were perched atop bicycles rented from Halford's Cycles and sent racing around Wimbledon Stadium. Video footage from the day's photo shoot was later used for the accompanying promotional film for Bicycle Race, though it was a poster included with early releases of the album that caused the most controversy: banned in the USA, second run pressings included an order form to be sent off for the fold-out. The second single from the album, Don't Stop Me Now, was more successful, reaching #9 in the UK (as opposed to the first single's #11 placement), while the US chartings were more disappointing: Fat Bottomed Girls / Bicycle Race reached #24, while Don't Stop Me Now barely scraped the Top 100, reaching #86. The third single, Jealousy, didn't chart at all. The album was released on CD in 1991, with two bonus tracks: dance remixes (what else?) of Fat Bottomed Girls and Bicycle Race. Evidently, unreleased tracks from the sessions were scarce; it would seem that, apart from an early version of Coming Soon and a medley of Don't Stop Me Now and Jealousy, all song ideas were used for the album and no previously unreleased songs exist.