Legendary UK EMI Records promotional ‘Frank the Robot’ display for the release of Queen’s 1977 album News of the World. The silver-painted molded plastic robot, approximately 54″ x 33″ x 19″, was created by EMI to display copies of Queen’s new album at select high-end record store locations. As such, a very limited amount of these robot displays were made, with the number generally believed to be 10, with five going to the band and manager and the other half sent to a handful of record stores—of those, only three are believed to have survived. Although all of the displays feature a red wire basket, which would hold copies of the album, these displays were not identical, with some of the robots varying slightly in their design. This particular ‘Frank’ is characterized by its red basket, eyes, and lips, and the large “Queen” sticker on its chest; other models bear stickers that read ‘Queen: News of the World.’ In fine condition, with expected wear from use and storage, such as scattered marks and scuffs.
The News of the World album cover famously features a sad-eyed robot clutching the dead bodies of Freddie Mercury and Brian May, while John Deacon and Roger Taylor fall in mid-air from his hand. Taylor, a science fiction fan, was struck by the image of the robot clutching a dead man on the cover of a 1950’s magazine called Astounding Science Fiction. He suggested that they use it on the album cover and the band approached the magazine cover’s artist, Frank Kelly Freas, asking him to adapt his original illustration. He accepted the commission, even though he was a classical music fan who wasn’t familiar with Queen.
Freas was known primarily for his science fiction illustrations and Mad Magazine covers. He originally designed the imagery to reference the story ‘The Gulf Between’ by Tom Godwin, about a future society where robots can be pilots or doctors, but must always serve humans and obey their commands without question. At the time of News of the World’s release, Frank the Robot became heavily associated with Queen and the album. Freas also used his image when designing advertisements for the 1977-78 ‘News of the World Tour.’
In the ensuing decades, Frank the Robot has become even more iconic. He appeared on film and stage during the 2017-18 Queen and Adam Lambert Tour, commemorating News of the World’s 40th anniversary, and in the 2018 animated video for ‘All Dead, All Dead.’ In an episode of the animated series The Family Guy, baby Stewie mentally deteriorates after becoming hysterically terrified of the album cover.