Having spent the better part of 18 months working on Made In Heaven, Happiness? and its resulting tour, and the Champions Of The World documentary, Roger's mind seemed less focused on another solo album and more about relaxing and enjoying his unexpected retirement. But early in 1997, shortly after appearing with Elton John, Brian, and John at the Bejart Ballet for Life, the recording bug bit him once again, and he started writing and demoing songs at a quick pace: by the end of the year, he had 14 songs ready to go for the album, and only two of them (John Lennon's Working Class Hero and Little Richard's Keep A Knockin') were covers.
The resulting album, released as Electric Fire after a line in London Town, C'mon Down and also named after the sleeve (an original silkscreen and oil-on-canvas of 'Two-bar electric fire no. 1' by Tim Mara), is Roger's most accomplished album to date, and by far one of the best albums that a member of Queen had released. While the lyrics occasionally bordered on the cringe-inducing (for example, it wouldn't be a Roger Taylor album if a corrupt politician or religious zealot wasn't dragged across the coals), the songs are mature and well-developed, with an air about them less of a retired, jet-setting millionaire drummer, and more of a man who's seen many travesties in the world. Surrender, released as the second single from the album, features a duet with Wire Daisies vocalist Treana Morris, and addresses domestic abuse, which Roger explained he had witnessed while growing up. Where Are You Now? is an update of sorts of Drowse, addressing Roger's youth and how he was always taunted by bullies and told that he would never amount to anything.
Elsewhere, Roger turns the volume up to 11 with a series of hard rockers that were far removed from the more somber tone of Happiness?: A Nation Of Haircuts, People On Streets, No More Fun, and the deconstruction of Working Class Hero are all good, healthy rockers, though he balances these with the quieter, more introspective Believe In Yourself, The Whisperers (originally titled 'The Horse Whisperer' after the Nicholas Evans novel), and Is It Me?. He even instilled a light Latin touch into Tonight, with flamenco guitars and a rolling samba beat.
Roger once again played most of the instruments on the album, though he retained Jason Falloon and Mike Crossley from the Happiness? sessions, and added the talents of Steve Barnacle, Jonathan Perkins, Keith Airey, Matthew Exelby, and Keith Prior where necessary. (The mysterious Arty also makes an appearance on People On Streets, though sharp-eyed fans – or at least those who know a bit about pronouncing acronyms – quickly deduced that this was actually Roger "in disguise".)
The album was released in September 1998, nearly a year to the day after Happiness?, and also featured the brilliant single release of Pressure On, by far the best song Roger had written in a while. (The single was rereleased with Dear Mr. Murdoch as the B-side, in an attempt to dissuade the media mogul from "taking over" Manchester United.) Unfortunately, promotion was limited, and Roger wasn't entirely keen on touring behind the album, so chart action was minimal: the album stalled at #53 in the UK, while Pressure On peaked at #45. The second single, a remix of Surrender, was released in March 1999 in advance of the brief UK tour that Roger finally acceded to, and reached #38. The album release coincided with the launch of Roger's own website on the now-defunct queen-fip address (though it can still be found on archive websites), and the announcement that Roger would be performing a special Internet-only concert from his home studio. This was later released as Live At The Cyberbarn, and broke all sorts of world records at the time.
Roger has maintained for years that Electric Fire was to remain his final solo album, and it seemed like he remained to true to his word for the better part of a decade. However, it was revealed in early 2009 that not only was he planning a retrospective of his solo career, but he also had plans to write and record new music -- so whether that entails a new album or not remains to be seen. Judging by this album and the songs he contributed to The Cosmos Rocks (specifically, Small and Surf's Up . . . School's Out !), a new Roger Taylor solo album would be a very exciting thing indeed.