Released on 4 November 2016, as part of the 'On Air' deluxe 6 CD set only.
1. John interview, South American tour, BBC Radio 1
2-8. Brian on 'Rock On' with John Tobler, 'Hot Space' album, BBC Radio 1
9-13. Brian on 'Saturday Live' with Richard Skinner and Andy Foster, 'The Works' album, BBC Radio 1
14. Freddie on 'Newsbeat', 'The Works' tour, BBC Radio 1
15. Brian on 'Newsbeat', 'The Works' album, BBC Radio 1
16. Freddie on 'Saturday Live' with Graham Neale, 'The Works' album, BBC Radio 1
17-25. Freddie with Simon Bates, BBC Radio 1
26. Brian on 'The Way It Is' with David 'Kid' Jensen, Capital Radio, Wembley Stadium, London
Compiled by Greg Brooks and edited with Wilfredo Acosta
Mastering and audio restoration by Wilfredo Acosta at The Soundhouse Studios, London
This page includes a transcription of all of the interviews which were released on disc 5 of the 'On Air' deluxe 6 CD set, which cover the period from 1981 to 1986.
The set included two other discs of interviews, covering the periods 1976-1980 and 1986-1992, two discs containing all six BBC Sessions, and a disc containing highlights of three live shows.
Most interviews contain excerpts of tracks, which are shown in square brackets below. In general, these fade out shortly after the start, and then fade back in towards the end, rather than being full versions.
John interview, South American tour, BBC Radio 1 Track 1. Length 2:23.
This interview was broadcast in March 1981, and features an excerpt of 'We Are The Champions'. It begins with a radio tuning sound effect. Interviewer: Queen are taking a few days off from their tour, and we caught up with bassist John Deacon on a flying visit to London before returning to Brazil tonight. John told me that he'd heard Queen are packing them in in Argentina
John: We started off the tour with two shows in a football stadium in Buenos Aires called Velez Sarsfield, which is one of the ones that was used for the World Cup down there, and we did two shows there, and they were about thirty five to forty thousand a night, and then we did these other two shows, Mar Del Plata and Rosario, and then we came back, and the very last night in Velez Sarsfield, we did another show in Buenos Aires, and they had given permission to even have more people on the pitch, and we got about fifty five thousand on the last night, so that's a lot of, probably about two hundred thousand people altogether on those five shows
Interviewer: Now the technical resources you've laid on for this, this tour, are just staggering, I mean for example you've got seventy five tonnes of equipment or thereabouts on stage with you, and you've even taken with you a full football pitch worth of astroturf, that plastic grass, what's that for?
John: The reason for that is all these shows we've done in Argentina are all at football stadiums, and they were very worried about the pitch getting damaged because it's their sort of hallowed ground, the football turf, and we came up with this idea of carrying with it this plastic grass and they agreed to it, because that was one, something that we really wanted was to have a lot of people on the pitch, because we set the stage up down one end, I mean they were quite happy to have people in the stands, but we insisted that we must have people on the pitch aswell, to give a good atmosphere for the show. As far as the equipment is concerned, yes we did take one hell of a lot of equipment, we flew the PA down from America, from Miami, and that was um, a charter plane solely for the PA because it is equivalent to doing virtually a festival setup in each football stadium, and so scaffolding had to be built for the stage, there was a roof for the stage, all our lighting equipment, and it was a tremendous amount of equipment to take down there, but I think it's been worth it
Interviewer: What's it been like standing on stage, you know, in Argentina, what's the atmosphere been like coming at you from the crowd?
John: Oh, it, it was marvellous, I mean it was the closest really to ever, to actually been going to a football match, it was that sort of reaction, they were tremendously enthusiastic, I mean you know, there were at, they were quite ecstatic, and they were singing along in English aswell, and you know, all the chants and everything, the final encore we usually do 'We Are The Champions', works very well in a big place, you know, they sort of can sway along and sing along, it works great
[Excerpt of 'We Are The Champions']
Brian on 'Rock On' with John Tobler, 'Hot Space' album, BBC Radio 1 Tracks 2-8. Total length 11:05.
This interview was broadcast in June 1982, is divided into seven parts, and features excerpts of 'Dancer', 'Back Chat', 'Put Out The Fire', 'Life Is Real' and 'Las Palabras De Amor'. Narrator: Queen are headlining a massive open air concert in Milton Keynes, supported today by Joan Jett and also The Teardrop Explodes. When Bow Wow Wow supported Queen however on the continent, all didn't go well, in fact they even had to quit the European tour, so when John Tobler met up with Brian May of Queen to discuss the new album, he first asked Brian for Queen's verdict on Bow Wow Wow
Brian: We liked them very much, we liked the record and after the first couple of nights we liked them on stage, now there was a certain section of the audience who didn't like them, who found them, I don't know, very modern, it's very, I mean our audience is, it's a sad comment, but our audience is, is perhaps a little er, narrow minded in that way, I don't know, I, I mean it's only a very small percentage anyway, I would think, I think most people gave them a very good hearing, but there were a few people there who went so far as to throw things at them, which, to be honest, I was pretty disgusted at, I, I didn't think that would, would happen at our concerts, um, unfortunately, the Bow Wow Wow decided to throw them back, as a matter of policy, and so on a couple of nights in particular it just snowballed into a, a big fight, which became very silly, the worst night of all was one night in Leiden, in Holland, where there were just loads and loads of cans thrown about, not all empty either, I might add, which was getting really stupidly dangerous, and I think their record company advised them that it wasn't doing them any good, which I think was the wrong decision, because they quit before we got to Germany, which is where they sold some records. It's a great shame, I think they're very good, especially Annabella, who's really very charismatic, you know, a good singer and good performer. I think with the right management she could be a, you know and, and someone needs to take care of her and make sure it's, things happen right for her and the group John: Do you enjoy playing in the open air in this country?
Brian: Er, I like it for the event, and er, the atmosphere and everything, I hate it from the point of view of trying to keep the guitar under control, because there's so many temperature changes
[Excerpt of 'Dancer'] [Excerpt of 'Dancer']
John: 'Dancer', a track from Queen's 'Hot Space' LP, which was released very recently. Brian, do you write a song like 'Dancer' with an obvious space for a guitar solo in it?
Brian: Um, well the stuff that we did for 'Hot Space' had a different evolution from some of the stuff before, in that we were thinking about rhythm before anything else this time, very consciously, so in, in some of the cases, and 'Dancer' is one of them, the backing track was there a long time before the actual song was properly pieced together, you know we would experiment with the rhythm and the bass and drum track and everything and get that sounding right, and then very cautiously piece the rest around it, it's really an experiment in many ways for us to do it this way. No, the solo wasn't there to start with really, after we'd er, spent quite a few months on it, and we only had about a month to go because we had to be out on tour, we actually decided that we had to kick ourselves into shape very quickly, and listening to all the stuff which we'd done over the last few months, we managed to get some kind of theme out of it, and we thought that an interesting common ground for a lot of the tracks was this rhythm thing, so we thought we'd actually try and do the thing as an experiment and, and put the thing together that way
John: You mentioned that you had a, a limited amount of time to complete this album, was that because you personally were involved in writing, as I gather you have, the score for 'Mad Max 2'
Brian: No, that's not me, in fact it's another guy called Brian May, which is very strange (John: oh really), it's some Australian fellow, who I haven't met, I haven't heard the music either, I'm ashamed to say, no it's not me, so that'll clear that one up (John: oh, jolly good). It's not me folks John: There's another track called 'Back Chat', on which you play a solo which reminded me instantly of the Isley Brothers (Brian: ooh), I mean it's not a quality that's
Brian: But theirs is phased isn't it, I seem to remember. Strangely enough I think they cropped up in the conversation, because we were talking about what we were doing, we, there were lots of times when we said what actually are we doing, we're doing this kind of black based music, and we're doing it, it's a sort of half way stage between that and rock music, which is where we come from, um, what actually is it, and I think the Isley Brothers were one of the things we talked about, because they did have records which were very rhythmic and, well primarily dance records, but there was a lot of guitar work in, in fact Hendrix did some of their earlier records didn't he, I know, and the guy who followed on with the Isley Brothers was a big Hendrix fan I think (John: yeah). To be honest there wasn't going to be a guitar solo on there, because John Deacon, whose song it is, has gone perhaps more violently black than any of us really, and he, we had lots of arguments about this, and what he was heading for on his tracks, really, was a total non-compromise situation, you know, doing the, the black stuff as the R&B artists would do it, and no concessions to, to our methods at all, and I was trying to edge him a little bit back into the central path, and try to get a bit of heaviness into it, and a bit of the anger that, that rock music puts into it, so it was just one night I said look, let me go in there and see what I can do I just feel like it, because I could, you know I didn't feel that the song as it stood was very, was agressive enough, you know because it's 'Back Chat', it's supposed to be about people arguing
[Excerpt of 'Back Chat']
John: 'Back Chat' from 'Hot Space', the latest Queen album John: The first track on the second side of the album, Brian, 'Put Out The Fire', what is the song written about?
Brian: Um, it was a song about guns really, that's where it came from, I suppose brought to light by the climate around John Lennon's death, which brought all that to light again
[Excerpt of 'Put Out The Fire']
John: 'Put Out The Fire', from 'Hot Space' by Queen
Brian: I think putting out the fire in many areas is a good idea
John: Do you think it was a good idea to have 'Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)' as the next track on the record, isn't it kind of hammering home the point a little
Brian: Well, you have to be fairly heavy or else you can subtle out yourself, you know, you can be subtle and nobody realise what's your, what you're talking about, which happens very often, you know in the, in the past we've put little gentle hints in there, and really very, it's very seldom that people actually pick them up, except the few real close fans who listen very carefully, no it was deliberate, it was quite deliberate
[Excerpt of 'Put Out The Fire'] [Excerpt of 'Life Is Real']
John: 'Under Pressure's on the album, and of course it was a number one hit, how did this collaboration actually come about?
Brian: Well he lives near our studios in, in a little town near Montreux, and when we were there he would often come over and see us, chat and have a drink, and then we just worked on one particular idea, which became 'Under Pressure', for a whole night, a extremely long night
John: How was it written? I mean was it a genuine all five of you collaboration, or, or did one of you take the lead and?
Brian: Yes, yes it was truly collaborative, particularly in the beginning, you know I think when we were setting down the backing track it was um, you know everyone was contributing ideas, and we were working together quite well. As the evening progressed, it became more and more difficult because we all had different ideas of how it should shape up, and we're used to the four of us arguing together, but when there's someone else there, whose considerably more pig-headed than any of us, which takes some doing, I'll tell you, then it, you know, it becomes difficult to even find any kind of compromise, so, in the end I sort of let them get on with it, to be honest
John: Yes John: 'Body Language' was not your greatest success, I think it's fair to say
Brian: Not in this country, it, it died extremely quickly, and I think for this country it was just too much of a change for people to take, I don't think people really liked it. In America it's doing very well because the climate is a bit different there, you know you have the sort of solid black market who are into that kind of stuff anyway, and some of the American groups like us have wandered into this domain, like Foreigner doing things like 'Urgent' and using a sax player, Toto have, have got a very nice brass arrangement on one of their, I think their new single, and I think we're probably closer to the American music scene than we are to the English at the moment, just because we've drifted that way, you know, we, we still live here, but we spend a lot of time there, and I think we feel that there's more actual evolution going on in America in the established groups than there is in England, but people judge you by how your singles do in this country, more than most other places, more than say Germany, or um, Argentina
John: The single is one of your songs 'Las Palabras De Amor', Spanish, which is what they speak in Argentina, now you of course were, had the entire top ten one week in Argentina, didn't you
Brian: I don't know if it would, if it goes that far, but we, in the period that we were going there, yes, all the albums started to, but the fact that we went to the trouble to go there and go there properly, as opposed to tacking it on the end of another tour, and the fact that we took a lot of equipment down and did a proper show as we would do here, um, I think meant a lot to them
John: So they haven't started burning your albums in the streets yet, as a result of you
Brian: No, 'Under Pressure's number two there at the moment I think, which is great. It was my little girl's birthday, she was one year old a little while ago, and I had a card from an Argentinian girl who said 'some things are more important than war', and that's how I feel
[Excerpt of 'Las Palabras De Amor']
John: 'Las Palabras De Amor', Queen, and the single from their LP 'Hot Space'
Brian on 'Saturday Live' with Richard Skinner and Andy Foster, 'The Works' album, BBC Radio 1 Tracks 9-13. Total length 11:43.
This interview was broadcast in March 1984, is divided into five parts, and features excerpts of 'Machines', 'It's A Hard Life' and 'Hammer To Fall'. [Excerpt of 'Machines']
Brian: Computer stalks off into distance
Richard: A few words there from Brian May, added to the end of 'Machines' from the album 'The Works'
Brian: Thank you, a gem
Richard: Welcome along Brian
Brian: Thank you
Richard: Why such a long pause between 'The Game' and 'The Works' then, eh?
Brian: Um, well there's one in between, 'Hot Space'
Richard: That's right, of course, yeah
Brian: But it's still quite a long pause, um, basically we wanted some time off, and we wanted to regenerate our batteries and not make an album until we felt we were ready to, you know, not make an album because it's time to make the album, boys, but to actually go away and go in the studio when we felt like we had something to say
Richard: Were the batteries running a bit low then, for whatever reason?
Brian: Well, we'd been making albums and touring non-stop, and really nothing else for what was then eleven years, I think, and it's like a conveyor belt, you make the album, and you say 'OK we should go out and tour and promote etc', plus touring is fun, which is what you're really doing it for, and studios are a drag, generally, in my opinion, er, so you go out and tour every place you can think of, and, and gradually your horizons expand, and there's all kinds of places you can go, like we went to Argentina and Brazil and, and generally we go to Japan and a lot of different places, and then you look round and it's been a year since you made the album, you come back to England, and everyone says 'what have you been doing the last year then, have you retired', so you think 'oh, better get and make an album', so that's it, we, we decided we would step off that conveyor belt and take stock, which is the reason that we're not actually plunging straight back into touring either now, you know, just take a little break and then, then plunge back in
Richard: Do you feel the last album was in any way a failure, er, because this one seems
Brian: Oh yes, absolutely, absolutely
Richard: This one seems much more um, traditional, what you would expect, very well crafted Queen album, but slightly less experimental in many ways
Brian: Yes it is less experimental, definitely, the last one, I don't regret anything about the last album really, except perhaps there was less guitar than I would have liked, but I think, um, all that stuff was a very neccessary stage for us to go through and if you do keep on making records which people expect you to make, and that are easy for you to make, then you really stagnate, and you really can't progress, so we generally go off on these tangents every other album or so, and explore something, and then we come back with a new perspective I think
Richard: A renewed energy
Brian: Yeah, so you can hear little bits of 'The Game' and 'Hot Space' on this album I think, but mainly, as you say, it sounds like what people expect from the traditional Queen group, 'oh, aren't they that group who did 'Bohemian Rhapsody'', you know, which we will always be in this country, 'ohh, you did 'Bohemian Rhapsody''
Andy: You've, you've, you've personally, you've talked about this album I know, you're saying you've called it 'The Works' because you consider it really to be the definitive Queen album haven't you
Brian: Kind of, did I really say that?
Andy: Yes, you did really say that, enough people have quoted it as well
Brian: I saw that aswell, yeah, well I must have said it, yeah, in a way, I don't know if it's the definitive, but I think it's very, very typical Queen yes
Andy: It's strange you should mention there, that this one is a little, perhaps a little safer, less experimental certainly, because that's one, been one of the big criticisms, hasn't it, that in fact the songs fall into, you know, Queen type songs
Brian: Yes, but deliberately, because we got a certain way through it, and we thought well, you know, we've gone out, very much out on a limb on the last one, um, perhaps we should be playing more like we actually are, and sounding like Queen the group, like the four guys on stage, and as we did it, we sort of became aware of the ground that we'd trodden on before, and some of the songs started to come in sounding a little bit like things before, and we said 'OK, it's a greatest hits album', um, so that, that's over simplifying a bit, because there was some very new stuff in there aswell, there's the, the whole sort of 'Machines' and um, synthesisers and all that stuff there
Andy: Yes, you're using those a lot more, aren't you really on this album
Brian: Yes, they, they've crept in
Andy: I mean that, that last particular track I think is a bit special
Brian: Yes, and, and that particular track we sort of got down to talking about the relationship between machines and humans, which is what it's about, you can hear a guitar player screaming in the background, getting demolished by a synthesiser, and all this, there's a lot in that, I'm glad you played that track actually, because I was afraid it was gonna get lost
Richard: And you wrote it aswell
Brian: Well I half wrote it
Richard: Along the way, yes, it's in fact the only collaboration as such that I can see, because everybody else it's, it's all in individual efforts
Brian: Except for the last track on the album, which Freddie and I did, which is little, a little ballad Richard: Is this a pointer to the fact that maybe you are more individualistic nowadays, than, than being a group?
Brian: I think we've gone through the worst of that, and it's an evil, you know we talk about all these things, which is probably the reason we're still together, we shout and scream at each other, but at least we talk, and we were aware that on the last, actually the last couple of albums, that it was so-and-so's track, and it didn't really, the others didn't get a look in, so that, that's another thing which, which was part of the evolution of this album, we consciously let the others in on the tracks, so that they would sound like Queen tracks, and there's a lot of arbitration. What was the question sorry?
Richard: I can't remember now, we'll move on
Brian: Good answer though wasn't it
Richard: The machines then versus guitar, synthesiser guitar controversy, you come down
Brian: And also sort of drum box versus real drum, you can hear the real drums kick in halfway through 'Machines' (Richard: yes) and demolish the track, and, and you can hear a synthesised voice and a real voice, and, and all that stuff, yeah, it's a little battle going on there
Andy: Interesting you talking about the guitar here screaming away in the background, I, I notice one of the big, one of the music papers in this country has got a, a great big thing about guitarists nowadays, and you're, you're still one of the great guitar heroes, aren't you still?
Brian: How very nice of you to say so. I don't know
Andy: Probably, probably the only one sort of not, sort of blatantly heavy metal either, somehow, I don't know
Brian: I don't know really
Andy: But it's interesting that you should say there's more guitar on this one than the last, what, couple of albums probably, yeah
Brian: Well there is a lot more, I mean, physically there is, yeah, and there's a lot more of the heavy kind of influence altogether
Andy: And yet not the same sort of, I don't know, the Brian May tone if you like, that people came to expect, I mean have you, have you tried to get away from that perhaps a little bit now
Brian: I don't know, I think I'm gradually going deaf, so I tend to turn it up, and turn it more piercing, I think it's a little bit more, I, I like more top end on it these days, because that's the only difference, it's still my guitar, and there's
Richard: You're still playing the one that you made, all that, yeah
Brian: Yeah, exactly, yeah
Richard: Why didn't you ever put that into mass production?
Brian: It's funny you should say that, in fact, one would think that I paid you
Andy: It just so happens, yes, oh yes
Richard: Oh my goodness
Brian: Um, no Guild Guitars have come and said that they would like to make a, a production model of, of that guitar, and they're making it, I saw the prototype a week ago when I was in New York, and it looks beautiful, and we're working on various bits of it, because it has to be just compromised a little bit to make it into a production job rather than a one-off, but it looks like it's gonna be great, so it should be
Andy: Have you changed it much over the years, your particular model I wonder?
Brian: Oh not at all, no, the only thing I did was take the fuzzbox out
Andy: So it's actually been the same
Brian: Those fuzzboxes became a bit of a pain in the neck
Andy: Yes, those, those were a few years ago weren't they, fuzzboxes
Brian: Yes, because I could distort the amplifier to get all the sustain
[Excerpt of 'It's A Hard Life']
Andy: That's 'It's A Hard Life', a Freddie Mercury song from The Works, sounds very obviously a, a Freddie Mercury song aswell I think, doesn't it Brian
Brian: Yes, and very nice too I think
Andy: And we, we, we were making this point earlier on really, about how much of the band is still there after the solo projects that each of you are doing Richard: It's a strange situation, isn't it, growing up with three other people and staying together so long, most people never do it in their lives
Brian: It's right, it's a unique situation really, and you, the only parallel I can think of is if you had four people trying to paint a picture, all through their lives, you would find some pretty bad conflicts, and it's the similar, you know it's the only situation where you have people creating, um, as a group, rather than as an individual, and there a lot of tensions, and it's hard to keep together, which is why I can't really think of anyone who has been together as long as we have, I don't think, the, the four original members
Andy: I mean The Who obviously were the example, but look what's happened there
Brian: Yeah, yeah, yeah, there probably are another
Andy: It seems a very introspective album in a way, I mean the, the, the lyrics of the piece are, it's not exactly depressing but thoughtful
Brian: In some ways it is yes. I think it's a bit more close to the heart lyric wise, particularly from Freddie actually, I would say
Richard: What does Queen do next, do you go back into experimentation
Brian: Most likely, yes I would think, yes, I mean we're always experimenting to a certain extent, and I think the 'Machines' track that you first played is the kind of experimental end of this album, which is probably why I like it, and I think, if anything, that encapsulates a direction which we might explore more, because you have these two camps in music at the moment, and I think one of the interesting thing that's, things which is going on in popular music is this sorting out of the human element verses the, the new machine music, you know you have people in both areas writing good songs, there's no conflict there, but you have this very um, very clear definition between the two groups and it doesn't need to be that way, I don't think
Andy: Is it a real, is it a real conflict I wonder, or, or just (Brian: well I don't think it needs to be) that novelty encourages people to write songs on new equipment, you know, sometimes?
Brian: I don't know, if you read what people say then they seem to be very firmly ensconced in their positions, you know
Andy: You're either on one side of the fence or the other
Brian: Yeah, yeah
Richard: But that, that's just people sticking up to their image isn't it, because they're trying to sell a few records along the way
Brian: I guess so, possibly yeah, possibly
Richard: I love this move back to live performance, we have it on this programme, a band playing live, live on the radio later, and I think that sort of live recording, keeping it as spontaneous as possible is a fantastic move, happening at the same time, you know
Brian: It's nice, it's nice, I think you need both, to be honest, I think my 'Starfleet' thing was very much spontaneous, put it down, put it on the, on the, on the wax, and leave it, but I think equally, you know there are two kinds of things, you know, and the business of painting a picture in the studio with a number of tracks which you can do now I think is equally interesting Andy: The other big, I suppose, discussion that's going on really is how important the visual side is too, and now Queen have been a band (Brian: yes) that have used video probably for longer than anybody else I should think really
Brian: Yes since 'Bohemian Rhapsody' which is supposed to be the first rock video, but actually the form
Andy: It's supposed to be isn't it, that's right, but I mean 'Radio Ga Ga' again surprised people a lot didn't it when that came out
Brian: Yes, um, and it was worth spending the time on, that's all I can say, I wish that somewhere on the English outlets it had been seen in toto
Andy: Was it always faded out?
Brian: It's never been shown in full anywhere, and it does actually make sense if you see the whole lot Richard: What's the involvement actually with the Metropolis idea, because I think they're reproducing a, a new version of that aren't they?
Brian: Yeah, Georgio Moroder is in charge of it, he bought the rights to the footage off the East German government, and he's putting new music to it, completely mechanical music, and various vocalists, and he asked Freddie to sing one of the tracks, and we ended up taking one of the tracks and changing it and doing things with it, and in return he said 'OK you can use some of the Metropolis footage', which we wanted to, because you can see we were into machines and stuff, and that is the archetypal, you know, machines film of all time, I'm sure it's gonna be very successful when it comes out again
Richard: It comes out again, the original form, but with the new Georgio Moroder soundtrack, yeah? It's the original film (unknown)
Brian: That's right, he
Andy: And colour, isn't it, and in colour?
Brian: He's done all kinds of amazing things, he's done computer reconstruction of some of the images which were a bit duff, you know, being very old, he's also researched some pieces which have never been seen since the thing was released, because they were chopped out (Andy: fantastic) and he's, he's getting involved in doing some tinting and colouring aswell, so it's gonna be quite a production
Richard: We're gonna get, we're gonna get sick of Metropolis at the end of all this, I can tell, thank you very much
Brian: It's a great film, wonderful
Richard: I'm sure you're right, Brian thank you for coming in today
Andy: Yes, thanks for coming
Brian: Thank you, I've enjoyed it
Richard: One more track, this is one that you said play it please, 'Hammer To Fall', why do you like it so much
Brian: Umm, it's just the other side, which I would like to see exposed, the heavy side, which is very, by definition you have to always release as singles the things which are commercial, and that always veers you away from, from the heavy side and I think, you know, luckily we have commercial singles which are, in my opinion, good, you know, they're, they're good songs, but I still like the other side to be heard
Richard: It's half past four, and this is 'Hammer To Fall'
[Excerpt of 'Hammer To Fall']
Freddie on 'Newsbeat', 'The Works' tour, BBC Radio 1 Track 14. Length 2:31.
This interview was broadcast on 15 August 1984, and features an excerpt of 'Hammer To Fall'. Jingle: Radio 1 news
Narrator: Queen arrived for six dates as part of their European tour, their first live appearances in fact for two and a half years. The 1984 stage show from Queen may be a little more restrained than in the past, because lead singer Freddie Mercury is still recovering from a leg injury earlier in the year. Freddie spent the last few months in Munich, West Germany, working on a solo album, and the rest of the band recently joined him there to rehearse for the tour. Well, Newsbeat's been there too, and first, we asked Freddie Mercury whether he's looking forward to performing live again
Freddie: I think this tour, for me anyway, is going to be slightly special, because we've stayed away from touring for about two years, so it, I mean before I think touring became too much of the norm, and I, I was getting, I found myself in a rut, that's why I was the first one to actually decide that I wanted something like six months away from all the entire music industry. Now after two years I think er, I think it's gonna be a breath of fresh air, especially for me, my solo project is the other thing, I mean, sort of side by side, I mean doing a tour is one thing, but I'm gonna come back to my solo project, and that, that excites me quite a bit, I was hoping to actually finish it before the tour, but um, yeah, I ran out of time, and so I've got to come back just before Christmas and finish it
Interviewer: Tell us a bit about this solo album, will it bear any resemblance to a Queen album?
Freddie: Yes and no, there's bound to be people saying yeah that sounds like Queen and that, but I mean I'm not afraid of that, it's just that I want a batch of songs that sound good, good, or good enough, and the way I choose them, and um, to the best of my capabilities I'm, I'm, I'm gonna do a solo album
Interviewer: The shows of course come to Britain within the next few weeks, does playing Britain mean anything special to you at all, or is just another big gig now?
Freddie: London I find very, um, I find it frightening, with, I think it's the familiarity of it all, it's where we started and everything, and I like playing there, but I hate it at the same time
Interviewer: Are you actually looking forward to going out on stage and performing again?
Freddie: I'm looking forward to this tour, the only thing that I'm worried about is, is, to be honest is, is my legs, I mean I sort of, you know I had a bit of a mishap with it about two months ago, there are certain things I don't, I don't think I can do that, and I like to be sort of a hundred percent fit when I'm doing these things, and I'm just worried because there's going to be times where I'm, if I move too fast or whatever, it just seems to sort of snap. In a way I just don't wanna let people down, and I don't wanna let the rest of the group down, and myself, because I mean I know the things that are expected of me, and um, I mean I'd love my leg to be, you know, a hundred percent, but I just, maybe it's just me being a bit paranoid, maybe after the first couple of nights I'll be alright
[Excerpt of 'Hammer To Fall']
Brian on 'Newsbeat', 'The Works' album, BBC Radio 1 Track 15. Length 2:44.
This interview was broadcast on 3 September 1984, and features an excerpt of 'Seven Seas Of Rhye'. Interviewer: Well, finally, one of the biggest and most eagerly awaited music events of 1984, the Queen tour of Britain, is underway, after three dates in Birmingham, the Queen juggernaut will roll to London for the final gigs at Wembley Arena. The band have a fifty seven man road crew to look after their set, which drummer Roger Taylor claims has more light and spectacle than the Vatican. It's two years since the band last performed in their home country, and when we spoke to guitarist Brian May before the tour got underway, he was looking forward to it
Brian: Strangely enough, everybody says 'ooh, is it really hard touring', it's not, it's not, mentally or physically that hard, once you get yourself really organised, as we are, it's much harder to be in the studio with four blank walls, trying to beat out something and getting no sort of instant reward from it. I really like touring a lot
Interviewer: Do you never feel the whole business about Queen touring has got a bit out of control, huge stadia, tonnes and tonnes of equipment, articulated lorries to take it everywhere, I mean it's very complex, it's not just rock 'n' roll anymore, is it?
Brian: No, it's not just rock 'n' roll, but it's, but it is rock 'n' roll, you know, it, it's our own doing, we haven't really been forced into any situations, we've made everything ourselves. We like it that way, really, we don't have to be in the stadiums if we don't want to be, but in my opinion there's, there's fors and againsts to every way of touring, obviously you don't have quite the intimacy of, of playing in say the Marquee or whatever, if you're playing in, in Wembley, but um, you're getting something too, I mean, for a start a lot of people see you, and I, I would like to think that after two years away, that we want to get to the maximum number of people
Interviewer: You of course are a hero to many guitarists throughout the country, probably throughout the world, but you yourself, who were your guitar heroes?
Brian: In the beginning, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and I still feel the same about them as I did always, I'm still a fan, I always forget George Harrison, and people like Tony Hicks from The Hollies aswell, they were all people I listened to, and Hank Marvin, of course, because The Shadows were the thing when I was small, you know, and I still like the heavy stuff, I'm a kind of closet heavy metal headbanger, so I enjoy all that you know, and I'm conscious that we're not solely that, we're not a heavy metal group, and we never would be obviously, but I like the hard rock element and I try and keep it in there, if it ever looks in danger of getting lost
Interviewer: What is it that stimulates you still to keep playing after all these years?
Brian: Well, we certainly missed it when we weren't doing it, we all went out and did our solo things, and got refreshed, but we did miss the group, and we all showed it in different ways, and there's a real feeling of relief now, we've just been in rehearsals, and playing some of the old stuff just bashing away at anything to get the feel again, and it feels great
[Excerpt of 'Seven Seas Of Rhye']
Interviewer: That's 'Seven Seas Of Rhye', the first hit single from Queen, will they play it at Wembley, well you'll have to wait and see, that's if you're lucky enough to have tickets
Jingle: Radio 1, all the music you'll ever need
Freddie on 'Saturday Live' with Graham Neale, 'The Works' album, BBC Radio 1 Track 16. Length 5:11.
This interview was broadcast on 15 September 1984. Freddie: I've never let the press worry me, I mean in the early days you, you think about it and go out and buy the papers and make sure that you're in it and all that, and um, now it's, it's a completely different setup because it's, it's your music, and basically what you worry about is, is the people that buy your product, that's what keeps us going
Graham: Some of the people that buy the product have frequently been saying that they prefer the earlier Queen albums to the present ones
Freddie: True, you'll always get that, you know I like that too, I mean if everybody prefered just the one type then um, we wouldn't be selling so many records, the fact that we, we still um, do different things is to try and um, make sure we get, we get a different audience aswell, we certainly don't want to sort of discard our early fans, because I mean they're always with us, I hope, but you'll always get that, yes, I mean some people like, you know when you come up with a song or an album, you won't get everybody liking everything, and the one, the trademark of Queen which I like is just, happens to be, it's like a coincidence, is that there are four writers that write very different material, and so it pleases maybe a wider span than, than most other groups
Graham: Inevitably, with the success that you've had, it's bound to bring a different lifestyle to yourself, do you find that then harder to relate to the average people that will buy the records, in the sense that now you're so much further on than when you were say twelve years ago, and in bedsits yourselves and very much on the breadline?
Freddie: Oh yes, I think that's, that's way past, I mean I think, I think in a way I think I've sort of done a virtually a full circle, because I mean when you think being in the business sort of thirteen years, or even like fourteen years, I mean there seems, there was a sort of a kind of, I mean after the first five years when we, we had the taste of success, that's the time where I thought oh my God I was the bees knees and I mean nobody could speak to me, and I couldn't be seen in these places, but you learn to live with it, and afterwards you, you realise that it's, it's also growing up and getting experience, and now I think I'm, I'm not afraid to go anywhere, before I was taking bodyguards or whatever, it's, it's just a kind of discipline that you have to have, and, and kind of awareness, and I think um, there were times when there was the teeny bop stage where I mean we went to Japan and places, and there was hoardes of people screaming and things, but I think most people have grown up. There were times when I'd love to do shows where they were just screaming and howling all the time, and you could just play anything, just because you've got the adulation, now I, I would prefer them to, to listen to what we're playing, but still have a damn good time, you know
Graham: Looking back, something else that appears to have changed is on the 'Sheer Heart Attack' album, proudly saying on the back cover 'no synthesisers', that is something that has obviously changed with the years
Freddie: Yeah, that was, oh of course yes. A lot of people have got that sort of twisted round, because I mean they actually thought that we hated synthesisers, it was basically I think we had a guitarist called Brian May who was recreating some amazing sounds through his guitar, and it was basically just informative, really, just information on the album to say that, because people thought my God, you know, guitars don't sound like that, it's got to be a synthesiser, so basically we were just telling the people who bought our records that this was not a synthesiser, and that Brian could recreate these kind of sounds through his wonderful guitar, so it's basically informative, and the moment that we started using synthesisers, we said we do
Graham: Coming right up to date with 1984 and 'The Works' which has been an amazingly successful album for the band, would you say that, that really it's important these days to have success for anything other than personal satisfaction?
Freddie: It's a survival test, you know, and I mean of course we could all just go away and say OK we've had enough and live happily ever after, but I mean I don't think that's what we're in, we're in it to make music, and er, the way I think, well what else could I do, I mean this is the thing that interests me most. You don't know what it means to, when you write a song which people actually appreciate, and they say it's a good song, it's a, it's a wonderful feeling (Graham: it must be), it's a wonderful feeling
Graham: Does have four writers within the band make life easier for you to decide what you're going to use on an album, or is it harder because you've got so much talent?
Freddie: No, it's, it's, it's tougher, it makes it, makes life much more difficult, but, but I think it's good in the long run because, in one way it, it takes the strain away from you, because I mean you don't have to write all the time, the same time you have to sort of, it's a battle because I mean sometimes you can have a, a batch of very good songs, but you still have to sift through and there's a big fight between which song goes on, and all that, so there's lots of temperamental situations, but you can never say, you know sometimes you probably er, miss out a very good song. I mean, I remember when I was writing 'Bohemian Rhapsody', I had a song called 'We Are The Champions', but I just didn't feel that it fitted at the time, and, and I just sort of kept it aside and it's virtually I think about two or three years later that I sort of, you know, pulled it out the bag again and there you are, so you, you can never tell
Graham: How do you feel about recording these days, because not having, and I'm sure you don't have time limits on recording an album, or indeed a budget that says how far you can go, so how do you decide where to stop?
Freddie: Well it's, that's a good question, it's, it's a, it's basically self discipline, really, the budget was endless and we used to spend enormous amount of time and money in saying we've got to get it right, but now I, I like to work the other way, I have, there's enough money to make me, you know, I, I, I could be in a studio for a year, but I hate that, I like to make decisions early, it's, it's discipline, it's discipline
Freddie with Simon Bates, BBC Radio 1 Tracks 17-25. Total length 28:47.
This interview was broadcast on three consecutive days in June 1985, is divided into nine parts, and features excerpts of 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', 'Mr Bad Guy', 'Seven Seas Of Rhye', 'Killer Queen', 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'I Want To Break Free', 'There Must Be More To Life Than This', 'Under Pressure', 'Love Of My Life', 'Las Palabras De Amor', 'It's A Hard Life', 'We Are The Champions' and 'Made In Heaven'. [Excerpt of 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love']
Simon: Queen and 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' from '79, and Freddie Mercury's 'I Was Born To Love You'. So on Saturday, we trolled round to the Queen's offices, and we went to see the man. Freddie Mercury is very pleasant when he walks in, he looks a million dollars, I mean, any photograph you see of Freddie Mercury has probably not got any make-up on it, it's him, he looks amazingly fit, and amazingly well, until he opens his mouth and sticks his tongue out at you, and then you see a tongue which has got a duffel coat on it, probably the most unhealthy sight I've ever seen in my life, and I suddenly realised that he had been quite ill, and still wasn't well by any means. So, we settled down, and I got the tape machine out, got it working, which was a miracle, and I asked him if the whole illness syndrome had anything to do with the fact that he's hardworking, that he's energetic, and possibly, and I was careful how I said this because he's a fitness freak, he'd been overdoing things
Freddie: That's what I'm all about, I guess, but I think the way um, people get news, is, is whenever something goes wrong, I mean, that's, that's, that's newsworthy isn't it, so I mean over the past six months or whatever it's either I've broken my leg, I lost my voice in South Africa or um, something's happened, and you know it does take it's toll, I mean I um, I have been working very hard, I was doing my solo project and I was also working with Queen, so basically I was sort of undertaking two very sort of heavy projects simultaneously, and that does sort of take it's toll, I mean I was really exhausted, because normally what happens, I mean if, if I do an album with Queen, OK, we, we go into studios and you know we work, you know day and night or whatever, and then you have a rest period, and then you go on tour, but I had to sort of do it in between times, and there were so many times when I had to, to stop working and do things with Queen, like even if it's a video, or do the odd show or whatever, but then the moment I finished my solo project, I mean I had to go on, on actual tour with Queen, so I had to go to sort of Australia and Japan, and I didn't have enough time in between to actually sort of think about things like that, so I was just embarking on all kinds of things, you know like press receptions and things, which I hate doing anyway
Simon: I'd ask you about that, because you don't like doing interviews, and you've said you don't like doing interviews like this, and I wonder why?
Freddie: I just hate talking to people about myself basically, I, when I talk to people I like to talk about, about them, and um, more interesting things actually. I think after thirteen years or whatever I just think people know just about everything about me, and so basically I'm just saying the same old things, you know, after thirteen years and I think it's not very interesting to be honest, talking about myself, but there you are
Simon: So tell me about you, tell me whether you are an egomaniac, hiding under a modest, shy, retiring foreground, or whether you're actual, in actual fact rather a quiet bloke
Freddie: I'm a bit of everything. I am actually, that, that's what it takes to be honest, I, I, I can sit here and say I'm a wonderful person, it's a combination of a lot of ingredients, actually you know, I can be a real bitch, but I think in the public eye, you see, what, what's been um, put across of course is my stage persona which, which is very arrogant, very aggressive, or whatever, and that sort of comes into light, and whenever people want to talk about me, or when they see me in public, they just, they're attuned to what they see and they just think I'm arrogant or whatever, and, and in one way that's nice, because I don't want everyone to know about my real inner feelings, because that's my private life, I think, so I think there are very few people, basically people who I call very close friends, who actually know the other side of me, so I mean, you know, the last thing I want, and the papers will never write about the fact that 'oh look he's real nice underneath it' and things like that, you know. But there are two sides to me, you know, I think there's many sides to, to most people
[Excerpt of 'Mr Bad Guy']
Simon: Title track from the new album which is 'Mr Bad Guy' which was an album we focussed on quite a lot during the conversation. Now you heard that first part of the interview, and like me maybe you thought 'hello, this one's not gonna go terribly well', but we then had a cup of tea in my case, and a I think it was a vodka and tonic he was drinking in his case, and suddenly everything started to relax and we got on, I think, fairly well. Certainly the stuff you'll hear over the next couple of days is remarkably frank, er, we started though at the very beginning, because in the days before Queen, well what was he doing then?
Freddie: I spent about four years um, at Ealing School Of Art, Ealing College, oh God I mean it was a long time ago, during the Boer War I think, and I, I got my diploma in graphics and illustration, which I did nothing with, but I mean I was actually trained to be a sort of illustrator, which um, I'm glad I sorted of opted out and (Simon: why?) because I think music is, is, was exactly what I wanted to do, and it wasn't a very um, a very risky sort of career to, to embark on
Simon: Did you think of it as a career?
Freddie: Well, at that time no, because I was, I was in semi professional bands and things, and in the end I mean I just took the plunge and I said that's exactly what I want to do, and I think that's the only way to approach this business, is that you sort of take, you can't sort of do it in half measures, you really can't, you can't say 'OK I'm gonna give it a couple of years and if doesn't happen...', because if you have that in the back of your mind, I don't think you're gonna give it your, all your energies anyway, and I was quite prepared to starve, which I did anyway, and, and just make a go of this, and nothing else. You have to believe in it, and I just believed in it and I just said it doesn't matter how long it takes, um, I'm going to do this, and you have to have a certain amount of confidence and arrogance and all that, you know, and your egos have to be there aswell, you know, you can't be a nice guy in this business, and I think over the years, through experience and everything, you really get, you get into this situation where you put all your defences up, which I normally wouldn't want to do, but I mean you just have to, otherwise you get broken down, and it's, it's so easy to be trodden on, that you have to be hardened to the fact very early on, so you know how to, you just have, it's like playing dodgems really, it's rock 'n' roll dodgems, you just have to sort of dodge those fears at all times and, and the higher up the ladder you go, the, the more problems you get and the harder it becomes, and so there are even bigger pitfalls, but I mean that's what you sort of aim for really, it's the ultimate, you know that's your goal, so I mean, I'm not sort of asking for sympathy or anything, I'm just saying that's what it's all about and if anybody wants to embark on it, don't, it's not an easy escalator to success, I tell you
[Excerpt of 'Seven Seas Of Rhye'] [Excerpt of 'Seven Seas Of Rhye']
Simon: Do like to be beside the seaside, 'Seven Seas Of Rhye', it's twenty seven minutes past eleven, Radio 1 talking to Freddie Mercury. Now that was Queen's first single from 1974, and I, I wondered at this point, looking back on those early days of Queen, the group was a contemporary one of Bowie, what's become known as glam rock, in those days Freddie was wearing Zandra Rhodes frocks, and it seems there was a real effort to put on, you know in inverted commas "a show", and I wondered if that was a deliberate attempt on Queen's part
Freddie: Yes those were the days, it's like I can actually sort of parallel that to sort of, in a way to something that's going on even now, I mean OK when say, um, like Boy George, you see the sort of, you talk about flamboyance and things like that, and I think um, every era or whatever is always gonna have a little bit of that, in those days, it was, it was Queen or something like that, and David Bowie and Roxy Music and we were all sort of, we were trying to put across theatre, because before us was like Eric Clapton and all that, it was all the blues stuff, and people were just, you know, go on there with their jeans and all that, and there had to be a sort of, a backlash, the same way as the Sex Pistols did that to the establishment, and so in a funny way glam rock, with paint and make-up and lots of theatre was a kind of backlash to what was happening before, to be, to be acknowledged, to be accepted
Simon: But it wasn't tacky, and a lot of it was tacky at that time
Freddie: Oh yes, I mean the moment something um catches on, you're gonna get everybody jumping on the bandwagon, and then, and then what happens is that you have to sift the crop and, you know, the creme de la creme will actually um come across, you'll always get that. I think I was doing virtually, very similar stuff to say what Boy George is doing, but I think it's much harder for him now, because I mean, you know shock value, and, and being outrageous is, you, it takes more to outrage-, outrage people now, because um
Simon: Was that what you were trying to do?
Freddie: Oh yes, in terms of shock, outrage and being accepted, that's the way, you just, and the music was there aswell, but I think music is not enough, I mean you say talent will out, but I mean these days talent consists of, of more than just being able to write a good song, I mean you have to deliver it, you have to sort of package it, and you have to be there at the right time and just, you have to sort of take in all these ingredients, I think
[Excerpt of 'Killer Queen'] Simon: The difference between Freddie Mercury, the private, shy, retiring individual, and Freddie Mercury, who is self confessed loud, arrogant and forthcoming, the public performer, so the next subject we got onto, er, was videos and I wondered whether videos had played an important part in re-enforcing that image of Freddie Mercury
Freddie: If you're talking about videos, and we might aswell, it's big business now anyway, and it's a very good way of, of showcasing yourself, but there are moments in videos where I think, um, the buyer can be misguided, because I, I remember the times when, if you like a piece of music, you go out and buy it, and you sort of conjure up a thing for yourself, and you think oh that's the kind of emotion or whetever he's, he's putting up, so I mean each individual can create his own feeling from that song, but the moment you make a video, they see it and they say 'oh my God, I, I take it that's the way he wants to put it across', so I mean it really narrows you down, and, and sometimes I like to sort of lose myself in videos and, and make it as free as possible, so that there are lots of elements, especially when a song is very emotional and it's a love song, in fact only the other day somebody came up to me and told me exactly that, he said 'I'd had a pre-concieved idea of what I thought you were telling me in the song, but when I saw your video I knew I was totally wrong', you see
Simon: Which was the song?
Freddie: It was, it was 'I Was Born To Love You', you see, but he just said that he'd lost all, total meaning of what, what er, I was trying to say, but there you go
Simon: Were you disappointed with that, I mean were you upset?
Freddie: No, I wasn't upset, I mean there's, the reason I'm talking about this is, I'm saying that there are, there will always be some people who are gonna be disillusioned by the fact that, um, that the video is not cohesive with the song in terms, in terms of what they wanted to see
Simon: Can I go back to the first promotional film, which was historic in the sense that you, you established something and the idea of the video, (a) where did the idea come from, (b) who the hell put the money up?
Freddie: What our first one? (Simon: yes), well the first one was 'Bohemian Rhapsody'
Simon: It must have cost a fortune
Freddie: You're gonna be very surprised, it cost between three and five thousand pounds
Simon: Alright, I'm not asking you to be pompous now, but where you aware at the time that you were really setting a standard?
Freddie: No way, I mean we didn't think that videos would be accepted, you, I mean you don't think in those terms, I mean you don't get up every morning and say 'OK I'm gonna try and set, you know, be completely innovative and, and set a precedent', no you don't do things like that
[Excerpt of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'] [Excerpt of 'Bohemian Rhapsody']
Simon: Now the 'Bohemian Rhapsody' video made quite an impact, but I suppose the best remembered Queen video really has to be 'I Want To Break Free', not least because it had the whole of the band and, and Freddie, dressed in drag
Freddie: I think that's one of our best videos to date, really, in fact it still makes me chuckle every time I see it and um, I've seen it a lot of times, and I'm glad we did it. The funny thing is, is, like, I must tell you, everybody thinks it probably was my idea because they think I am, but it's not, it, it wasn't at all, I mean, something like that was at the back of my mind, but if I'd approached the rest of the group it would have been disbanded, because it would have looked like OK I'm, I'm trying to dress them up in drag and all that, because everybody thinks that that's what I'm tuned to or whatever, but I, so the funny thing is the others came up with the idea and I said 'fine, I'll do it', and so it came to fruition, but I was shocked, actually to think that my God that they, they're expecting to actually dress up in drag, and I said fine, then I, I, I took the bull by the horns, and I just said 'right now we do it, now we do it properly', and for the first time in our lives that we were actually taking the mickey out of ourselves which is, I think in the early days people regarded Queen as being very sort of um, very musical, very intelligent, and they just thought that we actually lacked humour, but we had humour on the stage shows and our characters were then actually coming across, and I just thought why don't we try and do that in a video because that sort of precis, and, and, you know in three minutes they can find that out, and yet people were quite amazed the fact that we could actually fool around and drag up and still be good musicians
Simon: When you saw the final clip, and you looked at it, and you laughed as everybody did, did you think it was the kind of thing that would be accepted by the kind of person who doesn't normally accept that sort of pantomime dame approach?
Freddie: No, so that was a big risk element involved with everything, I mean, since 'Bohemian Rhapsody', so we're not gonna change, and I think our sort of staunchest fans are gonna know that we, we can come with all kinds of ridiculous things, and some of them will work, some won't. You know in, in terms of that, I mean especially now the rest of the group actually sort of, will sort of take my view on this in that we don't give a damn, what, what, we do what we want to do, and it's either accepted or not
Simon: There's a great quote about you, er, I think it was Roger's quote, no, no, no, it was 'if a thing's worth doing, it's worth overdoing'
Freddie: Exactly, yes, yeah, that's very true, that's very true, yeah. But I mean we didn't do that video and think 'oh my God, it's not gonna be accepted here or whatever', we just did it, and in fact it um, in terms of America, it wasn't accepted at all, because I mean they, they still regard us as the heavy rockers and the macho and all that, and they said what, what, 'what are my idols doing dressing up in frocks'
[Excerpt of 'I Want To Break Free'] [Excerpt of 'I Want To Break Free']
Simon: And we stopped talking about Mercury the solo artist and Mercury the band member and turned the conversation round to another side of the career, working with other stars outside the Queen area
Freddie: 'There Must Be More To Life Than This' was a, a song that I'd written a long time ago and it was going to be on one of the Queen albums and er, for some odd reason it just wasn't used because I'd written something else, and I remember that um, I mean a couple of years now, and I was working with Michael Jackson and we were trying to get some stuff together, and we still have unfinished works of art in the vaults actually, and they haven't come to fruition, but this was one of the songs (Simon: why?), well because we haven't had to time to actually sort of go back and, and finish them
Simon: A lot of tracks (edited) two totally separate people I would have thought, into working together because you, you, you seem almost poles apart as individuals, not knowing Jackson myself
Freddie: Well I guess you're right, I mean that's, that's, maybe that is the attraction, but I mean um, in the early days he used to sort of like Queen, and he used to come and see all our concerts, and so we became friends, and he said 'why don't we do something together', this was during, just before the 'Thriller' days, actually, and so I said 'OK we can, why don't we try something together', so it was just me and him, and I went over to his house and did about three or four um, demos, you know, to see how they work out, but I did it in a very different way, I mean it was um, the way he sang it is just so beautiful, and I just said I have to put a different approach to it, so I put, there was more orchestration, and the way that I wanted to do it anyway, maybe he could still sing it
[Excerpt of 'There Must Be More To Life Than This']
Simon: And er, having talked about working with superstars aswell as himself, I got onto the subject about the songs that he did with Michael Jackson
Freddie: One of them ended up as 'State Of Shock' which in the end I couldn't complete, I couldn't finish, so Mick Jagger did it (Simon: really?) yeah, that's true, so I mean I actually did the vocals, but the thing is, this is the thing, timing is everything, you know, and um, at the time when he wanted me to finish it, I just said I can't, because I was working with Queen, I said I really haven't got time, I was in Munich, he was in Los Angeles, and he said, 'look is it OK if Mick does it?', I said fine, so Mick did my vocals, and so I think all that remains is, is a track that we actually wrote together, and um, it's a track called 'Victory', which then he used the title as, as The Jackson's album, so it was before that, so I mean, in, in, in a funny way I guess, that track is frozen, because um, we, that's, the only track that we actually wrote together as it were and so we've, we've got a demo, which sounds great
Simon: Well working with other people, is that something you find hard, or, or do you enjoy it?
Freddie: I enjoy it, and find it harder, actually. It depends who you're working with but um, I mean I, I love that challenge, I love that challenge, because it's um, and I think all the other Queen members would actually tell you that, because um, we now worked, we have been working together for so long, and we know each other instinctively what to do, do you know what I mean? I even sort of write songs, in terms of Queen, I know exactly what the bass player's capable of, and things like that, so that's, I'm intuned before I, I even write a song, knowing fully well what they're gonna do, but to work with an established artist, not knowing him, then you're just, you're sort of, you're working from stage one, you know, and, and that's, that's a great challenge because, so you don't know which way to write, and you don't know what kind of aggression you're gonna get, what kind of um, complement you're gonna get, you know, what kind of rapport you're gonna get, so sometimes I think that working with other people, the best way is to just go in there and just do it, if it sparks, if it sparks off you've got it, otherwise you just forget it Freddie: With David Bowie, when we did that thing, that was exactly that way, we didn't, we didn't plan anything or whatever, he just happened to be in town, we're friends, and he just kept popping into the studio and we were, we were jamming to some of his songs and, and ours and we had a few bottles of wine and, and things and we suddenly said 'why don't we try something totally new', and out (unknown) this, this song. I remember David half way through it said 'my God, I mean it's catchy, it's caught fire, I mean let's, let's take it', so suddenly it then became a sort of um, a worthwhile project, before we were just fooling around and we said 'let's grab this while it's happening, because if we come back tomorrow, we will probably go our separate ways and, and not think about it', so we just carried on, it was virtually like a twenty four hour session, we just kept at it and finally got the, the crux of the song and then when we knew that was gonna do something we sort of worked on it another day and then finished it
[Excerpts of 'Under Pressure' and the album version of 'Love Of My Life']
Simon: When Freddie was talking yesterday about the 'I Want To Break Free' video, you might remember he said that it, it hadn't gone down particularly well in the States, and I wondered if the idea of failure, and failure in America and specifics, bothered him at all
Freddie: I think we've got to a stage where, where we will do whatever we want and I think um that's the best way of doing it, because I hate to conform and pander to even public tastes or as far as record company people are concerned, I mean it, it's, because I, in fact I was thinking about that a couple of days ago in terms of, and I thought my God we were, we were outrageous and innovative in the days of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', and that's why it worked, for us to start pandering to people's tastes and saying that, that this is what they want would be such a backlash, or in terms of, my God, I mean that's what we did before, and that's how we made it, and that's how we're gonna actually stay, and so we're gonna do things against the grain, and against people's ideas or whatever, and if they like it, they like it, but we're not afraid of the fact that, that we're doing things, it's like we don't jump on the bandwagon or, OK this is, this is, this is modern or whatever, let's do it, no, we do it with the Queen stamp on everything, but we're aware, we're not stupid, I mean we don't just churn out the same stuff that we did like five or six years ago, we're aware, that's, we're in tune to what, what's going on, and, and that's the way I, I, I like to live, so I mean, I remember we had an album called 'Hot Space' which, which died a death in America, and everybody said 'oh, yes, Queen took um, a big risk, now they'll know that's not what, what they should do', and in fact I said 'if that's what I want to do, I'll do it'
[Excerpt of 'Las Palabras De Amor'] [Excerpt of 'Las Palabras De Amor']
Simon: 'Las Palabras De Amor' from the 'Hot Space' album, which of course didn't do very well in the States, and I wondered if that experience coloured his approach when he was making his new album, his solo album, called 'Mr Bad Guy'
Freddie: That to me was a bigger challenge, and these are the songs that I wrote, and I think my solo album, it's like a sort of, an extension of 'Hot Space' to be honest
Simon: Radio 1 talking exclusively to Freddie Mercury
Jingle: Home of the hits
Simon: It's thirteen minutes past eleven
Jingle: It's Radio 1
Simon: About the business of being a star
Freddie: I remember there was, there was a, a time and place in the early years where of course I wanted to be looked upon or whatever, and so therefore you, you did it accordingly, you know I wore Zandra Rhodes dresses and I paint-, painted my fingernails black, and I wore eye make-up, and I had long hair, I wore women's blouses and whatever, and then I would walk into a room and close it dead, you know, I mean that's the way to make an entrance, and you can do that, yeah, just like going back to it, just like what Boy George can do, I mean those things you can do if you're accepted, and now having gone through a lot of it I, I do want my privacy, it's like, it virtually it's like, I mean I've created my own monster really, and there are times where I wake up in the morning and I think 'oh my God, I wish I wasn't Freddie Mercury today'
Simon: So will you do when you relax
Freddie: I socialise, definitely, I socialise, I meet people as long as they realise it's nothing to do with work, 'cos I mean, which I like, I like the hustle and bustle of life
Simon: But how can you do that, because you're Freddie Mercury, it's a bit like Prince Phillip saying 'I think I'll go and have fish and chips'
Freddie: Ah, there you have it, and I think um, I've found a place, which is called Munich, where I can actually walk the streets, I mean Munich is like a little village really, I mean I have a lot of friends over there, and they, they know who I am or whatever, but they just treat me as another human being, and they've accepted me that way, and that to me is, is a very good way of relaxing, because I, I don't want to sort of relax and sort of shut myself up, that's not what I want, because I'd go, I'd go spare, I'd go mad even quicker, it's just, it's just that I like to feel that I can sort of do exactly the same kind of things like socialise and have parties and whatever, because that, but not having the burden of knowing fully well that, oh my God, tomorrow, I mean I can't stay up too late because tomorrow I have a, a meeting, or I have a, I have a commitment, or, or, or I have to do a show, I mean if, if I completely remove myself from that, I can still be in the same town, and just, and that's my way of relaxing
Simon: What kind of things do you enjoy, what kind of movies do you enjoy, what kind of television programmes do you enjoy?
Freddie: I, I don't watch too many movies, and I don't watch too much television, I have a very fastidious nature, and I'm very sort of, I am highly strung, a lot of people say this, so I'm very fidgety and everything, I do a lot of research by just looking, and by looking I mean, um, if I meet people or whatever, trying to find, or I go to art galleries and things like that, but I mean I, I'm sort of tuned into sort of very different things, I go to a lot of more, I go to opera, I, I, I, and I go to ballet and things like that, but I'm always researching in that way, it's like people read books or whatever, I just look at everything in pictures, really Simon: Where would you like to go, what would you like to do?
Freddie: In London, (Simon: yes), in London, have a nice dinner, that's basically what
Simon: What would you eat?
Freddie: I'd eat all kinds of things, all kinds of things, I have, I have a gourmet chef that works for me, so I'm, I'm absolutely spoilt in terms of food, and, and, and he just makes up all kinds of exotic um, delicacies and then most of the time he doesn't even tell me so I mean I just um, yes I'm very spoilt in terms of that, yes. When I'm on tour or whatever, I just go to the best restaurants that money can afford, but just to sample all kinds, oh yes
Simon: Do you go for the food, or do you go with company for the company and the food?
Freddie: For both
[Excerpt of 'It's A Hard Life'] [Excerpt of 'It's A Hard Life']
Simon: Um, well despite those current health problems, despite partying, and the expensive restaurants, and the opera, and the ballet, and generally being a dirty stopout, Freddie looks incredibly good, ah, 'you look fit and young' I said, er, rather jealously, so how come?
Freddie: I don't get up every morning and rush to the mirror and see how many lines I've got, I mean that's the best way to do it as far as I'm concerned, I don't worry, because I mean if you're gonna get old, or you look, that's the way it is, no matter facelifts or whatever, no matter how many creams you use on the, it's just not, it's just not me, you know, it's just not me, and, and I know the kind of life I lead sometimes when I'm on these late nights and everything, I, I can get by with like two or three hours sleep a night, and I'm fine
Simon: Are you vain?
Freddie: Am I vain? Well to a certain extent, yes, yeah, yeah, I have those ingredients yes (Simon: unknown question) I like to feel that I, I'm, I, I look good at all times when I go out, I think it has, it's inner happiness, you know, it has to come from within
Simon: It seems to be a very successful way of coming from it aswell, and apart from that inner well being, Freddie has taken his fair share of physical knocks, we reported on the broken leg, I think it happened in Brazil, and in fact the broken leg has happened on more than one occasion
Freddie: I've actually broken it three times, but it's not broken, I think broken is the wrong thing, I've just torn my ligament, which I think is worse sometimes, so it's nothing to do with bones, it's just my ligaments in the right knee. I used to do a lot of um, exercises and weight, weight lifting and all that, and then sort of um, I can't really, because I can't really put pressure on my, my right knee anymore, so therefore I'm sort of limited in the kind of exercises on the weight lifting I do, and one performance on, on a German tour, I actually collapsed, I just did a wrong move, and, and right, right on the front stage, I just, in all spotlights and everything, I just collapsed, and they thought it was part of the show, but of course I couldn't get up again, but as, you know, the show must go on, I, I sort of, I was in agony but I just said I'll, I'll do two more songs but seated at the piano, because at least I can, so they carried me on again, and, and, it was the only time I've actually done this, so at the end of the show, I couldn't take my bow, I was just sat there, because I couldn't move, but I was sat at the piano, I did, I did 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'We Are The Champions', and you know the rest of the group had to leave and then straight to hospital
[Excerpt of 'We Are The Champions']
Simon: 'We Are The Champions'. It's eleven twenty five, we now know he's been under a lot of strain, so let's talk about the future with Freddie Mercury on a Wednesday morning
Jingle: The best sound in Britain, Radio 1
Simon: So is Freddie thinking of putting his feet up for a while?
Freddie: Far be it from me to say that, that I don't want to do nothing, and um, people are saying OK now I've done my solo project and they think I'm, I'm actually gonna just stay that way, but no way, I mean I just, I do love working with Queen, and I think the next project is going to be the next Queen album, and, but the only thing I, I did sort of point out to them is that I need a well deserved rest, I mean, I mean, in, in terms of schedule and all, all that, I mean we should be doing a Queen album now, you see, but I mean because I did my solo project, it sort of, I sort of went off on a tangent, and now everything is sort of coming a bit late, and I just said look, for me to do it properly, I, I need a little bit of rest, so I mean I think the next Queen album is scheduled in December
[Excerpt of 'Made In Heaven']
Simon: Freddie Mercury. I was trying to think of a way to sum him up, er, one thing he said to me that we weren't able to use in this piece of tape, there's so much material we actually had that we couldn't use, we were talking about the appearance that Queen are gonna make at Live Aid, and he said he was delighted about it, and I said how can you be delighted, it's a mega concert for everybody, mega's a word I shouldn't use, no-one is gonna be able to do a voice check, a sound check or a lighting check, it'll be just Queen exposed, naked as it were, and he said I'm delighted about that, because it will actually prove to people that Queen are a musical band, not just an effects band
Brian on 'The Way It Is' with David 'Kid' Jensen, Capital Radio, Wembley Stadium, London Track 26. Length 4:38.
This interview was broadcast in July 1986. David: Brian, I first met you about thirteen years ago, I guess it was
Brian: In Luxemburg, I remember it well
David: In Luxemburg, that's right, it was a very different sort of gig there, I guess it was about two hundred people in a club with a very low ceiling
Brian: Yes, that's right, very strange, I think by special request we didn't do the second half, or something like that, it wasn't a momentous occasion
David: Playing live is one of the reasons that people want to be in groups, I know, I mean do you, do you, has your attitude changed at all from, from, I don't know, thirteen years ago, to live work?
Brian: No, not as regards that, no, it still what I regard myself as doing, definitely, I'm a guy who likes to play guitar on a stage in front of people, I love it, it's great. The rest of the business is a little iffy at times, you know, the rest of the things you have to do, but um, no it's great, that's what I need to do, there's, there's really nothing like that feeling, if it's going well, and I just, I just enjoy the sound, I enjoy the interaction and the whole thing, that's what I do, I do
David: Well, the thing I was gonna say, sorry, one of the things about being successful, like you are in Queen unlike thirteen years ago when you were struggling a little bit to, to get recognition, is that at least you can play quieter songs, and you can use dynamics now, and people aren't going to be shouting about, they're going to be listening to what's gonna happen next
Brian: True, that's right, yeah, yeah, that's true, yeah, you can hopefully go the whole range of emotion. We always did try and do that, but it's um, you get a little more freedom as you go on, it's right, yeah, you can, you can take the audience a little bit further in certain directions, I suppose, but er, we're still basically the same, you know, we always believed in light and shade, and in, and in real songs, and doing them in a way that they, they move people, that's what all the big drama, and all this, you know this so-called er, you know the, the dramatic show business is all about, it's not show for it's own sake, it's to put the stuff across
David: This is why you've employed all these stagehands to um, erect the biggest stage that Wembley has ever seen, and the biggest lighting rig, this mass of screens, I mean it's just, when you walk in, before any, anybody strikes a chord, the show's on, because it's just, it's visually there isn't it, it's just part of it you know
Brian: Yeah, I'm so pleased with how it's worked out. We've been talking about this for months, obviously, and planning and we have some great people, we have a wonderful team, and um, everybody's done one hundred and fifty percent to get this up, it took five days to put this together, just for this one Wembley thing, and it was very touch and go whether it could be done, but it's great, I think it looks wonderful, and it's the first stage ever in Wembley which looks like it fits the place, I think, usually it gets lost in the corner somewhere, you know, but this actually, the important thing also is that it gives us the ability to get out and get closer to the, the people, you know we're not just in a little picture frame at one end of the, the place, we can get out and do things, it's very three dimensional
David: Absolutely. I'm as guilty as anybody in the media, or maybe a little bit less guilty than some, about passing on second hand information about Queen splitting, and I have since read denials in the press that you are not splitting, um, having first got the information from the newspapers in the first place that you were going to split, I mean, are you going to, are you gonna call it a quits at the end of this year as some people have suggested?
Brian: No, no, I don't think there's much chance. We um, we have our little altercations at times, but er, I think we're functioning now better than we've done for years and years, we, we actually like each other, and we enjoy being together, and er, it's a great moment for us, I think er, we're, we're full of energy, and the only choice is whether to go back in the studio after this tour, or else take the tour to some place else, because we feel like we're hot, we're going on, on all four, you know, firing on all thirty five
David: It would be easy to say to any interviewer at any particular gig that this concert is special to you, but I know that Wembley is special to you, why is that?
Brian: Well, it's the home town gig, apart from anything else, and it's a place that you grow up knowing is the sort of, the unobtainable Mecca or whatever, you know, and I've seen a few groups play here, um, and I've seen football here when I was a kid, and it's just a, it does move your bowels a bit, you know, to be here doing this, it is, it's a dream come true to be honest, I wouldn't say it any other way, it's like a, every boy's dream to be able to do this and pull it off, we haven't pulled it off yet, so I'm crossing my fingers, you know
David: I, I think the great trick for playing a concert like Wembley is to do as Springsteen, who is the only major artist I've ever seen play here before, make the place feel like that club in Luxemburg again, you know, you forget that there's no ceiling on the place, you are at one, it's like a community of rock 'n' roll fans, you know, with the people they most admire
Brian: That's right, yeah, that's true, and I think that's, that's our aim too, and it's a very, our show is a very two way thing, and we need that rapport with the audience, and Freddie is actually a master of, of whatever it is that it takes to do that, and he's our natural focus, and it is, he just has that knack, and wherever, whenever he walks on the stage, the energy flows kind of through us, through him, to the crowd and back again, it's a great feeling, I think we're very lucky, you know we're a fortunate combination, and we realise it
David: Sure, well it happened at Live Aid where for most people you're the ones that stole the show, whether here or for those of us that were watching it on television, it was, it was pretty impressive to see, and I'm looking forward to your concert tonight Brian, good luck