Saturday, November 26, 2005

Behind the Music: Me and Freddie Mercury, Part II

So, where were Freddie and I?

Oh, yes, I’d been struck by the arrow of true FAN LOVE on my family room couch back in ’77 (how old do I sound about now?).

Anyway, I was on a mission from then on. At the very next opportunity I was at Musicland at the Mall rifling through the newly discovered Queen section that was to become my haunt for the next few years. I had taken the plunge into complete fan devotion and, fortunately for me, the waters were very deep. Freddie fronted a band that contained three other songwriters and musicians: Brian May on lead guitar, Roger Taylor on drums, John Deacon on base and, of course, Freddie was lead vocals and keyboard. Interestingly, all four were college graduates. Queen was the real deal. Writing all their own material and using only their own voices and instruments their first six albums all proudly contained the disclaimer “no synthesizers”.

I learned all I could about Freddie, which really wasn't much. He was born on September 5, 1946 on a small spice island called Zanzibar off the coast of Africa. Freddie’s father worked for the British government and Freddie began attending school in London when he was eight or ten. He met up with Roger Taylor and Brian May during his/their college years. Roger and Brian initially had a band called “Smile” that broke up at which point they joined forces with Freddie to form “Queen”. They held auditions for a bassist and John Deacon made the grade. [I can't believe I actually found that baby picture or even possibly resist posting it, sorry.]

Queen had already broken some some serious musical ground when I became a convert. Their blockbuster hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” which roared up the charts in late 1975 and 1976, took three solid weeks to record, and at six minutes, was the longest pop tune in history to be played on the radio it its entirety. [I just read on the internet that it took seven days to record the “Galileo’s” alone.] As if that wasn’t enough, the boys recorded what is among the first music videos in history to promote the song.

My first queen album that day at Musicland turned out to be “A Night at the Opera” which contained “Bohemian Rhapsody” although the album du jour, of course, was “News of the World” which contained the song I’d just seen Freddie perform. I reasoned I should start at the beginning and “Night” was essentially the group’s first big American release. I still remember clutching the giant white album lovingly all the way home in the Torino and then frantically ripping off the cellophane and slapping it onto my pea green portable record player and, when I was home alone, way too loudly on the parent’s Pioneer at every possible opportunity.

I acquired the other albums as quickly as I could in order: “A Day at the Races” (“Somebody to Love”), Sheer Heart Attack (Killer Queen), News of the World (We Will Rock You/We are the Champions). And then, as they came out: “Jazz”, etc. I read all the liner notes, memorized the lyrics (and that includes the Japanese on “Day”), and devoured any and all information I could come by about Freddie and the group. Nobody, upon nobody, who knew me back in the day could possibly escape knowing about my obsession or being subjected to a healthy dose of Queen if they dared come for a visit.

My parents split in the late seventies, but I still had Freddie. My mother still remembers that first apartment we lived in being dominated by the strains of “Bicycle” wafting from my room (as do I). By the time I relocated south for the last two years of high school, I was singing about keeping “Moet and Chandon” in a pretty cabinet without any clue has to what that might actually be. I was on a constant quest for Queen albums, Queen merchandise, or any news of the band.

Which is about the time Queen released their next blockbuster to date: "The Game".

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