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Somebody To Love

The Life Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury

Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne

More books on Music

1960's pop music was black and white, just like the TV's of the era. But in 70's colour TV brought colour and glamour to the pop scene. Then in 1972, in the midst of glam rock, David Bowie created Ziggy Stardust. Created his own clothes, his style and his whole persona, liberated from past expectations.

The band: a closeted gay man playing a straight man fronting a band called Queen.... Forty years ago, in the homophobic 1970', that was a bit of a risk - "Well if we don't get arrested at least people will remember us."

Feb 1974 band got big break appearing on Top of the Pops. None of them owned a TV, so they all rushed down to the local electrical shop to watch it through the window.

When they finished A Night At the Opera everybody who heard it -record company, DJs, critics - all heard "You're My Best Friend" and thought right, that's the hit. Nobody considered the 6 minute long "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Except Kenny Everett, who had a controversial show mixing brilliance and unremitting disrespect for authority. He had married a spiritualist named Crystal Clear before coming out as gay, divorcing her and moving in with a former Russian soldier and a Spanish waiter. Given an advance copy of the LP, Everett began teasing his audience by playing snippets of BR over weekend, before finally playing it all the way through. The switchboard lit up with listeners wanting to know where they could get the record, which hadn't even been pressed by then, let alone released.

An American DJ visiting London happened to get a taped copy, and when he got back to the States, he started playing it, and the same thing happened. Unusual situation where radio on both sides of the Atlantic broke out a record that the record companies said would never get airtime.

Queen were booked to play on Top of the Pops again, but couldn't reproduce BR in a studio. So they made a video, which cost £4,500 at a time when nobody spent more than £500. But it worked, and BR and the album both reached No 1.

Freddie had an upright piano as headboard of his bed. He was double jointed and his hands could bend back completely, so he could wake in the middle of he night and try out a few notes. But he composed "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in the bath in less than 10 minutes. It became the band's first US No 1.

Kids who come out of boarding schools: "The dissociative, defensively organized personality structure typical of the ex-boarder, sometimes called 'strategic survival personality', is developed as a protective mantle, under duress, by the child having to survive alone at boarding school. It inevitably leads to intimacy avoidance. Boarders grow up unable to rely on anyone but themselves. They want desperately to be loved but cannot surrender to trust and perversely end up embodying the self-reliance that the public schools promote above all things. Bad news for relationships and families."

1981 album Hot Space Queen had arranged for David Bowie to provide backing vocals for a song called Cool Cat. But when he arrived, Bowie and Queen started a jam session that lasted nearly 24 hours, fueled by alcohol and cocaine, and produced a completely new song, "Under Pressure". But then a huge argument when they tried to mix it for release, with Bowie threatening to permanently block it's release. Brian May said "you had four very precious boys and David, who was precious enough for all of us."

There was almost compulsive promiscuity associated with homosexual behaviour in the 70's. 75% of gay men have had more than 100 partners in their lifetime, and more than half of those partners were strangers. Only 8% of homosexual men have had relationships lasting more than 3 years.

Radio Ga Ga written by Roger Taylor, and meant that all four members of Queen had written a Top 10 hit., a unique achievement.

When Bob Geldof was trying to put Live Aid together, he met some resistance from Freddie. "I just had to find Freddie's G-spot" was how he put it.

Freddie: "I don't give a damn about critics, to be honest. The backing of the press is impt only at the beginning of a rock musician's career. When success arrives, it's the fans who decide whether a record will be successful."

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