is my tribute page to Freddie Mercury. Freddie was my favorite singer,
frontman to my favorite band Queen. He was a marvelous showman
and a wonderful talent. On the day that he died the world lost
a wonderful artist. He is sadly missed by many people including myself.
I had the pleasure of seeing Queen in concert back in 1976 at Madison Square
Garden in New York City. The concert was fabulous. The crowd
went wild when Freddie came out on stage. I can still remember what
he was wearing for their opening song. The song they opened with
that night was Tie Your Mother Down.
was born Farookh Bulsara on Thursday, September 5th, 1946 on the small
spice island of Zanzibar. His parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, were
both Persian. His father, Bomi, was a civil servant, working as a High
Court cashier for the British Government. Freddie's sister, Kashmira, was
born in 1952. In 1954, at the age of eight, Freddie was shipped to St.
Peter's English boarding school in Panchgani, about fifty miles outside
of Bombay. It was there his friends began to call him Freddie, a name the
family also adopted.
As St. Peters was
an English school, the sports played there were typically English.
Freddie loathed cricket and long-distance running, but he liked hockey,
sprint and boxing. At the age of 10 he became a school champion in table
tennis. Freddie was not only a good sportsman, his artistic skills were
incomparable. At the age of 12 he was awarded the school trophy as Junior
All-rounder. He loved art, and was always sketching for friends or relatives.
He was also music
mad and played records on the family's old record player, stacking the
singles to play constantly. The music he was able to get was mostly Indian,
but some Western music was available. He would sing along to either and
preferred music to school work.
The Principal headmaster
of St. Peter's had noticed Freddie's musical talent, and wrote to his parents
suggesting that they enable him to study music properly. They agreed, and
Freddie began to learn to play the piano. He also became a member of the
school choir and took part regularly in school theatrical productions.
He loved his piano lessons and applied himself to them with determination
and skill, finally achieving Grade IV both in practice and theory.
In 1958, five friends
at St. Peter's - Freddie Bulsara, Derrick Branche, Bruce Murray, Farang
Irani and Victory Rana formed the school's rock 'n' roll band, the Hectics,
where Freddie was the piano player. They would play at school parties,
at annual fetes and school dances, but little else is known about them.
In 1962, Freddie
finished school, returned to Zanzibar and spent his time with friends in
and around the markets, parks and beaches. In 1964, many of the British
and Indians, due to political unrest in Zanzibar, left their country, although
not under forcible pressure, and among those driven out were the Bulsaras
who migrated to England.
lived with relatives in Feltham, Middlesex, until they were able to find
their own small, terraced house in the area. Freddie was seventeen, and
had decided he wanted to go to art college, but needed at least one A level
to ensure he could get in. In September 1964 he enrolled at the nearby
Isleworth Polytechnic School to study for an A level in art.
he took a variety of jobs to earn some money; one was in the catering department
at Heathrow Airport, a stone's throw from home, and the other was on the
Feltham trading estate where he had a job in a warehouse lifting and stacking
heavy crates and boxes. His fellow workers commented on his "delicate"
hands, certainly not suited for such work, and asked him what he did. He
told them he was a musician just "filling in time", and such was his charm
that those co-workers were soon doing the lion's share of his work.
He studied hard,
although he preferred the aesthetic side of school life the the more mundane
academic side, and easily achieved his Art A level, leaving Isleworth in
the spring of 1966. His grade A pass and his natural skill ensured that
he was readily accepted to Ealing College of Art, and in September 1966,
Freddie began a graphic illustrating course at that college.
After Jimi Hendrix
exploded onto the scene in 1967, and Freddie became an ardent fan, he spent
time sketching and drawing his hero; drawings he would frame and use to
decorate the walls of his flat in Kensington, rented by his friend Chris
Smith, where Freddie had moved from the family home in Feltham. At that
time Kensington was an important place to be for the art crowd - it was
the base of the famous Biba boutique and the home of Kensington Market,
frequented by the then "in" crowd.
A fellow student
at Ealing College was bass player Tim Staffell, with whom Freddie became
good friends. As Tim's and Freddie's friendship became closer, Tim
took him along to rehearsals of his band called Smile, with Brian May on
the Guitar and Roger Taylor on the drums. Freddie go on famously with Brian
and Roger and loved the sound that SMile had achieved; he also had immense
admiration and respect for Brian's guitar-playing. Inspired by Smile, Freddie
began to experiment with music for the first time since leaving India.
He initially began
to practice with Tim, another art student Nigel Foster, and with Chris
Smith. "The first time I heard Freddie sing I was amazed," recounts Chris.
"He had a huge voice. Although his piano style was very affected, very
Mozart, he had a great touch. From a piano player's point of view, his
approach was unique".
"Freddie and I eventually
got to write little bits of songs which we linked together," adds Chris.
"It makes sense when you consider Bohemian Rhapsody. It was an interesting
way getting from one piece in a different key signature to another. But
I don't think we actually finished anything. Freddie certainly taught me
a log at those sessions. He had great, natural sense of melody. I picked
that up straight away. For me it was the most interesting aspect of what
he was doing".
Freddie left Ealing
College in June 1969, with a diploma in graphic art and design, and a few
commissions for adverts in local newspapers. He moved into Roger Taylor's
flat, and that summer opened a stall with Roger at Kensington Market, initially
selling artwork by himself and fellow Ealing students, and later Victorian
or whatever clothes, new and secondhand, he could lay his hands on.
In the summer of
1969 Freddie was introduced to a Liverpool band called Ibex, who had come
to London to try and make a name for themselves. Ibex were a three-piece,
with guitarist Mike Bersin, John "Tupp" Taylor on bass and Mick "Miffer"
Smith on drums. They also brought with them their apprentice manager, roadie
and general dogsbody Ken Testi; part-time bass player Geoff Higgins used
to travel down for occasional gigs. Geoff would play bass when Tupp, a
great Jethro Tull fan, wanted to play flute.
Freddie first met
Ibex on 13th August 1969. Such was his enthusiasm, that just ten days later,
he'd learned the band's set, brought in a few new songs, and had traveled
to Bolton, Lancashire, for a gig with them - his debut public performance.
The first date was 23rd August, and the occasion was one of Bolton's regular
afternoon "Bluesology" sessions, held at the town's Octagon Theatre. On
the 25th August, Ibex appeared in the first "Bluesology pop-in", an open-air
event on the bandstand in Bolton's Queen Park, and the proceedings were
covered in Bolton's "Evening News". This even featured an uncredited photograph
trip to Bolton with Ibex was photographed, Ibex's appearance at the Sink
was recorded. This recording was made by Geoff Higgins; as he says, tape
is chronic quality, but it demonstrates Ibex's love of Cream, Jimi Hendrix,
as well as Freddie's favourite of the day, Led Zeppelin.
9th September and the end of October 1969 Ibex underwent a mini upheaval
- at Freddie's instigation. "I recall him canvassing the idea of calling
the band Wreckage, but nobody was very enthusiastic," reveals Mike Bersin.
"Then he phoned me one night and said, "The others don't mind. How do you
feel?" I said, "If they agree, then fine". When I spoke to the others about
it, Freddie had phoned them all up and had the same conversation".
went hand-in-hand with the departure of drummer Mike "Miffer" Smith. He
was replaced by Richard Thompson, the former drummer in Brian May's 1984.
Despite flashes of true potential, the end of the 1960s also marked the
end of Wreckage. Gigs were few and far between, and while John Taylor,
Richard Thomspon and Freddie remained in London, Mike Bersin was committed
to his college course in Liverpool, as he promised to his parents. Inevitably,
the band petered out.
to search for another band for himself. He found Sour Milk Sea after seeing
a "Vocalist Wanted" advert in the "Melody Maker". The pomp and ceremony
were impressive, and the band he was auditioning for knew he ws the right
man, especially when he got around to singing. Freddie had a great voice,
with terrific range. But there ws not only his voice that made his performances
so attractive to people. "He knew how to front a show", Ken Testi recalls.
"It was his way of expressing that side of his personality. Everything
he did on stage later in Queen, he was doing with Ibex at his first gig".
It wasn't anything that could be developed. It was his charisma, his pure
natural gift that was in perfect harmony with his voice, his appearance,
his delicate taste and his musicianship in the wide sense of the word.
The fact that he realized it himself made him absolutely fascinating!
They offered him
the job, and in late 1969 Freddie became the lead singer with Sour Milk
Sea. The other members of the band were Chris Chesney on vocals and guitar,
bass player Paul Milan, Jeremy "Rubber" Gallop on rhythm guitar and Rob
Tyrell on drums. They did a few rehearsals, and then a few gigs in Oxford
(Chris's home town).
Freddie and Chris,
who were about seventeen at the time, became close friends and Chris moved
into the house that Freddie shared with Smile in Ferry Road, Barnes. The
other members of Sour Milk Sea ere more than a little peeved Chris and
Freddie spent so much time together, and felt rather insecure about the
future of the band. AFter just two months, Jeremy who owned nearly all
the equipment, decided to take it back and break up the band.
In April 1970 Tim
Staffell decided to leave Smile, and Freddie joined them as lead singer.
Freddie decided to change the name of the band to Queen, he also changed
his last name to Mercury.
The further biography
of Freddie Mercury is to a considerable degree a story of Queen.
In 1970 Freddie
met Mary Austin. They lived together for seven years and remained good
friends until his death.
In 1971 John Deacon
joined the band and Queen was complete. Freddie designed the band's logo
using their birth signs; tow fairies for him (Virgin), tow lions for Roger
and John (Leo) and a crab for Brian (Cancer). Freddie was the author of
the first Queen song that entered the British charts (Seven Seas of Rhye),
the first big hit (Killer Queen) and the most famous Queen song that was
on the top of the charts for 9 weeks (Bohemian Rhapsody). Freddie has always
been considered the front-man of the band.
In 1975 Queen toured
Japan. A crowd of screaming fans followed them everywhere. They were taken
by surprise at the strength of their reception. Freddie fell in love with
Japan and soon became a fanatical collector of Japanese art and antiquities.
On October 7th,
1979 Freddie performed with the Royal Ballet. He had never done any ballet
before, but it was something he had always wanted to try. The songs he
had chosen to perform to were Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Little Thing
Called Love. Songs were played by the orchestra with Freddie doing live
vocals. Freddie's first dance was Bohemian Rhapsody, and he performed with
skill in front of a packed house of enthusiastic balletomanes, who loved
him, and he received a standing ovation for both his cameo performances.
In 1980 Freddie
changed his image. He cut his hair and grew a moustache. His fans began
to send him gifts of nail polish and razor blades.
At the end of 1982
Queen all agreed they wanted to take a break from eachother. They announced
they wouldn't be touring throughout 1983. Freddie had been thinking of
making a solo album for some time, and at last he had time to do something
about it. He booked studio time at Musicland in Munich and began work in
early 1983. During that time he was introduced to Georgio Moroder, who
was working on a re-release of the 1926 Fritz Lang silent science fiction
film Metropolis. He wanted to put a contemporary musical score to the film.
He asked Freddie to consider collaborating on a track for the film to which
Freddie agreed. He had never before co-written with anyone outside of Queen,
and had no recorded anyone else's compositions, apart from Larry Lurex.
The result of this co-operation was the song Love Kills.
In 1983 Freddie
attended a performance of Verdi's Un Ballo In Maschera at the Royal Opera
House sometime in May. It was the first time when he saw spanish opera
diva Montserrat Caballe, and the sheer power and beauty of her voice mesmerized
On September 10,
1984 Freddie's first solo single was released. It was the track he had
co-written with Georgio Moroder for Metropolis, Love Kills.
The first single
form his forthcoming solo album was I Was Born To Love You. It was released
on April 8, 1985. Three weeks later Freddie's first solo album Mr. Bad
Guy was released on CBS Records.
July 13, 1985 was
a special day for Queen and Freddie. It was the day of their memorable
performance at Live Aid, a tremendous show at Wembley Stadium in front
of 72,000 people. Live Aid was also broadcast to over one billion people
worldwide. Queen secured their place in history, as every media person,
journalist, fan and critic unanimously agreed: Queen stole the show.
The early part of
1987 was very quiet for Queen, so Freddie took the opportunity to go into
Townhouse Studios to do some solo work. It resulted in a remake of the
classic Platters' song The Great Pretender. The single was released on
In March 1987 Freddie
flew to Barcelona to meet Montserrat Caballe. He gave her a cassette with
two or four songs. The Spanish opera diva liked these songs and even performed
one of them at London's Convent Garden. Freddie was delighted. In early
April, Freddie began wok on the album he agreed to record with Montserrat
At the end of May
the island of Ibiza staged a huge festival at the outrageous Ku Club. Freddie
agreed to be a guest of honour and closed the event with Montserrat Caballe
singing the song he had written for her and her home city, Barcelona.
On October 8th,
1988 Freddie and Montserrat appeared at the huge open air La Nit festival
in Barcelona. They performed three tracks from their forthcoming album
- How Can I go On, The Golden Boy and Barcelona, accompanied by Mike Moran
on piano. The long-awaited album, Barcelona, finally came out on October
October 8th was
the last time Freddie Mercury performed on stage. At the time, he was terribly
ill with AIDS, although he didn't want people to know about it. He announced
that fact the day before he died. Being ill he continued to compose and
record songs and even took part in making videos. In my opinion, I'm Going
Slightly Mad video is his masterpiece.
On November 24th,
1991 Freddie died peacefully at his home in London of AIDS-related bronchial
On April 20th, 1992
a tribute concert in Freddie's memory was held at Wembley Stadium, and
many famous rock stars took part in it. But the best tribute to Freddie
was the album Made In Heaven, released on November 6th, 1995 by the three
remaining members of Queen. We can hear the last songs that Freddie composed
Thank you Freddie.
We love you.
Gunn & Jim Jenkins. As It Began.
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