Queen: Mercury Rising (2011) Movie Script

I was driving
in Vermont,
and they played
"We Will Rock You."
Buddy, you're a young man,
hard man
Shouting in the street
Gonna take on
the world someday
It was like the entire
meaning of life,
summed up in five minutes.
I mean, all of the elements
of successful rock
were there.
Brian gave his bit,
Freddie gave his bit.

Freddie Mercury is regarded
as one of the greatest
singers and songwriters
of the 20th century.
His talent, ambition,
and charisma
propelled his band, Queen,
to superstardom,
making them one of the most
popular bands on the planet.
Twenty years
after Freddie's death,
Queen remain immensely popular.
Their album sales have topped
300 million worldwide,
and their musical stage show
has been seen
in nearly 20 cities
across the globe.
This is the story of how
four talented musicians
broke all the rules and pushed
musical boundaries to the limit.
From the early days
of sweaty student gigs
to the heady years
of huge stadiums,
we chart the meteoric
rise of a band
that was derided by critics,
but adored by fans.
In the '70s, three academics
and a flamboyant art student
took on the music industry
and redefined
popular rock forever.
Spurred on by their
forthright frontman Freddie,
Queen's single-mindedness
and constant reinvention
paid off,
and they created
some of the most memorable songs
of all time.
By the late '80s,
Queen were on top of the world,
and Freddie was king.
But then, after a truly
show-stopping performance
at Live Aid, came tragedy.
Freddie's untimely death
from AIDS robbed Queen
of their beloved friend
and their lead singer.
But his spirit,
and their music, live on.
We take a look
at how a young boy
who always knew
he was a star
became one of the greatest
the world has ever seen.
Charting the highs and lows
of a life less ordinary,
we explore the fascinating world
of Queen: Mercury Rising.

He could do
just about anything.
He could do the sweetest.
Aah, oo-oo-ooh
He could do deep, powerful.
Of the world
He could rock and roll it.
...my baby
She knows how
to rock and roll
He could ballad it.
Love of my life,
don't leave me
One of the great secrets
of Queen was that they were
four very diverse personalities.
You've got four people
who are all very intelligent.
John and Brian ended up
with doctorates.
Roger had trained
as a dentist.
Freddie had been
to art school.
This was not your typical
English working-class
rock and roll band,
all leaving school at 15.
These were
very bright people.
It was very exciting
and thrilling for Queen
that Freddie Mercury
and Brian May were so different.
Freddie had an amazing voice.
Buddy, you're a boy,
make a big noise
Playin' in the street
An incredible depth,
a real richness of voice.
I'm gonna have myself
A real good time
I feel alive
And the world
Is turning inside out,
I'm floating around...
Freddie, of course,
was the flavor of the time,
because he was
Mr. Androgyny.
Brian is as about as straight
a guy as you can imagine.
Brian was more cerebral,
but looked terrific,
and he's still got that
incredible mop of hair.
He was obviously, and still is,
an amazing guitarist.
He loves his music.
He's played since
he was very young.
He built his own guitar.
He knew exactly what
was making the noises
and how to get
the best out of them.

Roger was, in a way,
the most obvious rock star
I mean, the girls loved him,
this cute little blond fellow.
He had not only
great drumming.
Not only could he
write a hit song.
But the voice!
Roger had
an extraordinary voice,
and I believe
a very unusual range,
which enabled him
to do falsettos
and then come back down
straightaway to singing
with the others.
Roger always contributed
towards the vocal harmonies.
He wrote a couple
of their big hits, as well.
John very quietly
added his little bit.
John was always sort of
in the background, but, um,
he and Roger were quite often
referred to as the powerhouse.
John Deacon was much quieter.
It's amazing to think that John
was 19 when he joined the group.
He was not, um...arrogant,
he was just very good.
We, as a record company, had
very little creative control,
or indeed, input.
It was really unnecessary.
I mean, had we presumed
to go along and say,
"Ooh, not sure
about that, chaps,"
I know exactly what
would've been said.
However it was gonna be done,
it was gonna be done their way.
Didn't matter that they
were hardly known.
Didn't matter they hadn't
made anybody any money.
I just think there was
a lot of people like me
in those days saw 'em,
heard 'em,
and knew they
were gonna be great, great.
And they were great--
great musicians,
great everything.

Freddie Mercury
is regarded as one
of England's greatest ever
and yet he was born
and brought up
on another island,
far, far away.
He was born Farrokh Bulsara
on the 5th of September, 1946,
the first-born son
to parents Bomi and Jer.
I'm sure most people
who are Queen fans
would just assume
he'd been born in England.
And in fact,
he was born in Zanzibar.
His parents
had come from India.
They were Parsis
from the Gujarat region
of Bombay in India,
and had moved to
the East African island
of Zanzibar
to work for
the British Colonial Office.
While his early childhood was
spent on the exotic spice island
of Zanzibar,
it wasn't long before
young Farrokh
was sent to India
to attend a British-style
boarding school for boys.
It was here that he learned
to play the piano
and started to call himself
By the time he was 12,
he'd formed a school band
called The Hectics
and was covering artists
like Cliff Richard.
Brian Harold May was born
on the 19th of July, 1947,
the only child to parents
Harold and Ruth.
He grew up in
Feltham, Middlesex,
where his father was
an electronics engineer
who took an interest
in his son's
musical development.
He learned ukulele.
And then his dad helped him
construct this famous guitar.
Brian's early influences
came from an unlikely source.
You used to listen to everybody
you could get your hands on.
You know, you'd pick up all
the records and copy them
and kinda compete
to see who could play them
fastest and earliest.
We're listening to a rhythm
and blues record, you know,
and so it was--it was very cool
to say, "Oh, yeah,
well, I could--
of course, I don't
really like
the modern beat music.
I like Chuck Berry and I like
Bo Diddley and everything."
But secretly everyone
was going home
and studying their Hank Marvin
licks, you know?

When Zanzibar gained
independence in 1964,
Freddie's family left the island
and came to England,
settling in Feltham,
With his neat and tidy
schoolboy appearance,
17-year-old Freddie stood out
from the burgeoning
hippie crowd.
But it wasn't long before
he enrolled in art college
and began to cultivate
his own look.
Meanwhile, a teenage Brian May
was also studying in London.
He was studying science,
got steered into astronomy,
and became
a serious astronomer.
Freddie was developing
a reputation
for flamboyance at college.
And by the time he moved
to London in the late '60s,
he had set up a second-hand
clothes store
in Kensington Market.
It was here
that he met Brian.
Brian was in a band
called Smile
with fellow students
Roger Taylor and Tim Staffell.
The earlier band, which had
not included Freddie or John,
was a band called Smile.
And if you see pictures
of Brian and Roger,
it's pretty much still,
you know, hippie time.
Freddie was in various
bands of his own,
but had little success
with them.
He used to go
and watch Smile's gigs,
taking particular interest
in their lead singer
Tim Staffell's performance.
It was very interesting
that Freddie pursued the group.
He thought he belonged
in this group.
And he made himself
immediately known
when Tim Staffell
dropped out.
That was a big mistake.
Freddie soon made an impact,
changing both the band's name
and his own surname.
Farrokh wanted
to be called Freddie.
Freddie, being interested
in music from an early age,
would have known
that there had never been
a pop star called Farrokh.
And so suddenly, there was,
instead of Farrokh Bulsara,
Freddie Mercury.
And of course, Mercury is
the messenger of the gods.
Uh, it's a very grand
and exalted name.
This is an amazing case
of, uh, personal reinvention.
But it worked.
Calling the band Queen
was a controversial decision.
I think in some ways,
the name didn't do them
any favors in the early days,
because it had
obvious connotations.
People thought they were
something they weren't.
But there was always this
regal kind of feel to them.
Freddie had named
the band.
Of course, he was,
at that point in time,
the regal factor.
So I remember
asking him about it:
"It's because we're
very regal, Mick."
With their newfound identity,
the band set about making
a name for themselves
on the university music circuit.
We were told that there
was a really good band
playing at Imperial College.
And I went along with
some of my friends from EMI
and one or two other people,
not really knowing
what to expect.
And I was absolutely
blown away.
I don't think I've ever seen
a new band play like that.
The place was
absolutely packed.
They really worked
the audience.
And, I mean, we all
just stood there
with our mouths opened,
and we're just stunned.
You can see it's this
microscopic stage
and Freddie is performing
like he's already in a stadium.
I mean, he's big.
He projected big.
And of course,
they wrote their own material.
The lyrics were wonderful.
The melodies were fantastic.
I think on the whole,
they were streets ahead
of the other young bands
around at the time.
Finding the right bass player
was proving difficult.
But in February, 1971,
Queen found the right chemistry
with John Deacon, and started
rehearsing their first album.
When a friend of Brian's set up
a new studio called De Lane Lea,
he needed a loud band
to test his new equipment.
In exchange,
Queen were allowed
to record their demo tape
at night for free.
They recorded four
high-quality songs
and started pitching
their demo.
The very act
of receiving a demo
is not one that thrills
someone in the record business.
Which is why a lot of demos
do go unheard.
The heroes are the people
like John Peel,
who actually listen
to everything.
So it would take
some further time
from just the act
of making the demo
to it having
any impact at all.
Queen continued to make music
and rehearse at night.
One day, John Antony
and Roy Thomas Baker,
producers from London's
Trident Studios,
walked past and heard
the band playing.
They went back to their bosses,
convinced they had found
a talent.
Queen signed a management
contract with Trident,
but needed to find
a record label.
Basically the way it happened
was that their manager
came to EMI and offered it
to, uh,
Roy Featherstone,
who was my boss.
He was the general manager
of the pop division.
Basically we got a set
of copy tapes and...
we weren't quite sure
what to make of it,
because it fell
between a lot of things
that were going on
at that time, because there was,
the prog rock thing happening.
There was the burgeoning
glam rock thing.
And they sat somewhere
rather oddly in the middle.
Somewhere, I guess,
in where we wanted to be
in that Roxy Music niche.
Uh, but we weren't
quite sure to start with.
EMI knew the band
were promising,
but didn't know
how to market them.
They needed a promoter.
Roy Featherstone
knew just the man.
He said, "Well, Eric, you really
feel that strong about the band,
then you must promote 'em
until they happen.
You personally have to go 'round
Radio 1, 2, 3, and 4, and 87,"
or whatever it was.
Capital, Shrapital.
"You have to promote 'em."
Well, my pleasure. Great.
Eric started
to promote Queen.
But it was more difficult
than he and EMI expected.
The record comes out,
the first single,
"Keep Yourself Alive."
And I'm plugging them.
Keep yourself alive, yeah
Keep yourself alive
Take you all your
time and money
Got a few plays,
not monster.
Quite a few plays,
but not many,
not enough to even get it
into the breakers in the chart.
It completely failed,
I thought,
"Eric, you schmuck."
EMI decided that touring
might be the solution.
That was when we got them
onto the Mott the Hoople tour.
The deal was that Mott's
management wanted two grand
to put a band
onto the tour.
They thought Queen
was a good fit.
Queen certainly made this
a double bill of valid acts.
We were very,
very happy with it.
You're always fearful
of seeing the audience
disappear to the bar the moment
the support act comes on,
if they--if they don't
go down well.
And they--they
kept the audience.
And there were lots
of sighs of relief
and shaking of hands
and saying,
"Well, this looks good."
But, I didn't think
they were a superstar act.
Why not?
Because they themselves
hadn't found out yet
what made them
really special.
It was while supporting
Mott the Hoople
that Queen met
photographer Mick Rock.
I was impressed.
I mean, they...they had power
and they had melody.
They played him some
of their new tracks.
And I went: Whoa!
Ziggy Stardust
meets Led Zeppelin!
The band knew that they needed
a more dramatic image
for their second album cover.
They wanted a piece
of this glam image.
They wanted
a black-and-white thing,
and they wanted
to feature the band.
This was a band that hadn't
made the record label any money,
and they were already
bossin' 'em around
and gettin' what they wanted.
At the time, up-and-coming
photographer Mick
was interested
in the portrait styles
of the old Hollywood stars,
and shared the images
with Freddie.
And I showed him this picture
of Marlene Dietrich
and suggested that
that should be the approach
for the black shots
of the band.
And he loved it.
I mean, whether it was the shot,
or whether it was the fact
that it was Marlene Dietrich:
"I shall be Marlene."
You know, I mean,
he immediately responded.
"Keep Yourself Alive"
had sold poorly.
But the first single released
from their second album,
"Seven Seas of Rhye,"
was a top ten hit.
Well, the foundation, really,
was "Keep Yourself Alive."
And enough of that foundation
was strong, monster strong,
enough till "Seven Seas of Rhye"
comes out and then...
it took off.
Fear me, you lords
and lady preachers
I descend upon your earth
from the skies
When we got to "Queen II,"
this was stuff that had--
that they'd written since things
had started to happen for them.
And I think they were full of
all that very early enthusiasm.
They had so many ideas,
I think they could probably
have done ten times
the tracks they did.
And I think that
really comes over.
It's the energy.
It's the...the variety
of influences.
I just think that,
in my opinion,
it's one of their best albums.
While promoting the band,
Eric Hall discovered
that he and Freddie
shared similar passions.
He realized that
my kind of taste in music
was Sinatra, was a lady
called Josephine Baker,
was...sort of a bit more,
not camp, schmamp,
but outrageous.
Judy Garland, you know?
Friend of Dorothy types, see?
That sort of--he loved all that,
too, he loved all that.
Get ready
for the judgment day
The pair bonded over
their love of music
and spent time together
on tour.
I'm laying in my bed
in the Holiday Inn Luxembourg,
about 3:00 in the morning,
and suddenly a knock at my door.
"Hello, yeah, who's there?"
"Eric, it's Freddie Dear,
Freddie Dear,
Freddie Dear."
"What d'you want?"
"Can I just come in a minute?
I'm coming."
"Well, yeah, yeah."
So I let him in.
As he comes in, I'm layin'
on the bed, and I said,
"Freddie, well, what's
the problem, bubbalah?
It's 3:00 in the morning,
We gotta pick you up at 8:00.
We're gettin' the plane
back to London."
"No-no, I just...
I wanna be with you."
I said, "Well, you--
you can't be with me.
The plane's off tomorrow,
the plane, bubbalah.
I'll make sure I'll sit next
to you,
and not the other boys, you,"
or whoever it was
that was on the trip.
"No, no, I mean, now, now.
I know you're not into--
well, I like--
But can I just hold
your hand?"
"Okay, you're just gonna be
holdin' my hand, bubbalah.
Nothing else than
holdin' my hand."
And Freddie, he held my finger,
in actual fact.
I think it was my finger,
It was...I think it was
my finger,
I'm not sure.

Later that year, Queen produced
their third album,
"Sheer Heart Attack."
It was to be their first taste
of commercial success
on both sides
of the Atlantic.
Mick Rock had had his
iconic shot of the heads
on the "Queen II"
album sleeve.
But this was, for me,
even better.
This time,
they had a concept.
What they wanted it was to look
like they were thrown up
on some beach
in a desert island somewhere,
looking completely
whacked out and wasted.
There was something...
very liberating,
very decadent, very free
about that album sleeve,
and slightly sexually
showing the members of the group
in various stages of disarray.
The discomfort they had
to go through on that session
was my doing,
but was not my conception.
The artwork wasn't the only
outstanding feature
of the album.
The track "Killer Queen"
proved to be
a landmark moment
for the band.
"Killer Queen," to me,
is the first
of the classic Queen tracks.
Because here Freddie
has found his lyrical mode.
Wanna try
So many parts of that song
are just so clever.
Ooh, recommended
at the price
Insatiable an appetite
Then, at the appropriate
moments, there's the contrast
with Brian's ferocious guitar.

This is it.
They've also incorporated
the high harmonies
of Roger.
Guaranteed to blow
your mind
And this was the song
that broke them in America.
"Killer Queen"
was a smash hit.
Freddie's lyrics impressed
and bemused almost everyone.
"Killer Queen" is open
to interpretation, I think.
I think the lyrics
were allegedly
to do with some people
they were involved with
in their management
that weren't
their best friends.
Who knows.
There are all sorts
of interpretations.
I've heard lots of stories
over the years.
The story is this.
He comes to see me one day,
to play me a record.
And he says to me, "Eric,
I want you to hear this."
And he puts this record on.
Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatine
[scatting melody]
I said, "Love it, love it,
it's gonna be a hit.
Love it, monster, monster me."
"No, you have--Eric,
have a listen
to the lyric."
"Yeah, I know--"
"Just listen again."
He put it on again.
She keeps Moet et Chandon
in her fancy cabinet...
She keeps Moet et Chandon
"No," he said,
"but you don't listen.
This song's about you."
"About me, bubbalah?"
Like Marie Antoinette
"I'm the queen, me."
"I'm" being Freddie.
"And I can't have you,
and that's killing me.
So, I'm the queen
and you're killing me.
I want you to hear
the lyric now."
Now I listen to it again.
He was right.
'Cause I had a fancy cabinet
at EMI
which I kept
Moet et Chandon on.
"He keeps Moet et Chandon
in his fancy cabinet."
Moet et Chandon
"Hair like Marie Antoinette."
In those days--not now,
look at me now, bubbalah,
I've got no chance.
I'd just gone to Sweeney's
in Beauchamp Place in London
as a--I used to have--
they called it a Lamaur perm.
Just like Marie Antoinette
That sort of
Kevin Keegan schtick,
long Lamaur
like Marie Antoinette.
Ah, yes.
Well, you're never too old
to learn something.
Three or four people
have verified it,
that "Killer Queen"
was written about me.
Gee, I had no idea...
that, uh, Freddie
may have been
infatuated with him.
Oh, every time I saw him,
he said, "Well, Eric,
I wish I could 'mmm' you,
and I'd love to--"
It's ver--it's possible.
Um...but it would have been
an odd couple,
I'll tell ya that much.
It didn't matter
that he fancied me
or schmancied me.
It was such--it was an honor.
Dear Eric,
he doesn't change, does he?
Guaranteed to blow
your mind
As a band, Queen was made
of four
unusually strong talents.
Queen come along...
as a self-contained band
who, musically,
great drummer.
World-class drummer.
Great guitarists.
Great bass guitarist,
lead guitarist.
And a great, great singer.
Which he had--he sung from here,
here, his heart.
They were impressive,
and they were impressive
because of their ambition
and their confidence,
especially Freddie's
Queen's early success
had now got them noticed,
but people weren't sure
what to make of them,
especially the press.
Inevitably, Freddie was
the center of attention.
The band and Freddie
in particular--
his very flamboyance,
if you like--
invited negative comments.
And so this is when
the "New Musical Express"
famously asked:
"Is this man a prat?"
When he said that his job was
to bring ballet to the masses.
Some people were
incredibly rude about them.
And, at one point,
I believe there was actually
a blacklist of journalists
they wouldn't speak to
because some people,
for no apparent reason,
just took against them.
Somebody had obviously
listened to the records
and said, "Well, look at
the state of this lot,"
and "They're pretentious,"
and this, that, and the other.
I remember the other three being
a little bit concerned about it,
and Freddie said,
"Of course we're pretentious.
I mean, we don't give a damn,
we're fabulous."
Freddie Mercury
was showbiz, bubbalah.
He should've been in pantomime
really, you know,
as one of the ugly sisters,
or, you know--
And boy, he was ugly; Freddie,
I loves ya, but you were ugly.
He did not have
a classic pinup look.
Big teeth and everything,
boy, he wasn't really--
he was no Brad Pitt, bubbalah.
The thing essentially
with Freddie
was his overbite, you know?
'Cause he had that overbite.
If you look in all
my pictures of him,
you'll see his lips are closed,
because we were--
he was very self-conscious
about the overbite.
And we made sure
that before I took the shot,
his lips were closed.
And I remember saying
to him at one point:
"You know, with your money,
you could do what you want."
But he had these
four extra teeth
at the back, you see.
But he didn't wanna--
I said, "Why don't you
have 'em taken out?"
And he said, "Well, no,"
he said, "'cause I think
that'll affect
my palate and my range."
So whether it would've
or it wouldn't have,
I dunno,
I haven't got a clue.
But that was what he believed,
that it would've
affected his voice.
And of course, he did have
the most extraordinary
vocal range.
So, maybe he was right.
I think Freddie always
really wanted to give a show.
I think in some ways,
a lot of his life was a show.
I think he had,
what's the word, charisma.
"You know, I'm a peacock,"
he would say.
He wanted attention,
that's for sure.
He always stood out.
He had that magic,
that sparkle.
Queen were now in demand.
They embarked on a world tour,
headlining in the U.S., Canada,
and Japan for the first time.
But behind the scenes,
there was trouble brewing.
Queen's contract with Trident
was crippling them financially.
In those days
it was quite typical
for people
to be under contracts
that would now be
considered wildly unfair.
Because they simply
did not have much money.
They all lived
in relatively small flats.
And...I wouldn't...
Well, they probably did
and for quite a long time.
Certainly a lot longer
than people thought.
My favorite quote
as to how they noticed
they were being shortchanged
was when Roger noticed
that one of the managers
was getting a new Rolls-Royce.
And the band were struggling
to make ends meet.
He thought,
"Wait a minute,
there's something
not quite right here."
I guess they weren't looking
too closely
at the fine print,
or thinking through:
Well, where would this
lead, um,
once it's--once it's signed
through a record company?
They would just sign a piece
of paper put in front of 'em,
'cause they thought,
"Great, I get to make a record."
They don't think about,
"Yeah, and I'm going to tour
the world and not make any money
out of it and get exhausted.
Wait a minute...that's not
in the original plan."
It left them with a, you know,
a very bitter taste.
Their manager, Jim Beach,
wanted the band to sign
with Led Zeppelin's manager,
Peter Grant,
and with his production company.
Queen found that
contract unacceptable,
and instead hired Elton John's
manager, John Reid.
In 1975, Queen released
their fourth album,
"A Night at the Opera."
It would go on to be voted
as one
of the greatest albums
of all time.
I attended the playback
of the "Night at the Opera"
There we were,
and we listened to this album.
It's a nice album.
And then suddenly
this six-minute--
what to call it--comes on.
Is this the real life
Is this just fantasy
Everyone was in shock.
I mean, they'd never heard
anything like it.
No escape from reality
People were divided
about whether
it was, um, genius
or madness.
I see a little silhouetto
of a man
That track was
"Bohemian Rhapsody."
When John Reid and EMI
first heard it,
they were very concerned.
I'm told that John Reid
didn't want
"Bohemian Rhapsody"
to be as long as it was.
In those days,
the BBC and various other people
wouldn't play anything longer
than about three minutes.
We had lengthy discussions
within EMI about...
"What on earth do they
think they're doing?
It's so long, it's so--
it's three records in one!"
And of course, it turned out
to be a work of genius.

Still don't understand it.
Still don't understand it.
Mama, just killed
a man
Put a gun
against his head
Pulled the trigger,
now he's dead
I'm listening to it, I think,
lovely portrait, very sad."
"Got-a-hoosh, got-a-smoosh,
No, no way.
I said to Freddie,
"Freddie, I love it.
Not gonna get it played,
because you've got no chance."
It's like nine, ten minutes
long originally.
No way.
Thunderbolts and lightning
I was the idiot who said,
"Why don't we ask them
to do an edit?"
And the, uh, the response
was a couple of words...
Galileo, Galileo Figaro
And, of course...
the rest is history.
The band stuck to their guns,
and, with the backing
of producer Roy Thomas Baker,
took the track to someone
who might listen to it.
The person who thought it
would be a hit
was Kenny Everett,
who was working
on Capital Radio at the time.
And it is true
that he played it many times.
I see a little silhouetto
of a man
Having won the battle
with the song's length,
the band insisted on doing
the video their own way, too.
At that time, we were making
promo clips on a regular basis.
They would just be
Uh, miming to a track.
And that was really what
the music video business
consisted of.
No, we will not
let you go
With "Bohemian Rhapsody,"
Queen, quite independently,
decided that they
wanted to do something
that would be mold-breaking.
Never let me go,
oh, oh, oh, oh
It was a highly
practical maneuver,
because, clearly,
they weren't gonna be able
to go on "Top of the Pops"
and do it
according to the BBC rules,
which involved going in
and recording the backing track
in three hours of studio time
that they gave you,
and then you'd do a moody switch
of the tapes to do--
give 'em the real backing track,
and go in and mime to it.
Mamma mia, mamma mia
Mamma mia, let me go
We knew that what we would
have to do is give them a video
that would be so fantastic that
they couldn't refuse to use it.
The band themselves
did the creative work on that,
and they came to us
with the request:
"We wanna make this video.
It's going to be fantastic.
Bruce Gowers is gonna
direct it."
Mike Mansfield was EMI's
promos director at the time.
But Queen had other ideas.
"No, no, no, no, we're not doin'
Mike Mansfield, my dear.
We're usin' Bruce Gowers."
They said, "No, you're not.
I got a deal
with Mike Mansfield.
He's contracted--
he does all the EMI videos,
from Olivia Newton-John
to Cliff Richard to whoever."

"I've paid about 400 pound
a video."
"No," Freddie says, "nuh-uh.
We ain't gonna use--
we're gonna use--
Well, who do we got?
Who--I've gotta meet him.
Well, me bein' there,
I had a day,
about my budget,
my money."
He said, "Anyway,
we've gotta meet him,
we're gonna use Bruce Gowers,
and it's gonna cost
about four or five,
maybe, at the most."
"Well, okay, that's
a similar price
to Mike Mansfield.
Well, five hundred.
But I still don't wanna
use him."
"No, four or five thousand!"
I said, "Four or five thousand?
Are you mad? We could make
'Gone with the Wind II'
for four or five thousand
in those days!"
So you think you can stone me
and spit in my eye
That was...a bit of a gulp.
It was a sharp intake
of breath.
I can remember the aggravation,
having rows
with Freddie Mercury.
But they got their way,
and they did it.
It was the best money
you ever spent,
because it changed
the industry.
Freddie said to me,
"Oh, we made a short film
yesterday afternoon
with Bruce Gowers."
Well, that "short film"
happened to revolutionize
the way that music
is consumed.
Because neither, uh,
MTV or VH1 would exist
had it not been
for that "short film."
God, was I wrong
about that, too.
What a schmuck.
I had to make a living.
Showing it on "Top of the Pops"
galvanized Great Britain.
The record went to number one
for nine weeks.
We'd phone the factory
in the morning
to pick up the figures
from the night before.
"Hello, bubbalah,
it's Eric here.
So-and-so, how did we do on
so-and-so record day," da-ba-da.
"Queen, baby,
let's see...60."
"Oh, I knew it, I knew it.
I knew it.
My biggest fear has come true.
The kids now are not
buyin' it anymore
'cause it's too long,
it's too long.
60--I knew it, I knew it.
60, I can't be sh--"
"Eric, 60,000."
Let me go,
oh, oh, oh, oh
All of the records
I've promoted,
from [unintelligible]
to Sex Pistols
to Schmistols and Elton John,
all those,
I've never had a record
sell that much.
It was then 60,000, 80,000--
I mean, the biggest
daily figure.
I mean, you do 80,000 now,
you'll be
number one for 12 weeks.
In those days, well,
it was just--I don't know--
The biggest figure,
daily figure we had on Queen,
probably went to about
one day, 130,000.
What he did, of course,
was make "Night at the Opera"
a huge album that enabled them
really to smash
through the ceiling.
"Bohemian Rhapsody"
was now dominating
radio and television stations.
Queen's status as a rock band
They had changed
the face of music,
and music videos, forever.
I think they set a precedent
that was quickly followed
by a lot of other artists.
Many artists learned the lesson
and thought, "Gee...
If we could do
something like that..."
Didn't mean to make you cry
"Bohemian Rhapsody"
would prove to be
Queen's biggest hit
of all time.
The inspiration for,
and the meaning of,
the lyrics are still
debated today.
Freddie always refused
to explain them,
apart from to say that they
were about relationships.
The music itself
was so bizarre
that you had no idea
what the lyrics meant.
And really, who cared?
Too late
Tim Rice, the great lyricist,
has this theory that it's
an attempt to come to terms
with being gay,
and the relinquishment
of a previous role.
Easy come, easy go
Will you let me go
It's a good theory.
I never had a chance
to ask Freddie about it.
Some of it's a bit
But it's a great song.
Let him go
We will not let you go
Let me go
It was a lot of fun to do.
I mean, first of all,
I was a spectator
because the three of these guys
were just banging out
the backing track
with all these gaps in.
Um, and we were wondering
how it was gonna take shape.
But it was all
in Freddie's mind.
I mean, more than anything else,
I think,
in the Queen repertoire,
it was Freddie's brainchild.
And, uh, yeah,
we'd contribute.
But basically, he knew exactly
what he wanted in there.
Oh, baby
If it weren't for Brian throwing
in his memorable solo...
Which is as if he'd been
pent up for three minutes,
and finally they said,
"Okay, your turn"...
[mimicking guitar solo]

...the whole record
wouldn't have
quite the, uh, impact it did.
My abiding memory is,
over and over and over,
doing the harmonies,
which we did.
We would always sing
each line in unison,
double it, triple it, bounce it,
sing the next line.
It was all very kind of like
a sausage machine after a while.
I thought then,
and I think now,
that it's a masterpiece.
It's an extraordinary work
in any age, in any medium,
however you wanna
compare it.
It's, in its way,
Any way the wind blows

When I first went
to Freddie's home,
he was living in a flat
in the Kensington area,
uh, with his girlfriend,
Mary Austin.
And they had a very
interesting relationship.
They were just boyfriend
and girlfriend.
And it was a very nice
little flat,
but it was very small.
And I remember crowding
in there with them one night
when we'd just come back
from a gig to watch
"Bohemian Rhapsody"
on "Top of the Pops."
This was before he--pop!--
popped out of the closet.
Freddie had been
with his girlfriend
Mary Austin for six years.
But around this time,
their relationship ended.
It was a time of great
experimentation, remember,
between the chemicals
and the, uh, the sex
and, uh,
the general lifestyle.
There was a battle
going on inside of him.
He and Mary Austin, I mean,
met before any of us knew him.
Even as she and Freddie
grew apart in some ways,
they became the very
best of friends.
But their relationship
never really changed.
He just had other
relationships, as well.
He was happy going
to certain clubs,
in New York, in London,
in France, in Italy,
full of young...ish guys,
or above age of consent.
Of course they were.
I have pictures of the guy
that he actually
was hanging around already
with someone he was having
a relationship with
before he finally told Mary.
She knew...
exactly what he was.
There's nothing hiding,
he didn't hide it.
If he did hide it,
he was the worst hider
in the business, you know?
What would he say?
"Mary, I'm going out now,
I'm going to
the Sombrero club
in Kensington."
He took to the gay scene
in New York in the late '70s
like David Attenborough
would take to forms of wildlife.
He would excitedly say, "Oh,
look, there are some gorillas!
Let's go over and talk
to the gorillas!"
Well, Freddie was the same,
uh, in the clubs of New York.
And he would...recommend to me
the clubs that he liked,
which, I have to say,
would terrify me.
We knew Freddie
had his girlfriend
in the same way
that all the others did.
Um...and in later years,
he had his boyfriends.
But that was just Freddie.
Another year,
another album.
Surely another success.
Very interestingly,
their strike rate was not 100%.
And they were capable of doing
records that were just okay.
And indeed, the album
after "A Night at the Opera"
is very much derivative.
First of all, it's called
"A Day at the Races,"
which is another
Marx Brothers film title.
But also, "Somebody to Love,"
the big single,
is also clearly son
of "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Ooh, somebody
Ooh, somebody
Can anybody find me
It was like, oh, they found
something good
with "Bohemian Rhapsody,"
and they're doing it again.
It's all in context.
But if you space it out a bit,
if you have
a greatest hits album in which
it's not the next track,
then, uh, it sounds
more impressive.
He's all right,
he's all right
I ain't gonna face no defeat
I just gotta get out
of this...
But at the time,
it didn't sound
as impressive as it does now.
Undaunted, even after failure,
Queen went back to the studio
in 1976 and recorded
one of their all-time classics:
"News of the World."
One of the extraordinary things
about Queen and Freddie
was that they had an instinctive
commercial and marketing nous.
It was staggering how,
year on year,
they came up with something
incredibly serendipitous.
When you...
One year it was "Killer Queen."
The following year, of course,
was "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Then it was
"We Are the Champions."
We are the champions
I'll never forget
when I first heard it,
because I was driving
in Vermont, and they played
"We Will Rock You" going into
"We Are the Champions,"
as it was heard at the beginning
of "News of the World."
Buddy, you're a young man,
hard man
Shouting in the street
Gonna take on
the world someday
It was like the entire
meaning of life,
summed up in five minutes.
I mean, all of the elements
of successful rock
were there.
We are the champions,
my friends
Brian gave his bit.
We'll keep on fighting...
Freddie gave his bit.
...till the end

And Brian gave...
unremitting power.
...will rock you
All right
That closing guitar line
by Brian
was immensely powerful.
And, uh...set everything
and put it to bed.
And leads directly into
"We Are the Champions,"
which does a similar thing
through vocals.
I've paid my dues
Time after time
With the lyric.
With harmonies.
The ambitious, confident
"We are the champions."
We are the champions,
my friends

And to this day...
all you have to do
at a stadium is hear:
And you--and you know
it's "We Will Rock You."
And everyone starts going,
"We will..."
...we will rock you
Yeah, do it!
Two sport anthems back to back.
What an achievement.
Freddie had never--
to my knowledge--
never been to a soccer
match in his life,
but he used to like watchin'
the boys' legs on television.
They had a real knack
of writing anthems
that people would
feel involved with.
Would really get to them,
get under their skin,
take away all their inhibitions.
They could enjoy,
they could wave their arms.
By the early '80s,
Queen was undoubtedly
the band to see live.
They repeatedly broke records,
including the largest ever
paying audience for a band
anywhere in the world.
In Sao Paolo, Brazil,
130,000 people
watched an incredible show.
I don't think I ever
met anybody
who came out of a Queen
concert disappointed.
Those enormous gigs
were unbelievable.
I still maintain that they held
a big, big audience together
better than anybody
I've seen before or since.
As you see each tour--
Because with each tour
they would--
they would add
a new dimension
of outrageousness
in presentation.
The audiences would always
respond to that kind of thing.
Freddie was the ultimate
You have a very extrovert
stage act by any standards.
Will you be able
to go on...
-You mean I flaunt it?
-You're over the top.
He would walk out on stage
and he could
control the audience
There was something
about him.
He just had the audience
in the palm of his hand,
from the minute he walked onto
the stage to the minute he left.
When asked to think of a verb
to describe Freddie on stage,
I think of: Strut.
Like a peacock.
Just...strutting across
the stage.
Not afraid to dominate,
'cause he knew it was for fun.
He felt he had a relationship
with the audience,
and, look, even if it was just
for those few moments,
he absolutely loved them.
And I think it was mutual.
He realized his voice
was like an instrument.
That was one thing that
he did have going for him,
which even he couldn't
have known,
which was volume.
We are the champions
Freddie's voice
can be heard.
Uh, he had a great
sense of projection.
I think it was
a unique sound.
I'm a shooting star
leaping through the sky
Like a tiger defying
the laws...
And I still, to this day,
I defy anybody not to know
when one of his songs
comes on the radio.
He has very good
One man
Yeah, one goal,
one vision
So everyone can understand
what he is saying,
and you can hear it
a long way away.
One voice, one hope,
one real decision
Well, this...turned out
to be immensely useful
when Queen would do
stadium gigs
where they had
tens of thousands,
or even over a hundred
thousand, people.
When you have this charisma,
and you have a crowd
of 72,000 people,
and they're all doing
what you want them to do...
When he-he asks them to repeat
after him, "Doodle-oodle-oot!"
And they all go,
And you think:
They'll do anything he says!
All right!
All right!
[wild cheering]
Despite a heavy
tour schedule,
Queen were still relentless
in the studio,
creating yet more new sounds
for their growing army of fans.
"Another One Bites the Dust"
from the album "The Game."
There was no guarantee
it was gonna be a single.
The first single was "Crazy
Little Thing Called Love."
This thing
Called love
But a lot of people--including,
famously, Michael Jackson--
noticed the track and said,
"This has to be a single."
Let's go
Steve walks warily
down the street
With the brim pulled
way down low
It's in the American chart
for 31 weeks.
A number one record.
Sells millions,
not just one million.
The thing was unavoidable
for half a year.

Another one
bites the dust
Queen really did, uh,
rule...the world
for a short period.
And another one gone
Another one bites the dust,
Reigning on high,
Queen continued to experiment.
Then came the disaster
of "Hot Space."
pushing down on me
"Under Pressure,"
featuring David Bowie,
was the only successful song
on an otherwise unpopular album.
"Under Pressure" was the great
one-off with David Bowie.
In a way, it's a shame
that that collaboration
was not pursued.
Keep comin' up with love
but it's so slashed and torn
Why, why
But "Hot Space"
was a real misfire.
Having had this
great success
with "Another One Bites
the Dust," someone--
and certainly with Freddie's
enthusiastic support--
thought, "Hey,
we have the support
of the club crowd.
Let's make a record
with dance elements."

It was self-indulgence.
Look at me
I got a case
of body language
"Hot Space" proved
that the band
were drifting apart
They decided to take
some time off
to pursue their own
solo projects.
And now I miss you
You see, I don't think they
really did split up, in a way.
Queen was always
more than the sum of its parts.
They're all fantastic musicians,
but there was something
about the magic when the four
of them got together
that made it
something special.

When Queen came back together
to play at Live Aid in 1985,
it was to be the performance
of a lifetime.
I've seen a lot.
I've...read of the rest.
And I think Freddie
at Live Aid,
and Queen in general
at Live Aid,
is probably...
the best domination
of an audience
I've ever seen.

I was one of the broadcasters
of that event.
And Queen come on,
and you hear the audience
going completely nuts.
You know what it's like
when you're in a theater,
or any type of crowd,
and you suddenly get the feeling
that everyone is thinking
the same thing.
Everyone is feeling
the same thing.
It was a little frisson
of excitement.

[wild cheering]
And the frisson backstage
when Queen were on was:
They're stealing the show.

Give it to me
one more time!

[wild cheering]
Everybody said they stole
the show.
They were so amazing.
Everyone was looking
around saying...
"Well, they've done it,
haven't they?"
You know,
it was extraordinary.
[wild cheering]
So Live Aid,
at which Freddie performed
against a doctor's advice...
We love you!
...uh, because of a throat
which nobody else knew about,
'cause--'cause he
performed so well,
was a historic moment
in popular music.
Thank you
for coming along...
...and making this
a great occasion.
Live Aid also proved
to the band
that they were better off
together than apart.
It was very much Live Aid
that pulled the whole project
back together after a difficult
couple of albums.
Immediately, their greatest hits
soar up the chart.
Whereas they had had
beforehand as a group,
did they have a future
as a group anymore,
was Freddie gonna go solo,
now the question
was completely changed
and was:
How do we capitalize
on this?
I think they realized
what they were missing.
They'd almost forgotten how
wonderful it was to be together
and to hold an audience
in the palm of their hands
and to...make people
laugh and cry
and all the other things
you do at a concert.
And I think after that,
it did--
it breathed new life
into the band
and gave them
a few more years
of being at the top
of the world.
Between 1988 and 1991,
Queen produced
three more albums,
all of which went straight
to number one in the UK charts.
Yet again,
they seemed unstoppable.
Sadly, it was short-lived.
It's, uh...
just a key moment
in my life with Freddie,
and as a gay person,
in Heaven, the nightclub,
in early 1983.
I had returned from
the United States and I said,
"Have you adjusted your behavior
in light of the new disease?"
'Cause it had no name then.
And he said,
with one of his flourishes,
he said, "Darling,
my attitude is: Fuck it.
I'm doing everything
with everybody."
And I had...
that sinking feeling.
There literally is
a sinking feeling.
I've had it twice in my life,
and that was once.
And I just felt at that moment:
We're going to lose Fred.

And I also thought
that even though
he's putting up
this great front,
probably in the back
of his mind...
he thinks it's too late.

I think...most people knew
that he was ill.
I think nobody really knew
what was wrong or...
how long he'd been ill
or how bad it was
until pretty much at the end.
I guess we knew intuitively
something was going on,
but it wasn't talked about.
He didn't officially tell us
until just
a few months before.
Now, I know that Freddie did not
have a test until the late '80s,
and did not demonstrate symptoms
until the second half
of the '80s.
But, remember, there is
a ten-year incubation period,
on average, between infection
and symptoms.
So if you were to say
Freddie starts
showing symptoms late '80s,
if he were an average case--
no guarantee that he was,
but if he were an average case--
he would've been
infected late '70s.
Which makes sense with
his lifestyle enthusiasms
as he'd conveyed them to me.
Sometimes I get to feelin'
You look at that "These Are
the Days of Our Lives,"
and they put out that video,
and there he is,
and you go:
That's not Freddie.
When we were kids,
when we were young
You know, he knew
he was fuckin' dying.
And so that's
a heartbreaker.
The days were endless,
we were crazy, we were young
We were sort of trying
to support him through it.
And, uh, I mean,
he was incredibly
brave at that, uh, time.
By that time, he was being
pursued everywhere by paparazzi,
and, you know, the tabloids
were speculating
on a weekly basis,
you know, every time
he was seen in public.
The strange thing is,
I hadn't spoke to Freddie
for about a year or so.
But then the reports
were coming through:
He's got AIDS and he's dyin'
and whatever, and he's in bed.
I said I was gonna go
and see him.
I put it off.
And I was too late.
Because by the time the week
or so was gonna come,
uh, he was dead.
On the 23rd of September, 1991,
45-year-old Freddie
announced to the world
that he had AIDS.
The next day, he died.
Freddie's death devastated
the music community.
I mean, the death of Freddie
was...was a big bloody deal.
I mean, there was a talent
that was a talent for the ages.
All the people put flowers
outside his house.
And I went there and I stood,
like, in the crowd.
And I stood there
havin' a little tear.
I watched all the flowers
and I put
the flowers there, too.
And I put my sign:
"We're gonna miss you, mate.
Love, Sophie."
He knew what I meant.
It was just
unbelievably sad.
And everybody just simply felt
that it was
the most colossal waste.
Because he could still be around
and he could still be
making great music,
like so many people are.
And he was taken
an awfully lot too early.

When Freddie died,
it was just incredible.
I think it brought home to us
how big and how loved he was
around the world, because
from every country in the world
came these tributes.
When Freddie died,
that was the end of Queen.
And...it was a long time
before they could
bring themselves
to go out again on the road.
And Paul Rodgers was
a really interesting choice,
'cause he's got
a wonderful voice,
and the concerts were
very, very good.
But...he was never intended
to be Freddie,
and that wasn't
what it was all about.
It's the end of a chapter,
really, isn't it, you know?
We feel that the last time
Queen performed
was in '86 at Knebworth,
and that is
the last Queen show as such.
I think that stops with, um...
with the exit of Freddie,
or the transit of Freddie
to another place.
Freddie was taken
away from them.
But his legacy catapulted
Queen even further
into the international
rock stratosphere.
In 2001,
Queen were inducted
into the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame,
and their song
"We Are the Champions"
was voted the world's
best rock song of all time
in a global music poll.
To date, estimated sales
of their albums
have reached
over 300 million,
making them one of the world's
best-selling artists.
They were one of the greatest
live bands ever, ever,
in this world.
Accolades for Freddie
continue to pour in,
even 20 years
after his death.
It's incredible how
he is more famous.
And less critically famous
than when he was alive.
He would love it!
He would be thrilled.
He would be thrilled to know
that I have been asked
to talk about him
20 years after his death.
He would be so excited.
And in a conspiratorial way,
he would say, "Oh, I love this."
You know, he'd have that
little shoulder thing.
Widely regarded as one
of the greatest singers
of all time,
it's not bad for a boy
from Zanzibar.
Freddie wanted to be
a great diva-esque figure.
A legend.
And being Freddie Mercury
allowed Farrokh
to be that person.
What a thrill.
What an achievement.
I think it's great.
They were the greatest.
Freddie, miss ya, bubbalah.
Really do.
Love ya.
Love ya.