05 September 2011

A Kind of Magic

Everyone who has gone onto Google today ie. the whole world, has seen the Google Doodle celebrating what would be the legend that is Freddie Mercury, 65th birthday. Google have even done a whole animated video.Hollywood Walk of fame- nope, OBE-nah,you know you've made it when google make a doodle about you. In the video Freddie is singing on stage in front of screaming fans, sat on a throne wearing a crown and dressed as a woman strutting about with a hoover. Quite apt really. So I figured that he at least deserves a post written about him. Everyone knows who Queen are. I'm sure even a guy living in Ethiopia in a mud hut has spent many hours head banging to Bohemian Rhapsody and singing Don't Stop Me Now into a stick whilst doing the actions.

So, in case you have been stuck in a toilet for the last 40 years I will give you the lowdown on Freddie Mercury and Queen. Where is Michael Aspel and his big red book when you need him. Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on the 5th September 1946 in Zanzibar which was then part of East Africa. Baby name books clearly did not exist in 1946. He was born to Bomi and Jer Bulsar. Freddie spent most of his childhood in India, where he began his love of music by learning how to play the piano when he was seven. Yeah I can't imagine Freddie playing Postman Pete has Big Feet either. When he was 12 he formed a school band The Hectics and covered lots of artists including Cliff Richard. It was at school where he began to call himself Freddie. Wouldn't you? Just imagine the name calling.

At the age of 17 Freddie and his family fled from Zanzibar for their safety due to the 1964 Revolution and moved to England. He studied art and earned himself a Diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College. He later used his artistic skills to create Queen's crest. Just to clarify, if you type it into google its not the faffy old one with the Latin motto no one understands and a boring crest with a harp on.* No, its the one with the lions,fairies and crabs. Only Freddie could pull that off. The logo describes every inch of the band's identity. It has the symbols of zodiac signs of each member. It has a chain of flames looking like a crown and the whole Queen logo is overshadowed by an eagle spreading its wings that to this day I thought was a dragon.

Freddie joined a series of bands including a band called Ibex and another called Sour Milk Sea whilst selling second hand clothes on a stall in Kensington. I can't really imagine him shouting 'come on love, two for a fiver' but anyway, in April 1970 he joined the band Smile which already consisted of guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Freddie encouraged them and the other member of the band bassist Tim Staffell to change the name to Queen. The band went through many different bass players during this time but they eventually settled on John Deacon.

In February 1971 they started recording their own songs for a demo tape but there was no interest. In July 1973 they released their debut album 'Queen' under Trident and EMI which was received well. Their second album 'Queen II' was released in March 1974 and they went on their 1st tour of Britain starting in Blackpool and then in the USA in April. Sadly Brian May became very sick with hepatitis so they had to cancel the rest of the USA tour and a third album was delayed. The album 'Sheer Heart Attack' was released in November and was a huge hit in the UK and the USA with the amazing 'Killer Queen' on it. Japan caught up and when they went there as part of their 1975 tour, three thousand fans greeted them. Queen's performances were incredibly theatrical, well for the time anyway. They didn't have Freddie coming out of a big shell or Brian May coming out of a coffin with a pregnancy suit on and them all having a zillion costume changes, but lets just say it was more dramatic then some bloke with gawky glasses sitting at a piano for two hours. No disrespect Elton. Their shows consisted of massive sound systems, huge lighting rings and Freddie jumping up and down in sequined unitards like he had consumed a whole six pack of Red Bull. The song 'Radio Ga Ga' inspired synchronised hand clapping and the audience always felt really involved with the songs.

The amazing Bohemian Rhapsody was released in 1975 and even though it was 5 minutes and 55 seconds long it was a colossal hit and really put Queen up there with bands like the Beatles. The video, directed by Bruce Gowers was considered to be the one that began the whole music video craze-it has to be checked out, even if for a lot of it they look like they are telling horror stories holding a torch to their faces. The single stayed at number one for an amazing nine weeks. I'm sure doctor's visits increased too due to all the head banging that was being done all over the country!

'A Night at the Opera' was released in November 1975 and was their first platinum album. Freddie had been presented with an Ivor Novello Award for Bohemian Rhapsody and he was presented with another one in January 1976. They were beating Phileas Fogg at his own game and in 1976 toured all over America,did an extensive tour of Japan and then did a whole 'down under' tour. At the time all four Queen Albums were in the UK Top Twenty which was unheard off. To say thank you to their fans they held a massive free thank you gig at Hyde Park in London. Crowds were estimated at between 150 and 200 thousand people. This was also the best day for burglars in the 70s. Only joking.
Queen went on to have many hits including 'Somebody to Love', 'We Are The Champions', 'I Want to Break Free' and 'Radio Ga Ga'. It was unheard of to combine opera with a rock theme and this was done extremely successfully. At the end of 1980 Queen had sold over 450,000,000 millions worldwide. Now that is a lot of shoes..

Queen performed at Live Aid in July 1985 in front of a TV audience of 1.9 billion and a 72,000 sold out stadium. They stole the show with their 20 minute set and it is thought to be their best ever performance. By 1991 Queen reduced their amount of performances and on November the 23rd Freddie announced to the world that he had AIDS.Sadly the next day his body gave up and he died peacefully at his home surrounded by his friends and family aged 45. The whole world was in shock. MAMA just killed a man. If you looked at the earth from space you could see a big black band around it. Metaphorically of course. Fans from all over the world sent flowers and cards whilst many travelled to his house. A quiet family cremation service was held three days after his death conducted in the Zoroastrian faith that his parent's strictly followed. A somewhat quiet and regular end to what was one of the greatest men who ever lived.

After his death Freddie was still having a huge impact on people's lives and still does today. A tribute concert was organised for Easter Monday 1992 at Wembley and 72,000 tickets were sold out in six hours. More importantly, The Mercury Phoenix Trust was founded to distribute money raised by the concert to promote AIDS awareness and help people suffering. It is still helping people and organises many things including be 'Freddie For the Day'. Today all over the world,fellow fans have chuck on their white trousers with the famous red and gold stripes, yellow jackets and moustaches getting people to sponsor them. I dunno about you but I would wear the red and black leather trousers with the matching jacket any day of the week if I could pull it off like he could. Twenty years after Freddie's death, Queen are still hugely popular with hundreds of millions of hits on YouTube, tribute bands and the hugely popular We Will Rock You musical based on the music of Queen. Many artists take influence from them including Lady Gaga. I dunno whether to thank him or not. Katy Perry has today sung a Happy Birthday tribute to him and she said 'Without you I wouldn't be making music or doing what I do because you're lyrics inspired me as a 15 year old girl. I heard 'Killer Queen' and I wanted to be a killer queen! She has in the past called him her biggest influence. 
Check it out at  Katy Perry Happy Birthday

Well what can I say about the man's fashion sense. When asked about his fashion he said 'I dress to kill,but tastefully. I have fun with my clothes onstage;its not a concert you are seeing its a fashion show.'There are only two words to describe it. Flippin' genius! The fact that if you type in 'Freddie Mercury Fashion' into google,the first link that comes up is to stardoll.com website where you can Dress Up Freddie Mercury in all his fabulous outfits. That's my evening sorted then. Freddie rocked the unitard.I'm sure Sacha Baron Cohan watched Freddie at a young age and thought 'I must include one of them in my life' and Borat's mankini was born. In the early days they just wore black onstage, then they introduced white and it just grew and grew. Freddie played on the regal side of the 'Queen' market making the military look less green khaki more bright leather. When Queen performed at Wembley Stadium, Freddie wore his iconic white trousers with the red and gold lines but added a crown and a long fur cape to his costume. If anyone else did that,the first thing in people's heads would be 'what a prick'. But this was Freddie Mercury. If he dressed up as a god it would have been acceptable. My favourite outfit is Freddie's black and white diamond unitard. I mean who else could rock a unitard and ballet slippers like that!? Sadly not this guy>.

So nearly twenty years after his death Freddie Mercury and Queen are still as prominate now as they were before his death. Freddie, you made a supersonic woman out of us all, sending shivers down our spine. New generations will keep falling in love with the sparkly moustached clad hero all over again. So wherever you are Freddie tonight,have yourself a real good time.The great man himself said 'When I'm dead, I want to be remembered as a musician of some worth and substance. I won't be a rock star, I will be a legend'. You certainly are Freddie....

*The Queen's crest isn't really faffy or old and I'm sure everyone understands the Latin. I just want to clarify that so I don't get locked in the tower of London for a 100 years or get my head chopped off. Sorry Queenie.

This post is dedicated to my wonderful Mum who I'm sure will be head banging and speeding to Bohemian Rhapsody well into her 90s.

Second Hand Rose

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