In this edition of Monday’s Musical Musings, Mr Porter-Thaw looks at one of his idols on what was his 75th birthday.
Everybody has an idol, someone they admire, look up to and perhaps even aspire to be. For me, one of those idols was Freddie Mercury. Growing up in Windsor (ironic in itself) with a family full of classical music, my brother and I would often put our violins down and sneak up to the attic bedroom to lose ourselves unapologetically in the world of Queen.
“I won’t be a Rock Star. I’ll be a legend.”
Farrokh Bulsara was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania on 5th September 1946 to British/Indian parents. He went to an English-style Indian boarding school, but in 1964, at the age of 17, the Bulsara family fled the Tanzanian Revolution and ended up in Middlesex, UK. Farrokh gained a degree in Art and Design from Ealing, ensuring that his musicality was not the only influence on the band.
Whenever one thinks of the band ‘Queen’, nine out of ten times, one thinks of Bohemian Rhapsody. This iconic multi-layered track is flashy with soft subtleties, is wild, romantic, and epic like the man himself. The song was and remains subversive — a non-cynical ode to creativity and nonsense (no one will truly ever know how to do the Fandango…), composed and sung with authentic musical celebration.
The point of Queen was to be original, and with such diversity song after song, I am not sure of another band that has written such an array of songs over the decades, and at the same time kept up with the times. They kept their unique ‘Queen’ sound of Brian May’s unique guitar tone/playing style and Freddie’s fantastically unique vocals/layered harmonies, not forgetting his keyboard skills.
Having an older brother was cool for all sorts of reasons! For one, he discovered and passed on so much music to me. Killer Queen, now on the GCSE Music syllabus, was my first introduction to Queen and their unique sound. We would love the call and response, the vocal slides, the Brian May solos on our air guitars. However much I love that song, along with “Keep Yourself Alive” and “Good Old Fashioned Boy”, I have decided to choose an early recording on their first album to share with you, and one of Freddie’s first songs he wrote in 1970 which was released in 1973, ‘Liar’. Pure Glam Rock!! Imagine my brother and I jumping around on our beds like complete nutters – “will you be quiet up there!!” – we had no idea what we were doing, what the song meant, but the music took us to a different world. Click here to hear the recording: https://open.spotify.com/track/1eFHqf4FBRhSyb0W0JvBVz?si=bc8ceca9ac3f4bd6&nd=1
“I am a romantic, but I do put up a barrier around myself, so it is hard for people to get in and to know the real me.”
Many people viewed Freddie as “private”. Freddie wasn’t private by nature he was private by necessity – privacy about his sexual orientation because of the times and his parents’ religion.
I recently had the best and quickest passing hour ever, listening to BBC’s Track of My Years. I strongly advise you to delve into this incredible programme: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000zb44
Interesting fact – Queen’s logo was designed by Freddie (remember he graduated in design) – the logo combines the zodiac signs of all four members, even though he didn’t believe in astrology (!): two lions for Leo (John Deacon and Roger Taylor), a crab for Cancer (Brian May), and two fairies for Virgo (Freddie Mercury).
The lions can be seen embracing a letter Q, while the crab rests on top, the letter with flames rising directly above it. The fairies are situated below a lion. There is also a crown inside the Q, and the whole logo is contained by a huge Phoenix. The symbol resembles the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
The Music Department would love to hear about any of your stories associated with Queen; what your first song was, does a song have a particular memory, did your parents go to a concert or even meet the man himself? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org