Note: Brian talks of post-Innuendo Freddie Mercury recordings
+ older tracks might make up a future final Queen album.
31 January 1993
[Phone interview from London with Brian May]
BACK TO THE LIGHT
For Queen guitarist Brian May, it’s easy to be a legendary whatever, as he says. But it’s quite another to deal with the offstage problems he’s faced in recent years. For one, he had to tell the press repeatedly that Queen singer Freddie Mercury was fine, though Mercury was wasting away from AIDS before succumbing in late 1991. “It was necessary to protect Freddie”, says May, who played the good soldier and did as Mercury wished. Furthermore, May’s own life was in disarray, for his father had died and his marriage collapsed.
“For a while, I couldn’t get a hold of the situation in my family. I really struggled with it”, May says in a phone interview from London. “And, I was also looking at Freddie and wondering, ‘How much longer was he going to be with us?'”
All of those emotions, along with several years of studio work, have led to May’s promising first solo album, “Back in the Light,” due out Tuesday. It will be followed by a tour in which the Brian May Band, including veteran Cozy Powell on drums, opens for Guns N’ Roses at Boston Garden March 16 and 17.
The new disc contains supple arena-rock crisscrossed by piano boogie, break-out rockers and even hints of skiffle music from his British youth. The album is full of stately Queen touches (multilayered guitars and chorale harmonies), plus surprisingly confident lead vocals from May (“It was time to come forward in that respect”) and lyrics that don’t shy away from expressing personal concerns. Examples are the soul-searching “Too Much Love Will Kill You” (“I used to bring you sunshine, now all I do is bring you down”), the cathartic “Love Token”, the healing title track “Back in the Light” and the acoustic “Just One Life,” partly a tribute to Mercury in the verse: “I’m glad to know you . . . your life’s work rolls on and on.”
To quote May: “There are pieces of Freddie all over this record.”
The new disc is also an attempt to put the Queen experience in perspective — and to move beyond it. “I’m very proud of what we did in Queen, but it’s time to move on”, says May. “I already feel a little distant from the whole Queen phenomenon.”
And that’s the right word — phenomenon. Thanks to last year’s movie “Wayne’s World” and its use of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the soundtrack (the song went to No.1), the 20-year-old Queen catalog has become hot property once again. Queen tunes such as “We Will Rock You” (written by May) and “We are the Champions” have won more airplay. Queen reissues and videos have flooded the market, and it’s all come as a jolt to May.
“It’s very strange. I don’t think any of us knew what was coming. You plan as well as you can, but the curious thing is that a lot of good things happened for the wrong reasons. I’m happy that young people are getting into old Queen music, but I’m sad that the one weapon denied to us was touring, because we no longer had Freddie.”
There may still be another Queen disc to come, containing songs recorded around the time of Queen’s last studio album, “Innuendo,” along with a few other tracks from years past. “We’ll see if there’s anything to release in a dignified manner, but it has to be of the required quality or we don’t want it to go out”, says May. “I don’t enjoy living in the past, but you have to in order to protect the quality of the records. Having protected it so zealously in the past, we don’t want to lose it now.”
As for some of the Queen influences on May’s new solo album, he says that’s only natural. “Queen was a collective thing, a very democratic thing, but when you move out, you can’t help but take some of those things. I’m just in this gradual process of moving away and finding new places to pasture.”
As for the varied musical mix on the record: “I come from a time when all of today’s boundaries and categories of music didn’t exist. We’d get together and wouldn’t think of what categories we’d play. There was no such thing as heavy metal, thrash-metal and so forth”, says May. “And I still feel that way. Music should have no boundaries.”