Brian May tells Cheltenham Literary Festival about Freddie Mercury
11 October 2017 (updated 12 Oct) by Robin Jenkins
The Queen guitarist delights crowd by talking about his lesser-known passion
Think of Brian May and you think of his curly long hair swinging from side to side as he makes his guitar sing on stage with legendary British rock band Queen. Or you might think of him doing his best to prevent badgers from being culled in the UK countryside. But for those not in the know, there is much more to Brian than that. Take his almost life-long passion for 3-D photography for instance that brought him to Cheltenham’s literature festival.
There must have been 500 to 600 people in the audience for last night’s event, during which he explained how he could take himself back to past moments just by looking at his many 3-D photographs.
It was fascinating, whether you were a Queen fan or not, to see Brian’s snaps. He captured fellow band mates Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon on stage but also in intimate and often unguarded moments off stage.
It’s remarkable to think that while one of the world’s biggest bands were busy doing their thing, one of their number found time to record some of it on film. I couldn’t help but wonder whether that might have sometimes irritated the other Queen members, who must have had more than their fair share of paparazzi-style media attention as it was. But Brian’s love of taking photographs has created a wonderful collection of images that we can all see, in his new book – Queen in 3-D.
He explained that his interest in 3-D photography began when he was nine or ten years old. Cards came with Weetabix packets that, when you sent off for a viewer, meant you could transform ‘flat’ pictures into more life-like 3-D ones.
Looking at pictures of Freddie and the other band members during their many tours around the world, Brian said: “Writing this book has made me remember things I had forgotten. I treasure these views because I feel like I am there.” He revealed one of his favourite pictures was one he took of Freddie having his make-up done backstage in 1985. It captured him in a natural moment and not posing for the camera as he so often did.
While talking fondly about Roger and John, and the band’s current singer Adam Lambert, Brian not surprisingly spent a lot of time showing pictures of legendary front man Freddie. He said: “Freddie’s smile was so memorable. I can see it in my mind every day.”
Brian even got the super-polite audience to let their hair down for a few moments – leading them in a brief foot-stamping rendition of We Will Rock You. “That’s what live is all about – it’s what you don’t expect,” he said.
Asked by an audience member what he thought about Queen’s music featuring on the GCSE music syllabus, he said he was delighted that the band’s songs had become “entwined” in people’s lives. He said he did not know how that had happened and added: “I feel very fortunate. It’s beyond any dream we could have had.”