Brian May on Sounds of the 70s – Video and Transcript


Queen’s Brian May was guest of veteran broadcaster, Johnnie Walker, chatting about his new stereoscopic photography books, plus the new Queen movie and his memories of the 1970’s. Sounds of the 70s BBC Radio 2, broadcast approx 4pm 2 December 2018.

Brian May & Johnnie Walker Sounds of the 70s b/c 02/12/2018


Brian May has been a busy man this year. Not only has he been deeply involved in the the new ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ biopic, he’s also been out on tour with Queen and Adam Lambert. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also released two stereoscopic photography books – an updated version of his ‘Queen in 3D’ project and ‘Mission Moon 3D’.

Guitar legend Brian was a co-founder of Queen, back at the dawn of the 1970’s. Along with Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, the band became part of the very fabric of British rock. In 1975, they released their opus, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as a single, which broke boundaries across the music industry. Throughout the decade, Queen forged their own path, creating anthems such as ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘We Are the Champions’ and so many more. Brian has long been celebrated as one of the best guitarists in the world. He’s been honoured with a lifetime achievement Grammy Award, he’s also in the US Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. And who can forget his historic performance on the top of Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002? Brian has also been awarded a CBE too. As well as being one of the country’s best loved rock stars, Brian is also a keen stereoscopic photographer and publishes books. He has even invented his own viewing machine for stereoscopic photos! Add to this his PhD in Astrophysics and his passionate animal rights activism, Brian certainly has much to talk about.

TRANSCRIPT – by Jen Tunney  E&OE

JOHNNIE WALKER: Fantastic. ELO and ‘Rockaria’, opening up at No 2, Johnny Walker’s Sounds of the 70s. And our special guest this hour is Brian May and we’ll be talking to Brian about the movie, of course, and about a couple of books that he’s got out. He’s a very keen stereoscopic photographer and has two books “Queen in 3-D”, as well as “Mission Moon”. We’ll talk about that and about the film and many other things after this…

<PLAYS: ‘Keep Yourself Alive’>

JOHNNIE: That was Queen and ‘Keep Yourself Alive, a first single but not a first hit which is hard to understand when you hear it now, Brian May.

BRIAN MAY: Wasn’t a hit was it , no. Well we weren’t in that position. You have to have a little bit of kind of status, I think and a bit of a buzz going on. We didn’t have it at that time. We were completely out of the blue but you played it, you did, because my Mum used to tell me Johnnie Walker’s playing your record, you know, and at that time it was hard. Nobody was playing Queen, because they never heard of us and what the Hell was going on. So, yes, it wasn’t a hit but it paved the way and when ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ came out everyone was kind of prepared that something was going to happen and it got into the charts, which was an amazing thing. Yeah.

JOHNNIE: Now, a lot of people are enjoying “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the film.

BRIAN: Mmmm.

JOHNNIE: Are you pleased with it?

BRIAN: I am. We are. We’re thrilled. I have to be honest, we are thrilled. you know. I’m thrilled with the reaction that people seem to experience. Everybody tells me they cry. Nobody ever tells me: “Ah, the film was quite good”, or something. They always say: It’s amazing. It’s the best thing we’ve ever seen and we cried… and we’ve seen it five times …” and stuff, so thrilled yeah, absolutely.

JOHNNIE: But what was wrong with these reviewers who wrote that . . . ? Do they not like music or what?

BRIAN: I know it’s, it’s very odd. We got killed in the reviews, yeah ,and it’s like history repeats itself really. It’s very odd isn’t it, because that’s even in the film? You know, the public love you but the critics hate you. I don’t know. I think some of it is a misconception. I think some people thought it was supposed to be a documentary and it’s not so they start picking holes and saying you know: “This is compressed” and “This is in the wrong order.” That’s not what a film is about. You know the film is about trying to find an inner truth in a sequence of events, whereas the documentary is just stringing the events together and bits of film from the time, so I think there’s a bit of a misconception. I think some people actually still hate us, which is fine. Some people hate Bryan Singer, which is also fine you know. And you know Bryan Singer got sacked in the middle of the film, but nevertheless his name is on there as director, for reasons which I’m not even interested in. [Chuckles]

JOHNNIE: Now the casting is wonderful because after a while you’re just convinced you’re looking at the real people.

BRIAN: You know, even I feel that way. Roger and I are in there. You know we did a lot of work in the dubbing in that we were in charge of sound, of course – the music – and, yeah, after a while you’re looking at it and thinking: “What did I do that? Oh no, it’s not me, it’s actually him”, and it’s bizarre. I mean Gwilym, particularly, I think…

JOHNNIE: Who plays you.

BRIAN: … who plays me – is phenomenal, and I have so much respect and love for that guy. We spent lot of time together in the beginning just getting to know each other and on the face of it I was teaching him a few licks. He is a guitar player, but I was teaching him what I do so it would be useful for him when he was doing the piece…. doing the pieces, you know. But all the time he was clocking me. He, I realize now, he was absorbing all my bodily actions and little quirks of voice and stuff, so he gradually became me. It’s phenomenal. Even my kids were fooled. They said: “Dad you must have done his voice”, and I went “No, that guy is a great actor.

JOHNNIE: And who found Rami Malek?

BRIAN: Ah. That’s a story, which I don’t know all the ins and outs of. I just know that Dennis, who’s Graham King’s right-hand man, co-producer of the movie, got it into his head that Rami was gonna be a perfect opportunity to find the right Freddie, and Rami did an incredible amount of work before he even came in. He really absorbed a lot of Freddie stuff and he did a video of him just doing Freddie, which everyone was able to see. It’s a bit embarrassing because they sent the video to us as a link, and neither Roger nor I had actually watched it !   You know we’re not very good at that Internet stuff. You know we’re old school, so when we met Rami, Rami went: “So, so what did you think of my video?” We went: “Errr…. shall we watch it now?”, which is, of course, the most horrible thing to do. So we sat there with him and he must have been … anyway we loved it and we just said: “My God. You have it. Already you have the spirit of the man and you must be the guy to do it.”

JOHNNIE: Yeah he was amazing playing Freddie and he’s going round the Chat Shows and he’s kept the teeth and had them gold-plated. [Both laugh]

BRIAN: Yeah it’s odd, you know. I mean he went through an incredible amount. He realized there’s some people on the internet putting Rami’s performances next to Freddie’s and you realize how incredibly close he got it both offstage and on. You know it’s not identical. He can never be identical but I think he captured so much of Freddie that it’s, it’s a, it’s an astonishing performance. I think It’s a performance of all time.

JOHNNIE: And the scene in the film with you coming up the idea of ‘We Will Rock You’, you pleased for that? Is that roughly how it happened or is that…

BRIAN: Yeah roughly. I mean everything is roughly really because, you know, you’re compressing another 20 years into two hours and so he can’t be exact. It has to be. Things have to be rolled together to make sense and to make the point and some things have to be adjusted to be in different orders or else the film doesn’t make sense. A lot of people have quibbled with that but that’s the way movies are made, you know.

If you see any biopic I should say like “Walk The Line” or you know… I now realize that it can never be the truth in the sense of the day to day if you’d been a fly on the wall. No it can be the truth which is something, something more spiritual and more meaningful. You’re actually trying to get into what the guy was about you know what’s in his head so um so that’s what the film is I think and I think if Freddie was around he would like it.

I think because it doesn’t shirk any of his faults he doesn’t kind of gloss over any of the stuff that he would have been the first to say: “Oh yeah that’s probably true”. …

[CONTINUING… Please check back.]