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More BRISTOL reports in QUEEN NEWS
BRISTOL EVENING POST
BRIAN MAY “COMING on stage at the end is a bit like walking off a plank into the ocean; you never quite know what it’s going to be like, but it always creates a splash!”
Legendary guitar player Brian May brought the house down when he joined the We Will Rock You cast on the Hippodrome stage for last night’s finale.
Of course, enraptured audiences are something that the Queen guitarist is more than accustomed to. One of the best-known and loved rock bands in the world, Queen spawned such anthemic hits as Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are The Champions and A Kind of Magic and are adored by generations of music fans.
For a man blessed with such talent, fame and adulation, you could forgive May for being high and mighty. Luckily there’s nothing to forgive, as he’s one of the most unassuming people you could wish to meet.
Brian revealed that he would be making an appearance at the end of We Will Rock You when I met up with him at the theatre a few hours before the show.
“I get a big buzz out of being a rock hero for a minute,” smiled the man who has in fact been a rock hero to many for four decades. “It’s nice being part of the company. I can be a sort of uncle to the show most of the time, but for those shows where I come on stage, I become part of it and that’s a great feeling. The cast do a wonderful job without me, I know that full well, but sometimes I can be a little bit of icing on top of the cake I suppose. Bristol is particularly special,” he continued, “Last time I was here it was brilliant and really one off the peaks of that tour.”
That was in 2009, and now the show is back with a new cast including former Hear’Say member Noel Sullivan, who has recently been wowing London’s West End audiences as Danny in Grease.
Brian said: “Noel brings a lovely natural innocence to the part. Galileo has to have a whole journey, starting off as very geeky and insecure with this inner passion that he can’t control. His evolution throughout this piece is from nerd to this guy who is comfortable in his own skin and understands what his mission is in life. It’s a nice challenge for an actor and Noel really pulls that off.”
Reaction to the show, which first opened in London almost a decade ago, has been phenomenal.
We can report that Brian May will be attending the IFAW [International Fund for Animal Welfare] Awards at the House of Lords in London, on 18 October 2011. He will also be presenting the awards.
A Surrey woman who has rescued thousands of animals and birds is to receive a special recognition award. Anne Brummer first began working with wildlife 25 years ago when she took care of a hedgehog. She now runs Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue Centre in Camberley which last year cared for more than 1,600 animals.
Ms Brummer will receive the Wildlife Rescue Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords on 18 October.
Opposite: Ms Brummer goes out on most of the
Robbie Marsland, UK director of IFAW, said: "We are very pleased to be able to reward Anne's amazing dedication to rescuing and caring for wild animals and birds over so many years and wanted to recognise her outstanding work with our Wildlife Rescue Award."
The Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue Centre is supported by Queen's Brian May and runs on two sites, using land owned by Mr May, for long-term and specialist rehabilitation.
With Ms Brummer, there are 27 volunteers who help injured and orphaned wild animals and birds, nurturing them back to health and then releasing them back into the wild. Ms Brummer said: "It's very exciting to receive such a prestigious award. I couldn't do what I do without the wonderful volunteers that work with me at Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue, this award is for all 27 of us, I just love it."
A Welsh badger protection group founded 35 years ago is to receive a special award in recognition of its efforts from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords.
Badger expert Michael Sharratt (75) from Whitland in Carmarthenshire, started Badger Watch and Rescue Dyfed after he became aware of badger baiting in the area and the organisation now has 80 members working to protect and rescue badgers across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.
The group works closely with the RSPCA, particularly on badger culling which it strongly opposes. It also runs three rescue centres across the three counties for injured and orphaned badgers which are always released back into the wild after rehabilitation.
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “We are very pleased to be able to reward Badger Watch and Rescue Dyfed for its work to protect badgers from the many threats they face. We are delighted to give the group our Conservation Award.”
Michael, who has cared for more than 130 badgers, will receive the award on behalf of the group along with Gordon Lumby, the organisation’s secretary.
Michael said: “It was wonderful to hear that our group was being recognised with this award. It was quite a surprise but I was very pleased. I have always loved animals and formed the group because I felt badgers needed help and that we can really make a difference. When we rescue badgers they are very good patients. They are strong animals but peaceful; they really just want to be left alone.”
Michael and Gordon will receive the award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards ceremony, hosted by Baroness Gale, at the House of Lords on October 18.
Brian will be playing for the Press Night show of We Will Rock You at the Bristol Hippodeome tonight. Book tickets online HERE or phone 0844 871 3012
Remaining Press Nights are
Bristol Hippodrome - 13th October
Brian was interviewed by Mark Goodier at The Groucho Club, London, for Smooth Radio, on Monday 3 October 2011, ahead of the Book Launch that evening for "Forty Years of Queen" by Harry Doherty. Brian showed Mark around the exhibition of some of his considerable collection of Queen memorabilia. The interview was broadcast on 10 October 2011.
The Review Show, Friday 7 October 2011, BBC 2, 11pm
The Review Show interviewed Brian at the 40 Years of Queen book launch at London's Groucho Club on Monday 4 October 2011. Brian talks about some of his memorabilia, his dad's meticulously drawn maps of the early Queen tours, and most movingly about the Made In Heaven album.
AND SKY NEWS
Legendary guitarist, songwriter and Queen founder member Brian May on 40 years of Queen legacy and the many opportunities that the future holds
INTERVIEW: PAUL WILLIAMS
Brian May is too much of a gentleman to complain, but for all the commercial success Queen enjoyed in the States they were not exactly bestowed with honours by the music business.
"Our mantle pieces are not groaning with Grammys," notes the legendary guitarist whose band, alongside other British rock giants Led Zeppelin, failed to win a single prize at the US industry's glitziest annual awards ceremony. At least they did make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame there in 2001.
Forty years after the formation of Queen and a few weeks prior to the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death there has been overdue recognition from the American industry this week with May and his and colleagues Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor being honoured with the Icon Award at US society BMI's annual London awards ceremony and dinner.
May, who was due to pick up the award on Tuesday night with Taylor at the Dorchester Hotel held event on London's Park Lane, says being recognised by the States adds "an extra dimension" to the award given the immediate priority Queen gave to breaking there after they formed.
"We were lucky enough to have an American manager - Jack Nelson - in the early days, so he was always aware of the global situation." remembers May. "He always used to say to us, 'You guys have to realise Britain is a very small place. You have to think globally if you want to maximise your potential' so we always did."
When the band broke through in the UK in 1974 with Killer Queen they found themselves partially associated with glam rock, but it was a different story in the States where that movement never took hold in the mainstream.
"It was a little bit different," he says of the band's initial US reception. "We were on the tail end of that thing they called glam [in the UK], but we were never really glam rockers as such. We were more a theatrical thing. In America we were just a rock band viewed in the same way as Led Zeppelin or Bad Company would have been. I think we were viewed as something rather exotic because we had these extra dimensions to us. There was the showy side, the very dramatic side and the lights and sounds and costumes to a very high level, which they hadn't seen before, but it was actually quite nice for us to be viewed as just a touring rock band in the States as opposed to a borderline pop phenomenon as we were in this country."
Although Bohemian Rhapsody was a Billboard Top 10 hit, May recalls it was their 1977 double header We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You which really broke them, the latter written by the guitarist and a pension plan all by itself just for its continued use at sports events in the US.
"It's become part of America's daily life and I regard that as a great source of joy," he reflects on his rock anthem. "You go beyond being a rock act, a radio act. You become woven in people's lives and that means a lot."
Their American peak really came in 1980 when both Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites The Dust topped the Billboard Hot 100, while parent album The Game was also an American number one. But it remains May's great sadness that from this peak the US picture quickly deteriorated for them.
"There was a point around Another One Bites The Dust where probably we were the biggest thing in America and probably the biggest thing in the world," he says. "A lot of people have that moment where you think, 'My God, suddenly everything seems to be pointing towards us', but we did lose it in the States just at the point where we confirmed our hold in the rest of the world. But we really lost America and it will always be a source of sadness in a way."
May points to a variety of reasons for this state of affairs, including a stand by their then US record company Capitol against payola, which resulted in the band's last Billboard Top 40 hit in Freddie Mercury's lifetime Radio GaGa instantly plummeting down the chart in 1984 as radio stations pulled their support and also them dressing in drag for the video follow-up I Want To Break Free, a move that outraged middle America.
"You look at those things that happened to Queen in the States and it's sad because there are things which will never really resonate in the same way in North America as they do in every other country in the world so that covers a lot of the later songs starting with GaGa, Days Of Our Lives, The Show Must Go On, Headlong, Innuendo, massive hits around the world which really don't have that resonance in North America," he says.
But, starting with Bohemian Rhapsody enjoying a new lease of life in Wayne's World, Queen have since reconnected with America and this year he and the band's other still active member Roger Taylor have been particularly busy (John Deacon is no longer part of the setup: "We have an arrangement to leave John alone. That's what he wants and we respect it").
This activity has included the re-issue of their entire albums catalogue after a switch from their previously only UK label home of EMI to Universal's Island Records, although the band's songs remain with EMI Music Publishing.
"It came down to confidence really," says May about the decision to quit EMI. "It was a shame. We always had a great relationship with EMI and strangely enough we still do with a lot of those guys who worked there, but really the top level of EMI they didn't have the confidence to renew at the level we wanted a couple of years ago and Universal were dead keen and said, 'We've always wanted to sign you' and basically they gave us what we wanted in terms of money and promises or support and the whole machinery. They put their whole vast array of tools at our disposal so it just seemed like a great idea."
May praises the work Universal has done with the reissues. "We're very pleased," he says. "They're very innovative. It's a different kind of relationship than with EMI because they go off and do things without asking us sometimes and we're not used to that. We're used to being very controlling, but I have to say most of what they do is great and inspired and it's become a really good relationship. They have new angles and they said in the beginning, 'Our job is not to sell you to the people who already love you. Our job is to get you to the people who don't get you already.'"
And he says there has been a fantastic reaction to the overhauled albums. "We've taken it very seriously quality wise. These reissues are wonderful in terms of quality. We've revisited everything right down to the original nuts and bolts. These reissues are more quality than anything else anybody has ever held in their hands so they're good products and something we're all proud of. There are a few extra tracks on there. We didn't want to interfere with the original albums by sticking on extra tracks on those CDs, but we've put a bonus CD in with the package, which has worked out really well. People seem to like it, stuff they've never heard, which was buried at the time we were in the studio or out on the road somewhere. So the reaction has been great."
One object of the reissues programme has been to re-establish Queen as an albums act rather than just a singles band and here May is happy with the results. "It pleases me because we're not just about the singles," he says. "We're definitely about the whole albums. There's a great richness, which I am glad people are getting into, especially young people. I'm amazed how much kids get into early Queen stuff."
May and Taylor are also involved in the forthcoming Freddie biopic starring Sacha Baron Cohen, although the guitarist says: "We're trying to stay a little bit at arm's length. You don't want to make too much of an imprint. You want a slightly non-controlled version. We want it to be a very open and unbiased view of Freddie so we've put a team in place letting them get on with it. We're also involved right now in putting the We Will Rock You movie together, which is a great project as well."
May also played on You and I on Lady GaGa's Born This Way album and performed with My Chemical Romance at this year's Reading Festival, while is "working on a couple of projects right now" with Taylor. "I don't know at what point that becomes mainstream again. It may do if it takes off. We stay pretty close," he says. As to whether these will be under the Queen moniker, he simply replies: "Yes, I guess it would be."
Four decades after the band first formed, May considers it "very odd" that he is still part of this phenomenon called Queen. "You're looking at the 40th anniversary of the genesis of Queen and 20 of those years have been without Freddie and I guess we're busier than ever," he says. "It's incredible. We do work and we love to work and there's a lot of outlets apart from touring. Of course, we did a couple of big tours with Paul Rodgers so there is that opportunity, but there are other opportunities to take the music to different places. One is the musical We Will Rock You. We're in our 10th year in London, which is incredible. I cannot believe it myself, but we have many of them round the world now which are doing very well so that is a great outlet for the music and something that is very live. It's not a fossil. You've got young people playing music and it's real band and real singers, something I take a continuing interest in. We sort of fathered that project."
Post the ending of the pair's partnership with Rodgers, new recordings with May and Taylor provide some hint as to the possible future recording direction for the band. But with the Freddie and We Will Rock You movies on the way, the continuing popularity of their musical, the reissues and so much else Queen already remain as active as ever.
Guitarist Brian May has spoken fondly of Queen’s 40-year relationship with EMI, whilst positively describing the differences since leaving to join Island Records under Universal.
In May 2010, May and bandmate Roger Taylor announced they were leaving EMI after almost four decades with the label. In August of that year it was revealed that the band had signed a new contract with Universal.
“It came down to confidence really,” May told Music Week about the decision to quit EMI.
“It was a shame. We always had a great relationship with EMI and strangely enough we still do with a lot of those guys who worked there, but really the top level of EMI they didn’t have the confidence to renew at the level we wanted a couple of years ago and Universal were dead keen and said, ‘We’ve always wanted to sign you’ and basically they gave us what we wanted in terms of money and promises of support and the whole machinery. They put their whole vast array of tools at our disposal so it just seemed like a great idea.”
May praised Universal's achievements with its collection of Queen reissues. “We’re very pleased,” he said. “[Universal is] very innovative. It’s a different kind of relationship than with EMI because they go off and do things without asking us sometimes and we’re not used to that. We’re used to being very controlling, but I have to say most of what they do is great and inspired and it’s become a really good relationship. They have new angles and they said in the beginning, ‘Our job is not to sell you to the people who already love you. Our job is to get you to the people who don’t get you already.’”
May's quotes come as part of a special Music Week profile of May and Queen's 40 years in the business, available in this week's issue (07/10/2011).
Music Week subscribers will receive the printed magazine tomorrow (6 October), or can view it online now.
Queen's Brian May has spoken about the band's new book, 40 Years Of Queen, which charts the group's career through their private collection of photos and memorabilia.
The volume, written by Harry Doherty and featuring a introduction by May and bandmate Roger Taylor, was launched on Monday (3 October) at a party co-staged with Q at London's Groucho Club which saw many of the items from the book exhibited, while May and Pink Floyd's Nick Mason were among the guests.
Speaking to Q, May explained the book was made possible because he's a natural collector. "Did I ever think when we started that 40 years later there would be a coffee table book filled with images and memorabilia about our band? No!," declared the guitarist. "Collecting things was instinctive to me. As a child I was always collecting things like matchbox labels, cars in boxes, and so I did the same later on in life when Queen started. It was exciting because we were in a sense making and manufacturing things like puzzles, robots, posters I didn't want to see all this stuff just disappear, but wanted to keep hold and make it immortal. I treasure all the memorabilia because it is all personally evocative for me."
Creating the book, which is out now - also threw up some surprises for the keen collector, including an old friend he'd lost in his loft.
"There's a News Of The World Robot. EMI made a couple of dozen and we were each given one. I thought what a precious thing this is and I kept it in the attic, covered up and protected," said May of the memorabilia that had surprised him the most in the writing process. "When I moved house I had completely forgotten about it and when I realised, said Oh shit I left my robot in the attic! I went back to get it but it had gone! Then some years later a collector happened to be auctioning the brother of my robot and so I got hold of him."
For a taster of what's in the book, including the robot, and pictures from the party check out our picture gallery now.
A selection of rare Queen artefacts taken from Brian May's personal archive were put on display last night at the launch of 40 Years Of Queen - a new illustrative history packed with unseen photos and replicas of memorabilia from throughout the group's existence. Among the backstage passes, handwritten lyrics, platinum discs, gig posters, Harold May's meticulously drawn tour maps and one News Of The World robot (see below) stood Brian's Red Special guitar, flanked tonight by his guitar tech Pete and a Groucho Club security guard. Built by Brian and his father Harold in 1963, it has remained his tool of choice - in the studio and on stage - for the entirety of his playing career.
It's been a busy year for Queen. Remastered reissues of all their studio albums, an extensive exhibition charting their early career, a new television documentary, the 10th anniversary of the We Will Rock You musical and the announcement of a Queen biopic have all added fuel to the band's enduring popularity. It's all a long way from their beginnings in west London in 1971.
MOJO spoke to Brian May before last night's event began:
MOJO: Queen's 40th anniversary celebrations are coming to an end. How do you feel about looking back?
BRIAN MAY: I think we get more peaceful and forgiving as time goes on. If this book had come out a few years ago, I would have insisted on proofing everything, but it was different this time. I had great confidence in the team and I knew they were going to do a good job. It doesn't seem like 40 years to me and it's strange to think that 20 years of those have been since Freddie departed. It's amazing. Queen seems to be very much alive and well.
Were you always the archivist in the group?
I think so. We were very precocious boys and we were meticulous about everything - not just the music, but the visuals, the way we were promoted. But it was our attention to detail that made some of these things so great. Wonderful things used to happen to Queen all the time and it was such a rush. Every now and then I would grab something with the idea that, at some point, I'd be able to take time to really enjoy it. It was about holding onto things that were truly ephemeral - a ticket, a sticker that was attached to your dressing room door, a poster on the arena wall, a tour pass stuck to your jeans. I actually find some of these items truly beautiful. I wanted to hold on to things that I thought would summon up memories in the future. It's part of my psyche. I feel a need to collect relics from all parts of my life. Maybe it goes back to childhood. It's like Rosebud from Citizen Kane - you think maybe it'll give you back something you lost in your youth. Assuming the meteorite doesn't hit us, these things will always be there to look back on.
One of the first items in the book is a flyer for a [pre-Queen band] Smile gig at Imperial College. When you listen to those Smile tracks, you can hear the Queen sound forming...
Yes - it's sort of there, isn't it? [Queen drummer] Roger [Taylor] and I gelled very quickly because we had the same interests. We grew up listening to what our parents listened to - Frank Sinatra, Mantovani, the big bands. Then there was Little Richard, Elvis, Buddy Holly, followed by that explosion of guitar music in the late '60s - Hendrix, Cream, The Yardbirds. We had a vision. It was like we could see into the future. The sound was big and epic, but at the same time delicate and structured. I think we were also influenced by what we were rejecting as well. I was very much influenced by traditional jazz. Most people wouldn't think that's in Queen music, but it is. The way we arranged the songs, the way the harmonic content changes from bar to bar. In those days, most of the heavy metal groups didn't really show any influence from their childhood, but we really embraced it. We grew up watching Uncle Mac's Children's Favourites where you would hear [Strauss's] "Thunder And Lightning" polka and The Laughing Policemen and bits of jazz, bits of Tchaikovsky... all of that is in Queen.
Along with grand Queen epics like Father To Son and The Prophet's Song you also always wrote more folky songs like Some Day One Day and '39...
Those came from my love of skiffle. I started playing the guitar when I was seven years old, but I wasn't playing lead guitar in those days. I was strumming and singing Lonnie Donegan and Everly Brothers' songs. It's still feels like a very natural thing for me to do.
We're always reminded of what an amazing frontman Freddie was, but you also knew Freddie The Musician...
Freddie had such a magical, percussive touch on the piano and that was his instrument, although he did play guitar. He only played downstrokes and his fingers used to move incredibly fast. He had a nervous energy - you can see it in some of the interviews he gave. It was like he had too much energy for his body to contain. I still listen to some of the backing tracks that Freddie, Roger and John recorded and they are immaculate - so accurate, so full of feeling.
You've said that your father didn't 'get' what you were doing until he saw Queen at Madison Square Garden in 1977? What was it about that moment that changed his mind?
Well, up until that point he was heartbroken really. He thought I was throwing my life away. It's strange really because by looking at the maps he drew [see below], you can see that he was also supportive. Madison Square Garden was a distant, mythical place for an Englishman. All we knew was that heavyweight boxing championships were held there. But for him to go there and feel the energy created by that crowd...he said: "I can see you're actually changing the world in a way, and I can see it why it's so important to you." That's quite something to say to your son.
In the 40 years of the band, what for you was the biggest watershed?
1986. Because up to that point, I'd been clinging onto the notion that I was just playing music for a while and in the end I'd go and get a proper job like my Dad wanted me to. By '86, I'd realised that being a rock star was, in fact, my job. Emotionally, I fell to pieces. But at the same time we were at the pinnacle of our technical abilities, our cohesiveness and our ability to entertain an audience. I look at those Wembley Stadium shows and think 'Jesus Christ', we really had created this astonishingly well-oiled machine.
40 Years of Queen, published by Goodman, is on sale now.
More images HERE
Interview By Ross Bennett
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Brian May and Harry Doherty
Brian May attended the launch of new book '40 years of Queen' in London last night (03.10.11).
The guitarist with the 'We Are the Champions' group joined fans and friends of the band to release the new book at the Groucho Club in London. The venue was decorated with memorabilia from various stages of the band's career, including a tour suit worn by vocalist Freddie Mercury, handwritten lyrics by all the band members and Brian's signature guitar - the Red Special - which he used on almost all of Queen's recordings.
Introducing the new book and memorabilia on display, he joked: "This is a unique opportunity to see some priceless relics, including me. It's quite strange to see my guitar put on some sort of shelf like a museum piece. I feel a bit like that myself sometimes. I think it's a fabulous book. This is one of the few Queen publications and outputs that we didn't put our fingers all over. Roger and I are very controlling human beings and normally we give everybody a lot of grief, in this case we had great confidence in the team. This is more than a book it's a toy, something to play with and, hopefully, archive."
The '40 years of Queen' book contains high quality photos alongside text written by journalist and close friend of the band, Harry Doherty.
The launch continues last month's celebrations of then band on what would have been the 65th birthday of frontman Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991 of complications related to AIDS.
The band will also be named BMI Icons at tonight's Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) awards, an annual event held by the company, who collect royalties in the US on behalf of artists.
Queen legend Brian May has told Sky News he still thinks of Freddie Mercury "all the time" - and says the frontman would still be performing today if he were alive.
The guitarist has been marking 40 years since Queen formed by showing off items from his private collection of memorabilia, much of which features in a new book, 40 Years Of Queen.
Formed in 1971, Queen became one of the biggest bands in the world and penned enduring hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are The Champions and Somebody To Love.
Mercury died in 1991 from complications brought on my AIDS.
And May said: "I still think of Freddie all the time but in a very good way, in a positive way. It's like losing a family member, you get used to it after a while. I still miss my mum, my dad and I still miss Freddie and that's the way it is but life carries on and you do your best. In Freddie's case we have so much of him that keeps him alive with everybody so it's a nice feeling really, I am sure he would love this."
May said Freddie would have still been performing and writing if he were alive today.
"Oh, unquestionably," he said. "Freddie never stopped, He lived to work, Freddie lived for his music, there's no question (about that). Even though he was very poorly towards the end he just got up every morning and wanted to do it. He said: 'This is what I do, I am going to do it until I drop, darling.' And that's what he did."
The guitarist said he still loves to perform and recently worked with Lady Gaga on her track You and which the pair performed it at MTV's Video Music Awards.
He said: "She is a phenomenon. She is very focused. She's full of ideas. She's one of the few people I have actually seen who can genuinely dance flat out and sing flat out at the same time. I love working with talented people and we don't have Freddie anymore, so it's great to get out there and do things."
(Opposite) May said he was proud of wife Anita Dobson
But for the next few weeks May's weekends will filled by watching his wife Anita Dobson perform in BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. She came joint top of the leader board on Friday, along with Holly Valance.
"I am incredibly proud of my missus, she's amazing," he said. "She is an amazing actress and she has this other amazing talent. I think she's already astounding people."
Among the items in May's private collection, which was being shown at London's Groucho Club, was his first guitar, The Red Special, which he made with his father when he was just 17. Other items include one of Mercury's microphone stands, handwritten lyrics from each member of the band and one of the three robots from 1977's News of The World. May said the items display are just "the tip of the iceberg". Many are included in Harry Doherty's 40 Years Of Queen, which tells Queen's story from the beginning through pictures and intimate memorabilia. That includes handwritten letters, backstage passes and invites to now-legendary tour parties.