Hmmm …. very interesting feedback from you guys out there about the back cover of the Queen (I) album cover. I had no idea anybody else was that interested. Well, in answer to many enquiries, I can answer a couple more questions, then.
The chap at bottom right, just above the playing card? John Harris. He was our first roadie, and very involved with everything at the beginning of our careers – we used to call him the fifth member. We owe him a lot, actually. He was devoted to sound, and to cars – he used to drive a white Triumph TR 3 (I think) and was the inspiration for Roger’s song “I’m in love with my car” (I think!) He drove our Transit van, when we first began doing gigs as Queen, and also set up all the gear, and also mixed the sound. Of course the gear in those days was rudimentary, but John Harris mixed the first few gigs on a tiny mixing board into a hundred watts or so of PA. John stayed with us for many years thereafter, and all the first Queen tours were mixed out front by JH. John drove himself very hard, and did not take much care of himself, especially with regard to eating. He succumbed to a mysterious illness, which all but immobilised him, and put an end to his touring days. However he fought back over a long period and I believe he is now doing well. I wish we were still in touch. Perhaps we will be.
The chap with the beard at the left hand side in the middle? Is me. In the days when I lived in a tiny bed-sit in Earl’s Court. The room was only just big enough for a single bed and a small wardrobe, and I lived in it on my own for a while, and then for while with my future first wife, Chrissy. I can hardly believe we shared that small space! We lived mainly on Cod in a Bag and fish fingers – we only had a single gas ring, and no water supply – except the communal bathroom up the corridor. But we were PERFECTLY happy. I must have been very sheltered and naive .. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that we needed more money, or anything else. We were happy just doing what we did … being students. I never thought of envying people with big cars (or cars at all!) – or houses, or expensive clothes, or whatever. Life was just fine. I think not worrying about money was a liberating force in my life … it meant I never did anything to make money … only did stuff because it was exciting or worthwhile to me. Stuff that felt new and pioneering. I still feel that way – and some people probably think … oh, it’s OK for you now – you made your pile. Well, all I can say is – don’t believe it. Nothing fundamentally changed for me since then. Except I have a bit more understanding of the rest of the world.
Incidentally, I’ve probably written about this before, but the FRONT of the QUEEN cover was home-grown too. We had another big sheet of Plywood, and on to it we stuck a blow-up of a spotlight viewed from almost head-on … the shaft of light making a shape a bit like a purple comet in the sky. There was also a small shot of Freddie, standing in a spotlight with his hands raised, holding a mike. It was all on the same roll of film that Doug Puddifoot had taken of us one night at a gig (possibly the Marquee Club, but I’d have to ask him). I had a strong feeling, early on, that Freddie was not only our front man, but our icon, and ought to be portrayed as such. The little picture of him was something like a figurehead on the prow of those old sailing ships. I thought – this is a great image for Queen … for the time being, it doesn’t matter that there are four of us … Freddie is the image to put out there. So I stuck the small picture of Freddie on the blown-up picture of the spotlight … and there was the cover (Freddie didn’t complain! ha ha!). It was very crudely done, of course … with scalpel and glue. Someone in the record company photographed it and did some touching up to the negative, to clean it up a bit … and the American record company (Electra) surprised us by creating a version of it in a different colour (Red) and putting the title on in Gold embossed. Very classy. The Title font, of course, is another story. That QUEEN logo, and the crest, were both entirely Freddie’s design – he had been a student at Ealing Tech, of course … and those designs stayed with us, through various modifications, for many years. Freddie had a great eye for design. Well … I ramble.
Oh … the penguin outfit? Just fun, really. Somebody in the very early days asked me in one of those multiple questionnaires that magazines like Jacky used to give young pop stars to fill in (they probably still do) what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote … “A Penguin”. And from then on, penguins of all shapes and sizes, fluffy and otherwise, rained into my life …! I always did like the little creatures, and I have always wanted to go live with them for a while like Mr. Forbush did …. but it was more or less a throw-away remark. We had all dressed up for that party long ago, at the very beginning of Queen, and when it came time to make the “Slightly Mad” video, it was actually Freddie’s idea that I bring out the Penguin outfit again … he said … “of course you should be a penguin again” … probably aware that this would be the last time that any of us would dress up for a Queen video.
Happy Sunday, folks.
(Special thanks to Jeroen Koedoot, Gareth Hayes, Betina, David Carruthers, Betina Løvbeck Jensen, Andy Wood, Mark van Lochem, Rob Chiles, Andrey Simeonov.)