‘Enduring Music is Full of Spirits’ – Working with Queen on ‘Queen Forever’



06/11/2014 by William Orbit

William Orbit is an English musician, composer and record producer.
On a beautiful summer’s day I took a train through the English countryside to Brian May’s baronial estate, to record his guitar. Leaving aside the telescopes on the lawn and mythical equipment classics in his studio, it was the glorious noise emanating from his amp that really got my heart racing.

I was away in the control room, watching him on CCTV as he struck his first notes, and couldn’t contain myself from charging downstairs to be right in the heart of the moment. And that moment is what you hear. One take for the solo, Brian impassive except for a blur of fingers, me on ‘air guitar’. Once the song’s chords and acoustic guitar parts were laid down, we discussed how best to arrange the verses by Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson visits Freddie Mercury backstage LA 1980
Michael Jackson visits Freddie Mercury backstage
Los Angeles 1980

The musicianship of all four members of Queen is phenomenal. Roger, an extraordinarily multi talented man whom I’ve known for many years and always admired. John Deacon’s original bass part with its lyrical fluidity that made it easy for me to know where to put the odd reinforcement. Freddie’s original piano carried most of the song’s musical DNA and on the technical side, they have always had one of the finest teams in the world.

I was a recent addition to a project with fascinating provenance. I had known Roger for many years, we’ve had travel adventures and boating adventures and now he was on the phone asking if I would get involved in this musical adventure. He didn’t need to ask twice.

When I first played it in my studio I opened a trove of delights provided by the greatest of musicians.

Hearing Michael Jackson’s vocals was stirring. So vivid, so cool. and poignant, and it was like he was in the studio vocal booth singing live. Everyone at my studio felt the tangible presence of both Michael and Freddie. With Freddie’s vocal solo on the mixing desk, my appreciation for his gift was taken to an even higher level.

Enduring music is full of spirits. In the gaps between the notes, in the shadows of the sounds, running along the cables with the electrons, and here the spirits of MJ and FM were fully present, in the moment, and sending shivers down my spine.