9 November 2014 by Danny Scott
IT MAY have been real life, but touring the world with Freddie Mercury felt more like fantasy – as drummer Roger, 65,
Touring the world with Freddie Mercury felt like fantasy, says drummer Roger Taylor
“Freddie Mercury and I both loved to have a laugh on tour. If there were shenanigans and good times, Fred and I would be there. This picture was taken on our South American tour some time around 1981.
And yes, things got a bit crazy and risqué at times, but that’s what rock bands do. We were young guys, making decent money and having a ball as we travelled round the world. That’s probably why I love this photo so much.
It says it all, doesn’t it? We’re flamboyant, having a giggle at our own expense and enjoying being in a great, great band.
I loved watching Freddy work the crowd. He was the best – no one could touch him
We played our last shows with Fred in 1986, though at the time I never expected them to be our last shows – none of us did. None of us could foresee that he was going to get ill and die so soon. Saying that we missed Fred doesn’t even begin to explain what we felt at the time, and still feel today.
That was especially true when Brian May and I started work on our new album, which includes stuff we recorded when Fred was still with us. You can imagine what it was like, listening to him in the studio. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine. What a voice!
My own introduction to music came quite early. My father didn’t have much of an education, but he was keen for me to get some qualifications and I ended up winning a choral scholarship to a cathedral school.
‘This picture was taken in South America some time around 1981’
Back in those days, music was polite and nice – lots of dance bands and orchestras. The guy who changed it all for so many of us was Lonnie Donegan. It was like the punk rock of the 50s when Lonnie came along and knocked everybody for six. That’s when I started searching out real rock’n’roll bands and I wanted to play drums – I wanted to bang stuff!
I played with a few local bands in the West Country, where I grew up, but when I was 18 I moved to London, which at that time was probably the most exciting musical city in the world. I was supposed to be studying dentistry, but all the time I was looking for a band to join. Then I met a bloke called Brian May who played guitar. It’s funny how chance meetings like that can change your life.
We formed a band called Smile, and Freddie Mercury was part of the crowd who used to come and see us play. He knew the same people we knew and I used to bump into him at gigs, standing at the bar watching people like Jimi Hendrix. Fred loved Jimi so much that he went to see him 14 times. I think he saw him nine nights in a row at pubs all round London.
Fred and I eventually started working together on a stall in Kensington Market. We sold clothes and bric-a-brac, and just about managed to earn enough to keep the band ticking along.
What was Freddie like then? Alongside the showman, he was a rather shy introvert. But if the attention was focused on him, he was a natural star, as we all saw after we put Queen together. Week by week, we saw him grow into this character, Freddie Mercury.
I loved watching him work the crowd. He was the best – no one could touch him.”
Queen’s new album Queen Forever, featuring three previously unreleased tracks with Freddie Mercury on vocals, is out tomorrow. The band will be touring in January.