27 August 2016 [update 28 August 2017] by GRACE MACASKILL
Many of the pictures have never been published before and have been released to mark the Queen frontman’s birthday
7” coloured singles box
Released on September 2 by Mercury Records/Universal/Hollywood Records
Stripped to the waist and straddled by the fishnet-clad legs of a Munich drag queen, Freddie Mercury looks every inch the glam rock legend. The picture was taken as he celebrated his 39th birthday in typically wild style at the famous Mrs Henderson nightclub in the German city. As he writhed under the pink petticoats of his dance partner, bursting with fun and life, it would have been hard to imagine that just six years later he’d be dead from AIDS.
Had the cruel disease not claimed his life, next Monday would have been Freddie’s 70th birthday.
And the pictures are among dozens, many never published before, that accompany a vinyl box set of his hits released to celebrate the Queen frontman.
We also reveal touching pictures of a very traditional childhood in Zanzibar, where he was born Farrokh Bulsara to Indian Parsee parents in 1946. They show the young Freddie being cradled in his mother Jer’s arms, giggling as a baby in his old-fashioned pram, being pulled along in a rickshaw and posing with his younger sister Kashmira.
These treasured family snaps paint a picture of a more conformist Mercury who won a cup for “Best Achiever” at his elite boarding school, St Peter’s in Panchgani, India.
But his sedate, quiet upbringing was interrupted by the Zanzibar Revolution and in 1964 the family fled to the UK where he attended Ealing Art College. It was here he met bassist Tim Staffell, a member of the band Smile, which included guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. The rest, as they say, is history.
Queen went on to become one of the biggest bands in rock history, selling 300 million records, and it was front-man Freddie who attracted the most attention with his strutting stage presence and incredible four-octave vocal range.
Had he been alive today, there’s every chance he would have been a gay rights champion. Flamboyant and camp, Freddie was up front about his sexuality at a time when many gay stars went to great lengths to hide theirs.
It’s a tragedy that medical advances in the treatment of HIV and AIDS, which meant it was no longer a death sentence, came about just a few years after his death. If Freddie had survived a little longer, he might still be alive today.
Perhaps, with the advent of same-sex marriages in 2014, the star would have wed his long-term lover Jim Hutton. Freddie called hairdresser Jim “my husband” in the 80s, long before gay marriage was legalised.
Jim, who also had HIV, died in 2010 after a long battle with cancer. [sic]
But the one person who would almost certainly have remained in Freddie’s life is the woman who lived with him on-and-off for 20 years.
Biba PR girl Mary Austin was 19 when she met the rock star and they were lovers for six years. After he told her he was gay she remained his devoted friend. He called her “the love of my life”.
In his will, Freddie left Mary his fabulous £20million Edwardian mansion in West London and a big share of his £9million fortune.She stayed loyal as he embarked on a life of promiscuity, saying later: “I think Freddie reached a stage where he thought he was invincible.” She also claimed many of the star’s so-called friends were “there for the free tickets, the free booze, the free drugs, the free meals, the gossip and, of course, the expensive gifts.” Mary revealed that in the final days of his life, the star spent hours watching DVD footage of his past performances.
Freddie Mercury vs. Crowd
The other strong woman in his life was his mother Jer but, while he was happy to share his secrets with Mary, he “protected” his mother from his excesses. He never told her he was HIV positive or dying of Aids. “He protected us by never discussing these matters,” Jer said in an interview in 2012.“It is quite different now, but back then it would have been very hard for him to tell us and we respected his feelings. Freddie kept a strict division between his work and his home all his life.”
But the star’s legacy lives on in his vibrant performances with Queen, whose music was introduced to a whole new generation of fans during their 1985 Live Aid gig.
Everyone who worked with him described not only his commitment to his craft, but his sense of humour and keenly felt emotions.
British director David Mallet, who worked closely with the star on his music videos, said: “Freddie was one of the funniest men I have ever met. But everybody came away enriched in some way. Freddie was one of the really great originals of the second half of the 20th Century. There was nobody like Freddie. There was no one even a bit like Freddie. There was just nobody like him at all.”