SEE MORE FROM BRIAN ON SOAPBOX
Making Freddie’s Blue Plaque Freddie Mercury – Remembered With A Blue Plaque – https://youtu.be/L62BPSiqndw
– New plaque marks family home of Queen frontman –
– Beloved musician remembered ahead of what would have been his 70th Birthday –
– Freddie Mercury’s sister unveiled the plaque alongside Queen guitarist Brian May –
English Heritage celebrated the life and career of Freddie Mercury today (1 September 2016) with a blue plaque at the singer and songwriter’s first home in England, a modest, inter-war terrace house in Feltham, West London. Freddie’s parents bought the house in 1964 after the family left Zanzibar for the UK and Freddie was still living there when he first met his future Queen band mates, Brian May and Roger Taylor. Other musicians to be honoured with English Heritage Blue Plaques include Freddie’s idol, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Freddie Mercury’s sister, Kashmira Cooke, unveiled the English Heritage Blue Plaque and said: “Mum and I are so proud and pleased that English Heritage is honouring our Freddie with a Blue Plaque, and that he will be amongst other famous names for ever. Secretly he would have been very proud and pleased too.”
Freddie’s parents, Jer and Bomi Bulsara, chose Feltham as Jer already had a sister living in the area and the family moved into number 22 Gladstone Avenue in autumn 1964. Seventeen year old Freddie took an A-level in art at Isleworth Polytechnic followed by a Diploma in Graphic Art and Design at Ealing College of Art, supporting himself with a variety of jobs, including washing dishes in the kitchens at nearby Heathrow Airport. It was while studying at Ealing that Freddie met future Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.
Kashmira recalls how while living on Gladstone Avenue, her brother was always sketching for his college art work – sometimes calling on her to model for him – or tapping his fingers and humming as if thinking of his next song. A natural musician, Gladstone Avenue was where Freddie really began to explore his musical talent, listening to the likes of Cream and his hero, Jimi Hendrix in his bedroom at the back of the house; there is a 1968 photograph of Freddie in his bedroom posing in the manner of Hendrix with a borrowed Fender Stratocaster. Kashmira also remembers how he loved watching Tom & Jerry cartoons and collecting cuttings of Andy Capp comic strips from the daily newspaper and how he spent hours grooming his hair – much to her annoyance as the house had only one bathroom.
Dr Brian May said: “It is a pleasant duty to help install this little reminder on Freddie’s parents’ house in Feltham. It was here that I first visited Freddie soon after we had met through a mutual friend. We spent most of the day appreciating and analysing in intimate detail the way that Jimi Hendrix had put his recordings together in the studio – listening to Hendrix on vinyl played on Freddie’s Dansette record player – which had stereo speakers on opposite sides of the box! Feltham was the childhood neighbourhood for both of us but we never knew it until we met in the cause of music.”
Sir Peter Bazalgette, English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel Member, said: “Before Freddie became Freddie Mercury, this small house was where he lived and took the first steps towards stardom. English Heritage’s blue plaques celebrate the great men and women whose achievements endure and Freddie Mercury – singer, songwriter and producer – was certainly one of our greatest musical talents. He was truly a champion.”
Attending the unveiling, the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, said: “Freddie Mercury is a global icon whose music touched the lives of millions of people around the world. I am delighted that one of Britain’s most influential musicians will be recognised through the Blue Plaque Scheme – a small but important reminder to people of the impact he had both in London and well beyond.”
Freddie Mercury’s charisma, unfailing talent and commanding stage presence established him as one of our all-time greatest musicians; when Mercury performed audiences were captivated. English Heritage is delighted to commemorate his life and legacy with a blue plaque in a year that would not only have seen his 70th birthday but one that also sadly marks the 25th anniversary of his death, on 24 November 1991.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the English Heritage London Blue Plaques scheme. It is generously supported by David Pearl, the Blue Plaques Club, and members of the public.
Born Farrokh Bulsara on 5 September 1946, Freddie Mercury spent his early childhood on the island of Zanzibar. When his father was offered a job in Bombay, he was sent to St. Peter’s boarding school in the Indian hill town of Panchgani, which was run on the lines of a British public school. There he participated in theatrical productions, took piano lessons, became a member of the school choir, and started his first band – The Hectics – in 1958. The Bulsaras moved to England in 1964. Known as Fred to his friends while studying, working and playing music, it was in 1970 that he changed his last name to Mercury, and with Roger Taylor and Brian May started a new band with himself as lead vocalist, suggesting the name of Queen.
Queen signed to EMI records in 1972, and scored their first single success with Seven Seas of Rhye (1974). Killer Queen (1974), reached number two in the UK, and the epic Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) stayed at number one in the UK charts for a then record nine weeks and it remains the third bestselling UK single ever. It is also the first UK single ever to reach No 1 on the charts twice, again in November 1991. This ‘six-minute opera’ was accompanied by a seminal video, which is thought by some to have inaugurated the modern era of music video.
Queen’s 1981 Greatest Hits maintains the crown of Britain’s most popular album of the last 60 Years of the Official Albums Chart and stands alone as the first and only album to have sold over 6 million copies in the UK (6.1 million sales to date). Greatest Hits II was released just before Mercury died in 1991; it reached number one in the UK charts and has sold 16 million copies worldwide. After his death, Bohemian Rhapsody was re-released as a double A-side with These are the Days of our Lives. It debuted at number one, and raised over a million pounds for the Terence Higgins Trust. A memorial concert for AIDS awareness took place in front of 72,000 people at London’s Wembley Stadium on 20 April 1992, featuring an array of stars. The profits from the concert were used to launch the Mercury Phoenix Trust, the AIDS charity set up in his memory.
History of London’s Blue Plaques Scheme
The London-wide blue plaques scheme has been running for 150 years. The idea of erecting ‘memorial tablets’ was first proposed by William Ewart MP in the House of Commons in 1863. It had an immediate impact on the public imagination, and in 1866 the (Royal) Society of Arts founded an official plaques scheme. The Society erected its first plaque – to poet, Lord Byron – in 1867. The blue plaques scheme was subsequently administered by the London County Council (1901-65) and by the Greater London Council (1965-86), before being taken on by English Heritage in 1986. www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/
English Heritage cares for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites – from world famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of empire to Cold War bunkers. Through these, we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million visitors each year. www.english-heritage.org.uk
Registered charity no. 1140351