MOST FAMOUS wearer of clogs since the mouse
that went clip-clipperty-clop on the stairs, Brian May has
never been one to worry about fashion.
the long, shaggy mop his hair still grows naturally into.
As for the clothes: it's some time since he's been onstage
in a cape, but off it Brian still exudes the sort of long-scarfed,
trinket-jangling, sartorial elegance popular in London wine
bars 30 years ago. Indeed, with his friendly, slightly distracted,
almost professional air - "I'll warm up in
a minute, I'm sure," he mumbles at the start
of the interview - his love of astronomy and eccentric dress
sense, Brian May would make a great Doctor Who.
first met 20 years ago, when Queen were in their pomp, and
nothing, it seemed, could stop them. Onstage May was the
solemn-faced agent provocateur. Offstage he was that oft
cited but, in truth, rarely encountered phenomenon: the
genuinely nice guy rock star; the kind that always made
an effort to cross the room and talk to the lesser mortals
backstage. But don't be deceived by the warm, woolly exterior.
Inside is a man as sensitive and complex and, at times,
angry and confused, as he is affable and calm on the outside.
"I know what the cynics are saying out there,"
he says of Queen's impending tour with new frontman
Paul Rodgers, "and I don't care".
WALL: So who made the first move: you or Paul?
BRIAN MAY: I did. We just talked after the Fender
show [the September 2004 Fender 50th anniversary
gig] and Paul's lady, Cynthia [Kereluk],
was there and she just stood between us and her eyes went
back and forth and she said, There's something happening
here, isn't there? And we both looked at each other and
said, Well, yes. It did feel good - like there was some
chemistry going on. She actually said, All you need is a
drummer? I said, Well, I know a drummer…
was Roger Taylor's reaction to the idea?
We talked on the phone and I shipped a video over
to him of what we'd done [at the Fender show].
He was the same, he said, Well, it feels really good, and
I wonder why we didn't think of this before? So, yeah, he
had an instantly positive reaction. I mean, we loved Free.
I put on their Fire And Water album the other day. I intended
to listen to just one track but I sat there and listened
to it all. It produced the same emotions as it did 30 years
ago. I thought, I absolutely love this stuff. What a joy
to have the opportunity to explore some of it with Paul.
We all saw Free a few times and loved them. They were a
huge inspiration to Queen.
What did you make of Paul's follow-up band, Bad Company?
liked 'em. I loved that first album with Can't Get Enough
Of Your Love, Movin' On and Seagull. I thought it was very
cool and I liked Mick Ralphs' guitar playing.
Did any of you know Paul in the Free days?
Although Paul is more or less the same age as me, in a sense
Free were almost a generation ahead of Queen. They were
out there doing stuff when we were still finishing off our…
well, in my case a degree in Physics and Astronomy.
What about later, in the mid-70s?
I remember we were on tour when I first heard that
Bad Company album on American radio, and it sounded fantastic.
You knew that it was gonna be enormous, and it was. It was
an instant Number 1. But I don't think we bumped into them
at the time, no. I think Paul and Freddie did meet at one
point, but I'd have to ask Paul…
BEFORE FREDDIE Mercury's
death, Queen had once collaborated with another vocalist
- David Bowie - on Under Pressure, their 1982 Number 1 single.
Since Mercury's demise, Brian May and Roger Taylor's collaborations
have increased in scope. They re-recorded Another One Bites
The Dust in 1998 with Wyclef Jean and went to Number 1 again
in 2000 with a version of We Will Rock You sung by boy band
Five. Their 2001 re-recording of We Are The Champions with
Robbie Williams on vocals (as featured on the soundtrack
to A Knight's Tale) was about as close to the original as
it's possible to get without actually having Freddie Mercury
in the room.
May and Taylor have also famously played live with everybody
from Will Young to Bob Geldof, including, most bizarrely
Elton John and Axl Rose duetting on Bohemian Rhapsody at
the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992. At the same
show, George Michael memorably tackled Somebody to Love
with such passion he almost managed to out-Freddie Freddie…