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QUEEN The Inside Story


These days, "nice-guy rock star" Brian May is full of conflicting emotions. He's complex, sensitive, angry, confused and determined to have his say...

THE 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.

Take 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.

We 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".


MICK 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…

What 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?

I 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?

No. 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…


EVEN 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…

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