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MW: And yet they loved Benny Hill…

BM: Yes, but Benny Hill's not a rock band. Plus our record company got themselves into a heap of trouble. We had spent a million dollars getting out of our deal with Warner-Elektra to get onto the Capitol label. And Capitol got themselves into trouble with a dispute that raged in the early '80s over the alleged corruption of independent record promoters in the US.

It was, basically, the ring of bribery that went on to get records played on US radio. There was a government enquiry into it, and everybody shut down very, very fast. Without going into it too deeply, Capitol got rid of all their "independent" guys - and the reprisals from the whole network were aimed directly at all the artists who had records out at that time. We had Radio Ga Ga, which I think was Top 20 and rising, but the week after that it disappeared from the charts. So that was an influence as well. We got caught up in all that due to no fault of our own.

There were also other things. I think America very much depends on the network of people who care about music, and a lot of that is the radio stations. Radio stations are the connection between the artist and the community, and rightly so. Freddie had a personal manager at the time who was very dismissive. And OK, Freddie needed a bit of protection, it was hard for him at that time. But I think this guy… well, I know for a fact this guy went around saying, No, Freddie doesn't want to talk to you. Why should he want to talk to you anyway? And an enormous amount of damage was done to our relationship with the radio networks, who up to that point had been very close to us, very helpful. [Radio Ga Ga was the last Queen single to make the Billboard Top 40 - until after Freddie Mercury's death. I Want To Break Free (it's follow-up) reached 45.]

Queen never played live in the US after 1982. Were you not tempted to go back and try again?

A lot of things happened. Because things didn't sell so well in America there were always other places for us to go, where we were selling well. We went to South America instead of North America. Japan and Europe became a huge thing for us. Eastern Europe opened up. And we never got around to going back to the States. And, as far as I can see, the United States is an island. They're only dimly aware of what goes on outside. This is not me trying to be nasty, I love Americans. But there is this feeling; if you're not seen you're not really believed. We were not seen for a long time in the States. Plus the fact that Freddie didn't want to go back and play smaller venues than we'd been before. He was like, Let's just wait, and then soon we'll go out and do stadiums in America as well. But it was one of those things that wasn't to be. If we go back to America in the Autumn, that will be the first time Queen have been there since… when is it? I can't even think what date it is. Over 20 years… [since September 1982]

Of course these sorts of rock package tours are enormously popular in the US now.

Think so and there's a huge tide of young people returning to rock music. It's incredible to find so many letters that I get are from teenagers. I read some recently from someone who knows all about our history and is totally into what we're about, spiritually. Then at the bottom it says: from so- and so-, 14 years old. It makes me think, My God! This is really something. It's a dream come true in a way. I always hoped that people would get over this fashion or generation thing, and for me the first time in history I think it's true. I think grandads, dads and kids can enjoy it now.

The fans voted for their favourite Queen song and we're publishing the results in this magazine. Would you care to nominate your own?

Too hard a question! "Best" is not a word I use lightly, especially with regard to music. I have a few personal favourites, though. Of Freddie's songs… The Miracle, which has an amazing lightness, and Don't Try So Hard. Yes, we all contributed to the creation of these songs, but in both cases Freddie was the driving force… a vision reared up before us.

And the worst Queen song?

Again, I feel the same about "worst" as "best". These words make me think of pointless TV polls designed purely for quick revenue. There are a few Queen songs I don't choose to listen to very often, but nothing I would want to apologise for.

Finally, what has happened to John Deacon?

We asked John, but he preferred not to be actively involved in the tour. However, he remains very much part of the running of the Queen business operation behind the scenes. Hey, it's a cottage industry!



10 Brian May songs that go up to 11

1. Keep Yourself Alive from QUEEN
4. Tie Your Mother Down A DAY AT THE RACES
5. We Will Rock You NEWS OF THE WORLD
6. Fat Bottomed Girls JAZZ
7. Hammer To Fall THE WORKS
8. Tear It Up THE WORKS
9. Gimme the Prize (Kurgan's Theme) A KIND OF MAGIC
10. Headlong INNUENDO

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