WE WILL ROCK YOU (MELBOURNE)
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Simon Croft
(No 2 Guitar WWRY Band)

 

 

 

Part 1

7 July 03

When Simon Croft arrived in Australia in 1974 with his family, he found being English and a Queen fan made life difficult for him at school. Called ‘a soap-dodging Pommie bastard’ by his fellow pupils, he was dismayed to realised they didn’t think much of his support of the then fledgling band, Queen. This was just a few months after Queen’s ill-fated February appearance at the Sunbury Music festival. As Simon told me,

“They weren’t flavour of the month with a lot of people after that. I had the first two albums, and I’m going, ‘well, what’s the problem?’”

Simon’s love affair with all things Queen continued and he vividly remembers going to a concert during the 1976 A Night At The Opera tour.

“It was $A5.95 for a ticket. I ended up going by myself because I was knocked back by a girl I was trying to chat up. I told her I had tickets for Queen on the Friday night, but she wouldn’t go.”

Laughing, Simon admitted he still doesn’t know if it was him or Queen that was the disincentive!

At 17 Simon picked up an electric guitar because a friend he hung out with at school was a drummer, and was always looking for someone to play.

Later Simon became part of the successful Australian Queen tribute band, Killer Queen. Between 1991 and 1995 they played to audiences throughout Australia and New Zealand. It was during one of their trips to New Zealand that they found out being ‘rock stars’ wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…

“It was all good, except for the strip search at the airport. Being in a band, they thought we had drugs or something. We were butt-naked - they made us take all our clothes off - and they wouldn’t even let us dance on the tables afterwards!!” Simon chuckles as he carries on, “They were alright at the end so I said, ‘It’s OK, I understand you do get sick of sheep!!”

After disbanding Killer Queen, Simon continued to play semi-professionally. His last gig was playing on an album with the AC/DC original vocalist, Dave Evans.

“We did an album for the 20th anniversary of Scott Bon’s death. Dave is going to be doing some dates in Germany and I was going to go over to do those shows with him, until We Will Rock You came along. This opportunity was too good to knock back, I’d have been crazy to refuse it I think.”

Despite being a huge fan, Simon nearly didn’t hear about the auditions in time.
“I went into work on Monday, and my boss said, ‘You know that musical by that band Queen, well you should try out for that.’ I said, ‘What musical, what’s going on?’

"I knew it was showing in London because my sister had been to see it, but I had no idea it was coming here.

Not knowing what was going on, I got a mate to make some calls for me. He got through to Michael Coppel’s office and then told me to ring this lady who was co-coordinating all the musicians. I did so, only to be told that she was sorry, but it was too late, they were full. So I thought, ‘OK, that’s a shame…’ then I got a call back about two hours later saying, ‘Look they’ve rescheduled, can you come in tomorrow?’ "

On Tuesday Simon arrived at the audition, was introduced around and asked to play.

“It was nerve-racking, I shook. Brian said to me, Jjust be a rock god!’ Then I just took a deep breath and jumped into it really. I got to play One Vision two or three times and that was it. Brian did say, ‘You’ve made it very difficult for us.’ And I kinda didn’t click until I got home because I thought he was speaking in general terms, about everyone, but he was actually talking to me.

Roger was pretty tuned in at the audition; I think he knows about guitar players too. I think he’s pretty overlooked by a lot of people, but he was pretty clued into what was happening.

About a week later, I got very nervous because my Dad sent me over a tape of a Queen television special from London. On it there’s a section where Brian was talking about Queen tribute bands and he said, ‘Oh, you know it’s flattering, but it’s a bit like watching your own funeral.’ And I thought, ‘f**king hell, I told him I was in Killer Queen’, I went to great lengths to tell him what songs we did and now I’m thinking he’s saying, ‘I’m not getting that dickhead in, it would be like I’m watching my own funeral.’ ”

Simon didn’t have to worry. About four weeks after his audition, he got a phone call asking if he was still available. Then a couple of weeks later, the production co-coordinator called him…

“He rang me up at home, it was about 7.30 at night and he said, ‘we’re putting the team together, you’ve got the job’.

I felt shaky, crikey yeah!!! Like – unbelievable!! I was just happy I’d had the chance to try out…. Then my wife and I went out for a curry to celebrate!”

Since then, Simon has stayed busy, working in the guitar shop as usual, honing his technique, and visiting the cast rehearsals to get a feel for what goes on.
“I’ll be practising my butt off before rehearsals start, so hopefully when Mr May gets here, I’ll have some solos that he will like.

Even with two of us, it will be hard to reproduce Brian’s sound. Don’t forget on some songs there’s like seven guitars on there and four part harmonies. At the audition I did say to Brian, ‘Why don’t you just hire four guitar players?’ He just had a bit of a chuckle.

All the cast seem incredibly lovely… look good, talented and very nice – makes you sick!! They were all interested to hear how the band are going to recreate the music and equally, we’re curious about how they are going to do all those vocals.

Ben was very nice, he took one look at me with the long hair and said, ‘Well you’re obviously the guitarist’!! “

Simon and I discussed the incredible appeal of We Will Rock You, which seems to extend across the generations. Simon summed it up when he said...

“This is for the generations that never had the chance to see Queen. Which explains why the younger audience are so interested.”

********************

Next time I chat to Simon, the band rehearsals will have started and we will be talking about how everyone is working together and what it’s like to finally perform with the cast.

'Bushfire Blonde'