Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, Holiday Edition where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music and musicians from the 60’s to today. Enjoy the trip!
Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar, went to boarding school in India, and came to England with his parents in 1964. His birth name is Farrokh Bulsara, but due to racial abuse he suffered in his early teens, he legally changed his name in 1972.
Mercury died of AIDS the day after announcing he had the disease. He died the morning of November 24, 1991 at age 45.
May is an accomplished scholar. He studied astronomy and physics at Imperial College in London.
All four members wrote at least one of their hits. Since they all wrote, it gave them a very diverse sound.
Before forming Queen, May and Taylor were in a psychedelic band called Smile.
Brian May’s guitar is called the Red Special, and was made with the help of his father, who was an engineer, while Brian was still in high school. The body was made from an old mantelpiece that a family friend had discarded while renovating his house and the whammy bar was made from parts of an old bicycle kick stand. It is the interesting mix of materials that make May’s guitar tone impossible to duplicate and why he sounds so original. It has a unique tone, which has become his signature, and it allowed him to create various sound effects found on many of Queen’s songs, such as “Get Down, Make Love.”
They first toured the US as the opening band for Mott The Hoople in 1974.
In 1981, they did the soundtrack for the movie Flash Gordon, which was a huge flop.
All of the members are very intelligent. In addition to May’s degree in astronomy, they have degrees in biology (Taylor), illustration (Mercury), and electronics (Deacon).
They proudly declared that no synthesizers were used in their music until 1980. Roger Taylor was the first member of Queen to get a synth. Taylor recalled to Mojo: “Freddie was all over it – ‘Ooh what does this do?’ It changed the way we did things.”
When Mercury moved to England in 1959, he lived less than a football field distance from May, but the two never met until 1970.
Mercury’s stamp collection was purchased by the British Postal Service for almost $5,000. It is currently on display at the National Postage Museum.
May and Taylor have continued to represent Queen. In 2005, they toured with Paul Rodgers, best known for his work with Bad Company and Free. In 2012, they started performing with Adam Lambert up front, first touring with him in 2014.
In 2004, in Japan, a very popular TV drama called Pride, featuring SMAP’s Kimura Takuya and about an Ice Hockey player, featured a mainly Queen soundtrack. This brought the Queen Greatest Hits album to a record breaking #1. The show and music appealed to people of all ages – just like Wayne’s World, this brought Queen to a whole new generation.
John Deacon has not participated in any Queen projects since the ’90s. He maintains his privacy and stays clear of the media.
Although Freddie Mercury was the primary vocalist for the band, all the members of the group except Deacon sang lead vocals on different songs. Deacon did, however, provide backing vocals during live shows.
The Official International Queen Fan Club was set up in 1973 after the release of the band’s first album. At its peak, membership exceeded 20,000. It is certified by Guiness World Records as the longest running Rock group fan club.
Queen was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001. In 2003, they also became the first band to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. They were inducted into the UK Music Hall Of Fame in 2004, and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Widely considered as one of the greatest vocalists in popular music history, Freddie Mercury possessed a very distinctive voice. Although his speaking voice naturally fell in the baritone range, his singing voice was that of a tenor. His recorded vocal range spanned nearly 4 octaves (falsetto included), with his lowest recorded note being the F below the bass clef and his highest recorded note being the D that lies nearly 4 octaves above. In addition to vocal range, Mercury often delivered technically difficult songs in a powerful manner. However, due to vocal nodules (for which he declined surgery), he would often lower the highest notes during many concerts. Mercury claimed that he never had any formal vocal training.
According to the official UK charts company, Queen have sold more albums than The Beatles from 1955-2005 in the UK. Queen’s Greatest Hits (5,407,587) has sold a little over half a million more copies than The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (4,811,996), and almost 2 million more than Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (3,781,993). The results are based strictly on sales figures, not fan voting or expert analysis. This begs the question that if, as John Lennon once suggested, The Beatles were “More popular than Jesus,” what does that make Queen?
In 1984, Queen performed in South Africa during the Apartheid era, which caused some controversy as most artists were boycotting the country because of the racist policy. Any ill-will was erased by their performance at Live Aid a year later, where their set was one of the highlights.
Freddie Mercury designed their “Queen Crest” logo. He had a degree in Art and Graphic Design from Ealing Art College in England.
Brian May was named Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University in 2007.
A study by Austrian, Czech, and Swedish researchers released in 2016 concluded that Freddie Mercury had a rare and unique singing voice. The study stated that Mercury likely employed subharmonics, in which the ventricular folds vibrate along with the vocal folds. Most human vocal patterns never use the ventricular folds, with the exception of Tuvan throat singers. In addition, Mercury’s vocal cords just moved faster than other people’s. While a typical vibrato will fluctuate between 5.4 Hz and 6.9 Hz, Mercury’s was 7.04 Hz. To look at that in a more scientific way, a perfect sine wave for vibrato assumes the value of 1, which is pretty close to where famous opera singer Luciano Pavarotti sat. Mercury, on the other hand, averaged a value of 0.57, meaning he was vibrating something in his throat even Pavarotti couldn’t move.
What are the guys in Queen really like? Their longtime photographer Neal Preston talked about it in an interview.
Roger was the rock star, with the looks, the talent, the clothes.
Freddie was a bit more soft spoken off stage than you’d think, but he always had the swagger that came with being Freddie Mercury. He loved the camera.
John seemed to have eyes in the back of his head – he’d always be aware of everything going on but wouldn’t necessarily talk about it. Then all of a sudden, a zinger would come out of his mouth.
Brian, at first, seemed a bit aloof to me but I came to realize that he’s just not a boisterous guy. He’s pensive, brilliant, and he understands what it truly means to be a fan.