Regal Thinking

Wayne Madden holds his head high (and isn't embarrassed) to ask whether the show must go on while he reminisces about Freddie Mercury, the ultimate mu
November 17, 2005

When it broke, the news that two of the surviving members of British Rock band Queen (Guitarist Brian May Drummer Roger Taylor) are currently performing a European Tour, with former Bad Company/Free vocalist Paul Rodgers, it did not delight me as I much as I thought that it would. I have been a music fan for as long as I can remember, and I have been a fan of Queen for even longer. Talk to my mother for five minutes and she will tell you how at age two I managed to stop playing with my coloured bricks in front of the television long enough to become hypnotised by the voice of one Freddie Mercury, only returning to my toys when he had finished.

Every summer my local project would hold a talent show for the children, encouraging them to dress up and sing. For four summers I performed three of those dressed as Mercury, complete with white and red-stripped pants and a canary yellow jacket. I left the moustache at home. But it was more then just the band's image that attracted me; it was also their sound. I was six when my Dad bought me my first proper tape. We were standing on Henry Street on a cold and bleak Sunday morning and he was mulling over some traders collections, before he stuffed his hand in his pocket and produced that £5 to buy Queen's Greatest Hits 2, with me being extremely confused as to why these two young traders felt they should play a game of hide and seek with that uniformed couple.

After all, had it not been for them illegally selling this material I would have never been able to acquire such a bizarre musical taste. But even now, Queen's music has been an inspiring beacon of light that continues to surprise me at the concerts of heroes today. In the Point last January, I was amazed to find the encore included a piano version of "We Are The Champions", frontman Billie Joe complete with electrical tape for effect!

I had stacks and stacks of Queen tapes, all different and special in every way. Some were kept in my room, but my favourites were always kept in a yellow plastic box that held 12 "important" tapes. These were the albums with which I would not part with for love nor money and each Christmas, I would relish the thought of receiving yet another Queen album, this time more exciting and original then the last one. The only other band I had paid any attention to during this time was Metallica, and it would be some years before listening to a recording live in Mexico, that I heard the band perform their version of the Queen classic 'Stone Cold Crazy'.

In no other way had any band inspired so much more of the other bands I liked, and no band would ever inspire them the same way again. The nights grew longer in my bedroom. I would spend hours making compilation tapes, trying to record my voice between as a radio DJ, introducing the song, sometimes even doing mock interviews with the band. It didn't matter what songs went on the tape, it only mattered that I could listen to them.

Order of release and development of sound meant nothing to me - it was simply the songs that I loved. My cousin copied one particular album for me, 'The Freddie Mercury Album'. I took it and brought it into my kitchen the morning after I got it, screaming out the words to the songs and waking up half the house. Promising not to make any more noise and let my father get back to sleep, he asked me to make him two slices of toast, since he was awake now.

As it happened that album went missing after a while, and since it had been a copied version I just ended up getting the real thing in the end. Many months later while driving back from the park with my father and brother, I realised that I could lift the back off the seat. Low and behold, covered in dust, my taped version of the Freddie Mercury Album and a shiny pound.
But I was too young to understand what happened when it did. November 24th 1991, Freddie Mercury died of pneumonia complicated by AIDS. As I grew up I heard that word a lot more, but each time the meaning would become more complicated until one day I stood outside my primary school and cried by eyes out. I'm not sure were she came from, but my mother appeared, and asked what was wrong. I told her, the boys in school had beaten me up because I liked a gay man. It could've been a lot worse I told myself, because I once saw a kid pull a switchblade on a teacher in that place. Not long after that, the knife was directed at me.

I visited Andorra later that year and bought a Mercury T-Shirt, a black and gold Queen design on the back while on the front, the image of his face coupled with that pose of one fist in the air. To me, that fist raised meant the inner self-belief to do what he did, and in doing that he inspired me. While I may not now own a fraction of the amount of Queen albums I did when I was younger, the bands colourful stage appearance attracted me to Glam Metal. The bands pop rock lyrics gave me an understanding of music and its meanings, their live shows gave me a love of rock bands like Guns N Roses, and that in turn led to heavier bands. Finally, the compilation tapes that I had spent hours doing as a child became the backbone to my love of radio presenting, and recently I was given the chance to co-present and produce a weekly show on Community Radio.

Then I heard the news last week that they were going to do what had been explicitly insisted would never be done. They were going to tour again, and they were going to replace Freddie. I'm not sure if I wanted this to happen, even though I would like to go and see them. To me, Freddie Mercury inspired me in a unique way, and I'm sure that he inspired others just the same. But like all the other countless Queen fans who read the newspaper on that fateful November evening when he died and listened to the words spoken by John Deacon, we assumed that "we feel there no point in continuing without Freddie" meant just that.

Personally, I feel that we live in an age where any performer can be resurrected and put on tour. Deep Purple still perform, although none of the members of the band were there when they were originally founded; some of the members of Thin Lizzy require chairlift assistance to reach the stage and Elvis went on tour last year, despite being dead for 28 years!

I feel that after the musical in London, the stage show in Paris, the re-released albums and the fact that none of the members of Queen were actually going to make big money without using the name, they've attempted a Doors style tour, a kind of Queen for the 21st Century.

Perhaps I am being a little too brash when I condemn the three remaining members of Queen for going on tour. They have seen an opportunity, and they shall seek to exploit it. As Bob Geldof once said, while speaking on Mercury's death, "that music needs to be heard, you need to get some young kid out there and just let people hear that music". Perhaps this is their way of paying tribute, by allowing the world to hear that music once more.

To me, Queen ended 14 years ago on November 24th 1991. But then again, Freddie Mercury always said that he is immortal.
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