An Autumn's Tale - A Tour Of Montreux with Peter Freestone by Jim Jenkins
An Autumn's Tale - A Tour Of Montreux with Peter Freestone
by Jim Jenkins
Freddie once said “if you want to find peace come to Montreux”, he was so right! Located on the north east shore of Lake Geneva, is a sight to behold, the lake and the mountains of the Alps surround the town. For Queen fans there are added attractions to be found there. Apart from seeing the spectacular view of the cover of Made In Heaven album for real, on the edge of the lake at the towns main square, Place du Marche, is a statue of Freddie Mercury! There is also a new Queen exhibition in the local Casino too!
Annually there is a worldwide pilgrimage to Montreux for the Freddie Mercury Memorial Day event which takes place the first weekend of September, near Freddie’s birthday. This year the Montreux Tourist Board have arranged something different with Freddie’s former Personal Assistant and friend, the enigmatic Peter Freestone.
A group of fans which consisted of American, Argentineans and many Europeans, travelled to Montreux to follow in the footsteps of their hero Freddie Mercury and their guide to assist with this was Peter himself, who met them all at the statue on a glorious sunny and warm October autumnal day! He handed each individual an envelope which consisted of a welcome letter from the tourist office, a ‘Freddie moustache’ and a wristband. Peter welcomed them all to Montreux and introduced them to yours truly, as I was accompanying the tour. There was a friendly atmosphere already as people excitedly chatted to one another.
A gentle stroll along the promenade kick started Peter with stories of Freddie’s life in the town and how once Freddie did exactly what the group were doing, walking along and heading to Mountain Studios.
These studios were once owned by Queen and they recorded a number of albums there. (Roger also produced Magnum’s Vigilante album at Mountain). It isn’t an actual studio anymore but there is currently a permanent exhibition called ‘Queen The Studio Experience’. Before entering there are leaflets in many languages about the exhibition. Congratulations to Greg Brooks for all his hard work on assembling together display cabinets to exhibit Freddie’s and Brian’s stage costumes and much memorabilia including hand written lyrics all from the bands personal archives. Some photos of Freddie’s Montreux apartment were also included. It is exciting looking at the displays and plenty of reading on the walls too. There is a display of how the studio was set out including a scrabble board! There is a film room showing a documentary of the band. The highlight has to be the studio room itself, which hasn’t changed much since the days Queen recorded there! A plaque stands on the spot where Freddie recorded his last vocal for Mother Love. There is an opportunity to remix a couple of tracks. This is really thrilling working the mixing desk. The music is played loud! Brian and Roger introduce the tracks and this is quite amusing too. The experience is in aid of the Mercury Phoenix Trust and there is a donation box as entrance is free and donations are more than welcome. There is a shop on site where you can buy merchandise and also a restaurant were the menu has Queen themed food and drink titles to entice you to purchase! Be prepared to spend the day in there and more than likely you will go back for a second and third look around!
Peter took everyone round to the side door which used to be the entrance to the studio. There is much writing on the wall but the most amusing piece of graffiti was “a man without a moustache is like a woman with one!” This made everyone laugh.
Walking along the street down to Territet for a different view of Freddie’s apartment block “Les Tourelles” situated at 15 Rue de Bon-Port. Peter explained what all the rooms were and gave the ensemble more stories of life with Freddie in the town.
Next on the itinerary was a unique boat trip on the lake. You had a birds eye view of Freddie’s apartment and Peter once more told stories of living there and Freddie writing songs including his final complete song A Winter’s Tale. Enthralling. The boat took us past the statue. The boat cruised up to Clarens and to the infamous ‘Duck House’. Once more we heard stories of life in Montreux about Freddie from someone who was actually living there with him, wonderful. Before disembarkation a sing song session took place. We Are The Champions and The Great Pretender were sang gustily and with passion! There was an accompanying sax player too!
Last port of call was Montreux Palace Hotel, Peter pointed out where Queen played for the televised Montreux Pop & Rock Festivals in 1984 and 1986 before we entered what was “Harry’s Bar” for refreshments and final chats with Peter and me. Questions were asked by the attendees, taking every opportunity. One fan had written down plenty of questions to ask which resulted in an arrangement to meet Peter the following morning! There was a nice relaxed atmosphere to end this, what really was a special afternoon.
Peter has completed a couple of these events throughout the year and there are plans for more next year. Attend if you can, you won’t be sorry. Walking in the footsteps of Freddie and to see where he lived and loved is something special, really very special indeed.
Montreux is a wonderful place, tranquil and no matter how many times you go, you will always want to go back again and again! Make sure you’re there for the sunset, when the sun shines onto the statue. It’s bliss!
Thanks to Montreux Tourist Board, the fans who attended, to the incomprehensible Peter Freestone and to Freddie and Queen for making this tour so memorable.
For more on the Queen Studio Experience in Montreux go to www.queenstudioexperience.com.