Roger Taylor & Brian May Interview - Part 3
When was the moment you realised you had the world at your feet?
RT: I guess when Bohemian Rhapsody was a big hit around the World, that felt very good. It did get a lot bigger after that you know, we had a great few years in America in about 1980, that was our peak there, but then we went to South America and then that was incredible.
You became huge in the United States…. You’d signed to Capitol Records…but around the time of ‘The Works’ your career there went into decline…do you have a view on what happened there?
BM: That’s a very long story really, because really America is a place where we grew up. We sort of owned America at one point, when we had ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘We Are The Champions’. They were bigger hits there than they were here, and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ was an enormous hit, and I think there was a moment where we were not only the biggest group in America, but probably the biggest in the world. A lot of people have that moment, but we had that moment at a certain time. But to cut a very long story short we diverged, and I think 3 things contributed to us losing America. One of them was the video for ‘I Want To Break Free’, which was regarded as something completely impossible and something that rock stars do not do, dress up in Women’s clothes. Over here people got the joke, because we were spoofing Coronation Street, they didn’t get that in America. I remember being out on promotion and people being so shocked. I remember presenters going white and not wanting to be a part of that, how could rock stars do this?
So that was one thing, second thing was we unwittingly got involved in all sorts of scandalous stuff which was going on between record companies and radio stations. This whole thing of independent promotion came to head, and the record companies were investigated by a government department to see, basically we’re talking about bribery, and our record company that we just signed to Capitol Records, made a big stand against the whole system and refused to pay for any promoting and therefore nothing got promoted. They got a huge backlash from these people that thought they ruled the world, you know the gangsters. And so I remember the moment, ‘Radio Ga Ga’ which was rising, I think it went from about 60 to 30 in the Billboard charts, and the next week it disappeared. You know, nobody would play any Queen records, because of this whole thing going on.
The third thing that happened, in my opinion, is down to one man. We had this guy who looked after Freddie, who was called Paul Prenter, and he got a little too big for his boots I think. The reflected glory of Freddie gave him a lot of power and we’d worked very hard over the years to have a very good relationship with all of the media in the States, and Roger and I worked our asses over every time we played, we would go and do every radio station in town because we cared and we wanted to make that contact with the people. This guy in the course of one tour told every radio station to fuck off, but not just fuck off, but ‘Freddie says fuck off, Freddie says he doesn’t care about you’ and so we sort of lost our relationship with the media at a stroke. It was a very sad thing and suddenly the rest of the world was calling us. Suddenly we all went out and did stadiums, like you say, in South America, In Europe, In Australia, in Japan, but America was not calling us and so you tend to go where you are called and I remember Freddie saying ‘I’ll probably have to fucking die before America wants us’.
Did America have a problem with Freddie’s sexuality?
BM: Well you know the word ‘G-A-Y’ was really very dodgy for a long time in the States and in some ways it still is. You look at these people that are trying to go back to the original constitution, the tea party. It’s all highly retro, but it’s all very retrogressive thinking, that element will always probably be alive in America.
You decided to carry on after Freddie’s death…did you discuss this for a long time before making up your minds?
BM: Our first thought was no, it’s finished.
RT: We didn’t really know what to do when he died and we thought maybe lets end everything.
What comes next for you guys…have Island Records asked you to do any events to celebrate your 40th anniversary?
RT: It’s nice to be with a fresh set of people actually, they’re very proactive, Island so far they have been fantastic. They’re talking about a TV thing that is going to be on the internet, where we have a lot of really great singers as guests. It will be more of a sort of intimate show in a way, with a little mixing of videos and stuff in there as well. So we are thinking of doing that. Brian and I sort of decide to do things suddenly, out of the blue we decide to do something, like the tours with Paul Rodgers, like “Come on we’ll do it” and they happened in a snap, so then you have to plan ahead a bit, but I’d like to think we would do something live.
BM: There’s a whole grieving process that goes on, I was worse than that, I didn’t want to talk about Queen, I didn’t want to be Queen. I went out and did my own tours and if people asked me about Queen I resisted talking because I thought “no it’s over” and I wanted my life back and I regarded Queen as this big shadow which I couldn’t get away from. But of course that’s part of your grieving process, it’s an overreaction and I realise that now and after a while you come back to the realisation that Queen is actually ours, it’s not anything outside we created it, it’s part of us, it’s an extension of us and you can never go “It’s finished” because it never can be over, it’s going to always be with you because it’s your creation.
RT: Somehow though it seemed to have a life of its own, 4 to 5 years later we completed the ‘Made In Heaven’ album, which we didn’t know if we were going to do that at first, but we did it and we were very happy with the way it sounded, but we still weren’t planning ahead, and then along came ‘We Will Rock You’, the musical here. And all these things seemed to build up and the radio kept playing the music, and all these things added up to keep the band alive in people’s minds, which was fantastic
BM: People want to hear Queen songs and they want some sort of representation on stage, they want to keep living this and so we think “Ah what do we do?” so I think gradually Roger and I came round to thinking we could do something in the way of being Queen. I have to say I’m still being very resistant, you know the subject came up, ‘this is the 40th year of Queen, why don’t you tour? Why don’t you get someone to sing?’ I don’t feel like it, I don’t feel like I want someone there being Freddie. We did go out with Paul Rodgers, which I think was a great success in many ways. But it was really successful in many ways because he wasn’t Freddie and he wasn’t trying to be Freddie. He came with all his material, all his legend, all his catalogue. And yes it was a nice equal partnership in a sense. But it would be very hard to do that again, and I don’t think I want to do it again. I’m happy doing the things that we are able to do with Queen. One of the things is the musical, it’s great that we can have the We Will Rock You musical. It’s like we’re Uncles or Fathers to this musical and this is a great way of communicating Queen music and keeping it very much alive, it’s not fossilised, it’s young people and musicians.
As I sit here talking to you and Brian, I have to ask why John Deacon doesn’t get involved in Queen projects?
RT: John lives very quietly, and he decided years ago, he’s very nervous and very fragile and he doesn’t really want to deal with a lot of people anymore and I think he found the stress of this business, especially after Freddie died, I think was too much. He would prefer a quiet life I think, but he’s still our partner, you know, he still gets paid. But we really don’t see him very much, he’s very quiet and that’s just the way he likes it I think.
How is it that you can still carry this on…almost 20 years without a front man?
BM: Queen somehow has a momentum of its own and there is a kind of very strong spiritual force in there somewhere and Roger and I both fight it sometimes. Sometimes we regard it as a big shadow over the top of us that stops us being anything else. But I think there is also an appreciation that we created this and we love it and we’re proud of it so we continue in any way we can, to be part of this thing we created.
Someone arrives from another planet…he’s never heard of you…how would you explain Queen to them?
BM: I can’t explain it to myself, we’ve been involved in re-mastering a lot of these things and rescuing the old tapes, it’s fascinating and the new re-masters are beautiful, they will be clearer and more perfect than ever before. That makes me very happy, but listening to The Millionaire Waltz, I can’t even comprehend how we did that now; it’s so incredibly complex, so incredibly polished. I marvel, we were only really kids, but we managed to pull this stuff off by sheer willpower and it’s amazing to me, I feel very proud of what we achieved together.
Are you proud of the fact that so many bands, so many artists, cite you as an influence?
RT: Oh absolutely. We have influences, everybody has influences. Everybody has grown up being excited by somebody and that becomes one of your influences.
BM: Very proud, very happy. It means a lot, I think that means more than almost anything, if young people who are in a sense our peers, the new peers, speak well of us and recount the fact that we influenced their growth, that’s a great feeling for me, it’s very nice to have the approval of people who are doing what we did, grafting their way, carving their own place in history.
And Brian, finally, what has being in Queen meant to you?
BM: I’m proud of what we did and of what we are, whatever that is now; I don’t even know what that is.
RT: Well it’s what I do, it’s the central thing in my life and everything else revolves around it.
BM: The dream that came true.