Queen Fan / Contributor: Gary Taylor Interview
The name 'Gary Taylor' has appeared on sleeve notes and thanks lists on several Queen products over the years, why is that?
I had the good fortune to first meet Greg Brooks in 2000 at the launch party for the Freddie Mercury Solo Collection release in London, and we got talking there. I offered my services as a Queen expert and said that I would love to help with anything that needed checking, or if he needed any help in general. I think the very next day he rang me to talk some more. From then on, we kept in touch for chats on the phone, and helped with gathering facts and figures and other projects he was working on at the time. This gradually changed to a co-credit on anything that I helped with, as most of what we do now is a 50/50 split in collating the info and writing about the many projects that we work on.
How did you link up with the Queen camp originally?
I suppose it goes back to when I became friends with Peter 'Feebie' Freestone in about 1996. We used to meet up when we could as he lived in London and I lived in Bournemouth, and then in 1997 I helped him open and run the 'Kintyre Hotel' in Torquay. We both moved in and over the next couple of years attended various shows and events, meeting all sorts of people, which led on to me meeting Greg. I have also known Jacky for years too, and keep in touch all the time, helping her out whenever I can. I first joined the fan club in late 1976, and started helping Jacky on the magazine around 10 years ago. At the moment I'm updating a new fan club biography/discogrpahy brochure for the fan club along with my mate Jim Jenkins. It's been a long hard slog, but we're nearly at the finishing line.
Clearly Queen have a major part in your life, can you recall the first time you heard them or thought...'This is for me!' ?
I first got into Queen in 1975 when I first saw and heard 'Bohemian Rhapsody' on Top Of The Pops'. The visual image they presented and the music they played was mind blowing, and has stayed with me all my life. Since then my interest and love for the music grew and became all absorbing, buying every single and album when it was released and going to see them live in concert whenever I could, and if funds would allow.
So what is your house like? Is there one room dedicated to Queen? What does it hold?
I have some Queen memorabilia on the walls of my house, and have all the CDs and DVDs here too, but most of my Queen collection is in a separate office I have at my parents house. I first started collecting Queen properly in 1977, so everything I bought at the time, and since, is in that large room. There is everything from 7" and 12" vinyl, CDs, cassettes, box sets, videos, DVDs, posters, magazines, framed autographs, books, programmes, trade ads, fan club magazines, sheet music, promo displays, scrapbooks, photograph albums, tickets, T shirts and loads of other promo stuff and memorabilia.
Are there any really rare items that you want to get your hands on?
Oh yes! The 'Bohemian Rhapsody' blue vinyl 7" has always eluded me, I never had the money at the time when I saw one for sale. I remember a friend of mine paid £100 for one at a record fair in the late Eighties, and thinking you must be mad to pay all that money for it. Now I wish I had bought it, as it would be pride of place in my collection now.
I also remember seeing one of the robots made to promote the 'News Of The World' album in a record shop at the time, and being afraid to ask if I could have it when they finished using it. I enquired about it when the robot disappeared from the shop, and they said it had been crushed up and thrown out with the rubbish - I was devastated. That is what happened in those days, just an item to promote an album and then discarded. The only ones you see for sale these days are quite scruffy looking and usually damaged or incomplete.
Another item I could never afford, or missed an opportunity to buy, was an original gold or platinum disc that was presented to the band for various albums, and quite a few have been on the market over the years. There are a lot of fakes and copies about, so you have to be careful when you are a collector. I suppose they are my top 3 items.
Are you constantly on call for Queen related facts and figures or are you brought in on particular projects as and when?
Yes always on call. Just ask Greg or Jacky! I also help the other guys that work for the band when requested, Richard Gray, Kris and Justin and yourself of course. Particular projects can vary and last for months before it is finished or signed off, with constant changes and corrections to be scrutinised before they go to print.
Do you have any direct contact with the band when working on projects?
Not really, I leave that to the pros! I meet up and say hello at times when the band are around, like at the 'Stormtroopers' exhibition or backstage at a 'We Will Rock You' musical appearance, but I don't like to bother them in any way, so tend to keep my distance. They are my heroes, and guys I have always admired, so I feel quite nervous and honoured at the same time when I have met them over the years.
I remember meeting Freddie face to face for the first time at the 'Radio Ga Ga' video shoot, and all I could say to him was how good he looked - how stupid was that?
You have contributed to the recent re-masters by providing sleeve notes with Greg, how do you go about compiling those?
After the long process of compiling a list of tracks that are suitable, and then when they are narrowed down and agreed by the band, the writing can start. We tend to use the basic information that we know and then work from there. When we are happy and hand it in, some of the other guys will add their comments and then it will be sent to the band to check and ammend if necessary.
The Stormtroopers In Stilettos exhibition was something quite different for Queen, how were you involved in that?
And what a blast that was, the first of it's kind. I loved every minute of it. I was first involved from it's conception, along with Greg, Jacky and Jim. We all put our thoughts together and came up with a lot of ideas to play around with. Some were used but a lot wasn't. The whole concept was put together by the new record label, who also had their own ideas of what they thought the exhibition should look like. In the end, a fabulous looking and successful event was staged in London and visited in it's two weeks of opening by over 20,000 people. I helped with the preparation of it at the venue prior to it opening and stayed on to help out on the opening weekend, staying a week in all. I met up with a lot of friends and met many new ones too. Hopefully it will go on tour around the world for all to enjoy, and for those who could not make it in February. It would be a dream come true if a similar venture could be a permanent fixture in London.
You have been working on a new version of Greg's 'Queen Live - A Concert Documentary', how is that going and when do you think we will see it?
Greg approached me about updating his book over three years ago now, and I jumped at the idea straight away. I always loved the book, but thought it could be better, so from that moment I set about adding, amending, correcting and making this edition the best yet. I still have some work to finish and then we'll have the task of collating all the photos that will be used throughout the book. I have to say here a great big thank you to everyone who has submitted photos from their own personal collections for use in the book. People have been very generous with the photos they have taken over the years, and will help make this the best it can be. There have been some truly stunning shots sent in among some average ones too, but will all hopefully be used to some extent throughout the book. There are many additions to the original text and a lot of new information has been added also. We were hoping for an end of year publication, but it's looking likely that it will now be in the new year.
Talking of Queen live - what is your own personal highlight of seeing the band live?
Probably the first time I saw them, which was at the Brighton Centre in 1979 as part of the 'Crazy Tour'. It was the first time I had ever been to a concert, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was on the floor and near to the front of the stage. The lighting rig seemed huge when looking up at the stage, like a UFO taking off, and the sound was so loud it seemed to rumble the floor and my insides. And then the band appeared on stage, Freddie seemed so tall and looked like a wax work model, immaculate in black leather jacket and trousers and matching cap and dark shades. And the smell of the smoke smelt like rotten eggs for some reason, but I soon forgot about that as the show commenced and blew me away.
Purely as a fan, what would you like to see released?
Oh my god, where do I start. The Queen catalogue deserves at least three or four separate box sets of rarities to be released over a period of a couple of years maybe. There is so much that could be included in these Anthologies, that no fan of the band would be disappointed. I would also like to see an accompanying compilation album issued in conjunction with the box sets specially made for the general public to enjoy, like the 'Deep Cuts' albums of late.
Ideally a complete collection of the promotional videos, again over three or four individual releases complete with out-takes and interviews. A 'Live Killers' box set of the original album with the missing tracks from the time re-instated, along with all the video footage from the tours in 1979 would be wonderful. A 'Best of '70s' and 'Best Of '80s' live DVD including all the stuff that wouldn't make a separate release. An anniversary 'South American Tour 1981' box set. 'Live In Japan' box set featuring footage from 1979, 1982 and 1985, though I think they deserve a separate release as individual DVDs. 'Live At The Rainbow 1974', 'Hyde Park 1976', 'Earl's Court 1977', 'Houston 1977 with the Bob Harris documentary', 'Paris 1979', 'Hammersmith 1979' , 'Rio 1985', 'Budapest 1986' and also the long awaited 'Live At Hammersmith 1975' are all worthy from a fans point of view.
I also can't wait to see a retrospective box set released by Roger, he has recorded so much great stuff over the years much of it never issued commercially. I'd also like to see a similar project collating all Brian's solo output. He too has a lot of wonderful unreleased material that begs to he heard by us fans.
A question I always ask at the end, what is your favourite Queen album and why?
Definitely 'A Night At The Opera'. Not just because it was the first album I heard from them, but the variation in musical styles and experimentation is truly breathtaking. Because I became a fan in the early days, most of my favourites stem from this era. I think 'Sheer Heart Attack', 'Queen II' and 'A Day At The Races' are next up as personal favourites, though I have to say that 'Made In Heaven' is also a stunning piece of work, considering how it was made, and stands up alongside all the rest quite easily.