Interviews - Brian May

Brian Sets His Own Style (BBC1, 1983)


Easy to forget then that guitar buffs rate him as one of Britain's all-time greats—a rock musician whose unique and powerful style of playing has spawned legions of imitators and influenced such giants of today's music scene as Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme and Slash of Guns N' Roses.

For someone as unconcerned with trends as 46-year-old Brian—after all, he's been wearing clogs for so long now that he's actually seen them come back into fashion—that's liable to give him more pleasure than any amount of critical praise.

Featured both on and off-stage in Pop Goes Summer on BBC1 on Friday, the Middlesex-born star reveals himself to be an unassuming, almost shy man, not altogether relaxed at finding himself the highest-profile member of the rock band Queen, following the death from AIDS of frontman Freddie Mercury in 1991.

'I learned a lot from Freddie,' he says. 'He had total self-motivation. He was just a self-made man. I learnt from that. I thought if you want it you go for it, and you work for it—and I have.'

When he's not working, it's easier to see in this private and serious-minded adult, the bookish younger who achieved 10 'O' levels and three 'A' levels before moving on to take a degree course in physics and mathematics at London's Imperial College.

A parallel interest in music grew stronger, eventually distracting him from his original ambition of becoming a professional astronomer.

After graduation he abandoned plans to complete a doctorate when the university band in which he played with drummer Roger Taylor, was offered a recording contract, its line-up gradually evolving into the band which would go on to notch up an astonishing two decades of worldwide hits.

And with a pop history like that behind you—plus a burgeoning career as a solo artist—who needs to worry what the style pundits say?


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