Just A Regular Kinda Guy by Julie Webb (New Musical Express, April 1974)
JUST A REGULAR KINDA GUY
Freddie Mercury's a pretty regular guy. He uses regular Biba black nail varnish, regular black eye liner and straightens his hair with regular electric tongs. You get the idea he's bored with being told Queen are going to be big - he reckons he's a star now and wears that star-apparent attitude like a well-fitted pair of trousers.
Freddie's not bent, just camp. Ask him if he's queer and he'll turn round and say: 'I'm as gay as a daffodil, dear'. (He has the habit of saying "dear" at the end of every sentence). Drummer Roger Taylor expounds: 'Freddie's just his natural self: just a poof, really.'
Apart from Nick Kent describing their first album as a "bucket of urine", Queen have had few mentions in NME - yet even so they managed to pull second place in the Best New Group readers' poll. This week their single 'Seven Seas Of Rhye' makes its debut in the chart, just days after release. Soon, their second album 'Queen II' will doubtless follow. For Queen are big business and though you may hate them they're gonna confound you by being huge.
There's money behind them for a start. For a band who are still on the verge of making big bread they've got an amazing amount of gear and a lighting system that Bowie would be jealous of.They also have a professional set up that makes you wonder why it's taken them so long to get where they are now. Every one of them is academically bright; all possess degrees and, while no one likes a smartie-pants, being above average intelligence has helped them avoid being rooked.
'The moment we made a demo we were aware of the sharks,' says Mercury. 'We had such amazing offers from people saying "We'll make you the next T Rex", but we were very, very careful not to jump straight in. Literally, we went to about every company before we finally settled. We didn't want to be treated like an ordinary band.'
And, yet, Queen are very sensitive about being described as a hype. 'It's rubbish to say we were hyped,' Taylor claims. 'We started playing the really small gigs and then we released an album. There was no big splash of publicity or anything. Now Cockney Rebel - their publicity came before they'd done anything'.
Cambridge Corn Exchange is one of those places that's draughty but has atmosphere. And when Queen take the stage it's echoey as well.
In this establishment Queen fans look like any other fans except they wear overcoats. And before you know where you are, the place is being blacked out, the opening strains of 'Procession' (from their new album) are being played, prior to lights switching on Mercury as he gets into 'Father To Son'.
If I seem to be dwelling on Mercury and drummer Taylor it's because they hit you between the eyes as the two genuine image makers in the band.
Taylor is the pretty one with class, while Mercury is the evil-looking type with vibes. He describes himself as being "sluttish" on stage and it's true - just the way he slinks around the place spells out "street-walker, whore, tart". In fact, when he sings their encore 'Big Spender' and yells 'I don't pop my cork for everyone', you'd better believe him.
Strangely enough, Mercury, self-confessed poseur and dandy, says they don't come in for a big gay following. 'We don't get letters from gay people or anything, though I've had letters from people saying I look very evil'. True, he does look evil and if you study the lyrics on their second album with its mentions of thunder and lightning, defying the laws of nature and ogres... you begin to wonder. 'I just like people to put their own interpretation on my songs. Really, they are just fairy stories. Last night (at Sunderland) I felt really evil when I came on stage - when I'm out there I'm really in a world of my own, I go up there and have a good time. It's the audience participation that counts and last night they were really great, I felt I could have gone into the audience and had a rave. Just Freddie Mercury poncing on stage and having a good time.'
Was it a difficult transition to make, from being a support band to headlining their own British tour?
'The responsibility now lies with us. but I've always thought of us as a top group. Sounds very big-headed, I know, but that's the way it is. The opportunity of playing with mott was great but I knew darn well the moment we finished that tour as far as Britain was concerned we'd be headlining.' He poses quite a lot on stage, looking evilly at the assembled masses around the stage before standing sideways, holding his head in profile for seconds, flicking his hair back. All good stuff. And there's more to come if he gets more of his ideas through: 'I'd like to be carried on stage by six nubile slaves with palms and all.'
It had been suggested, that initially, Queen had sat down and clinically worked out what was commercially needed in the music business.
They seem ultra-touchy about being accused of jumping on the Glam Rock bandwagon ('We were called Queen three years ago - pre-Bowie') yet Mercury adamantly states: 'I don't care what they say, really. I think people have said things about us and then changed their minds after listening to the album'.