Interviews - Queen

Pop On The Line (BBC World Service, November 16th 1997)

POP ON THE LINE

BBC World Service, November 16th 1997


Formed in the early 1970's Queen scored a string of hits throughout the 70's and 80's including classics such as Killer Queen, Somebody To Love, Another One Bites The Dust, Radio Ga Ga and the classic Bohemian Rhapsody.

Sadly the band's lead singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991, bit the group's legacy and sound continued.

In 1995 the band released a new album 'Made In Heaven' which featured the surviving members of the band adding backing tracks to un-issued vocal performances of Freddie.

That it seemed was to be the final curtain for the band. Bit in the world of music nothing is final, and this year has seen new activity from the band. Released on November 3rd was a new compilation called 'Queen Rocks' which features the ultimate rock tracks from the band alongside one remixed song. But the most exciting part of the project is a brand new song called 'No One But You' recorded by the three remaining members.

Also released is an exciting interactive CD-Rom game called 'The Eye' which has been inspired by the music and art of the band. Alongside it's release is also a full colour book and a novel based on the game. Queen are back.

Over the last few years the band haven't been sitting around doing nothing.

Roger Taylor released a solo album in 1994 called 'Happiness?' which also saw him tour the UK and Italy. He is currently recording his next album at his studio in the country. He also found time to appear on the BBC World Service quiz show 'Monster Music Quiz'.

Brian released a solo album in 1992 called 'Back To The Light' and it will soon be followed by his second solo album. In 1996 he also provided the original music for director Steve Baron's screen version of Pinocchio.

The Show

Hello I'm Lynn Parsons and welcome to Pop On The Line, the programme that gives you a chance to talk to some of the world's most popular music artistes. In today's programme for the next hour we'll be linking your calls to my special guests Brian May and Roger Taylor, from the band Queen. Queen made their chart debut in 1973 and for the next 2 decades became one of the world's most consistently successful groups, with over 40 hit singles and a string of multi-million selling albums. However the sad news of lead singer Freddie Mercury's death, in November 1991, shocked the world, and it seemed Queen would be no more. The following year, Roger, John and Brian along with a number of fellow rock stars, paid an emotional tribute to Freddie at London's Wembley Stadium. The stadium was packed to capacity and it was televised live to over one billion people throughout the world.

Over the next few years, Brian and Roger both released solo projects, but two years ago Queen returned with the worldwide release of Made In Heaven, which featured the last work to be recorded by the band with Freddie Mercury. To Many, the album not only turned out to be their most personal, but also their finest.

This year has seen the most active 12 months of the decade for the band. In the earlier part, they reformed with Elton John for a performance at the Theatre Nationale Chaillot, in Paris, for the staging of Maurice Béjart's 'Ballet For Life'. This month has seen the release of a new album called 'Queen Rocks' which features the best of the band's more heavy tracks, and a computer game, called 'The Eye', which is an action-adventure inspired by the music of the band. Also published, is a novel based on the adventure and a full colour book featuring images from the game. But the highlight of all this activity is a brand new single from the group called 'No-One But You' which feature lead vocals from Brian and Roger and becomes the first record to be issued by Queen without Freddie or a guest singer. To talk about these projects and answer your questions, it should be Brian and Roger, but it's just Brian at the moment:

Brian: Yeah, I think Roger's stuck in traffic someplace, but here I am.

Lynn: We have lots and lots of calls coming through - Just before we start, you've come back from Spain, where you had an award?
Brian: Yes Lynn, the Premier Hondas Awards in Spain. It's the first time we've ever had a major award in Spain, so it was a very nice thing. In Barcelona, and we got the Lifetime Award for, you know, service to the industry or whatever - it was very nice, we got our medal you know.....

Lynn: A lot of the newspapers over here have been focussing on the British band, the Spice Girls. They've had a lot of problems, I know but they were at those awards and they had a few problems there, didn't they?

Brian: They were, It was the first time I've actually met any of them actually, and they seemed charming, I must say. Yes, there was a bit of a problem there.... it was.... I think they had a management decision to refuse to go on if there were any cameras in the audience. So those things are tricky you know, you either stick to your contract or you have a bit of flexibility. Unfortunately, if you don't have any flexibility, you lose friends very fast in those situations, especially when you've got a lot of TV technicians hanging around....

Lynn: So they didn't end up actually appearing, did they?

Brian: They DID appear, but there was a bad reaction from the crowd when they did, although I should say mixed reaction, which I think is probably not their fault totally you know.

Lynn: Right, This programme is about you. We've got lots of calls coming in, so let's go, to start with , Natasha in Malaysia. Natasha, you're through to Brian....

Natasha: Yes, my question is. My father followed Queen when he was young and my brother and I also listen to Queen because it's quite interesting. Do you feel that Queen still appeals to young rock fans or more to people of my fathers' generation?

Brian: Ooh! how old are you Natasha?
Natasha: I'm 16

Brian: Ah, Well I'm glad we appeal to you. I think we aim to appeal to everybody really. I think the days have gone where we thought we had to appeal to a certain age group. I think rock music now really crosses every barrier of colour, creed, race and age and sex and whatever. I would certainly like to think so. I think rock music is a state of mind, It's for those of us who like things to be human and passionate and |I think it will live forever. I really feel that way, and I don't think it matters what age you are.

Natasha: Well I would also like to know how much you really do focus on young people nowadays.

Brian: I'm very conscious of it myself. I have three kids, and I'm very conscious of what they like, and generally they have pretty good taste. I usually start off thinking 'what the hell is that they're listening to' and then I think 'mmm...ok' It's happening in a lot of cases. I can think of Coolio coming in the house and I thought 'Wow' - that is actually brilliantly made record and has something to say, and the same for lots of things, whether it's the Spice Girls or whatever - I end up listening to it and thinking 'hmmm..ok'

Lynn: Do you test it on your children, when you've got some new stuff?

Brian: Yes. I always play my stuff to my children, and they've usually got good things to say.

Lynn: Let's cross to Anna in Brazil.

Anna: Mr May. What is the real significance of the explosion on the cover of the bew CD? Does it mean a rupture with the past, a new beginning, or is it because of the explosive nature of the songs on Queen Rocks One?

Brian: Hmm, I'd say all of that really. Very perceptive of you. Yes it is kind of an explosion of the old crest that we have had for many years, which Freddie invented, I have to say. It has the astrological signs of us all on it, the two lions being Roger and John, the two little virgins being Freddie and the Crab being myself. Above it all is a nasty looking bird whose the phoenix, who's rising from the ashes. Strange that he should be in there really but he's been in there for , I guess, twenty years now. So yes the idea was 'let's explode it' because things are different now and it is an explosive album. It's all rock, it's all pretty heavy stuff, and that was the idea. I have to mention at this point, if I may, that probably we're going to have a different version of the album cover later on, which will be a sort of celebration of the fact that it's gone out incredibly quickly, so when we get to, I think it's a million copies, we're going to surprise people. (laughs) and the bird will have flown.

Lynn: Anna, does that answer your question? Do you have the new single Anna?

Brian: The 'No-One But You' single...

Lynn: Which is... there are 18 tracks on the album and No-One But You is the new one that the three of you have recorded and both you and Roger sing on it. But that's got an interesting front cover as well. That's Icarus, from Greek mythology.. Is that right?

Brian: That's right. I kind of thought tat everybody knew that story, but I should perhaps mention it, because it was part of the inspiration of the song really. It's a Greek myth in which Daedalus and Icarus, his son, are imprisoned in a castle, and the only way out is upwards, as they're in the middle of the sea. So they make wings out of feathers, birds feathers and wax, and attach them to themselves, and they fly out and escape the castle. I think it's on Crete and te legend says that Icarus was so excited and exulted, that he flew too high, too close to the sun, and his wax melted and he fell into the sea. So it's a very interesting symbolic tale that has a lot to do with the song, as you will realise when you hear it.

Lynn: And we will hear that shortly, But before we do, let's go to Mongolia, where Arianne Sowna is.

Arianne: How are you?

Brian: Very Good! I'm glad to hear from Mongolia - I was there not long ago, believe it or not, to see an eclipse of the sun. It was wonderful - what a great country. I had a fantastic time.

Arianne: Here's my question. If a magician asked you to tell him your best three wishes, what would they be?

Brian: My god, how about a difficult question, God that's difficult. I'd like to think peace for myself, I'd like to think peace for the world, and I think I would like a change in the attitude that mankind has towards the other creatures that he shares the globe with. That's what I would wish for, I think. That's off the top of my head. I'm sure there are lot's of other things.....

Lynn: Let's go from Mongolia, to Holland, where Robert is, Robert you're through to Brian.

Robert: Is it true that Queen recorded almost every live show they ever did, and if so, will Queen ever release a definitive live album in the near future, for example, all the cover tracks Queen ever played, like Imagine, for example, but also0 Queen versions?

Brian: Very interesting question, how did you know that? Well, yes it's true - we normally did have a tape machine running on the desk. Now the thing is, that records something very dry, and it was really for our own use, in other words, there's no ambience from the room and there's no audience on there, so the things tend to sound kind of sterile. And so we used it to check our own performance and to find out how we were playing together and stuff. They weren't generally held to be intended to be heard by the general public. But it's all locked away somewhere and I suppose it could be looked at. There ARE a lot of bootlegs around. I mean I have around 50 bootlegs from around the world now, and I haven't even tried I know there are hundreds of them out there. So you probably get just about every live show we ever did on bootleg albums - not that I recommend it (laughs)

Lynn: Robert thank you for your call, Lets go to the States, Joe Pace, where are you?

Joe: I'm in Ohio - Hey Brian it's great to talk to you again. I met you back a few years ago when you toured the States. I have a simple question. First of all I want to mentions that I'm one of the fans who is frequently on the internet - we're strong for you there.

Brian: Oh Brilliant, thank you guys, thank you

Joe: My question is a simple question - who played piano on No-One But You?

Brian: I did - It's a kind of nod to Freddie's style though, because Freddie did have a very individual way of playing, like nobody else and I was conscious that I was doing a little bit of Freddie on there, I think.

Joe: Well say hello to Roger for us. I hear he's late, but I never did get a chance to talk to him, but grear to talk to you again Brian, we love ya.

Brian: Thanks a lot, give my love to Ohio.

NO-ONE BUT YOU PLAYED

Lynn: No-One But You. Brian & Roger on lead vocals. The first time Queen have recorded without Freddie or a guest singer.

Brian: That's right

Lynn: Is it about Freddie?

Brian: Yes I wrote the song about Freddie. It also kind of is about a lot of other people as well...

Lynn: Here he is! Here's the boy!

Brian: Ah! Roger!

Lynn: Welcome...

Roger: I've made it...

Lynn: Just while you sit down

Brian: In from the traffic....

Lynn: Let me tell you, if you've just joined us, it's the BBC World Service. This is Pop On The Line and live in the studio, Brian May & Roger Taylor. We just played the new single, and we were asking whether it was specifically about Freddie, or perhaps everyone that disappears before they should.

Brian: Yeah, I think the song becomes a little broader in meaning in the light of things that have happened recently. You know, Princess Diana went and Gianni Versace went, and I work a lot with children with leukaemia who go before their time, It's an amazing thing. But the song really is about living your life, and it's a positive thing.

Lynn: Right - Herman is in the Netherlands. Herman you're through to Roger & Brian. What is your question?

Herman: I just wanted to know when he wrote the song. No-One But You. Before or after Freddie died?

Brian: Yes, after Freddie died, and most of it was written when we unveiled the statue to him, which stands at the end of Lake Geneva, In Switzerland. But little bits of inspiration came at other times too.

Lynn: Is there any chance of a statue being unveiled here in the UK?

Roger: Well according to the London council where we used to live, Kensington and Chelsea, by name, absolutely none whatsoever. They like putting statues of generals on horses, which I don't really like..

Lynn: Should put Freddie on a horse...

Roger: (laughs) Yes, put him on a horse and give him a nice helmet, probably get that up in Hyde Park then.

Lynn: Let's go to Australia

Brian: Once you've killed a few people, you've stood a better chance I think...

Lynn: Edwin You're through

Edwin: How are you doing?

Roger: Hi

Edwin: I was just wondering, when you guys did the tribute concerts, I was wondering if you were going to bring out and album of that?

Roger: Ah yes, Roger here. I don't think we really could because there are so many different artists on it, and it was done as a charity thing, the Mercury Phoenix Trust, it was released on video, and all the money went to those causes, but I don't think we ever thought of making an audio release. I think it may have been a little patchy in places.

Lynn: Edwin, thank you for your call. Let's go back to Holland where Hannie is, You're through toe Brian & Roger.

Hannie: Hello Roger, I have a question for you, and Brian. Are you aware of the substantial influence your music has on people, and doesn't this encourage you to make new music, and knowing so many people love your music, including me.

Brian: Yes thank you Hannie, very nice thoughts Hannie. Yes it means a lot to us, but the reaction comes back that it does something for people, yeah, wonderful. I don't think there's any greater tribute to what you do. Because I think we all go through a lot of times when we think we're crap. I think I certainly wake up many mornings and think....

Roger: Yeah, we're not very good.

Brian: You know I think 'Should I really be doing this?, have I got anything to say?' Because very often in the media in England you get a lot of negativity and stuff. So it means a lot that people like yourself some back and say 'It means a lot for us'. It's worthwhile, brilliant!!!!

Roger: Yeah, yours is precisely the reaction that makes us want to continue. Thanks.

Lynn: Thank you for your call Hannie. Daniel is in Australia, whereabouts in Australia are you Daniel?

Daniel: I'm in Sydney. Hello my question is actually. What's your general reaction to the huge amounts of Queen related web sites on the net. I mean that wasn't around in the 70's and 80's. So it must be something new for you. Do you surf the net?

Roger (laughs)

Brian: (laughs) yes I do sometimes. This is Brian. Yes I find it quite fascinating, for a while there's so much on there that you get overwhelmed after a while, and it will consume your whole life if you spent all your time reading it. Yes I sort of cruise around and see what there is. There's a sort of Brian May shrine in there which I though 'what the hell is this?' very nice of someone. But yeah, I mean it is wonderful, it is a new way of communication.

Lynn: Does anyone check it to make sure its all true?

Roger: No, no, I mean I've never surfed the net in my life! (laughs)

Lynne: But you're into computers, because you made 'The Eye'

Roger: But that's not the internet.

Lynne: Andre is in Russia

Andre: Hello, Brian & Roger, I would like to say that I love your guitar playing. Well my question is that I was once given a tape of songs, and in a booklet accompanying it, I have read that a special guitar in the form of a skull and bones was made for the particular song 'It's a Hard Life', I think Did you play this guitar in the song? and did you ever use it since then?

Brian: Well I have to be honest, it's more of a prop than anything else. You can just about play it, but it was made especially for the video. But it was made more for the looks than anything else. Yes I have played it but you won't find it on any record I'm afraid.

Andre: They wrote that it cost about 1500 pounds. It's very very expensive.

Brian: Oh, well maybe, I don't know. How are things in Russia, I'm so happy seeing people calling from all these places, and I would love to know how things are. Are you happy?

Andre: Roger and Brian, please continue, we need your music, come to Russia, come to St Petersburg

Brian: We'd love to Thank you

Lynn: On the subject of Queen videos, there were some incredible Queen videos. What happens to props and things?

Roger: I don't know, they don't seem so substantial as they look. They might look wonderful, but then you find out that it's made out of polystyrene!

Lynn: Are next call is from Rosemary

Rosemary: Roger, I would like to ask you: when you wrote I'm In Love With My Car, was it a particular car you had? or was it the first car you had?

Roger: I remember my car at the time, because I think we've got the exhaust on the record, and that was a little Alfa Romeo. But I think it was more about people in general, for instance boy racers. In particular we had a sound guy/roadie at the time called Jonathan Harris, who was in love with his car, and that inspired that. I think he had a TR4, Triumph TR4.

Brian: Which he used to sleep in!

Lynn: As opposed to sleep with! - Luber is in the States, Luber.

Luber: Hi Roger and Brian, I have a question. Were the rumours about George Michael joining Queen were true at the time?

Brian: No they weren't. I think they were started by someone in the English press I think. You know we are very good friends with George and he did a wonderful job at the tribute. But at the moment it wouldn't suit either him, or us to team up in some way. I think we have our separate ideas about our careers, That doesn't mean that we never want to work with him, I think he's fantastic, but the rumours were not true, he was never joining Queen.

Roger: No, George is a great singer, but he's getting older and were getting more childish.

Lynn: Ruth Williams is in Australia, Ruth You're through to Brian & Roger.

Ruth: I was going to ask: What was it like being in the recording studios? was it really competitive or was it always fun? Just interested.

Roger: Yeah it was both, It was a lot of fun, a lot of repetition and tedium, and sometimes very competitive. That's the best way to get things done.

Ruth: I was just gonna say it's great you're back.

Brian: Oh, thanks a lot that's wonderful. I think it's safe to say we've had the best and worst of times in the studio. Sometimes it was so intense that we all left, and sometimes it was incredible fun.

Lynn: Was it refreshing to get back for this? Cos you hadn't actually done anything together for a long time, had you?

Roger: Yeah, It was surprising really, it just suddenly happened and I was fascinated at how quickly we gelled and came back to ourselves. A bit of chemistry there. It's just like putting on an old pair of gloves or something.

Lynn Paul is in Holland. Paul you're through.

Paul: My question is about the new song 'No-One But You'. In what way was Freddie part of the writing and recording process, other than the song is about him, and others dying too young?

Brian: Well, he couldn't be a part of the writing and recording process directly, but indirectly yes. Whenever we're in there, or whenever I'm writing or playing, I would think there is an influence. I sometimes think ' Well, what would he think of this?' and very often you know what he would have said, but it can still be inspiring.

Paul: It's the same with listening to the song, you can almost hear Freddie sing the song. For me that is.

Roger: Yeah, I think we've been together for so many years in the same band, so he's like a constant mental presence because you know exactly what he almost would feel, and what he would have said, to any one given situation.

Paul: A studio band between Brian, Roger & John, what would Freddie have said about it?

Brian: I think he would have been very happy. I'd have loved to have heard him sing this. In the past of course I probably would have sung it anyway and presented it to Freddie, and he would have done his own thing with it, and it would have become something different but I think he would be happy.

Paul: Well I'm happy too. Because I think it's a great song, whilst using the name Queen. Can I ask a question about that? Aren't you afraid of criticism from people for using the name Queen without Freddie?

Roger: Well, I think if we'd been afraid of criticism then we would have given up 20 years ago!! We all have PhD's in accepting it!

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