Approved By Queen (Edinburgh Evening News, March 18 1999)Edinburgh
APPROVED BY THE QUEEN - BY STEVE HENDRY
Edinburgh Evening News March 18 1999
Roger Taylor isn't used to seeing the whites of the audiences eyes.
As the drummer with Queen, undoubtedly one of the biggest bands in the world, Taylor could barely make out anybody from among the tens of thousands who filled stadiums to see them play.
If he was having an off-night, it was unlikely anyone would notice amid the roars of a crowd, often literally, going ga ga.
And if things went really wrong, he had the security of sitting behind one of the great showmen in the shape of the strutting, moustachioed, Freddie Mercury.
When the blond-haired Taylor arrives in Edinburgh next Wednesday to play the Liquid Room in Victoria Street, it will be all his own cross to bear.
If the 600-capacity venue is empty, it will be down to him. If he misses a beat on the drums, it wont go unnoticed. And when he steps up to the microphone to sing, there will be no hiding place. He doesn't need the money or the aggravation and he has only played live twice - once on the Internet - over the last five years. Tense? Nervous? The laid back Taylor isn't even breaking sweat.
"Its what I do, isn't it," he says in a slow, gravely voice. "This sort of gig is right up my street to be honest. I wouldn't feel comfortable going out in massive arenas anymore. There are two reasons. One is I couldn't fill them on my own, and two, I'm not sure I would want to.
"This is just going to be really good fun. Its not a massive event. Its not massive stress. I think - and hope - it will just be a really good rock and roll show. This is what I feel is right.
"I'm not single-mindedly focused on cracking the world. I really do it now for pure enjoyment."
Taylor is ostensibly on the road to promote his solo album, Electric Fire, and the single Surrender!, which is due for release on Monday. But getting back on a stage and playing to a live audience at the turn of the year meant he rediscovered his desire to put his talents back up for show to the public.
"I've been working with a sort of pool of musicians for the album and these are like the best guys from it," he says. "We did a show in London before Christmas and an Internet show and the band was so good together it seemed a shame not to go on tour. There are no weak links, if you know what I mean. Everybody is on top of their form which makes it a lot easier for me.
"I haven't toured for five years and I haven't been to Edinburgh since God knows when, but that's all the more reason to come up."
Despite being a drummer, one of the most derided of all musicians, and working with a front man of the magnitude of the late Freddie - as well as guitarist Brian May and bass player John Deacon - Taylor was never one to accept the old joke that his skills belonged to someone who hung around with musicians.
He flexed his muscles by writing songs which included the monster hits Radio Ga Ga, These Are The Days Of Our Lives and A King Of Magic.
"We were four, very strong-headed personalities," he says, smiling at the memory.
"But I suppose we were a very democratic band, even to the extent that we split all our writing and publishing equally, which is a very unusual thing. But then we were all contributing equally.
"That is quite a rare and wise thing to do - it gets rid of arguments, you judge things on merit and it puts a stop to a lot of the crap you don't need, like who is getting more money for the single, that sort of thing, you know."
He pauses before suddenly asking, "What was I talking about? I've lost track" then continues laughing, realising what he's just said. "Drummers who lose track Ha, ha. well that's typical isn't it!"
Queen remains a potent force in Taylor's life as does the memory of Mercury who died in 1991. "I miss Fred every day and I always will," he says. "He was just part of my mental wallpaper. He was just great to be around and was very generous, kind, witty and funny. He was as colourful off stage in some ways, but he was also very shy - much more than anybody imagined.
"He was a product of his imagination on stage, his own invention. He had a very strong mind and although he was shy he could turn it on when he needed to."
Taylor keeps in touch with both May and Deacon and, along with their manager, the Switzerland based Jim Beach, keeps a watching brief on Queen - the brand name.
"The Queen thing really almost runs itself," he says. "Its incredible the way the catalogue is still popular and we just try and keep an eye on the ball. We talk through things with Jim and take decisions, but the odd thing slips by like the occasional Queen barbecue apron slip! "We keep in touch with each other. It would be pretty stupid not to. We haven't played for a while, but I wouldn't rule out playing again together in the future. I don't know. I think if we could think of an intelligent and vaguely meaningful way of doing it it could be great - but it could be awful.
"I'm very proud of Queen. That doesn't mean I think everything we did was good because it wasn't. I think we made some fine records, some not so fine and broke all boundaries of taste - but a lot of the time we had our tongues in our cheek.
"Certain things stand out like playing Madison Square Garden, playing to two thirds of a million people in Rio, but Live Aid is probably the highlight, if you like. I thought it was a fine day for the music industry, it actually did something and we were right at the centre of the whirlwind."
Born in East Anglia and brought up in Cornwall, Taylor first started playing drums when he was 12 to earn extra pocket money.
He has earned enough from his career since to indulge in pursuits like skiing, boating and living in the country.
Its a good life and he knows it. But he retains a keen interest in music, citing Radiohead and Fatboy Slim among his current listening, and he has developed something of a philanthropists social conscience.
In September last year he funded Manchester United fans to the tune of 10,000 in their battle against Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB bid to takeover the club. "All I did was fund the original unofficial supporters club meeting which did, actually, set the ball rolling," he says, modestly.
"The bid has since been delayed and has been referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. I think we should be hearing quite soon what the outcome is, but I imagine they will just rubber stamp it, frankly.
"I just object to Rupert Murdoch and organisations like his who are taking over sport in this country and controlling it and making people pay to watch it. And at the same time you're paying to watch the commercials that people are paying him to air. He's making it everywhere and its really on the way to controlling sport and I just see it as a very bad thing." It was a generous gesture at the best of times - and when Taylor reveals that he is not even a fan of the club it only underlines that this is one drummer who plays to a different tune.