I'ts A Kind Of Magic That Bring Queen Star Home (Western Morning News, March 15 1999)
ITS A KIND OF MAGIC THAT BRING QUEEN STAR HOME
WESTERN MORNING NEWS MARCH 15 1999
There's a song on Roger Taylor's latest album called "No More Fun" in which he has a bit of a whinge about the banality of modern rock music. "It ain't got much soul and its squeaky clean," he sings. The Cornishman who put the drumbeat into rock legends Queen describes it as "an old rockers song". He is 50 this year and the baby-faced blond member of the group now boasts grey hair and beard and reckons he probably qualifies as one.
"I was just having a moan about things not being the way they used to be. I mean all the stars these days have a lawyer and a laptop and the fun seems to have gone out of it," he said.
But fun or no fun, he is still very much a part of the business, with a new album and a single about to be released. He is back on the road for the first time in five years playing concerts in some lesser known venues across the country including the Gloucester Guildhall and the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton.
Why does he bother? It certainly cant be for the money, for he is also a wealthy businessman who has pledged more than 5 million of his own fortune to the Maritime Museum which will transform Falmouths waterfront. Its because at heart he is a rock and roller who loves to perform. All musicians are the same, he insists and there is still plenty of material lurking in the recesses of his mind which he will eventually feel compelled to translate into music, lyrics or both and he will need an audience.
Commercial success is not essential. "I'm not quite sure what is commercial any more anyway," he admitted. "I'm not doing it for the money but it would be nice if the record sold in large quantities - my record company would certainly be very happy. I don't expect to get rich from it, but once you are a musician you are a musician and it is what I have done all my working life."
So it is clear that the star who usually resists the advances of an intrusive press has consented to a short interview in his hectic schedule.
Roger Taylor has a particular antipathy to the media. He is still seething that photographs taken of his friend and colleague Freddie Mercury as he was dying of AIDS were splashed all over the front pages of a tabloid newspaper. He has even expressed his dislike of the papers proprietor in song. "Dear Mr. Murdoch" is a scathing attack on the man whose ethos he believes has "lowered the quality of life in this country".
Taylor was the mystery benefactor who chipped in 10,000 to the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association fighting the takeover bid by BSkyB even though he is not a supporter of the team.
""t was not just because it was Murdoch," he said. "I would object to anyone wanting to have that much power. No one organisation or person should be allowed to take control of a sport, especially football which is the national game, in the way he is doing."
He believes everyone has a right to personal privacy, no matter how famous. "I am actually quite fortunate in that I don't have to put up with some of the stuff some of the people have and I don't know how I would cope if I did," he added.
Cornwall is one of his bolt-holes, the place he comes home to, to relax and mess about in boats. Although he wasn't born in Cornwall he grew up in the country and considers himself to be roughly Cornish.
His fathers family originate from the north coast and his mother still lives in the county. He arrived from Norfolk at the age of seven and was once a choirboy in Truro cathedral - albeit a rather reluctant one.
While his angelic young voice was singing traditional church music, inside he was longing to belt out some rock and roll. His older cousin had a Dansette record player on which the young Roger got acquainted with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley and he longed to emulate them.
Did he stand in front of the mirror practising? "Not until I got my first tennis racquet".
"I always wanted to be in rock and roll, not necessarily a rock star - that sounds a bit like a Jackie Collins stereotype. But I used to listen to the music and watch the singers and think I want a bit of that." He taught himself guitar but soon moved onto drums and by 1966 was in Cornwall's most popular band, the Reaction, and with the drum kit centre stage he was the lead singer. But in 1967 he moved to London to enrol at the London Hospital Medical College to study dentistry. "It was drilled into you - no pun intended - that you had to get a proper job and make a good career," he said. "Although a year of dentistry was enough and I changed to biology I am very proud that I finished my degree."
By this time he had joined another group, Smile, led by Middlesex guitarist Brian May. Over the next few years they played sporadically and even issued a single in the States.
By 1970 there was a new line-up with John Deacon and Freddie Mercury and Smile became Queen. Roger was writing original material from the beginning and "Its A Kind Of Magic" and "Radio Ga Ga" are among his credits.
He was the first of the group to launch a solo carer and has enjoyed moderate success alone and with his own band; his gravely voice singing songs which are often mournful or make a political statement reflecting his own strong views. There are echoes of John Lennon. "Im very thrilled if that is the case," he said. "He was a great hero of mine. A major, major hero."
He is also delighted to be a part of the consortium involved in the 22 million project to revamp Falmouth waterfront.
"That place has such a natural appeal," he said. "It has one of the finest harbours - if not the finest in the country and as a harbour it ranks up there with anything anywhere in the world. I don't think enough has been made of what a wonderful asset it is.
"I don't mean that it should have massive development. It is just that it is difficult for people to access it. I think this project will be a real focal point for Falmouth and indeed for Cornwall. It really looks as if it is going to go through now although there have been so many odds against it.
"Mainly that has been the bureaucracy and all the umpteen layers of paperwork which would probably have put off a less determined person. It makes you wonder if anyone really wants this to happen. But there have been a lot of great people involved who have had to overcome so many hurdles and obstacles.
"At last Cornwall is coming into its own. We are getting a lot of great attractions like the Eden Project and there is already the Tate. Then there are all the magnificent gardens and that is before you start looking at the wonderful beaches and its own natural beauty."
But he is less sympathetic about the resurgence of Cornish nationalism. "If you want my honest opinion I think it is rubbish," he said. "I cant see any need for more borders, more bureaucracy, more officialdom. What is the point? There is enough of that around as it is and would only make life more complicated and much more difficult. If people want to speak Cornish and celebrate the Cornish heritage that is find. But I think the idea of declaring independence and putting up more borders is a regressive idea which will help nobody."
But he had to admit that to make it as a musician any budding talent would have to move away from the country and live in London just as he had done.
On Wednesday, however, there is the chance to perform at home. The third date on his tour is the Hall for Cornwall in Truro. "I'm not sure how I feel about playing there, whether or not I shall be more nervous," he said.
"But I am really looking forward to it as I have heard it is a great place for sound quality. Certainly a lot better than when I was there before."