Another World Waiting: Part 2
Click here to read Part 1.
By Patrick Lemieux
In early-1997, Brian answered yet another call for a film project called The Guv’nor, “a film about a bare-knuckle boxer. A true story. An English guy. Rather an unsavoury character, actually. A very scary kind of guy, who basically rose from the gutter because of his ability with his fists. The film didn't get made because they ran out of money. But I had this song. And I started thinking this would apply to Jeff. Because Jeff, in our world, is the guy on the block who's scary. He's someone you don't mess with. You don't even try to play his stuff. He is the Guv'nor: the standard by which you judge yourself. I think a lot of us view him that way. And there came a moment when I plucked up enough courage to ring him up and say, 'What do you think, Jeff? Do you fancy being the Guv'nor?' I explained the idea to him, played him the track, and he loved it. He thought it would be a good laugh.
"So he came down and played. He did fantastic things right off, and instinctively went for it. And I loved it. But he said, 'Brian, it's okay; but I don't think it's quite right. I don't think I've quite collared it yet. Let me take it away and listened to it for a while and I'll do you some better stuff.'” Brian May to Guitar World Magazine (1998). Beck took the recording with him to work on in private.
In February of 1997, Brian was dealt another personal tragedy, the death of his mother, Ruth. He wrote to the fans of his loss via the Fan Club magazine and continued to work and do the things that brought him joy.
“If there's a total eclipse of the sun, I go. I always try and go. It's awesome, beyond belief. It's nothing like a partial eclipse that we saw when we were kids with smoke glass, it's nothing like that at all. When the moment of totality arrives you're in a different place. The sky suddenly goes dark and you see stars and planets. You can look towards the sun, the mother of solar system, and see her little family planets around it. You suddenly get that feeling in your stomach like you're standing on a rock and you could fall off almost. It's incredible. It's truly brilliant.” Brian May to The Ticket NBC (1998).
“Now I'm only addicted to astronomy. Some years ago I even travelled to Mongolia to see a total eclipse of the sun,” Brian told Musikexpress in 1998. The eclipse he spoke of was in March of 1997 and he spoke more of the event to Clyde 1 Radio (1998), “there was a certain genre of writing rock songs about some girl on some glamorous road, in, you know, Chicago, or whatever, and it all sounds very good, wherever it is, you know? And it just never happens in Beijing! And I thought it was time that it did. And I was actually there for a while. I went there. Actually, I went to Mongolia to see an eclipse of the sun, it's a kind of silly thing I do, and we ended up in Beijing, touring around there. And I kind of got the giggles really, and started writing all these words down. And there were some very beautiful ladies there, you know, and I thought, ‘what a shame, nobody ever writes about these girls.’ Time they did!” The song was “China Belle.”
Brian returned and again set upon work on his Heroes album. Roger Taylor called him up, having finally listened to Brian’s demo of “No-One But You.” “He loved it and said we had to do it,” May told Guitarist magazine in 1998, and expanded on the history of the track with Total Guitar Magazine the same year, “Roger loved it and thought we should do it as Queen. I knew that the lyric was very much about Freddie, but Roger wanted to make it more general, change the tempo - so I lost a song, and Queen gained one!”
Losing the song for his solo was a complication Brian had not anticipated for his Heroes album idea. “Suddenly I didn't have my important track which was about Freddie as a hero. So then I ditched the whole concept. Then I starting thinking that I have to zero in and I have to work on my own stuff and focus on my own journey. I think that's how music really has some value: when you start exposing your feelings in an honest way. That's what I did.” Brian to Undercover.net (1998)
Queen, as Brian, Roger and John, recorded “No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)” in the summer and it was decided to put it on the forthcoming collection of heavy tracks by the band, Queen Rocks. Brian would write to the fans, again via the Fan Club magazine, that summer and told them that his new solo album was delayed due to personal reasons
Brian began looking at his work, his collaborations and other projects, trying to find a new direction. In doing so, he realized he had not heard from his friend Peter Howitt in some time, about the song he’d written for the film Sliding Doors. Howitt’s answer was, “‘Oh, sorry Brian, you know, politics, you know, I got involved with a record company who is financing the film and we can't use your song.’” Brian goes on to explain to Clyde 1 Radio, “So I was upset for a couple of days, but then I thought, ‘Well, I have the song’ and I started to weave into it the thoughts which go with my own life and my own feelings.”
“At first, I thought it was the end of the world. Then I realised that I had all this other stuff lying around on the studio shelves, exposing more of myself. Why not use it?” Brian May to The Sunday Mail (1998)
With a new direction, employing the “other worldly” work he’d done with others on their film, TV and video game projects, Brian set about completing the new vision for his solo album, Another World.
1998 saw the album nearing completion. Brian remixed “The Business,” “On My Way Up,” “One Rainy Wish,” and “Cyborg” for their inclusion. And he had been recording as well, putting down songs such as “China Belle” and “Wilderness.” One piece that emerged was called “Space.” “While I was recording this album, I was fighting on several battles at one time. I was looking for the possible directions I could orientate my life to, and this idea comes from a friend, who offers a previously unreleased kind of therapy. These are little tricks that work with the mind but nothing to do with a classical therapy, with which you have to go through your past again, back to childhood. It's an exceptional work on the brain’s little mental blocks. You just go backward a little and you try to spot the triggers that don't work. I was not going well at all, and he taught me how to create this space around me. For instance, if a pain related to your past obsesses you, you learn to "setup" this space between you and the past. It lets you be a bit stiller, to suffer less for the next five minutes, hours and sometimes days that follow. It also works physically.” Brian May to Best Magazine (1998)
Of “Why Don’t We Try Again,” Brian told Radio 3 Poland, “that is something quite personal for me from a few years ago, and I didn’t feel it was right for a Queen album so I saved it. And there was a moment towards which I thought ‘Yes, this is good for this time’”.
Curious about the fate of one track, Brian phoned up Jeff Beck for an update, a year or so after Beck had borrowed “The Guv’nor” with the intention of recording better guitar parts for Brian. “I phoned him up and said ‘Jeff? How you feel about that thing? Did you get round to going it?’ He said, ‘Ah, no. But it's in my mind. The right moment is gonna come.’ And sure enough, about two days before we had to deliver this album to EMI, I got the tapes back, which had all kinds of brilliant stuff on them.”
Brian finished his solo album in March of 1998 and began preparations to tour for it. In the liners notes, he wrote:
“This album is the outpouring of a confused brain still trying to make sense of EVERYTHING, and amidst vast areas of despair, finding a few flashes of light.
These are what I would like to share with you. Just one warning – in Another World, things are never QUITE what they seem...”
On April 5, another tragedy struck. Cozy Powell, Brian’s friend and drummer for The Brian May Band, was killed in a car accident near Bristol in England.
“I was in Africa, strangely enough. I took my kids away on safari cos I'd just finished the album, and I'd just talked to Cozy actually, and we both went ‘Woah, it's going to be great to get out there again, you know after all this time, finally we can get out there and tour’ and erm, and then this happened,” Brian told Clyde 1 Radio, “Somehow the car went out of control There's a rumour that it got stuck in one of the gears and it was a bad night, a slippery, rainy night as I understand.”
"Cozy would come around very often when I was making this record, and just give me a spark and take things to a higher level. It's unbelievable that he's not around anymore. I'm thankful that we finished the album, and that he heard it and loved it. He left me a message saying he thought it was even more brilliant than he'd imagined, and that he couldn't wait to take it out on the road.” Guitar World (1998)
Returning to Surrey, Brian recorded a farewell message to Cozy and told Q Magazine, “I'm remixing a track on my new album as a tribute to him and I expect that somebody somewhere will complain that I'm trading off his memory, but I don't think there's been enough noise about his passing. Cozy was unique.” The track was a remix of “The Business,” with added percussion to create the “Rock On Cozy Mix,” for the album’s lead-off single to be released in May.
On June 1st, 1998, Brian May released his new solo album, Another World. It was the culmination of the previous six years of his work, containing new songs, collaborations for TV, film, a video game, tribute albums and some of his own covers of the songs of his heroes. And it also contained a hidden piece, appearing at the end of “Another World,” not a separate track, so the listener would have to leave the album on in order to hear it.
“When I was a teenager, when I bought records, I was always looking for something magical, hidden. [Queen’s] ‘Track 13’ is a bit in the same spirit, I think one can detect the presence of Freddie there. On my album, the end of ‘Another World’ is rather an echo to the first ‘real’ song, ‘Business.’ I wrote it late at night, I had switched off from reality and besides, in the end, you can hear the phone ring and abruptly bring me back down on earth,” Brian told Best Magazine (1998). He told BBC Radio 2, “That's right - you can hear the phone ring as well. It's a genuine little peep into me in the studio late at night. I remember what it's called – it’s called ‘Being On My Own’.”
The album’s track listing was as follows:
“Why Don’t We Try Again”
“On My Way Up”
“One Rainy Wish”
“All The Way From Memphis”
Hidden Track: “Being On My Own”
Not wanting the cover songs he’d recorded, but not used on the album, to go to waste, Brian included some them as non-album B-sides to the Another World singles in the UK. In the US, a mail-away offer allowed buyers of the album to received a limited edition copy of ‘Twit E. Conway’s Retro Rock Special E.P. which contained the four used cover songs: “Hot Patootie,” “Maybe Baby,” “F.B.I.” and “Only Make Believe.”
Brian would reform his solo band, minus Cozy Powell, sadly, and without Cathy Porter and Shelley Preston, who were pursuing their careers in other directions. The final form for the band was Brian, Jamie Moses, Spike Edney, Neil Murray, Eric Singer, Zoe Nicholas and Susie Webb. They toured until November that year, finishing in Australia.
Like Back To The Light before it, Another World is very much the direct result of the life lived by the man who created it. Each song has a story; some described here, some left to the imagination. Not merely a collection of songs recorded over years, the album is the result of a journey that brought its creator not to the place he hoped he might reach, but to places he never expected to find himself, because he opened himself up to what was around him in a new way and let that drive his creativity.
As Brian told the Sydney Sun Herald, “I've consciously gone out and got into the world…Life is full of opportunities like that, so I was determined I was going to see them rather than just sit in the studio and be a dull boy.”
(Thanks to QueenArchives.com and Catherine Porter)
Patrick Lemieux is a Canadian artist and writer. He is co-author, with Adam Unger, of the book The Queen Chronology: The Recording & Release History Of The Band, available now on Amazon worldwide: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca. The Print Edition of the book will be released on Sept. 17th, 2013, and can be pre-ordered here.