“It’s very beat orientated. It’s just some things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think it’s a very natural album.” – Freddie Mercury (Record Mirror, Jan. 26th, 1985)
In the summer of 1981, Queen arrived at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, to continue work on what would become their Hot Space album. During this time, one song that would go unfinished was a Freddie Mercury-penned number titled "There Must Be More To Life Than This." While the group would shelve the material they recorded, Freddie would not forget about the track in the years to come.
More sessions followed throughout the year, as well as their Gluttons For Punishment Tour through Mexico and South America. Mobilevision filmed two concerts at The Forum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which they cut together for release in 1984 as We Will Rock You, and now available as Queen Rock Montreal. March of 1982 would see the album completed. After that, the band began rehearsals for the upcoming Hot Space Tour, which launched in April and saw the band visit the UK, Europe, North America and finally Japan, wrapping at the start of November. The same month, the band re-signed with EMI for five more albums, including Hot Space.
Publicly, things quieted down in the Queen camp during the winter of 1982 and into 1983, with the world tour now complete. Behind the scenes, however, new projects were brewing.
In the early months of 1983, Freddie Mercury ventured to Mountain Studios once again, this time with his sights set on a solo album. Roger Taylor also had ambitions towards a new album, his second outside of Queen, after 1981's Fun In Space. Brian May called up several of his friends, including guitarist Eddie Van Halen and Queen’s live keyboardist Fred Mandel, to jam at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, California. May and company's sessions took place April 21st and 22nd, and after receiving feedback from friends, Brian ultimately decided to polish up the recordings and release them as a mini-album in October, titled Star Fleet Project, credited to Brian May + Friends.
That spring, Freddie Mercury also found himself in California, at the home of Michael Jackson, who was a friend of the band and the person most responsible for convincing Queen to release "Another One Bites The Dust" as a single back in 1980. At Jackson's home studio, he and Freddie recorded several tracks: Jackson's song "State of Shock," Mercury's song "There Must Be More To Life Than This" and a new co-written piece called "Victory."
"There Must Be More To Life Than This" had been unfinished by Queen during the Hot Space sessions and both Freddie and Michael recorded vocal takes with Mercury on piano. "State of Shock" would later be finished by Jackson as a duet with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. "Victory" remained on the shelf.
The summer of 1983 brought one of John Deacon's rare solo outings, as he formed the group Man Friday & Jive Junior, with whom he recorded the single "Picking Up Sounds."
Come August, Queen were once again recording, now at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, for their next studio album, eventually titled The Works. These sessions would last until January of 1984. Before the year was out, producer Giorgio Moroder approached Freddie to record a song Moroder had written, called “Love Kills,” for his new soundtrack to the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis. Mercury would re-write the lyrics and involved the rest of Queen in this solo venture. This collaboration allowed for the band to use footage from the movie in their video for “Radio Ga Ga.”
“Love Kills” appeared on Moroder’s Metropolis soundtrack album and was also issued as a single for Freddie, marking the first solo release for Freddie under his name.
Emerging from Queen’s Works sessions would be Freddie’s song “Man Made Paradise,” which was left unfinished by the band. The working title noted by Mercury atop his handwritten chords was “Paradise For Man (‘or something’).”
Queen revisited “There Must Be More To Life Than These” and planned to include it as the closing track on the album. Ultimately they chose to replace the track with the new song “Is This The World We Created…?,” which Brian May and Freddie Mercury wrote and recorded in the final days of The Works sessions, now at Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany.
In January of 1984, as Mercury finished up “Love Kills” for Moroder and as the band wrapped up work on their album, Freddie turned his attention back to his solo album. He recorded a simple piece titled “God Is Heavy” while sick with a cold (he’s heard sniffling on the recording featured in his 2000 boxed set, The Solo Collection). The recording was little more than a song idea, with no real lyrics beyond the title sung over and over, but the creativity was flowing. The same month, January 23rd, Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” singles were released in the UK.
“The structure and the melody are easy for me, but the lyrics are very hard, I’m not a poet. I just like to write catchy tunes.” – Freddie Mercury (Mr. Bad Guy CBS conference, 1985)
In February, Freddie was still working at Musicland Studios. There he recorded another idea, “Money Can’t Buy Happiness.” Much more complete than “God Is Heavy,” it shows Freddie progressing towards the pop/dance sound he’d explore on later tracks recorded for the album.
“The bit of happiness I can create is with my money,” he told David Wigg in 1984, “Okay, money can’t buy happiness, it’s true. I’ve written a song called ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness,’ but here I am a hypocrite saying that depending on who you are you can get happiness out of it. When I buy people presents, I love it far more than maybe they do.”
Like “God Is Heavy” and several other recordings to come, it would remain mostly unfinished, but provides a fascinating look into Freddie’s process. By the end of the month, on February 27th, Queen released their album The Works.
“I deliberately took some time off to do this project and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it properly.” Freddie explained in an interview with Westwood One’s ‘Off The Record’ host Mary Turner in April of 1984, “A few years ago, I wanted to do it then, but I didn’t have the time to rush it. I wanted to do it in a way I feel the time is right.”
Despite The Works release and plans beginning for the supporting Queen Works! Tour, Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor had not slowed down on their own albums. In a March letter to the Fan Club magazine, Roger noted that he was planning to replace some weaker songs recorded for his solo album with new, better ones. At Musicland Studios that month, Freddie worked closely with co-producer Reinhold Mack developing new ideas.
“The last couple of weeks, what I’ve been doing is just going into the studio just totally blank, with no ideas at all, and Mack sets me all these tasks,” Freddie told Mary Turner. “He says, ‘Okay try and write something with “this” tempo,’ and he works it out on the drum machine. It’s like a project every day and I have to finish it by the end of the evening, an overall idea of what the song should be like. And it’s worked out quite well.”
Freddie began work on the song “She Blows Hot And Cold,” completing it in April. While not appearing on the finished album, the song was included as a non-album B-side. Brian May recorded the original guitar solo, which didn’t appear on the single version, but was restored for The Solo Collection boxed set in 2000. The Special Edition version on the Never Boring compilation will also feature Brian’s guitar solo.
Roger Taylor would complete work on his solo album, Strange Frontier, in the spring of 1984 and it saw Freddie Mercury contribute backing vocals to the song “Killing Time” (he’s not credited on the album, but was confirmed on Taylor’s official website in 2013).
In addition to finishing “She Blows Hot And Cold” in April, Freddie completed the song “Let’s Turn It On.” This song not only appeared on his solo album, but it would also be the lead-off track. He also began work on another no-to-be-completed idea called “Gazelle” and started recording “Living On My Own,” working on it well into May.
Speaking to David Wigg in 1985, Freddie said, “If you listen to ‘Living On My Own,’ that is very me, it’s living on my own but having fun. There’s a bit in the middle where I do my scat singing and I’m just going, ‘When you think about somebody like me, I mean my lifestyle, I have to sort of go around the world and live in hotels and that can be very lonely.’ I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh my God, how can he live on his own?’ But I mean, you can have a whole shoal of people you know looking after you, but in the end they all go away and you live in a hotel on your own. And so basically what I’ve got to say is that I’m living on my own but I’m not complaining. I’m just saying 'I’m living on my own and I’m having a boogie time.'”
By the middle of April, the planned album still did not have a title. As he told Mary Turner at the time, “I have these rough cassettes and the engineers seem to write ‘Freddie Mercury Solo’ [on them]. And over the days I’ve been looking at them and I thought, ‘That might be okay, just ‘Solo.’ Otherwise, I’ll think of something a bit more wonderful.”
He also discussed his earlier collaboration with Michael Jackson, which included “There Must Be More To Life Than This.”
“We worked on three tracks about a year about ago and we still haven’t finished them,” Freddie told Mary Turner. “He’s very busy. First I was going to be on his solo album, then I was going do something for The Jacksons’ album, but he’s in L.A. and I’m in Munich. But something might happen on my solo album. I’d like to finish these tracks.”
Around this time, Freddie suffered torn ligaments in his knee from an incident at a club in Munich, where he was reportedly kicked by another patron. The result was his right leg being placed in a cast for a number of weeks. Perhaps not coincidentally, the most fruitful period for his solo album came in May, during which he worked on many of the songs that would end up on it, such as “Your Kind Of Lover,” “I Was Born To Love You” and “Made In Heaven.”
“For the solo album, I want to do everything myself,” he goes on to say in the Mary Turner interview, “I want to make sure the things that, say, Brian did, like guitar orchestra, if I wanted that I could recreate it on synthesizers. And basically, I think I’m going to get a chance to do things on my solo album which I virtually wouldn’t want to do with Queen. [For example] a drum pattern. Roger would always do that for me on a Queen album, but on my solo album, I actually want to do it myself, program the drum machine myself. It’s a new area for me and I’m actually trying to do things I never did with Queen before.”
That ambition would reach its fullest on the track “Mr. Bad Guy,” also worked on in May, which featured a full orchestral arrangement by Rainer Pietsch, featuring the Munich Philharmonic.
“I wanted a song that had absolute full orchestration, because in terms of Queen, we’ve always wanted a song that had a genuine, proper orchestra. I thought, ‘Right, I’m going to be the first one to do it!’ It was a wonderful opportunity, so I just let the Munich Philharmonic orchestra just go wild. ”
The same month saw “My Love Is Dangerous,” whose working title was simply “Love Is Dangerous.”
“I can be a good lover,” Freddie told The Sun (July 19, 1985), “That song is something that I feel that maybe my love is. I don’t think I’m a very good partner for anybody. I think my love is dangerous, but who wants their love to be safe? Can you imagine writing a song ‘My Love Is Safe’? It would never sell.
“I like writing songs about love,” he explained to David Wigg, “there’s so much scope. And they have a lot to do with me. You want to talk about “Your Kind Of Lover,” maybe I’m trying to say I can be somebody’s lover, a good lover. That’s another aspect of me, too.
“I’m possessed by love–but isn’t everybody? Most of my songs are love ballads and things to do with sadness and torture and pain,” Freddie went on to say in the same interview. One of the songs also started in May of 1984, “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow,” would not only seem to take longer to complete, with sessions and revisions dedicated to it lasting well into January of 1985, but it also expressed the deepest sense of tragedy on the album. “In terms of love, you’re not in control and I hate that feeling. I seem to write a lot of sad songs because I’m a very tragic person. But there’s always an element of humour at the end.”
Other songs Mercury worked on in May included: “There Must Be More To Life Than This” and “Foolin’ Around.”
“I wanted a track that had a sexual element, a sexual vibe,” Freddie said of the latter track while discussing the album with David Wigg (April 1985). “Not in terms of lyrical content, but in terms of rhythmic content.”
Freddie completed the track “Foolin’ Around” by the time summer came along, so when asked to contribute a song for the forthcoming film Teachers, he offered the producers that song. Around this time, Freddie also recorded another idea for a song that would not see completion, “New York,” demonstrating that he had no shortage of inspiration, even well into the album’s sessions.
“There Must Be More To Life Than This” had previously been passed up by Queen for both their Hot Space and The Works albums and had been explored by Freddie with Michael Jackson the year before. Now it would, at last, find a home on Freddie’s solo album.
“Basically it’s just a song about people. People who are lonely,” as he explained to The Sun, “It’s basically another love song, but it’s hard to call it that because it’s all to do with the fighting, and basically it’s a love and peace song. I really don’t like to write message songs, but this is the way this one just came out. It’s all to do with ‘why do people get themselves with so many problems?’ It’s basically that, but I don’t want to dwell on that too much. It’s just one of those songs that I had for a while. Michael happened to hear it and he liked it and if it worked out we would have done it together, but now it’s ‘85, it’s my solo project and I wanted it on there, so I did it without his help. He’s going to cry.”
June saw Roger Taylor release his solo album Strange Frontier, while Freddie continued working in Musicland Studios. Queen returned to the studio in July to record the non-album single “Thank God It’s Christmas” in time for the holiday season. The same month, Freddie got the cast off his injured leg not long before the band shot their video for “It’s A Hard Life.”
“I’m hoping my knee will be ready in time for the tour, but it’s still giving me a lot of trouble,” Freddie remarked to Record Mirror’s Robin Smith that summer. “It might mean I will have to cut down on some of my more elaborate gorgeous stage moves.”
August, the band began rehearsals for the Queen Works! Tour. Freddie put his solo album on hold until the autumn, resuming work in November. On September 22nd, Queen were playing in Hannover, Germany, and near the end the concert, following “Hammer To Fall,” Freddie aggravated his knee again on stage and had to finish the show seated at his piano.
The soundtrack album for Teachers hit shelves on September 28th, featuring a slightly different version of “Foolin’ Around” than would appear on Freddie’s album, which wouldn’t come out until the following year. After “Love Kills” was released (September 10th), “Foolin’ Around” on the Teachers soundtrack LP became the second credited Freddie Mercury solo release. It gave fans a sampling of what his album would be like.
The movie landed in North American theatres on October 5th and several songs from the soundtrack supported it as singles. “Foolin’ Around” was slated to be a single, as well, but the idea was shelved, even though an Extended Version and an Instrumental mix were both created.
For the Winter 1984 edition of the Fan Club magazine, Freddie wrote that he was considering the title Made In Heaven for his solo album, an idea he would later drop in favour of Mr. Bad Guy.
In December, Freddie put down a nearly completed track titled “Love Makin’ Love,” which would progress no further than during the Mr. Bad Guy sessions.
Following Queen’s performances at Rock In Rio in January of 1985, Freddie discussed his solo options and told Robin Smith of Record Mirror, “I won’t be touring on my own though or splitting up with Queen. Without the others, I would be nothing.”
That month, Freddie continued work at Musicland Studios, ultimately completing his album in March. Over the course of the year, he had revisited and finished “Man Made Paradise” (previously unfinished by Queen from their Works sessions), had made a minor edit to “Foolin’ Around” before including it on the album, and had rescued one of his own earlier unfinished songs, “I Was Born To Love You.” In the April 1985 David Wigg interview, Freddie discussed how the song made it back onto the album.
“That was one song that was going to be left out. Suddenly my co-producer [Mack] brought it out again and said it could be good for the album. I kind of re-wrote it and touched it up. The people who worked for CBS seemed to like it and it was a collective decision to have that as the first single,” though Freddie assured Wigg that the final decision was always his, adding, “In the end, it’s my choice. If everybody else wanted it as the single and I didn’t, it wouldn’t go out.”
The single’s non-album B-side would be the track “Stop All The Fighting,” a song that called for an end to global conflicts and the creation of a peaceful world, much like the sentiments expressed in “There Must Be More To Life Than This,” though in a more uptempo, dance number.
Freddie’s “I Was Born To Love You” single, backed with “Stop All The Fighting,” was released April 8th, 1985, heralding the forthcoming Mr. Bad Guy album. Before it reached record shops around the world, Queen were back on the road, so to speak, on the Pacific leg of the Queen Works! Tour, hitting New Zealand, Australia and Japan. It was the day of their last show in Sydney, April 29th, that Mr. Bad Guy was released. Tracklisting as follows:
“Let’s Turn It On”
“Made In Heaven”
“I Was Born To Love You”
“Your Kind Of Lover”
“Mr. Bad Guy”
“Man Made Paradise”
“There Must Be More To Life Than This”
“Living On My Own”
“My Love Is Dangerous”
“Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow”
“I’ve put my heart and soul into this album,” Freddie said in an article titled Rock On Freddie (April 1985), “it’s much more beat orientated than Queen’s music and it also has some very moving ballads.”
The album spawned several more singles released in 1985, “Made In Heaven,” “Living On My Own” and “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow.”
July 13th would see Queen’s legendary performance at Live Aid and they would return to the studio in September to record “One Vision.” After that came the band’s work on the Highlander film soundtrack, which led to their next album, A Kind Of Magic. Before all of that, though, Freddie would reflect on Mr. Bad Guy to David Wigg, “I was pleased with it. The way this album has turned out it’s just a whole spectrum of what my life is, to be honest. But I was not ‘made in heaven,’ haha!’”
Mr. Bad Guy - Special Edition is released on CD, Vinyl and Digital on October 11th and can be pre-ordered here.
Patrick Lemieux is a Canadian artist and writer. He is co-author (with Adam Unger) of the book The Queen Chronology, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Lulu.com.