Sunday, January 13, 2019

Bytes Bits: Freddie Mercury and Queen

Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Stone Town in the British protectorate of Zanzibar on 5 September 1946.His parents, Bomi (1908–2003) and Jer (1922–2016) Bulsara,were Parsis from the Gujarat region of the then-province of the Bombay Presidency in British India.

Freddie Mercury baby photo. 

In the film Bohemian Rhapsody, Mercury explains to his future bandmates that he was born with four extra incisors, giving him a bigger mouth by forcing his top teeth forward. Beyond giving him a pronounced overbite, he tells them that the added teeth endowed him with enhanced vocal range. He was self conscious about his teeth but did not have them rectified because he was afraid it would change his vocal style and sound. His teeth went on to become a clear part of his identity and look. 

Mercury spent most of his childhood in India and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury was sent to study at St. Peter's School, a British-style boarding school for boys, in Panchgani near Bombay. At the age of 12, he formed a school band, the Hectics, and covered rock and roll artists such as Cliff Richard and Little Richard. It was also at St. Peter's where he began to call himself "Freddie", which was accepted by the teachers and his parents. 

It was at St. Peter's where questions over Mercury's sexuality began to form. According to schoolmistress Janet Smith, quoted in Lesley-Ann Jones' Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury: 
“[He was] an extremely thin, intense boy, who had this habit of calling one 'darling,' which I must say seemed a little fey. It simply wasn't something boys did in those days. It was accepted that Freddie was homosexual when he was here. Normally it would have been ‘Oh, God, you know, it's just ghastly.' But with Freddie somehow it wasn't. It was OK." 

In 1964, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar to escape the revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed. They moved into a small house in Middlesex, England. Mercury went on to study graphic art and design at Ealing Art College, graduating with a diploma in 1969. He later used these skills to design heraldic arms for his band Queen. 

Freddie Mercury, Ealing Art College, 1989 

Following graduation, Mercury joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in Kensington Market in London with girlfriend Mary Austin. He also held a job as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport. In 1969 he joined the Liverpool-based band Ibex, later renamed Wreckage. When this band failed to take off, he joined another called Sour Milk Sea, but by early 1970 this group had broken up as well. 

In April 1970, Mercury teamed up with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, to become lead singer of their band Smile. They were joined by bassist John Deacon in 1971. 

Except for Freddie Mercury, each Queen band member has a post graduate degree. 

It was around the time that he joined the band that was to become Queen that he changed his last name to Mercury. According to band member Brian May in the 2000 documentary, Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story: 
"I think changing his name was part of him assuming this different skin. I think it helped him to be this person that he wanted to be. The Bulsara person was still there, but for the public he was going to be this different character, this god." 

Despite the reservations of the other members and Trident Studios, the band's initial management, Mercury chose the name "Queen" for the new band to replace Smile. Mercury later said, "It's very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It's a strong name, very universal and immediate. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it." 

The Queen crest and logo, designed by Mercury.shortly before the release of their first album, entitled “Queen”. 

Each band member is represented by their zodiac sign symbols, which surround the letter “Q”: 
2 lions for Leo (Deacon and Taylor) 
a crab for cancer (May) 
2 fairies for Virgo (Mercury) 

The "Q" and the crown represent the band name with a phoenix rising above it all. 

Over the course of his career, Mercury performed an estimated 700 concerts in countries around the world with Queen. A notable aspect of Queen concerts was the large scale involved. He once explained, "We're the Cecil B. DeMille of rock and roll, always wanting to do things bigger and better." 

The band was the first ever to play in South American stadiums, breaking worldwide records for concert attendance in the Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo in 1981. In 1986, Queen also played behind the Iron Curtain when they performed to a crowd of 80,000 in Budapest, in what was one of the biggest rock concerts ever held in Eastern Europe. 

Mercury's final live performance with Queen took place on 9 August 1986 at Knebworth Park in England and drew an attendance estimated as high as 160,000. With the British national anthem "God Save the Queen" playing at the end of the concert, Mercury's final act on stage saw him draped in a robe, holding a golden crown aloft, bidding farewell to the crowd. 

In the early 1970s, Mercury had a long-term relationship with Mary Austin, whom he met through guitarist Brian May. He lived with Austin for several years in West Kensington, London. By the mid-1970s, he had begun an affair with a male American record executive at Elektra Records, and in December 1976, Mercury told Austin of his sexuality, which ended their romantic relationship. They remained close friends through the years, with Mercury often referring to her as his only true friend. In a 1985 interview, Mercury said of Austin: 
"All my lovers asked me why they couldn't replace Mary [Austin], but it's simply impossible. The only friend I've got is Mary, and I don't want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that's enough for me." 

Early in Queen's career, Mercury was mid-show when his microphone stand snapped in half. Instead of having it replaced, he used it as-is. He used the mike "stick" from then on\, which was later copied by other performers. 

The song "Bohemian Rhapsody" was written by Freddie Mercury for the band's 1975 album A Night at the Opera. It is a six-minute work consisting of several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and a reflective coda. The single was accompanied by a promotional video, the influence of which Rolling Stone said "cannot be overstated, practically inventing the music video seven years before MTV went on the air." 

When the band wanted to release the single in 1975, various executives suggested to them that, at 5 minutes and 55 seconds, it was too long and would never be a hit. The song was played to other musicians who commented the band had no hope of it ever being played on radio. According to producer Roy Thomas Baker, he and the band bypassed this corporate decision by playing the song for Capital Radio DJ Kenny Everett: "we had a reel-to-reel copy but we told him he could only have it if he promised not to play it. 'I won't play it,' he said, winking ..." Their plan worked – Everett teased his listeners by playing only parts of the song. Audience demand intensified when Everett played the full song on his show 14 times in two days. Hordes of fans attempted to buy the single the following Monday, only to be told by record stores that it had not yet been released. 


The word "Bismillah" in Boremian Rhapsody is from the Quran and manes "In the name of Allah." 

From the website Louder at: 
The 17 minutes Queen spent on stage at Wembley Stadium during their Live Aid performance in July 1985 were 17 minutes which would both make rock history and transform the band for good. Though they'd enjoyed continued success with their platinum-selling 11th album The Works in 1984, as the mid-80s beckoned, frontman Freddie Mercury found himself disillusioned and searching for something new.

“We were all forming a sort of a rut," Mercury said at the time. "I wanted to get out of this last 10 years of what we were doing. It was so routine. It was like, go to the studio, do an album, go out on the road, go round the world and flog it to death, and by the time you came back it was time to do another album. After a while itʼs like a painter… you know, you paint away, and then you stand back and look at it in perspective. Thatʼs exactly what we needed. We just needed to be away from each other, otherwise you just keep going in that routine and you donʼt even know if youʼre going down.”

The answer, it turned out, was Live Aid. A benefit show pulled together by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in aid of the Ethiopian famine, the concert – dubbed by the organising parties as "the day music changed the world" – brought together some of rock's biggest stars over two venues in London and Philadelphia. In a day filled with memorable performances – here's looking at you, Led Zeppelin – Queen's Live Aid performance truly stole the show.

Kicking off with an abridged version of 1975 mega-hit Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen's Live Aid setlist tore through a medley of their best-loved hits: Radio Ga Ga gave way to Hammer To Fall, before Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You and a rousing We Are The Champions closed their set. This was all before Mercury and guitarist Brian May stole the stage during the show's grand finale with their acoustic rendition of Is This The World We Created? – a moment on which Mercury later remarked: “It looks as if we wrote Is This the World We Created? for this event, but we didn’t, although it seems to fit the bill.”

The performance helped transform them into a wonderfully camp, sleek and ubiquitous rock band, and the biggest British live act of the 80s. That their Live Aid performance provides the start and end point of recent biopic Bohemian Rhapsody further illustrates the pivotal moment the band's remaining members feel it played in defining their career. 


Although he cultivated a flamboyant stage personality, Mercury was shy and retiring when not performing, particularly around people he did not know well, and granted very few interviews. Mercury once said of himself: "When I'm performing I'm an extrovert, yet inside I'm a completely different man." 

On 22 November 1991, Mercury called Queen's manager Jim Beach over to his Kensington home to discuss a public statement, which was released the following day: 
Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue. 
On the evening of 24 November 1991, just over 24 hours after issuing that statement, Mercury died at the age of 45 at his home in Kensington 

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