Watch Behind-the-Scenes Footage From Freddie Mercury’s Final Video Performance

However you feel about Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen reforming recently under the band’s name with American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert on vocals, the band has stated on several occasions that they never intended to replace Freddie Mercury. “[Lambert] interprets the songs the way he interprets them which is wonderful,” May has remarked, “We wanted him to be himself.” Fair enough. But even if Queen had wanted to replace Mercury after his death from AIDS complications in 1991, the task would have proved impossible. No one sounds like Freddie Mercury, no one commands a stage like he did, and no one writes like him either, with his unique mix of raunchy, funny, quirky, candid, and deeply heartfelt lyricism.

Mother Love,” the last song Mercury recorded—at the band’s Montreux studio—contains some of the most painful of Mercury’s lyrics, an expression of his desire “for peace before I die.” In what we can’t help but hear in hindsight as a direct reference to his illness, Mercury sings, “My body’s aching, but I can’t sleep… I’m coming home to my sweet / Mother love.” The inherent pathos of “Mother Love,” pervades the posthumously-released 1995 album Made in Heaven, but the song that most seemed to define Freddie Mercury immediately after his death is also a rumination on mortality. Shot through with nostalgia, remorse, and expressions of the brevity of life, “These Are the Days of Our Lives”—from Innuendo, the last album the band released during Mercury’s lifetime—laments, “you can’t turn back the clock, you can turn back the tide.” Longing for childhood lost, Mercury sings, “the rest of my life’s been just a show.” Maybe so, but what a show it was, even in the band’s final video, above, shot in black-and-white to hide Mercury’s frail condition.

At the top of the post, you can see behind-the-scenes footage of Mercury from the “These Are the Days of Our Lives” video shoot, discovered, writes The Independent, “during a five-year trawl through the Queen archives by Rhys Thomas, the comedy actor,” who co-produced the BBC Two documentary, Queen: Days of Our Lives. “The footage of Freddie in his final video,” says Thomas, “is shocking. He is so frail, he needs two hands to hold a champagne glass. But he knows he is being filmed and wants to show people what he was going through.” Brian May remembers Mercury spending “hours and hours in make-up sorting himself out so it’d be OK. He actually says a kind of goodbye in the video.”

A consummate performer to the end, Mercury was determined to work until he couldn’t, recording new material until days before his death. In the full-color film from the “These Are the Days of Our Lives” shoot, we see him studying and critiquing footage of himself, fully engaged in the creation of what he likely knew would be his final performance. He had certainly come a long way from the shy schoolboy he was before Queen brought him international celebrity and acclaim. In the poignant video above, we see what is likely the first footage of the young man then known as Freddie Bulsara. The film shows Mercury in 1964—the year his family migrated to England from Zanzibar—with school mates at Isleworth Polytechnic (new West Thames College). It would be another six years before Mercury would meet May and Taylor and form the band that defined the rest of the days of his life.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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  • Stevie Godson says:

    The band may still call itself Queen but to date – almost 24 years since Freddie’s death – they have not been able to write a single song. Who says Queen was more than just Freddie Mercury? Not me.

  • Colin Lyne says:

    I was never a fan of Queen! However, in these latter years, and certainly since Freddie Mercury left us, I have learned that he was probably one of the most gifted entertainers within the music industry. He acted, he sung, and he wrote. He didn’t stand on stage and sing those songs, he presented them as an actor does his lines in a play. His talents as a singer actor, outshines “simple” vocalists from other bands. Certainly a lesson to be learned by aspiring X Factor wannabes. Well done Freddie, you had your fans, but you proved to me just how good you were.

  • Gary Hambley says:

    Just wow.

  • amsterdammike says:

    Nice article. For the record, Freddie Mercury attended Ealing College of Art (as did Ronnie Wood and Pete Townsend), which eventually became part of University of West London.
    There was no Isleworth Polytechnic.

  • Mary says:

    Agreed! Freddie Mercury was Queen! And I wouldn’t call shrill shreeking Adam lambert a just replacement ,but they’ve been known to milk it for every cent . They should have also never put out the ” forever” album. FM ,you will never be forgotten

  • Ronny says:

    The greatest voice ever.

  • Sean says:

    For the purposes of clarity, as the article elides between Mercury’s lyrics and These Are The Days Of Our Lives, it should be made clear that that particular song was written by Roger Taylor in regard to his own children. That’s not to say it doesn’t become something enormously poignant when sang by Freddie Mercury but it wasn’t written about his illness.

    I hold no particular flame for what “Queen” has become since Freddie died but Stevie Godson might like to know that they released an album of new material with Paul Rodgers in 2008 and both May and Taylor have released a number of solo albums in the past quarter century, although I must confess to not having listened to any of it. Queen as a going concern ended in 1991, despite May and Taylor’s best efforts to desecrate a legend with their tawdry collaborations: is anybody in the UK unfortunate enough to recall their 1998 alliance with the boyband 5ive?

    The video for These Are The Days Of Our Lives was broadcast for the first time in Britain on the night of Monday 25th November, at the end of the BBC’s hastily assembled tribute. The sight of Freddie, ravaged by that awful disease, took the breath away. Not that it deterred the homophobes with whom I was unfortunate to work, who all took great delight in their jokes and their crude new versions of Bohemian Rhapsody. It wasn’t easy to be a Queen fan back then.

  • Mike Wegner says:

    Satan has Fred sing for him at every barbecue..

  • Mike Wegner says:

    I won’t forget how much we laughed at this clown when they performed

  • FU says:

    @ Mike Wegner … what else are your afraid of???

  • Me says:

    Unreal.. the man and the band were geniuses. Get the facts straight.. queen was great. Cause they all made it that wY

  • Regina Martini says:

    I was happy to visit two Queen concerts in Cologne/Germany mid 70’s. These were the best concerts I’ve ever seen…later I met him in the hotel and gave him a Larry Lurrex single to sign for me. He was surprised. I will never forget him.

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