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
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.
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.
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.
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
The greatest voice ever.
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.
Satan has Fred sing for him at every barbecue..
I won’t forget how much we laughed at this clown when they performed
@ Mike Wegner … what else are your afraid of???
Unreal.. the man and the band were geniuses. Get the facts straight.. queen was great. Cause they all made it that wY
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.
Queen was one one of a kind,no one could ever replace freddie mercury
Queen came along when I was in my early 20’s, though I was not a fan.
I am now 65 and don’t know why, but have suddenly found myself needing to learn everything I can about Freddie Mercury!
In doing so I have actually listened to Queen and am surprised by what I hear.
Freddie was indeed quite a talent and amazing man. I had no idea that his stage persona was just that & he left it at the stage door.
It’s heartbreaking to watch Live Aid & Wembley the following year and see how he was ravaged by AIDS over the next several years. Even more sad is that we lose the likes
of Freddie & Luther Vandross and are left with the likes of Bieber and “Con”ye.
Freddie was the best.He is an Angel in heaven singing.
Kim, this reflects my sentiments exactly, except I am about 10 years younger.
I agree with some about Adam Lambert! I just don’t like the thought of him being Queen’s frontman, or anyone else really! Also, Freddie did not like to be called Fred….always Freddie!
I love love love love love love freddy so much he will always be a super star forever he was the greatest of every thing he done i miss him so much i love every thing about him he is king i wish I was there i would of kisses him a million times and hold him never let him go the only king in the world is freddy mercury there has never been a another king no michael Jackson was never a king he was destructive in a lot of bad ways not even Elvis was king or prince like I said there was and still is only one king forever that was freddy mercury my love forever i love you freddy mercury till the day I die i dream about you i think about you every day all day wishing you were here with me you still the sunshine in my life I cry when I watch all your videos i watch them every day i cry and cry i don’t like when others are trying to play movies of you or sing your songs they don’t do it good at all they stink makes me mad no one on this earth will ever replace you or sound like you or talk like you no one i been your love for many years you’ll always be my number one forever I don’t have a number 2 just you number one forever my love I wish I was holding you right now I won’t let you go never love you my love forever see you soon my love
Queen did go out and perform they wanted to show the world how much they missed freddy they did a few shows why would they want to right songs with out freddy its not queen any more no freddy no queen freddy was queen you can’t j ave queen of you don’t have freddy they were thinking that them selves freddy was the best in everything he ever done he was a true king and only king I love you freddy mercury forever
Kim, I feel the same way you do. I’m 57 and just discovered Queen about 6 months ago. Now I am totally obsessed with Freddie ♥️♥️♥️
yeah, you love him so much that you can’t even spell his name right. No one is disputing he was the king, but the others have a right to perform in the brand they built up to. And no one acknowledges he was the king more than them. Adam Lambert admits it every single concert.