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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fred­die Mer­cury, Live Aid (1985)

Queen Doc­u­men­tary Pays Trib­ute to the Rock Band That Con­quered the World

The Mak­ing of Queen and David Bowie’s 1981 Hit “Under Pres­sure”: Demos, Stu­dio Ses­sions & More

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

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Comments (21)
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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.

  • BigShirl says:

    Queen was one one of a kind,no one could ever replace fred­die mer­cury

  • Kim says:

    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.

  • Dorinna G Rodriguez says:

    Fred­die was the best.He is an Angel in heav­en singing.

  • ANNABELLA says:

    Kim, this reflects my sen­ti­ments exact­ly, except I am about 10 years younger.

  • Sandra says:

    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!

  • Jo says:

    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

  • Jo says:

    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

  • Mary Hodges says:

    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 ♥️♥️♥️

  • haha says:

    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.

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