Freddie Mercury, now gone for more than a quarter-century, seems to have become a star again in the late 2010s. It has happened in not just the England where he grew up and first hit it big with his band Queen, but in America (where Queen took longer to catch on) and indeed most of the rest of the world as well: the release of the Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody last year renewed interest in him even in South Korea, where I live, and where anyone of the age to have listened to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the time of its release would have needed to pirate a copy. All this has naturally prompted a return to the studio vaults in search of more Mercury material, the latest find from that expedition being “Time Waits for No One.”
Astute fans will recognize the song as a version of “Time,” the title song Mercury recorded for the 1986 sci-fi musical by Dave Clark of the Dave Clark Five. Elaborately produced with 96 tracks in total, the version that came out at the time did well enough, but “Clark had always remembered that performance of Freddie Mercury at Abbey Road Studios from 1986,” says Mercury’s web site.
“The original had sold millions, and in his own words ‘worked.’ But the feeling he had during the original rehearsal, experiencing ‘goosebumps,’ hadn’t dissipated over the decades, and he wanted to hear this original recording — just Freddie on vocals and Mike Moran on piano.” And so, three decades later, Clark brought Moran back into the studio to re-record his piano part for Mercury’s original vocal track.
Like every big song of the 2010s, the stripped-down “Time Waits for No One” (the original title of “Time”) needed an impressive video to go with it. Mercury, who died in the middle of the first music-video era, would surely appreciate the way that the internet has restored a certain vitality to the form. Clark, who still possessed the negatives from the original “Time” video shoot, used the material he didn’t the first time around to create a previously unseen Mercury performance to go with this previously unheard — or at least not properly heard — Mercury song. Like few rock singers before him, Freddie Mercury understood the importance of the startling, the elaborate, and the operatic to his craft. But it takes a relatively simple production like the new “Time Waits for No One” and its accompanying video to reveal just why he has endured in a way so many of his contemporaries haven’t.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.