ACROSS THE TAMAR 15
FUTURISTIC MANIFESTO 32
OF POONA, AND FELTHAM 48
THAT UNCERTAIN SMILE 56
THE MESSENGER OF THE GODS 71
HOW REGAL IT SOUNDS 81
ENTER, STAGE RIGHT 92
COUNCIL OF WAR 103
NEW ALBUM, OLD NEWS 114
PRETENTIOUS EVEN... 125
A SILHOUETTE OF A MAN 140
Once they’ve made it, rock stars and their narratives are pretty much all the same. They fall out acrimoniously with the people who got them there in the first place: date models, travel the world, become fabulously rich and take drugs; endure at least one grubby contractual dispute; meet lots of people but are routinely lonely. And then, if they don’t die, split up, or crack up, they emerge as astute businessmen writing songs yearning for the guileless, witless, much less (of everything) days of before.
Queen were typical, if not the most typical rock group ever to exist. Their only singular feature, aside from sheer longevity and an unusual degree of consistency, was that their front man became the first famous rock star to die of Aids.
There is, however, in every story of fame, a before and after The ‘after’ is the model thrown in the gigantic cake at the album launch party, and the sycophants and apologists for a life too hectic, too indulgent to even write a note home. We know this life well. Newspapers and magazines provide habitual bulletins of this extravagance and recklessness: he’s sleeping with her, he’s smashed up that hotel, she’s snubbed so-and-so, he’s sleeping with him. We know this life too well.
The ‘before’ life is far more fascinating. This is where we find the desperation and dedication, the indignity and indecision. This is where, of the first UK rock generation, Brian Jones is a bus conductor poncing around jazz clubs talking wearisomely of his new group. The Rollin’ Stones; where, of Queen’s peers, Elton John plays standards for a pound a night in a London pub, where, of the current rock protagonists, Morrissey, the renowned ascetic, pesters a friend of mine - two phone calls and a postcard - to feature an interview with his new band. The Smiths, in a 12-page photo-copied fanzine.
This is their secret life and it is the publicist’s first duty to erase it, or at the very least relate it selectively. The official promotional biography usually begins with the first single, everything up until this point is deemed insignificant. The atrocious early gigs and the hilarious first publicity shots are spirited away, burned, and the ashes scattered on the moors.
^ is an examination of those formative musical days in the lives of the four people who became Queen. Their childhood and family histories are dealt with concisely; they are entertainers, not politicians. Moreover, other people’s childhoods, like other people’s dreams, are often tedious. Instead, the book is a collection of anecdotes and thoughts of those who knew them mainly in the ‘before’ life, when they were real people - unsure, apprehensive, eager, imprudent, dogged - not yet the cartoons they became. Freddie the camp trouper, Roger the steadfast, soft-eyed rocker; Brian the match stick guru of the guitar; and John the stoic technician abashed by the spotlight.
It is a story which can be told relatively explicitly since it is not encumbered by vested interests. Its players have nothing to lose, unlike those that came afterwards who invested money, time, emotion and a career serving Queen. A standard biography on the group will only ever draw forth a percentage of these, and since the network around them, trom the fan club to the management, is peculiarly solicitous, the unexpurgated account will either remain unwritten or suffer from the dishonour of compromise, much like the existing over-laundered official biography.
Here then are the early days of their lives, presented hopefully in the sanguine, ardent and enthusiastic fashion in which they were lived.
Paula Ridings for your encouragement, support, and love. My parents and grandmother for matching out for me. Chris Charlesworth for valued suggestions, corrections and deadline extension. Andrew King for believing in the project. Johnny Rogan, for Educating Hodkmson, and altruism all too rare in a selfish world.
And, finally the following who shared a drink, telephone number, house space, book, video, advice or secret: John Adams, John Baltitude, Peter Bartholomew, Neil Battersby, Peter Bawden, Ronnie Beck, Mike Bersin, Tony Bramsby, Roger Brokenshaw, Greg Brooks, Les Brown, Nigel Bullen, Clive Castledine, David Cooper, Kim Cooper, Trevor Cooper, Dave Dilloway, Michael Dudley, Chris Dummett, Tony Ellis, Rik Evans, Jeremy Gallop, Dorothy Gill-Carey, Gillian Green, Michael Grime, John Grose, Vaughan Hankins, Gill Hankins, Bob Harris, Jenny Hayes, Mike Heatley, Sean Hewitt, Geoff Higgins, Win Hitchens, Ed Howell, Rob Kerford, Fran Leslie, Sam Lind, Dave Lloyd, Paul Martin, John Matheson, Barry Mitchell, Geoff Moore, Barbara Morrison, Guy Patrick, Mark Paytress, Richard Penrose, Geoff Pester, Josephine Ranken, Phil Reed, Mark Reynolds, Bill Richards, Peter Rowan, John Sanger, Tim Staffell, Carol Stringer, John Stuart, John Taylor, William Telford, Ken Testi, Nathan Tiller, Richard Thompson, Helen Tonkin, Sarah Triptree, Joop Visser, Lawrence Webb, Rod Wheatley, Jane Wilderspin, Dave Williams, Andy Wright, Eileen Wright, Richard Young.
|Introduction while you watch Watch the Introduction as far as Breakfast. Answer the questions||Introduction|