On the anniversary of the Queen singer's death in 1991, Clash presents 10 things you never knew about Freddie Mercury.
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Queen, 'Bohemian Rhapsody'
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As the flamboyant front man of Queen, Freddie Mercury toyed with hedonism amidst making timeless songs, which leaves plenty ammunition for these little tidbits...
Even his official passport read ‘Frederick Mercury’, despite the fact that his birth name was Farrokh Bulsara. Calling him anything but Freddie would not be well received, however - he started using the name ‘Freddie’ prior to ever arriving in England, and ‘Mercury’ when Queen first started.
Mercury didn’t consider himself a particularly great pianist. As a result, he always dreaded performing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (video above) in concert because he worried he would mess up on the piano in the process. In future years, he started using the piano less on albums so he would be free to dance and run wildly during concerts.
In the final scene of Queen’s ‘It’s A Hard Life’ video, when Freddie sits down on the steps, he does so very gingerly, favouring one side over the other. At the time of filming, he had only just had a plaster cast removed, a souvenir after drunken horseplay went awry one night in the New York bar in Munich.
Mercury was always in his best form at concerts after emotional conflict. Before a show at the Milton Keynes Bowl, Mercury got into a massive argument with his current beau, Bill Reid, that culminated with Reid biting Mercury’s hand so hard that it left teeth marks and bled profusely. Another fight left their hotel room with a layer of broken glass and plaster on the carpet.
In another incident with Reid, the two of them yelled at each other for so many hours that Mercury woke up completely hoarse on the day that Queen was scheduled to perform live on Saturday Night Live, a hugely popular variety show in the USA. The entire day was spent trying remedies to get his voice back, which he was only barely able to do in time.
After boarding a flight to New York from Tokyo one day, Mercury discovered the plane was a DC10, a model that had had some problems in the past. “DC death more like!” Mercury remarked, before immediately gathering his things, exiting the plane, and taking the only available seat on the next flight 14 hours later - economy, as opposed to his first class seat on the DC10.
When Mercury was on tour in the United States, he found out the man he was seeing, Tony Bastin, had been seen out with someone else. For revenge, Mercury paid for Bastin to fly out to see him in the US under the pretense of visiting. Mercury met him immediately after his arrival, told him it was over and then put him on the next plane back to London that day. Mercury also kept Bastin’s cat, Oscar.
Mercury loved his cats, so much so that while on tour he would periodically call home to talk to them. His one-time girlfriend and long-time close friend Mary Austin would hold the cats up to the phone so they could listen to him speak. He also had portraits painted of them.
Mercury’s assistants were required to have a pen and paper on them at all times in case inspiration hit unexpectedly. Lyrics for ‘Life Is Real’ were started suddenly while flying over the Atlantic from New York, with what is now the classic line “guilt stains on my pillow” originally taken down as “c*nt stains on my pillow”.
A recreation of the statue created to honour Mercury, found on Lake Geneva in Montreaux, Switzerland, stands on top of the Dominion Theatre, just down Oxford Street from (the then) Clash HQ.
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Words: Kay Patke
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