Interview with Brian May

From This Morning ITV Television (UK) November 1997

Transcribed by Neil Bowers

Transcript of Interview with Brian May

Interviewer: Richard Madeley

ITV “This Morning” 24th November 1997

RM: Now it does not seem like it but it’s now six years almost to the day that Freddie Mercury died. Now Queen, for my money one of the best rock bands in the world, have put together a compilation album in his memory, and we’re going to hear Brian May’s personal tribute song called “No One But You” in just a couple of minutes, but first a minutes worth of stadium rock.

(clips of “Tie Your Mother Down”)

RM: Brian’s here. Hello Brian, nice to see you.

Brian: Hello Richard, nice to see you.

RM: That bring it all back?

Brian: It does, doesn’t it, Yeah.

RM: God, you never change.

Brian: Well I was only a boy there, you know

RM: Just a little lad.

Brian: I was just thinking, if I was lookng at the time I would have been less forgiving, but with the distance of time you just think “Oh, it was a long time ago”.

RM: It was great, I mean…

Brian: It was good.

RM: I’ve been lucky enough to see… I’m of the age, of the generation, you know, to have seen most of the really big British, you know, rock acts, and a couple of American, and I have to say honestly that when you went to see Queen, when you were really going, really rocking, I mean they were probably the best.

Brian: You got a show, didn’t you.

RM: It was such a show, wasn’t it.

Brian: Yeah we did go for it.

RM: Was that mostly Freddie? Was it his vision?

Brian: It was all of us… But Freddie had an amazing power of his vision yes. I think he had a vision of himself from a very early age, he knew what he wanted to mould himself into. But we were a very kind of democratic outfit and there was a lot of arguments the whole time, you know. But basically we loved it and we wanted to give back as much as we were taking anyway, so all those tours we put in a huge amount of time and money and everything just to make it something great, ’cause you only get to your audience once every… you know, in a while.

RM: We’re going to talk about the new album in a couple, but we have got some more clips to show if you don’t mind, ’cause…

Brian: Ho ho.

RM: Yeah, and there’s lots to show… I mean I came and saw you… I was no’ but a lad… in 1976 we were just talking about the date, with Bohemian Rhapsody, when that went straight in.. how long did that stay at number one, was it about fifteen weeks or something?

(off camera) “Nine”

RM: Nine, sorry, Tim our floor manager, he’s the walking encyclopedia.

Brian: I think it was nine weeks, which was a lot at the time, yeah.

RM: Nine weeks.

Brian: Yeah. It was a big deal at the time, yes it was.

RM: Well I remember seeing you, you were doing it at Hammersmith and you recreated on stage what you saw on the TV video, more or less. It was brilliant. Let’s have a quick look.

Brian: Oh, oh.

(clip of “Bohemian Rhapsody”)

RM: And you were just saying that actually isn’t on the new album “Queen Rocks”. It’s the rocky stuff.

Brian: It’s the hard stuff on this album yeah it is.

RM: Well tell us about it. You said, off air just now, it’s not really a tribute.

Brian: Well, its a compilation, and we thought it was nice, because if you have the “Greatest Hits I” and “Greatest Hits II” you have the singles, but the singles were normally kind of a lighter side to Queen just because they were more kind of radio friendly. So this album is the first Queen album you would ever get where it just rocks the whole way through. It’s good for your car.

RM: But you got back… It’s always good for your car with Queen.

Brian: Or your tank.

RM: But you got back together in the studio to record “No One But You”, which is the one you wrote.

Brian: We did, that’s right.

RM: Which you wrote about two years ago.

Brian: I did. It was going to be for the solo album, but the chaps liked it a lot and thought it was kind of an important thing

RM: Is it about Freddie?

Brian: Yes I really wrote it about Freddie, but as you deal with a song, of course, it expands in it’s meaning, I suppose, and we’ve lost a lot of people too young, recently, you know with Princess Diana and very sad to hear about Michael Hutchence the other day. So it’s something which is in your mind a lot.

RM: It is part though, isn’t it of the whole sort of rock and roll gig, this “die young, die beautiful” thing, isn’t it?

Brian: It seems to be. Yeah, It goes back to Jimi Hendrix, and in a way that’s what the song’s about. It’s like maybe you die young, but you burn, you know. A lot of people go for it, and the metphor is that they fly too close to the sun, which is like the Icarus legend, I don’t know if you know?

RM: Yeah, of course.

Brian: Icarus flew too high and his wings fell off, his wax melted and he fell in the sea.

RM: What’s interesting is the comparison between the stage persona or the record persona of somebody like Hutchence for example, and what everybody’s now saying about him, which is that he was a sweet, kind, you know, generous, thoughtful guy. I mean, you know, he was nothing like that kind of swaggering, arrogant….

Brian: He was a very nice man, very nice.

RM: Did you know him?

Brian: Yeah, because they toured with us, in 1984 I think it was, INXS.

RM Really.

Brian: Yeah, very nice guy, very un-starry, Very… you know there was a singer thing, which is a defence, but Michael Hutchence was very open, very honest.

RM: What do you think… if you can’t comment on this don’t, but what do you think of the speculation that at 37 he was like a lot of rock stars of a certain age, he was looking to the future and thinking, well, you know, I don’t want to be another Rolling Stone, I don’t want to sort of, you know, go.. somehow I want to retain the glamour and the youth, but I can’t, because, life isn’t like that, and that was maybe a cause of depression.

Brian: I don’t think so. It might be a very small contributing factor, but I think what kills people is their private stuff, you know. It’s strange. You can deal with the whole global thing quite well, beacuse I mean, particularly he has a group behind him, and with him, you know we were a group and we had a great strength because of the group thing.

RM: You were mates.

Brian: Yeah, you’re friends and you can deal with all the stuff that gets chucked at you, and a lot gets chucked at you, believe me. But I think, no. I think it’s private things that kill you, you know, your relationships, your kids and all that sort of suff, your family, and I suspect that that’s what was hard for him to deal with.

RM: How did Freddie face up to his obvious and imminent death in the last sort of months, was he brave about it?

Brian: Unbelievably, I never knew anybody like Freddie. I never saw him complain, he was always very positive, quite matter of fact, you know. He said “Look I probably haven’t got much longer,and we should do this and this and this, and I want to sing as much as I can. Write me words, write me lyrics, write me something to sing”.

RM: Cause his voice stayed strong, didn’t it?

Brian: Fantastic. But, I mean, he was having a hard time at the end, and he maybe had half an hour a week where he could sing, and he would go for it, have a Vodka, whoop it down, go for it, you know, and some of those top notes he hit on the last few tracks are unbelievable.

RM: Did he have any regrets at the end, or did he feel… I mean, in a sense a lot of rock stars die suddenly, like Hutchence, you know, like Hendrix, they go with an overdose or an accident or something. He obviously had lots of warning. Was he prepared for death?

Brian: More than anyone I’ve ever known, I think he was, yeah. I think he felt very proud of what he’d done, you know musically, and of what we’d done, and he loved being in the studio that was a great escape for him I know. We had some great fun in those last months, strangely enough, you know. I don’t know if he had regrets. I know he loved kids and think he probably would have liked to have kids. That’s probably one of the few things which he never talked about to most people. But professionally I think he gave it everything he’d got, as fast and as hard as he could, and he went for it and I think he’s proud of himself.

RM: Well let’s have one more track of him. This is on the album I think. Hang on. This is… just a minute, “We Will Rock You” yeah. Have we got that? Now that’s on the album isn’t it?

Brian: It is.

RM: All right well let’s play that, then we’re going to play the song that you wrote two years ago. OK, let’s have a look.

(clip of “We Will Rock You”)

RM: He loved it didn’t he? He loved it.

Brian: Totally over the top, yeah. The cloak!

RM: You were saying……The cloaks, you know, the bare chest, and all that.

Brian: Yeah, yeah.

RM: You were saying to one of our researches that when you got back into the studio to do the track we’re going to see now “No One But You – Only The Good Die Young” you didn’t really miss him that much, beacuse actually once he’d done his stuff in studio he used to hop it, didn’t he. Cause you used to have these creative arguments and he didn’t fancy that.

Brian: That’s right. Well Freddie would generally have a big burst of creative energy, and he was always great, you know, when he was around you always got a fantastic amount from him, but he would get impatient and you know and he’d say “I’ve had enough, darling. I want to go now. You deal with it”, you know, and generally I would sit there and be mixing it for hours, or whatever, so nothing changes that much. But a fantastic creative force, yeah. And generally something would happen, I would get to a sticky point and call him up, you know.

RM: Right.

Brian: And I wish I could now, but, you know I can’t.

RM: Well the album’s called “Queen Rocks”, but what were you saying about you’ve got different art-work?

Brian: Well we’re celebrating. We said when it got to a million we’d change the album cover.

RM: Yeah.

Brian: I don’t know if you know the mythology of this, the old Queen crest is here and it’s been exploded here, for obvious reasons probably, and this ugly old bird is flying off, and here the bird has flown. So this will be the new album cover from I think the week after next or whatever.

RM: Excellent.

Brian: So I guess the first one will become a collectors item.

RM: All right. Well, look thank you very much for being here.

Brian: You’re welcome.

RM: Good loving to your wife and everything and to the rest of the band, hope everything’s going well.

Brian: Cheers Richard. Get better Judy.

RM: Oh yeah, it’s either flu or toncilitis, we don’t know. But it’s golfballs in the throat time. She’s not haing a good time, not having a good month. Any way here we are…

Brian: Cheers

RM: Have I got a link to this or are we just going to show it? We are just going to show it. OK. This is him, singing. It’s a lovely song. We’ll show about a couple of minutes.

Brian: And Roger.

RM: And Roger.

Brian: And the guys.

RM: And the guys. Here we go.

(clip of “No One But You”)

RM: That was just a short taste of it. It’s a really nice song.

Brian: A little taste of it. I’m pretty proud of the song, yeah. I mean, I think, you know, life goes on. That’s the important message.

RM: Absolutely. Well thanks a lot for being here. You’re looking great. Thank you.

Brian: Cheers Richard.

RM: Nice to see you. All the best.