Brian May: “Queen Were Breaking Apart The Whole Time!”

Brian May

Brian May stated that the power of Queen’s music stemmed from the tension created by four powerful personalities, even though he believed they were always on the verge of breaking up. Nearly half a century after their formation, Brian May reflects on Queen’s irresistible rise, tragic collapse, and recent reshaping.

May recounts his father’s concerns about his son’s abandonment of a promising science career, and how this hampered his enjoyment of the group’s early success. He also offers a poignant perspective on his relationship with the late Freddie Mercury, “the man who could paint a picture and step right into it.”

While Queen’s path to success appeared straightforward to outsiders, on the inside, the experience was more difficult. These four major personalities were trying to steer the band in their own direction. “It’s like four different artists trying to paint on the same canvas”. May tells MOJO’s Paul Elliott, “not a comfortable situation”.

Brian May said, “Every time we made an album it seemed like we were about to break up.”

When asked if the band was ever likely to split while Mercury was alive, May responds, “Oh, it was breaking up the entire time! Every time we made an album, it seemed like we were about to break up because of this ‘what are we and where are we going?’ thing. We all left the band at some point, and not just once, but throughout.

May goes on to discuss the ego clashes that led to Queen’s 1981 hit Under Pressure, which featured David Bowie. “Freddie and David locked horns, without a doubt”. The bassist says, “but that’s when the sparks fly, and that’s why it turned out great.”

May, whose insider perspective on Queen is expanded on in his new memoir “Queen In 3D”. This reveals Mercury’s lesser-known sides, particularly as a hard rock composer and arranger. Of Bohemian Rhapsody, says May: “Everybody thinks that I put in the heavy riffs. Dang-dang-dang-dang, the Wayne’s World bit – but that was Freddie’s. He created a lot of our heavy content, such as Ogre Battle.”

In 2017, a reformed Queen, led by Adam Lambert, sold out arenas. May has yet to rule out recording new music under the Queen name.

“We’ve talked about it a lot,” he says. “You can never say ‘never’.”

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