Queens forever: Freddie Mercury, 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991

So many gay or bisexual pop stars have sashayed off this mortal coil in recent years it’s been hard to keep track of them all: George Michael, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Dusty Springfield, Pete Burns, Pete Shelley, Stephen Gately, Sam Smith after he sung his first note, you name it. 

Freddie Mercury’s death 30 years ago was the first pop passing that really affected me, at a time when most of us were still utterly paranoid about AIDS. It was an horrific way to go.

It was a strange Sunday when the news of Fred’s illness had been officially confirmed the day before. As I watched the story unfold on the TV morning news, I received a phone call from the downstairs reception of The Bull, the Buckinghamshire hotel where I lived and worked with chum Judi, informing me that my car had been vandalised. Then, within minutes my parents called to say my grandmother has been rushed to hospital in London, and did I want to join them in paying a visit ASAP. Other than my mother remarking how it was “sad news about Freddie Mercury, eh?”, the other thing I recall was how someone mentioned how quiet I was — and my father offering: “He’s upset about his car.”

Typical fella. Assuming a bit of damage to an inanimate object would be more important than the lives of human beings, even if I had never actually met one of them. Anyway, Gran pulled through and lived to 93. Fred was not so lucky, meeting his maker at 45. Michael Jackson — who was heading to the top of the charts that same week with his Dangerous album — made it to a round 50. 

Most interestingly, in 2014 Queen Productions and the estate of MJ allowed There Must Be More to Life Than This — one of three unfinished Jacko-Mercury duets recorded around the time of Thriller — to be completed and mixed by William Orbit, and posthumously released as part of a hotchpotch compilation entitled Queen Forever. 

Earlier in 2005 I interviewed George Michael for the first time, who was bemused by the reasons for the material staying in the can, not exactly being the greatest fan of Wacko Jacko the person: 

“His bizarre behaviour put the kibosh on [a proposed collaboration]… I’d heard that Prince had turned him down. I also knew that he was sitting on stuff he’d done with Freddie Mercury – apparently they fell out because Freddie would get coked up and kept urging him to come out of the closet! Was Freddie trying it on with him? Who knows? But it wouldn’t surprise me, knowing Freddie!”

I guess that’s another story for another time though. 

Stay safe.

Steve Pafford

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