BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (PART 1)
I don’t know if you saw the Queen movie? (seems like the whole world did so maybe you did?).
Well this is about that. I did say I’d give myself permission to write about absolutely anything. This definitely falls into the ‘absolutely anything’ category. It may be of less than zero interest to you. I’d bail out now if so!
Still here? Ok, cool.
(Before I go on, this whole piece could be seen as quite negative, so I do feel I should preface all of this by saying Queen are my favourite band of all time and Brian May is a genuine hero of mine, the man is an incredible human being – and that I recognize that in the grand scheme of things, the movie exposes millions of people to the magic of Queen’s music, which is makes it a huge net force for good in the world in my book). I think in a terrible piece of timing it might even be his birthday today! :S
That having been said….on we go.
Well, the film was a disorientating experience for me - I’m a huge Queen geek (like off the scale, very sad) - and it really bothered me that it was absolutely riddled with huge inaccuracies and lies about their story, included (ostensibly) to make the story ‘better’. Although there are dozens of these inaccuracies, I completely understand that compromises are a part of making a 2 hour movie spanning 30 years. his is certainly not a ‘I don’t like the idea of biopics’ or ‘ I hate ANY inaccuracies at all in a movie’ type piece. I don’t pretend to like them, but I DO understand them and see a possible justifications for nearly all of them them. I’m not ‘taking aim’ at ALL the inaccuracies here, just one in particular.
Because there is just one particular lie that really disappointed me, that seems to be included to boost the ego of the remaining band members, has left people with a wholly wrong impression of the motivations and character of someone (Freddie) who is dead and unable to speak for themselves and is now taken as gospel by millions of people. The lie has now even ‘jumped out of the screen’ and into ‘real life’ – being held out as a fact by the band in the ‘real life’ interviews.
That lie is that Freddie broke up Queen and they didn’t play together or speak for many years.
It is utter rubbish.
A big part of my strong reaction to it was that (unlike so many ‘biopics’) it wasn’t just a disinterested 3rd party producing/writing it – the movie was majorly the brainchild and ‘baby’ of the remaining band members Roger Taylor and Brian May (who said “it was a long labour of love, 12 years in development”). They were hugely intimately involved in creating it.
So they are essentially telling their OWN story too, as well as Freddie’s – and It is not a responsibility that they have lived up to fully in my opinion.
If you’ve seen it, you may remember that the movie claims that Freddie
Left the band and didn’t speak to the others or play with them ‘for years’
Completely rejected and abandoned them in favour of a solo career (characterising him as arrogant and ungrateful in so doing).
Instigated a showdown meeting where he begged to rejoin immediately before Live Aid.
This is all rubbish. There may have been tensions. But they worked and toured together the entire time and Freddie was the last one to have a solo career (which he fitted in around Queen).
In fact Queen had just completed a month long tour of Australia and Japan just weeks before Live Aid (last gig 15th May 1985 in Osaka and Live Aid was 13th July.) They had agreed in principle to Live Aid on Feb 11th 1985 and committed fully around 15th May 1985 whilst still in Japan.
Now I’m no ‘Queen was just Freddie + some other guys’ merchant. Because that simply is not true. It's a million miles from the truth. They were an amazing GROUP (in which, as just one of hundreds of possible examples, all 4 members have written number 1 hits) – and I could well understand Brian and Roger’s frustration that to Joe public it might seem that they were bit part-players. However, in this movie, they have hugely overcompensated and made it seem that Freddie arrogantly thought he was above the rest of them, abandoned them for years, and downplayed their contributions. Whereas the truth (evidenced by many interviews I will link to next week) is that he always went to huge lengths to prioritise Queen, even above his solo work (he embarked upon his solo career last!), praise the others in interview, talk up ‘the group’ democratic ethic, encourage their writing, diffuse arguments in the studio and in fact actually actively corrected anyone who referred to him as the groups ‘leader’ – saying that he was ‘just the lead singer’.
I’m running out of time, so in part 2 of this piece next week, I’ll lay out all the much fuller circumstances for why this lie is unfair and inaccurate (and cite the sources for you) – but that simple piece of information lays the groundwork for now for just how ludicrous it is.
But just to say that I wouldn’t have written this piece at all if this lie hadn’t ‘jumped off the screen’ into real life in a radio interview that Brian May did a month after the movie came out (amidst criticism of the accuracy of the film generally). You can listen to the relevant bit here - (https://youtu.be/5JM7MwUG9SU?t=814)
He is asked, by Johnny Walker, interviewing, just to confirm the “historical fact” that Queen had, unlike in the movie, in fact not split, and had just come off a tour. The tone is open yet inquisitive.
Walker : “In the film, Queen had broken up and you are getting back together for Live Aid, but in fact, just to go to historical fact….you had just come off a 2 month tour hadn’t you”
May : “No. it’s pretty much true. We hadn’t played together for quite a while”. By contrast, here is a video of Brian May saying, in interview at Live Aid, “it’s a month or so since we’ve been in the road” – (https://youtu.be/h3MtdSka8xE?t=60).
It would have been so easy to go with the gentle flow of the question and say “yeah, that is true I suppose, but look, this is the broader truth we were trying to convey”. But that isn’t what was said, and the lie that Freddie Mercury broke up Queen made the unacceptable leap off the screen into ‘real life’.
I haven’t seen anyone else break down exactly how incorrect this is, but I’m sad enough to know it inside out, so after a bit of research I’m intending to lay it all out next week. If you have read this far, I’m assuming you might have a passing interest in that? If so, see you then.
But I’d imagine that the vast majority of you are far too sane to have made it this far.