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5th January 2017

brian may

Queen guitarist Brian May spoke to the UK's Sunday Express to mark the release of a new double album, 'Air Guitar Anthems', which he has helped to collate. The conversation, which you can see in the video below, happened just a week after Brian attended the cremation of Freddie Mercury's mother, Jer Bulsara, who had died at the age of 94.

And twenty-five years after Freddie's death, Brian wants to bring rock to a new generation:

"I think about Freddie a lot," he says. "He’s very much in our lives and in a very positive way."

Brian had known Mrs Bulsara for half a century and paid a huge tribute to her on his website saying she was a much-loved mother whom Freddie took "mischievous pleasure" in trying to shock.

The funeral left Brian in a deeply reflective mood:

"I went along and I think I felt like I was saying goodbye to Freddie again because he was very much there in spirit and of course very much talked about," he says.

"They played Queen music throughout, along with these incredibly ancient Persian incantations, so it was a very moving experience."

Queen are still playing of course, with Adam Lambert now occupying the frontman's position but Freddie is very much "part of the show" but as Brian points out, the band do not "rely" on him too much.

"We have Adam, who's an incredible performer in his own right but you know Freddie is part of the creation of all that material and we like to have him appearing now and then to sprinkle some fairy dust on it all."

'Bohemian Rhapsody' is the opening track on the 'Air Guitar Anthems' album and Brian spoke to The Express about that classic track:

"It was actually all very planned and deliberate and came totally out of Freddie's fevered imagination.

"It was a happy accident in that we were there as a group to interpret it but at the core of it there's an amazing concept and Freddie really did marshal it into great shape. I still love it - it never grows old."

The inclusion of Queen tracks on 'Air Guitar Anthems', alongside The Rolling Stones’ 'Start Me Up' and Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' is partly due to 69-year-old Brian making a series of persuasive phone calls.

"I like the idea that these collections are cross-generational and introduce a lot of people, especially young people, to serious rock guitar for the very first time," he says.

"But record companies, especially these days, are usually quite loath to part with their tracks, or even lend them, so my usefulness is that I can ring up people like Joe Elliott or Slash and say, 'How about lending this particular song?' and usually they go, 'Yeah', and I say, 'Well, just nudge your record company, will you?'

"I'm a bit reclusive, really and I tend not to make these phone calls unless there's a reason so it encourages me to get back in touch with a lot of dear friends in the business."

The Sex Pistols' 'God Save The Queen' is also included which is ironic considering they labelled bands like Queen as "rock dinosaurs" and their mission when they formed in the mid-70s was to sweep them away. The Express put this to Brian.

"I remember hearing 'God Save The Queen' and buzzing Roger [Taylor, Queen drummer] and saying, 'This is something people are really going to enjoy. No matter what the hype is around punk, this is good stuff'.

"Strangely enough, the Sex Pistols were in the same studio as us when we were doing the 'News Of The World' album and I used to bump into John Lydon and he was always very respectful to me. I didn't get any feelings of resentment or whatever.

"There are some funny stories about Freddie meeting Sid Vicious, though. Sid came in while we were mixing something and he said to Freddie, 'Aren't you the guy who's bringing ballet to the masses?'

"And Freddie said, 'Yes, and aren't you Simon Ferocious?' It was a fairly good-humoured exchange..."

Some more humorous exchanges can be heard on 'Queen On Air', between Freddie and former Capital Radio DJ Kenny Everett. 'Queen On Air' is a beautifully presented collection of Queen's radio broadcasts and it reveals Freddie's sense of humour but also shows him as a shy interviewee.

"Freddie was shy, I think people forget that," says Brian. "Right up to the very end there was that element in Freddie which was very endearing in a way because here's this huge star and superhero but inside there's still this young boy who was quite tentative.

"I think the cloak of power was very important to him. Someone asked me the other day what the legacy of Freddie was and I said I think the biggest thing you get from Freddie is he was saying, 'You can do this too. You can be a small, shy person but you can still conquer the world if you really want it enough and you go for it'."

'Air Guitar Anthems' and 'Queen On Air' are both out now and can be ordered from Amazon here.



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