Song Writing

Long Live Queen - An Excerpt

by Greg Prato

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October 2018 saw the release of my 25th book overall, Long Live Queen: Rock Royalty Discuss Freddie, Brian, John & Roger.

For this book, I interviewed a wide variety of musicians, who discuss what they admire most about Queen, their favorite songs and albums, and other standout Queen-related memories (attending shows, meeting members, etc.) from throughout the years.

Here are five standout quotes - plucked directly from the book...
The Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock on a memorable encounter with Freddie Mercury in a recording studio.
Actually the funny thing is we had been in a studio called Lansdowne, which is a very stottie, BBC-ish kind of place in London, in Holland Park, and then moved to a studio called Wessex [to record "Anarchy In The UK"], where a lot of things were done - the Clash did their stuff there. When we went to check it out, there were two rooms there - a big room and a little room. And we went into the big room, opened the door - because the red "DO NOT ENTER" sign wasn't on - and it was Queen's room! And Freddie Mercury was in full-flight, and they got annoyed with us. We said, "Well, don't blame us... you didn't have the red light on!" So, we got around that, and we went into the smaller room, out the back, a few days later.

I remember going out to get a beer out of the fridge, and as I opened the door, there is somebody bent over, listening through the keyhole... and it was Freddie Mercury! I said, "Oh, Freddie!" And he goes, "Oh, oh... dear, where's the bathroom?" And I said, "It's just behind you. You've been in here two months!" Really, he could have asked nice and possibly come in. He wanted to find out what it was all about. So, that was quite funny.


Twisted Sister's Dee Snider recalls creating quite a scene at a Queen concert in 1974.
As a matter of fact, my pride is I went to see Queen open for Mott The Hoople at the Uris Theatre. I was the only person in the theatre standing and screaming so loud, that the band was embarrassed. I will tell you, there is only one thing worse than nobody reacting - one person reacting. Wearing platform shoes, hair scrapping the ceiling, screaming in the balcony. Brian May actually looked up to see what was going on. My friends were begging me to stop causing a scene. But I was the only guy screaming.

Then I saw Queen when they played the Beacon Theater, then they were coming back on their third US tour, and Twisted Sister called me to audition for the band. And I never lost an audition in my life, but I said, "I bought tickets for the show... I am not missing fucking Queen." Because I had to go to Upstate New York - they were staying in a ski resort for a week, and I got it. They said we were going to rehearse all week, and then play that weekend. But Queen was playing, so I was like, "I'm getting on a bus and I'm going back - I'm not going to miss them." That was the last time I saw them live.


Meat Loaf's Paul Crook on what it is like to play Brian May's one-of-a-kind "Red Special" guitar.
I've had the pleasure of playing Brian's guitar several times, that it doesn't even phase me anymore. I'll never forget this - I was at his house in Surrey one time. I was in the UK with Meat Loaf, and I drove out. And the guitar was laying on the couch in his living area - like a library. I think he went into the kitchen to get some tea, and he said have a seat. And his guitar... I just picked it up and moved it! I mean, I'm not saying it's special, but it's the man that's special. I guess I'm just numb to the instrument now. It's so funny to feel that way about it. The guitar is awesome, but it's not Brian. It's him. It's his hands.

The guitar sounds incredible, even acoustically. The neck is really fat. It feels like a baseball bat. It is also a "fretless wonder." My stupid hands can't play it. I can't bend on it. Watching Brian bend on it is mind-blowing. I asked him how he approaches his vibrato (in his head) because it looks incredibly strong up close. Frightening. Intimidating. He actually presses into the fretboard. Most players push up. He imagines a tiny spring as he presses. I asked him about the neck profile. Why he kept it so big. He mentioned that he got tired of sanding it down! [Laughs]

That being said, it was one of the best decisions he could've made. He's NEVER had to adjust the truss rod. That is insane when you think about it. The guitar has been around the world countless times, through all kinds of climate changes. Not one single adjustment. Also, all that sustain is coming from it. The guitar rings. The tremolo system is badass. I believe he built it using parts from a bicycle seat and a sewing machine. It feels great! What I find incredible is that even at such a young age, he incorporated a straight-pull system. Meaning the strings run in a straight line from the bridge to the tuning pegs. Brilliant. The last time I played it, it was at a Queen soundcheck. It was really fun playing through the "AC30 wall" with the guitar. It was pretty fuckin' exciting.


Early rock n' roller (and heavy metal fan) Pat Boone on covering Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."
I recorded "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" [on the 2006 album, Hopeless Romantic, re-titled as simply "Crazy Thing"]. The amazing thing about this is that every sound on the record is me. I had just learned of how you could sample, and my conductor/ arranger, Dave Siebels, is a great pianist but also up-to-speed on all the latest things - Pro Tools and everything else that happens recording-wise. I said, "Why don't I do 'Crazy Little Thing'? I want to do that song, I love it. And I'll do all the sounds." And we spent two or three hours on it, and I was singing notes and holding the notes, and shaping the notes, and he recorded all of it. And then, he created a track that is rhythmic - the percussion sounds are me, all of the instrumental sounds are me, and then the background vocals are me. And he did the whole track all put together like a crazy quilt of me. And then, I sang my version of "Crazy Little Thing" over the track, in which I sing all the parts.

I actually did that a few times in concert, and I would say to the musicians, "Look, you guys are working so hard, why don't you take a little break and let me sing this next song myself?" And then I would explain to the audience - while they were looking very bewildered - "Every sound you hear as I sing this song, is me." And then it starts the same way as the original record, and boom, I'm singing live, but to the arrangement that is all my recorded voice. But you would swear it was a band, and background vocalists, when I tell you it is me doing it all. I think you would get a kick out of it - I would love for people to go to iTunes and click on my version of "Crazy Thing." They will hear it done like nobody ever did it. It's a whole lot like Freddie Mercury. He was an incredible vocal talent. But "Crazy Little Thing," he was having fun with it, and so was I.


Former Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing answers the question, "Who do you think pulled off the 'leather biker look' better - Freddie Mercury or Rob Halford?"
Definitely Rob! Actually, that's probably one of the best questions I've ever been asked! Because both of the guys, obviously being gay and both obviously having donned the leathers - which is par for the course - I think the difference was it became Rob's ultimate and permanent image. Whereas Freddie did it for a bit of fun, I think. But a fun question - I like that a lot. Definitely Rob looked like the epitome - as I hope we all did, together, when we all eventually got into the leather gear - of an archetypal heavy metal band.

October 26, 2018
Order a copy of Long Live Queen: Rock Royalty Discuss Freddie, Brian, John & Roger at Amazon.

Further reading:
Queen Songfacts
Queen Fact or Fiction
Freddie Mercury Songfacts

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