As a 9 year old, I can only vaguely recall the death of Freddie Mercury. Only 10 days earlier on November 14th 1991, the only grandparent that I ever met and knew passed away. 5 days later on the 19th, he was buried. I didn't attend the funeral but was back in the wake instead. I remember it vividly because the news on the TV showed the release of Terry Waite after 1,763 days of captivity in the Lebanon the previous day.
It had been a rather tumultuous few days because this was the first time I had ever experienced the death of a close relative. Then 5 days after the funeral came the news that this important, well known singer from a popular rock group had also passed away. It was clearly a bad month for good men so this 9 year old thought.
I had never heard of Freddie Mercury let alone listened too or had an appreciation for the music of Queen. Yet the irony here is that it was Freddie's tragic early passing that acted as the catalyst to change all this.
In the December, as a tribute to its author, the remaining members of Queen re-released Bohemian Rhapsody as a Double A-side with These Are The Days Of Our Lives. Suddenly, the airwaves were full of this insane, random and lengthy song that first hit the top of the charts 16 years previously. It became the first song ever to get to number one twice with the same version and is also the only single to have been UK Christmas number one twice with the same version. It remained at number one for five weeks that winter to go along with the nine weeks during which it originally topped the charts in late 1975 / early 1976.
A Wonderful Fanaticism
With its second, second coming the next summer as a classic part in the film 'Wayne's World', I can recall being bemused by this intriguing 'new' sound. I kept wanting to re-listen to it. I kept wanting to sing the many different, eccentric parts within it. Suffice to say, I was hooked.
Over the coming years through secondary school, I was joined in my growing enthusiasm for Freddie Mercury and the music of Queen by school mate Luke Rowland. We'd listen to Queen religiously and my interest grew. But it was only as I was on the cusp of leaving secondary school in early 2000 that I graduated beyond the music of Queen's 'Greatest Hits'. I recall a trip to Blackpool for the annual YFC national convention with James Rees, a fellow member of Llawhaden YFC and whilst there, I bought with great excitement from HMV, Queen's Greatest Hits II. Suddenly I'd opened the door to a whole new decade of Queen music and to a 80s sound which I arguably preferred over their heavier 70s vibe. I wonder if James can recall me listening to this new sound sensation on my walkman in our hotel room overlooking the Irish Sea at the same time that we watched the all-Welsh World Championship Snooker Final between Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens? I still do!
As I went to University in Aberystwyth, my love for Queen showed no signs of abating. It helped that in Sarah Green, a housemate of mine in my 5th and final year, I had found another Queen soul mate. Indeed, I recall buying her the Queen Greatest Flix DVD as a birthday present at that time!
Official International Queen Fan Club Convention!
As time moved on, I bumped into Robin Whitmore who like me by now was a Liberal Democrat local party organiser from the East Anglian side of the country. He too was a Queen fan but he put me in the shade - he'd been a member of the Official International Queen Fan Club since the early 1970s - before I was even born! He enticed me to join him in attending a Queen Fan Club convention as he had never been before but wanted company in doing so. I did so in early 2009 at the Breen Sands Pontins resort in the west country! It was one of the most surreal weekends of my life and I absolutely enjoyed every moment of it. The eccentric enthusiasm, love and joy for the music of Queen that was felt there by all of the 1,000 or so attendees was just an electric experience which I hope to re-live again in the coming years.
I also joined Robin in witnessing the closest I will ever get to seeing Queen live in concert when I saw Queen + Paul Rodgers live in the CIA in Cardiff during that same period. Listening to Brian May singing '39 with the whole audience joining in with him remains one of the most special moments of my life. It was a truly exceptional, unforgettable experience.
On the back of the convention, I just had to join the Fan Club! I'd never joined before but I have been a member ever since.
My Golwg Interview
Having contacted the Queen Fan Club to ask for Welsh based members, Barry Thomas of the popular Welsh-language magazine Golwg was given my details and contacted me some years ago asking whether I would give an interview as someone who lives in the public-eye but who has this every-day love and enthusiasm for a popular rock group. Of course I would be!
It has gone full circle for me. Because if it hadn't have been for Freddie's untimely death 20 years ago today and the re-release of Bohemian Rhapsody that came as a direct consequence of that, I would never have become a fan at the time that I did. That doesn't mean of course that I wouldn't have become a fan at a later stage - with music of the calibre written by Freddie, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon, it would surely only have been a matter of time before I'd see the light. But the simple and sad truth of the matter is that it was in my case, Freddie's death that led directly to my interest and love for the band which he helped shape into one of the greatest in 20th century music.
For me, there's no question about it - they are the best band of all-time. My many blog posts here about them and their music will prove testimony to that belief.
Thank you Freddie. You are still alive in your music. The Show Must Go On.