A quick note to the Adam fans that are new(er) to Queen, I can thoroughly recommend the BBC documentary “Days of Our Lives” which was made in 2011 to celebrate Queen’s 40th anniversary (available in full on YouTube). I only saw this comparatively recently as I was in a life without music (long story) when it was originally released, but it’s well worth watching. I recommend tissues as at times you see Brian and Roger at their most vulnerable.
It’s an incredible thought that Brian May and Roger Taylor were making music before men walked on the Moon; they have been together for the best part of fifty years, longer than any of their marriages.
Before they were Queen, they were Smile, a short-lived late-60s rock band. Freddie Mercury crossed the divide from being a fan to being part of the band, and by 1971 they were in the format we would recognise as Queen, with John Deacon.
During the twenty years from 1971—1991, they went through a tempestuous existence. They didn’t really hit the public eye until the release of their third album, then got entrenched in what’s tactfully described as “management issues” which culminated in an acrimonious split with Norman Sheffield and the birth of the song Death on Two Legs, proof positive that it was never a good idea to piss off Freddie Mercury.
(video from arcadata’s YouTube uploads)
It’s worth noting that this 1977 concert was during Freddie’s “leotard” period; his reaction to the birth of punk rock was to announce that he wanted to bring ballet to the masses!
For Queen, the course of true creativity never ran smooth either; all four of them frequently engaged in tremendous arguments over songwriting and the path of the band. Roger’s retrospective view of the arguments was that they “started off about the music and then got personal”. At times they nearly tore each other apart; John Deacon famously disappeared to Bali after one particularly bad session.
In the 80s the band did nearly fold; Freddie had personal problems which are now well-documented and they fought over their musical direction for some time, with a few rocky years before and after the production of The Works album. Live Aid was the thing that convinced them to carry on and their appearance at Wembley Stadium is still feted as the greatest rock performance ever.
But that was the whole thing about Queen; they didn’t do anything by halves; they did what other bands did, but then did more; every single aspect of them seemed larger than life.
The music was extraordinary; complex, multi-faceted, with ever-changing styles. They covered everything from prog rock, white gospel, jazz, funk and even the occasional foray into dance music with Hot Space, a rather left-field album for them. All four of them were incredibly capable songwriters and it was probably a mark of respect to Freddie’s final illness that later songwriting credits were to “Queen” rather than individuals. They also put massive effort into getting every song right; vocals and instruments were multi-layered in the days before computer technology took the hard graft out of it. They would spend days in the studio, often using several studios at the same time to create that sound.
The concerts were massive; Queen is a whole-body experience and always has been – that towering sound coupled with the lighting and pyrotechnics. Brian May remarked in a recent interview that the band’s view on live performance was “blind ‘em, deafen ‘em and leave them gagging for more”.
Offstage life was similar; legendary parties, marriages, partnerships, break-ups, affairs. They have never been afraid of using their own experiences to inspire their songs; WWTLF, Scandal and Days of Our Lives are just three.
Of course, to make something so colossal as Queen required massive personalities and this was probably the reason for the frequent in-fighting. This sometimes surfaced as inward jealousy when individuals from the band went off to do solo projects, but somehow there was a strong glue that ultimately bound them all together, and I think this was never stronger when they discovered that Freddie was terminally ill, actively helping to put the tabloid press off the trail of the story.
Freddie’s death was a devastating blow to all three of the remaining band members. John Deacon retired in 1997 and has subsequently been described by Brian as “fragile”. Brian and Roger chose to fight their demons creatively and after the completion of Made in Heaven, went off into solo enterprises.
A chance meeting with Paul Rodgers led to the Q+PR collaboration that lasted five years before splitting in 2009. By the time the Days of Our Lives documentary was filmed (probably late 2010/early 2011) they were asked if there was anything else left for Queen. Brian’s reply was very clear:
“For Roger and I there is always that… searching”.
They clearly weren’t content to walk away from Queen; they acknowledge that whatever else they have done as musicians, there was a unique synchronicity to Queen that made great music happen; Brian described it as the “perfect creative hothouse”, somehow proving the theory that brilliance can come out of turmoil and chaos.
The insights into Brian from that documentary are fascinating; those of you I talk to online will know that he’s one of my long-time heroes for many reasons. While Freddie was the genius frontman, Brian’s guitar helped forge that massive sound; he could also craft exquisite songs and he has no mean voice in his own right.
He’s also a highly complex man, a true polymath; he’s artist and scientist at the same time, with compassion and a huge social conscience. And he loves. There is something great about people who are unafraid to love, even if sometimes it gets them into hot water. Because of his life as a rock star, Brian’s loves – for things and people – have often been very public. Music is clearly one of those loves and when he was asked about his attitude to music, he stated:
“Once you’ve had your initiation into being a rock star, it never leaves you… You cannot really stop having that feeling inside you that makes you want to play”.
It’s also obvious that there is a unique bond between Brian and Roger; they’ve spent most of their lives together and have fought like tigers but have supported each other through thick and thin, and they clearly are very alike in what makes them tick musically.
And ultimately, neither of them could abandon Queen and what it meant to them.
Then they discovered Adam and QAL came into being, and we as fans have witnessed the growth of an incredible bromance between the three of them, stretching all the way back to the American Idol final.
Because Roger is often behind the drums, this is more noticeable between Brian and Adam, and has been summed up in this beautiful video montage created by blindrabbitpress. You may need tissues for this, particularly if you’ve never seen the end of the Chicago concert.
During the course of their relationship as QAL, the guys have hugged, grinned, giggled and fanboyed at each other. There are reams could be written about the QAL bromance covering every aspect of the work they’ve done together and I’ve already made lots of references to it; in short, they just adore each other.
I’ve watched Brian and Roger marvel at Adam’s vocal prowess, such as in this clip from the end of STL:
(Video from nightwingtt’s YouTube uploads)
The closeness between them is such a lovely thing and it demonstrates that they are all wonderful, caring guys with a lot of love in their hearts. Throughout the 2014/15 tour, Brian took time out at every single concert to introduce Adam as the “new man”, to a huge reception. He’s made it clear he wants the world to share in his own joy at Adam’s talent. Roger has also showed that he is in no way immune to Adam’s charms either.
There have also been some very funny moments, such as when the audience (and Brian) wanted all of Adam’s love!
(Video from sanja melbert’s YouTube uploads)
And Brian? I really think he has fallen in love with Adam’s voice (and I think Adam reciprocates with his love of Brian’s talent). As a musician, you can feel the most intense love for someone’s artistry, and it goes beyond gender, sexuality or age gaps. You just love that voice, or that violin sound, or that guitar – and you therefore love the person as well. It defies explanation unless you’ve felt it yourself.
Adam and Brian have incredible musical feeling and affinity for each other, as we saw in their almost (I hesitate to use the word, but…) sexual riffing in the QAL gigs. They absolutely must create some original music together to commemorate it.