Just days before the third annual World AIDS Day in 1991, 30 years ago, one of Rock's most iconic front men, Freddy Mercury, died of the disease. This show revisits the time just prior to their worldwide success, when they were breaking out of the Glam Rock ghetto into becoming legendary. #AIDS #WAD2021 #HIV #LGBTQ #HardRock #GuitarRock #GlamRock #1970s
Prior to their 1975 classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Queen were part of a wave of early 1970’s British groups often associated with Glam Rock. However, their music drew on a wider variety of influences than most, and their initial sound drew much inspiration from the heavy rock acts of the day, due in no small part to guitarist Brian May’s fondness for Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. May, a physics student, even built his own guitar, nicknamed the “Red Special”, from a hundred year-old fireplace with the help of his father.
The band met in college: May and drummer Roger Taylor were previously in a group called Smile that recorded a few tracks with their friend Tim Staffell that went nowhere, and the group disbanded. However, one of Smile’s biggest fans was man named Farrokh Bulsara, another student who originally hailed from Zanzibar. Bulsara changed his named professionally to Freddie Mercury, and the guys recruited bassist John Deacon to join their fledgling group. Naming themselves Queen, they released their first studio album in 1973.
Cover of Queen II. clockwise from left: John Deacon, Brian May, Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury. 1974, photo by Mick Rock.
Their second album, simply titled Queen II, gave the group their first British hit, and they slowly built their reputation as a live act. But it wasn't until their third release, Sheer Heart Attack, that the band would start a path to the mainstream success in both their native U.K. and at the time, most importantly, in the U.S., they so desperately wanted.
“We do play to our audience. It's very important. You can't create music in a vacuum.”Brian May, guitarist and vocalist
They had planned a live release in 1975, but held off to work on A Night At The Opera, named after a Marx Brothers film that would contain their career-defining release, "Bohemian Rhapsody". Their sound would evolve dramatically from the harder rock they had now developed into being a commercial powerhouse for a time, even becoming one of the biggest music acts in the world by 1980.
Mercury was always the focal point for the band, and he lapped up the admiration greatly. Even after the band went into a more commercial sound in their second and final decade, the group focused on their audiences that were much more welcoming to this new sound, including fans in Eastern Europe and South America.
Cover of Sheer Heart Attack, 1974. Photo by Mick Rock.
It had been rumored for some time that Mercury had been ill, as witnessed by his lack of touring after 1986 and his appearance in the band's recent videos. After what was a comeback album for them critically and commercially, Innuendo in 1991, Mercury died in the last week of November, right after the U.S. holiday Thanksgiving of that year, only publicly revealing he had the disease the day before his passing, which ironically, was just a half a week away from what was the third annual World AIDS Day event that year.
Cover of the debut album by Queen, 1973. Photo by Richard Gray.
Notably, Mercury was the the first person of celebrity from the Middle East to disclose his status and die from the disease. Always remember: fight AIDS, not people with AIDS.
* Brighton Rock, 1974, Sheer Heart Attack* The Loser In The End, 1974,