Source: HEAT December 1999

Submitted by: Richard Orchard

They brought pomp and opera to the masses, so as Channel 4 looks back on the career of Britain’s most flamboyant rock band, here are some facts taken from Phil Sutcliffe’s article that you never knew about Queen.

1. Freddie Mercury’s real name was Farrokh Bulsara - his father was a British diplomat of Persian descent.

2. Throughout Queen’s career, Brian May played the guitar he and his father, Harold, pieced together using timber, a saddle-bag holder and a knitting needle.

3. As students, Mercury and Roger Taylor ran a clothes stall in Kensington Market. Dedicated fans of Jimi Hendrix, they shut up shop for the day when they heard news of his death on September 18, 1970.

4. Queen were rock’s most overqualified band, all toting degrees apart from Mercury who boasted a mere Diploma in Art & Design.

5. After a slow start to their career Queen dumped their management and fondly dedicated a song to them entitled Death On Two Legs.

6. Bohemian Rhapsody remains the only single to top the UK chart twice, selling a million in 1975 (nine weeks at Number 1) and then again after Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991 (five weeks at Number 1).

7. Back in the reel-to-reel 80s it took seven days to record the operatic section’s 180 voices. Key to full understanding of the late Sir Frederick’s lyric is knowing that Scaramouch, famously invited to do the fandango, was boastful but cowardly character in 16th-18th century Italian commedia dell’arte improv. comedy.

8. On December 1, 1976, The Sex Pistols only got the chance to go on ITV’s Today show, say infamously rude things to Bill Grundy and make punk history because Queen pulled out of their scheduled spot.

9. When Freddie Mercury met Sid Vicious at a recording studio he trilled, "Ah hello, Mr Ferocious, dear!" And lived.

10. Queen staged their most boggling party in New Orleans to launch 1978 album Jazz. It featured topless waitresses, hermaphrodite strippers, dwarfs, and a woman smoking a fag via the wrong pair of lips.

11. In July 1979 Mercury danced at the Royal Ballet for a children’s charity.

12. Queen got themselves on a United Nations blacklist when they breached the apartheid-era cultural blockade on South Africa, playing eight gigs in tribal homeland gambling capital Sun City in 1984.

13. Global redemption came when they delivered Live Aid’s killer 20 minutes. As Bob Geldof noted, "It was the perfect stage for Freddie - he could ponce about in front of the whole world."

14. Queen played their last concert at Knebworth, August 9, 1986. Mercury is believed to have been diagnosed as HIV positive the following year.

15. All four members of Queen individually wrote Top 10 singles, including Taylor’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’, Deacon’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, May’s ‘Flash’ and Mercury’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

16. After Mercury died of AIDS-related pneumonia at his Holland Park home on November 24, 1991, it was revealed that he had left much of his £10 million estate to his faithful friend - and mid-70s girlfriend - Mary Austin.

17. Queen are still second to The Beatles on the Guinness Hit Albums list for total number of weeks in the UK chart with 1126 to the Fab Four’s 1180. Laid end to end, that’s more than 21 chart years.