Forums > Queen - General Discussion > On Freddie's vocal shape (arg, don't kill me!)

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Yara user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 28 Apr 09, 18:13 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

When time allows, and if you feel like reading it, I'd love to know what you guys think about this. I have very little knowledge of all this and I often learn a lot by reading the threads here on the website.  

I was after the interview where Freddie commented about Queen's songs being disposable pop and a dear user pointed it out for me.  

I've just read the whole interview, which was done back in 1981 and is available on the website "Queen Archives" for those who hadn't the chance to read yet, and it came across to me as a very serious, thoughtful careful and sensitive one, not that sarcastic for his standards. It seems to me that Freddie had a worldly cleverness which made him a quite interesting person too.

Well, in this interview he made what I think is one of the most important remarks I ever come across for people who enjoy reading and eventually writting about Freddie's performances over the years. It was not so much the statement that he suffered from vocal nodules that caught my attention as his comment on how he felt he was losing his range. "I'm losing range", he said, but then went on to remark that he seemed to be singing better within that range. 

It was late 1981 and Queen had just returned from South America, I guess. As the problems he's describing should have been developing for some time already when he gave the interview, I think it's very likely, although it may come as a paradox, that he started to feel he was losing range and suffering from problems related to his vocal chords at the time he was arguably at the peak of his powers as a live performer, which is said to encompass the period from late 1979 to 1982.

I don't know whether what's above is correct. Assuming it is, just for the sake of the argument, I think he started during the said period to oversing - we Queen fans find it wonderful but fact is that he was straining his body to a very dangerous extent - and demand a whole lot from his vocal muscles and lungs in order to make up for the natural loss of range: funny thing is that the result was awesome. Because he started to go really wild and eliminate the precautions he usually took while singing live back in the 70's to make up - in and with power - for what he noticed as a drop in range, the performances were usually uncanny and jaw-dropping. He was in a great shape, physically speaking, and naturally the power of his voice just came out and helped him reach beautifully some of the most demanding notes given his range.  

It was all done ultimately at the expense of his health, though. He commented on being exhausted after the Game Tour, which had been really demanding for him, and the Hot Space Tour would be one of the most demanding for him simply because of the songs he had to sing. 

Although smoking, drugs - he put on some weight he was not prepared to cope with as a result of it, I think - and other habits must have factored into the poor vocal shape he displayed during much of the Works and Magic Tours, I think it was mainly the abuse of his voice and the excessive amount of gigs and concerts which led to the decaying of his performances during 1984-1986. His singing is still exciting during this period though, as many have already observed, because he was a wonderful musician. 

Since he played the last concert with Queen in the middle of 1986 and only got to meet Montserrat on March 1987, it's fair to say that the reason why he sounds so good in Barcelona and later on, despite the change in his timber, is because he had stopped touring and, arguably, acquired some skills, maybe with her, to avoid messing up with his vocal tract. Besides, the studio work with Mike Moran before that was not nearly as strainful as the intensive touring with Queen.   

What do you guys think? Would it be a plausible hypothesis?
 
Thank you very much anyway and excuse me for the lenghty post!

Wish you the best!

Yara.


Yara
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Posted: 28 Apr 09, 19:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

No, but yea, but no


but yeah, actually



"On the first day Pim & Niek created a heavenly occupation. Pim & Niek blessed it and named it 'Loosch'."



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Posted: 28 Apr 09, 19:27 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yara, as always, a well thought out and logical argument!
Its speculation from us all I guess, but what you're saying sounds like a reasonable hypothesis. Theres no doubt that your voice changes as you get older, and that Freddie's lifestyle and touring would have an effect on his voice. I remember being surprised when I first heard Wembley 86 at how much raspier and lower his voice seemed to be at times.
Resting from touring is very likely to have allowed his voice to return to its fuller potential in the Barcelona/Miracle period, and although you can hear the strain on his voice on Innuendo and Made in Heaven recordings, his vocal range is still incredible, and well beyond anything he could have acheived on the Magic Tour. TSMGO for example is an astounding performance as far as Im concerned, and whatever he felt he had lost range-wise isnt apparent to me in recordings like that.

Im a (very amateur) singer, and reckon I can hit note for note 99% of what Freddie sings on Live at Wembley (without the same quality or power of course), but cant get near large parts of the Barcelona album, or The Miracle etc etc, and even when I can push for higher notes, I certainly cant sustain singing at a high pitch in the way Freddie could - he's just incredible.
You should have pity on my neighbours for the times I've tried to sing along to something like, for example, Scandal, haha!


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Posted: 29 Apr 09, 08:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I wonder what Freddie would have sounded like if he gave in and got the surgery to rid the vocal nodules.  Klaus Mein of Scorpions had it done and he sounds great. 

I still find it amazing that Freddie could still belt out high notes after not taking care of his voice for many years.

I guess that's why Freddie is the greatest ;)

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Posted: 29 Apr 09, 19:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Cwazy little thing wrote:

Yara, as always, a well thought out and logical argument!
Its speculation from us all I guess, but what you're saying sounds like a reasonable hypothesis. Theres no doubt that your voice changes as you get older, and that Freddie's lifestyle and touring would have an effect on his voice. I remember being surprised when I first heard Wembley 86 at how much raspier and lower his voice seemed to be at times.
Resting from touring is very likely to have allowed his voice to return to its fuller potential in the Barcelona/Miracle period, and although you can hear the strain on his voice on Innuendo and Made in Heaven recordings, his vocal range is still incredible, and well beyond anything he could have acheived on the Magic Tour. TSMGO for example is an astounding performance as far as Im concerned, and whatever he felt he had lost range-wise isnt apparent to me in recordings like that.

Im a (very amateur) singer, and reckon I can hit note for note 99% of what Freddie sings on Live at Wembley (without the same quality or power of course), but cant get near large parts of the Barcelona album, or The Miracle etc etc, and even when I can push for higher notes, I certainly cant sustain singing at a high pitch in the way Freddie could - he's just incredible.
You should have pity on my neighbours for the times I've tried to sing along to something like, for example, Scandal, haha!

Haha. Thanks, Cwazy Little Thing. Thanks for taking the time to read it and to give such a great reply. Thank you, really, it's really helpful.

Interesting remarks throughout. I guess you said it all, sustaining this kind of singing during a whole song and at times during a whole concert, as it was very often the case with some of the Hot Space gigs, demands such a control over both pitch and volume and tuning in general that I still get amazed by many of his performances despite having been listening to Queen for a good deal of years now. One would expect this feeling of "awe" to fade away, but it didn't. He was really one of a kind. :-)) 

Ah, I bet you sing just fine. :-))) 

Thanks for the helpful reply. It's great to have this kind of feedback. 

Take care
Yara 

  








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Posted: 01 May 09, 14:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I have a very vague (and possibly not accurate?) memery of reading something about Freddie having fairly bad problems with his voice during a crucial time when he felt he couldn't cancel concerts.  I think it was in America, not sure when... did they tour America shortly after Brian was sick in hospital?  I seem to remember reading that he was advised to cancel concerts and wouldn't?  Or maybe it was that they said afterwards that they should have cancelled it?  Also, hasn't Brian said that Freddie would sometimes sing until his throat bled, when it was bad?  Doesn't bear thinking about, must've hurt like crazy.  But his voice is just so incredible.

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Posted: 01 May 09, 15:13 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yara


Even though I agree with your observations, I disagree with some of your arguments.



His range grew and grew, as did his confidence(throughout the seventies his evolution is truly remarkable). The only thing he did which was not very clever was start smoking! He suffered from vocal nodules, smoking is really a bad idea then. Smoking does 2 things: you need more time to recuperate and your range is more limited. No surprise Freddie had serious problems in 1984. He was smoking a lot by then and they played many dates in a very short period. That's the reason why his range is so limited during some shows(7/9/84 for example). Whenever he had some rest, he sounded fantastic again(Milan is pretty good as is Berlin even though he had only 1 day of recuperation:-)). Also, for example: the first Rio show, the first 2Tokyo 1985 shows,...
In 1986 he was still smoking but still I think he took better care of his voice and the concerts were better spread. In my opinion 1986 was certainly not bad. The sound of his voice was awesome, very powerful and that made him sing some songs in truly majestic manner, like Who wants to live forever?. I recently watched Budapest again and I was simply impressed by his energy and his vocal control. And he knew it, check out his smile after the improv bit before Tutti frutti;-)

Also, let's not forget he was recording Mr. Bad Guy in 1984-1985. If there is ever an album on which he sounds strained then it is his solo-album.

So,more than the 'oversinging' it was the smoking that made him lose range and suffer during some shows. Combined with the vocal nodules and the heavy studio singing it gave him the well-known problems.





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Posted: 01 May 09, 16:23 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Hi, on my way up. I hope you're doing just fine.

You raised some very interesting points there and your reply is very thoughtful and well-argued, and it makes some very good references to and comments on some of Queen's later performances.

I can't thank you guys enough for the feedback. I wanted to comment on your great post in the thread announcing Sir GH's work - which I'm sure it'll sound great, as usual - on the merging of sources from the Slane Castle gig, but I feared hijacking the thread.

So I take advantage of this occasion to congratulate you on that post and say that it was very informative and helpful. I'm surely going to go back to it now and then, it's a beautiful analysis of the Magic Tour in general. 

Only such a great singer can generate so much interest and thoughtful comments. He was indeed a very special talent. 

Take care, thanks a lot and I wish you the very best!

Yara


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Posted: 01 May 09, 21:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



catqueen wrote:

I have a very vague (and possibly not accurate?) memery of reading something about Freddie having fairly bad problems with his voice during a crucial time when he felt he couldn't cancel concerts.  I think it was in America, not sure when... did they tour America shortly after Brian was sick in hospital?  I seem to remember reading that he was advised to cancel concerts and wouldn't?  Or maybe it was that they said afterwards that they should have cancelled it?  Also, hasn't Brian said that Freddie would sometimes sing until his throat bled, when it was bad?  Doesn't bear thinking about, must've hurt like crazy.  But his voice is just so incredible.

Exactly! It was a comment Brian made regarding the recording of "Another One Bites The Dust": he said that Freddie liked the song so much that he sang it until his thorat bled. It may have been a metaphor, ok, but it's a sign that Freddie was for sure oversinging exactly at the time I'm referring to: late 1979-1982. He said he was just wasted after the Game Tour and then, comes 1981, he says twice in the same interview that he's losing range.

The journalist gets surprised, it's funny: "But you're singing so well...", and so on. And indeed, that's the apparent paradox: Freddie was sounding great, yes, but my guess is that he was really doing a kind of singing which was too much for his condition and training. Freddie then insists: "No, I feel I'm losing range...".

This comment comes before The Hot Space Tour and the problem must have been developing for some time already - my guess: late 1979. He begins singing too aggressively and straining his vocal muscles too much, but at the same time the power of his singing had increased, which meant more air flow and explosion, so that each performance was starting to become like a stab on his thorat. While he was in great physical shape, he could compensate the increasing damage done to his vocal muscles with the power of his voice, which helped him reach the notes he wanted to. Given the fact that he already had problems with nodules, I guess it's very likely that oversinging was the main cause of the damage he did to his vocal muscles - the nodules tended to get worse and he couldn't sing for much long anymore. 

I've always had the feeling he was poorly trained for the kind of singing he had to sustain for a long period of time. That was true for the 70's. But I think the abusive singing from 1980-1982 really took a huge toll on him - so much so that he was an all together different singer from 1984-1986 - still a wonderful singer, but sounding really different and much more harsh and raspy. 

Singers who smoked for much longer resisted better than Freddie - my guess is that he started to do a kind of singing that was beyond his means given the problems with nodules, the poor training and his natural limitations: he kept pushing his limits without being prepared to do so, and that resulted in a lot of harm. There were hints of the problem back in 1978 and 1979 already, but he always managed to recover and, more importantly, he recovered faster and to the same point.  

From 1984 on, it started to get more and more hard for him to recover and it took him much more time to do so. And he'd never recover fully: the signs of a kind of permament damage are listenable not only in the Works and Magic Tours, but also in the albums. In his solo work up until Barcelona one can listen to him forcing his way into the harder notes, given his range. After having enjoyed a considerable amount of rest he sounds great again in Barcelona.
 
That's how I can make sense of quite a sudden change in his voice while he was still very young to experience such drastic changes. 

Again, I wanna thank you all for the very kind and helpful replies! 

And THANKS A LOT CATQUEEN for remembering this comment by Brian. 

I'm trying to get the pieces together in my mind, and all the comments of you guys have been really helpful. 

Take care you all and have a wonderful weekend!

Yara       









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Posted: 07 Dec 09, 00:58 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Something doesn't make sense: Freddie said he "lost range, and power," but when I hear him in late 1981 to mid 82, he sounds just as (if not more) powerful has he did from 1979-1981.
Concerning the oversinging, that didn't really start becoming a problem until the Works tour. Freddie's voice was already more husky due to his smoking. He started suffering from register imbalance (where you lose range/powe in your full voice, so you yell/oversing to compensate). on the Works tour, then it was made WORSE and VERY evident on the Magic tour. Listen to Wembley for example: Whenever Freddie wants to hit high notes, he would yell and scream to hit it. He's still powerful and on key, but it sounds very harsh and strained (because of the smoking, nodules, overtouring, etc).
I'd say his peak voice shape was 1979-1982, because he still had the "young Freddie sound" that was clean, but had MUCH more power in his voice.


I always knew I was a star And now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me-Freddie Mercury
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Posted: 07 Dec 09, 10:27 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Hello, the most positive person on queenzone, Yara! 
My head is buzzing right now, but I couldn't miss your topic. (That's why I may mess up with what is already said here.) 
I remember this article as well. He's very right saying so.
As for me, I love Freddie's voice from 70s, due to his range and flexibility. I think it's a big shame that he started to smoke. (In fact, it's a shame for every singer who spoils his voice with this. For those who can't sing it's ok :P).
And actually his voice was pretty strong in mid-seventies as well. The Prophet's Song for example. 1979-1982 seems like a breaking moment- when all the touring and lifestyle started to affect Freddie's vocal. In 80s his voice became stronger, but lost the flexibility and smoothness (as was said before). Which I consider to be an important loss for him. The voice becomes better in late 80s- maybe Freddie was preparing for collaboration with Cabelle?  What amazes, is his voice on Innuendo. Particularly The Show Must Go On. He sounds more smooth than before. More clear. Plus very high without huskiness. What is very different from The Miracle. MIN is a descend again for obvious reason.
Well, that's how I see it.
Take care!


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Posted: 07 Dec 09, 15:46 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



catqueen wrote:

I have a very vague (and possibly not accurate?) memery of reading something about Freddie having fairly bad problems with his voice during a crucial time when he felt he couldn't cancel concerts.  I think it was in America, not sure when... did they tour America shortly after Brian was sick in hospital?  I seem to remember reading that he was advised to cancel concerts and wouldn't?  Or maybe it was that they said afterwards that they should have cancelled it?  Also, hasn't Brian said that Freddie would sometimes sing until his throat bled, when it was bad?  Doesn't bear thinking about, must've hurt like crazy.  But his voice is just so incredible.

Yes, he started vocal problems on the second USA tour I seem to remember.  I remember interviews at the time from the US tour and he went to see a doctor over there but said he "didn't like the look of him" (!) so he didn't proceed with surgery at that time... I think it was probably on that very long USA tour, singing night after night for about 3 or 4 months was it? I remember Brian (I think) on the tour saying "this is going to be a long tour".  You would need enormous stamina to do a tour like that and then to sing night after night against massive amplification: I just think it did for him vocally, certainly that was the start of the vocal problems and in tours to come the dates were structured with a day or so break in between days....  And I think surgery at that time was risky, not like now: it might have permanantly damaged his voice.





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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 00:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

hi,
this is all very interesting and I was wondering if someone could please tell me the link to the interview you guys are talking about? thanks! :)

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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 04:36 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

another freddie thread, lol.  I  know why I enjoy most of Queens stuff, including a lot of the eighties. I simply love the sound of his voice.   When I listen to some of the weaker stuff from the eighties I still like those songs. Example "I want to break free" usually I wouldn't like a simple pop song like that,  but his voice does it for me, and brings the song up a notch. "my baby does me" usually I tend to hate these type of tunes, but again, freddie has a way about him.  A night at the opera, news of the world, hot space are freddie's strongest in the studio. Live, it's 1979 to 1982.  The magic tour his voice was much stronger, very powerful but lacked range. I  personally love the majority of 86.  Again,  give me all the cracks in his voice you want, or lack of range in that year,  but the sound of his voice makes up for it.    Before anyone calls me a stepford, it's simply not true.  Even his voice couldn't save body language and put out the fire, ect.......  Most of Mr. Bad guy.......  He must of been one brave fucker to release body language as a single.  I don't think the other guys had much of a say in that.  What freddie wanted, he got!

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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 09:25 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



lolabug987 wrote:

hi,
this is all very interesting and I was wondering if someone could please tell me the link to the interview you guys are talking about? thanks! :)

Hello.  
Yara actually named the source, but here's a link (I believe that's what she meant :) )
http://www.queenarchives.com/index.php?title=Freddie_Mercury_-_05-02-1981_-_Melody_Maker


And here's the piece of that interview:


"Do you ever leave a stage feeling you've done a really bad gig?

Yes, sometimes. We all scream and shout at each other and destroy the dressing room and release our energy. We set ourselves a very high standard and 99 per cent of the audience wouldn't agree with our assessment of a bad gig. In San Francisco I lost my voice and it was awful, my register was limited to virtually a monotone. I still gave it my all but I knew it was a bad performance. They had to reschedule the tour and take three or four shows off the tour. I have nodules on my vocal chords and most tours are now scheduled around my voice.

But your voice sounds very powerful....

I'm losing the range, believe it or not. I've lost the power I began with. But I've become a stronger singer so maybe my framework is diminishing but within that I can sing better than ever. My voice can do amazing things now. "

P.S. Yara, correct me if I'm wrong.






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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 10:15 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



mike hunt wrote:

another freddie thread, lol.  I  know why I enjoy most of Queens stuff, including a lot of the eighties. I simply love the sound of his voice.   When I listen to some of the weaker stuff from the eighties I still like those songs. Example "I want to break free" usually I wouldn't like a simple pop song like that,  but his voice does it for me, and brings the song up a notch. "my baby does me" usually I tend to hate these type of tunes, but again, freddie has a way about him.  A night at the opera, news of the world, hot space are freddie's strongest in the studio. Live, it's 1979 to 1982.  The magic tour his voice was much stronger, very powerful but lacked range. I  personally love the majority of 86.  Again,  give me all the cracks in his voice you want, or lack of range in that year,  but the sound of his voice makes up for it.    Before anyone calls me a stepford, it's simply not true.  Even his voice couldn't save body language and put out the fire, ect.......  Most of Mr. Bad guy.......  He must of been one brave fucker to release body language as a single.  I don't think the other guys had much of a say in that.  What freddie wanted, he got!

Funny thing: Body Language was a HIT!








I always knew I was a star And now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me-Freddie Mercury
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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 10:42 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote







mike hunt wrote:



A night at the opera, news of the world, hot space are freddie's strongest in the studio.


I think his strongest studio albums were Sheer Heart Attack and A Night at the Opera; with News of the World, Jazz, Hot Space, Innuendo and Made In Heaven coming close behind. The versatility, creativity and experimentation he displays on SHA was simply stunning, not to mention that by that stage, he had truly mastered his vocal gifts. The way I see it, he was very good (sometimes brilliant) on th first album, superb on the second album (the album IMO in which he truly came into his own), and then established himself as one of the greatest singers of all time on SHA and ANATO.







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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 11:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Gregsynth wrote:

Funny thing: Body Language was a HIT!

That song has grown on me BIG TIME. I used to hate it but then I met a guy who was into Led Zep, The Who and Queen and the first thing he said about Queen was how much he loved "HOT SPACE" and how Body Language kicked ass.

I actually like that album a lot since it's the first studio album I ever got to hear (ADATR was the second, just minutes after) but I usually skipped Body Language.

As usual with other HS songs, the live version takes it to another level. It's not that different from the studio version but it has that additional "kick" that makes it even dirtier, hehe.



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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 11:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Wiley wrote:

I used to hate it but then I met a guy who was into Led Zep, The Who and Queen and the first thing he said about Queen was how much he loved "HOT SPACE" and how Body Language kicked ass.



That may be one of the most weird things I've heard :)

I still skip BL- shame on me. 






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Posted: 08 Dec 09, 12:00 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The live versions of the Hot Space songs are SO MUCH BETTER than the album versions.


I always knew I was a star And now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me-Freddie Mercury