Is there really something untold about the story of Queen we wonder. Was there any stone unturned after the encyclopedic “Complete Works” by Georg Purvis and the lush “Ultimate Illustrated History” by Phil Sutcliffe? Here comes Marc Blake, the acclaimed author of the Pink Floyd book “Pigs Might Fly” and offers another 400 pages of Queen history.
I admit I did not expect to learn anything new after having read all the other Queen books. But Mark surprised me. After all, he is an experienced journalist and researching author. His work is based on his own numerous interviews and detailed research. He went the extra step to provide for accurate information and reliable sources. Therefore it is especially annoying that the first edition of the book has so many spelling and grammar errors left. This book deserves a better treatment than leaving all these errors in the printed copy. Having said that I can turn to the merits of the book.
Undoubtedly the biggest asset of Mark’s book is the description of the pre-Queen and early Queen days. There have been interviews with Freddie’s earliest friends from Isleworth and Ealing giving us a previously unavailable, detailed account of Freddie’s pre-Queen activities. There have been interviews with Queen’s bass player Doug Bogie, who was fired after two gigs, with Queen’s first producer John Anthony, who never spoke about his work with Queen before, keyboard player Fred Mandel as well as various studio engineers and tape ops who add to the picture of the young struggling band. The story of the young band members and early band does not only provide for many new details and facts – it also gives us a pretty good insight into the band psyche in these early days. For the first time an author can quote from an original Freddie Mercury letter.
The author displays a refreshingly unsentimental approach to his subject. He is quite immune to the common legend building we find repeated in other Queen books. He looks at the available video and audio documents and draws his own conclusions – something sorely missed in many band “biographies”. For example, the failure of the Mexican concerts is not covered with a lot of euphemistic words but it is just blatantly called a fiasco. For the first time we learn about the chaotic recording of “Under Pressure” which was in previous books described as a ”clash of egos” but nobody ever elaborated. Overall, the description of studio work is very interesting for the hard core fans. Much of it is based on interviews Brian May and Roger Taylor gave over the years.
The book ends with the Queen plus Paul Rodgers project and an outlook to future Queen projects. Brian May and Roger Taylor are unstoppable: a new record company, new film, new documentary... the show will go on and probably we will get more new books. We can only hope they are as good as Mark Blake’s book. I can strongly recommend it.
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