Added on 02-Jan-2005
A different take on the upcoming tour... Stardust memories pall without king of camp
POP stars like to think of themselves as ordinary blokes who are in touch with the rest of us. It suggests they have managed to keep a grip on normality and sanity and the everyday. In every rock interview I have done, there has always been a point where Mr Spiggy or Mr Spit pauses from listing his hit singles, celebrity chums and foreign homes to confide that actually he’s still at his happiest when he’s down with the lads/his mum/the footie.
It’s good for your image, this talk of pubs and telly. It’s also a way of earthing yourself from becoming like David Essex in Stardust, where you dress entirely in white and your manager buys you Spain for your birthday. Still, sometimes the attempt to paste a bangers ’n’ mash veneer on a champagne lifestyle looks a little overworked, such as the strained blokey act of Coldplay plodder Chris Martin, who is married to Gwyneth Paltrow, a genuine Hollywood princess, yet always seems to be pushing prams and loading up shopping in Sainsbury’s.
Even rock ’n’ roll’s casualties are turning up the volume on their ordinariness rather than their excesses. The other week, Newsnight featured an extraordinary interview with former-Libertine and current heroin urchin Pete Doherty, with a fabulously ham moment where the show’s headmistress, Kirsty Wark, read out a letter from Pete’s mum - a letter that suggested that Peter be excused from tough treatment today on account of him feeling a bit poorly.
It always seemed to me that Queen dealt with the schizophrenic business of the ordinary and extraordinary worlds rather well by hiving off the laddish stuff to Roger Taylor, John Deacon and Brian May whilst Freddie Mercury performed all the rococo duties. An interview with the much-missed spangly Freddie was unlikely to be interrupted by an enquiry about the latest football scores or the offer of a swift half down the Fisherman’s Tavern. Mercury was all Napoleonic costumes, operatic gestures and gaudy, soaring rock and roll anthems with a delivery of sheer heart attack. Together, the blend of one Valentino in spandex plus three plumbers in clogs grabbed the public imagination like a rottweiler and his postman, until Mercury’s death in 1991.
However, 2005 begins with the grim prospect of a Queen resurrected. At first, Brian May’s decision to reform the group with vocals provided by Paul Rodgers, one-time singer with both Free and Bad Company, looked like a one-off act of charity. Indeed, if May had decided to put together the group simply to perform at the second Mandela Aids benefit, it would have been one of those performances that Freddie might have wanted, at the behest of South Africa’s charismatic former premier. But it turns out that this is merely the first gig on a full tour of ‘Queen’, and the first sign that blokey Brian has lost his grip.
"Suddenly the Queen phoenix is rising again from the ashes," May said. Well, no, not the Queen as everyone else knew it, Brian. To everyone else Queen was a platform for Mercury’s idiosyncratic pyrotechnics backed by three blokes with poodle cuts. Now it emerges that, to Brian’s mind, the highlight of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was not Mercury’s reinvention of La Boheme as a lisping Persian. No, it was Bri’s endless, endless guitar licks. This is the only possible explanation for why Brian thinks that he, Roger Taylor and some middle-aged bloke singing could be considered ‘Queen’. The rest of us know that if you pay to see the 1812 Overture and only the chaps with the triangles turn up then, no matter how heartfelt the percussion, it’s never going to be the 1812 Overture, is it?
This is the kind of misplaced hubris we’ve come to expect from the likes of, say, Bob Dylan, who decided on his Love and Theft tour that it was about time we were educated in the history of obscure Appalachian lullabies. Or Robert de Niro, who revealed this Christmas that he felt we would be qu