Added on 21-Sep-2008
Founder of Creation Records cites Freddie as a punk rock icon in his September 2008 blog for The Guardian.
Queen have always been considered the antithesis of punk. But if punk rock was about never being boring, then Mercury's camp, Bollywood theatrics were almost a political weapon.
I spent yesterday arguing with a friend that Freddie Mercury was punk rock. He hates Queen. I love Queen. That's the kind of band they are. And when I tell people that I consider Freddie Mercury a great songwriter and punk-rock idol, some get it and others don't.
John Lydon paid tribute to Queen in 1977 when he was recording Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Six Pistols in the same studios as them. Lydon crawled in stealth-like fashion to say hello to Freddie Mercury (before crawling out again). He wasn't the only icon who admired the Queen frontman. Kurt Cobain, in his suicide note, wrote of how he both admired and envied Freddie Mercury for basking in the love from his audience.
Born Farrokh Bulsara, Mercury spent his childhood in India before coming to the United Kingdom. I've always thought there was a Bollywood aspect to Queen. Mercury's stage persona is pure Bollywood - embodying its language and inherent melodrama. And it was all about the show. Mercury kept his private life private, as it should be; Freddie Mercury "the mortal man" was never going to be as entertaining as Freddie Mercury the "rock star".
For critics at the time, Queen were often considered the antithesis of punk rock and even rock'n'roll itself, but only if you believed the slating that Queen's Jazz was given by Dave Marsh: "Queen hasn't the imagination to play jazz - Queen hasn't the imagination, for that matter, to play rock'n'roll." He even went on to call them the "first truly fascist rock'n'roll band".
Could it be that the element of campness, during a time when machismo ruled the day, made so many rock critics panic? As glam-rock turned sour and Glitter lost its glitter, Mercury and co certainly filled the gap.
In fact, Queen were incredibly camp. This was rock as theatrics and larger than life. Mercury was so camp he made the 60s Batman show look like a gritty and realistic take on crime. His outrageous stage antics were punk rock. If punk rock was about the politics of boredom - and never being boring - Queen win. They crafted the act of entertainment as an almost political weapon.
When they produced their I Want to Break Free video they got slammed again. I Want to Break Free starred Queen in Coronation Street-drag. The in-your-face attitude found them banned from MTV - even Brian May states the I Want to Break Free video killed the band's career in the States. The downward turn never stopped Queen from playing - it was as if Mercury needed the recognition of the audience to sustain himself.
The band didn't last long in isolation. In 1985, Live Aid brought Queen back and they received a hero's welcome at Wembley as Mercury got 75,000 fans to clap along to Radio Ga Ga, stealing the show in the process. Their comeback performance was the watermark of Queen's career and, again, had all the high drama of a Bollywood flick: reigning kings returning triumphantly to their kingdom.
What a film and what a soundtrack! Queen's songwriting was world class; complex time signatures, the genre-hopping, the operatic range all wrapped up in stadium-anthem bluster.
No wonder, then, that in a 2006 BBC poll of the UK's bestsellers, Queen's Greatest Hits ranked No 1, over the Beatles Sgt Pepper's and Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory. And no wonder that, when Freddie died, the only thing to befit a star of that stature was a statue overlooking Lake Geneva and, of course, the stage musical We Will Rock You. Anything else would have paled for a stage presence that was larger than life, the stadium-sized king of punk rock.
Article at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2008/sep/02/whyfreddiemercuryisapunkr