November 30, 1968 – Tim Staffell introduced Farrokh ‘Freddie’ Bulsara to Brian May and Roger Taylor.
Tim Staffell attended Hampton Grammar School as well as Brian May. Staffell attended a concert in 1964 where he met Brian. Tim and Brian both had interests in music and put together a five-piece rock band called 1984. Despite the Orwellian band name, Staffell says it was actually a “kind of fun covers band” that got regular gigs around London. After several years and when school ended, the band broke up. This has an important place in music history as the rock group that laid the foundation of what would become ‘Smile’ then ‘Queen.’
Tim Staffell and Brian May stuck together. “After we left school and went our separate ways: Brian went to Imperial College to study astronomy, I went on to Ealing Art College to do graphic design. But we stayed as musical colleagues, and that’s when we auditioned Roger Taylor as a drummer. Roger came along, and Smile was born.”
In September 1966, Farrokh “Freddie” Bulsara began a graphic illustrating course at Ealing college. After Jimi Hendrix exploded onto the scene in 1967, and Freddie became an ardent fan, he spent time sketching and drawing his hero; drawings he would frame and use to decorate the walls of his flat in Kensington, rented by his friend Chris Smith, where Freddie had moved from the family home in Feltham. At that time Kensington was an important place to be for the art crowd – it was the base of the famous Biba boutique and the home of Kensington Market, frequented by the then ‘in’ crowd.
A fellow student at Ealing College was bass player Tim Staffell, with whom Freddie became good friends.
“Freddie and I were constant companions. It was the late ‘60s. There was this musical revolution in London at the time.
I had a bursary to go to college, and when I got to the college, I immediately blew all my bursary on a bass guitar and bass amplifier.
You might call it academically irresponsible.
Freddie was the same. We were in the same year at art school. We were taking the same course. The thing about Freddie was, he always had an unshakeable faith in himself. People would say that he was shy, but deep down he had this absolutely unshakeable faith.
He used to say that he was gonna be a superstar someday. He used to play air guitar, using a meter long steel rule, in the classroom, which was amusing. He was like that in those days. He was a civilised guy, not rough round the edges. I never ever saw him swear or say a bad word at anybody. Some people’s egotism is offensive but not with Freddie. He was always a lovely, lovely guy without malice
In him. There was none of that avarice for fame. He was a positive force in the world. He he was a very good friend,” said Staffell.
“We were at college because we had to be, but we just wanted to become musicians,” he continued.
November 30, 1968, Tim and Freddie’s friendship became closer, Tim took him along to a rehearsal of his band called Smile, so Freddie could finally meet Brian May and Roger Taylor. Freddie got on famously with both Brian and Roger and loved the sound that Smile had achieved; he also had immense admiration and respect for Brian’s guitar-playing. Inspired by Smile, Freddie began to experiment with music for the first time since leaving India and Freddie was with the ‘Hectics.’
The thought of being in a band was now foremost on Freddie’s mind. He would now formulate a plan of action. Freddie never jumped in feet first, he always made time to test the water beforehand. He knew that before he could launch himself in that direction, he must complete his studies. He left Ealing in 1969 with a diploma in graphic art and design. He also bought himself a cheap second-hand electric guitar that year. Tim refretted to try and improve the sound of Freddie’s guitar. Freddie didn’t have money for lessons but with the aid of books, he taught himself the rudiments of playing. He only needed to learn enough to enable him to write songs, a skill which he found came anything but easily. His inspiration for lyrics was drawn to daily life, from his own feelings, and from the experiences of himself and his friends. The resulting songs were, at times, personal. Freddie joined his first band ‘Ibex’ in the summer of 1969.