A friendship which lasts sixteen years is a hell of a long time. It’s a tough one. What do I think?
It was hard to avoid Freddie at first as both our paths were constantly crossing. We both ate in the same restaurants, drank at the same clubs and knew the same people. In the nineteen thirties, they would have had a name for our loose group, like the Algonquin Round Table or the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald set. Business people, artists of every shape and medium. Painters, actors and actresses, media folk, musicians, dancers both classical and modern. It was a pot pourri, a heady combination, something which I’m sure still exists but which to me remains rather special and unique within my memory. It was inevitable that Freddie and I would get to know each other more than just two ships which pass in the night.
Watching Queen and Freddie was a revelation especially as I had gotten to know Freddie as a friend but about whose professional life I knew little. Bearing in mind my own background, the theatre and sense of power generated by the guitar and the awesome audacity of the prancing peacock totally seduced me. It was wonderful stuff. Though some of the crassness repelled me, I was a willing convert to rock n’ roll which, after all, is the very essence of this great band. Though I was doing concerts at the time, mine were so esoteric and eclectic that any comparison was invidious. Seeing Freddie and Queen opened up new vistas and possibilities for me within what I had already been doing which was so different to how Freddie performed.
In retrospect, apart from liking my voice, Freddie realised at that point we were both performers, though he was very famous and I was relatively unknown. The difference didn’t matter for I believe that as far as he was concerned, from that time on, although we could either criticise or compliment each other, we communicated.
We used to go out a lot together too, everywhere from the opera, the ballet, as well as nightclubs and ordinary pubbing for however famous Freddie was he was no snob and enjoyed going where everyone else went.
There’s a sadness that I wasn’t around for the last year of his life. I was working very hard in Ken Hill’s Phantom of the Opera, touring, away from London.
It was also, for some reason that I still don’t completely understand, Freddie’s wish not to see me. Theories and suppositions have been put forward by many others. I think I understand, within my mind’s eye, but in the long run whatever makes someone who is suffering happy, we who are alive and who have survived can only accept.
Strangely, Freddie Mercury sort of still lives. His music is just everywhere. I’ve just been in Japan with the aforesaid Phantom and because I knew Freddie loved Japan so much, I was very much aware of his continuing presence. Returning to England, I found that Barcelona was in the charts again and so although I don’t see him, I still hear him and I miss him.
“This Was The Real Life; The Tale of Freddie Mercury” by David Minns and David Evans
This Picture of Freddie Mercury with Peter Straker was taken by Richard Young @ Peter’s 39th Birthday Party, Paramount City, London, 1986