The line ‘Mama, just killed a man’ on the song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was Freddie’s covert way of saying that he had now left his old, straight life behind him.
I got a feeling that Freddie always had a complex that he wasn’t as well-educated as the others. Maybe that’s why he chose to leave them and go back to his dressing room or hotel room. He seemed to prefer hanging out with his own entourage or ‘harem’, as it became known.
Or was it just his dark secret, the suspicion that he was HIV positive, that got in the way?
Sometimes Brian and I would knock on Freddie’s door to show him one of my pictures. (Brian always wanted to see the latest ones, so in the morning I would run around town in a new city looking for photo processing labs). But Freddie was only moderately interested. He might have said ‘nice shot’; that was about it.
He wasn’t a diva though, far from it. Instead I remember him as being an extremely polite, humble and friendly chap.
Be that as it may, Freddie was never around when the other guys hit the bars after a gig. Nor was Roger, the always polite, real British gentleman, who also preferred to set up his own after-parties.
For this reason, it would often be a small trio, Brian, John and myself, who would go out for a pint or two, rarely more. None of them seemed interested in getting particularly drunk. When Queen was interviewed by a Japanese newspaper in 1975, John had replied that his favourite drink was ‘milk’ and Brian had said ‘grapefruit juice’. Clearly, it was music that had attracted them to the business from the start, not dreams of some kind of rock star life.
The thing is, even if we rarely talked about it that summer of 1986, Freddie had become an important part of my life. He was one of the few stars who always owned the stage, who almost seemed to own the world. Every inch of him an artist.
I have thousands of pictures of Freddie stashed away, not all of them good, of course, but still I find it hard to identify a single one where he doesn’t come off looking totally luminous.
Even when he is lying seemingly wasted, almost dead, on a staircase on stage, his pose is perfect.
The Queen is dead. Long love the Queen.”
[Torleif Svensson, ‘Queen – The Last Tour’]
Torleif Svensson, 1986