“Inside my heart is breaking, My makeup may be flaking, But my smile, still, stays on”
14 October 1991, Queen’s incredible track ‘The Show Must Go On’ backed with ‘Keep Yourself Alive’, released in the UK 🇬🇧
It peaked at #16 on the U.K. charts during its initial release. When this song was coupled with the reissue of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in the USA following the untimely death of Freddie in 1992, it shot up the charts all the way to #2
This powerful song is the twelfth track on Queen’s fourteenth studio album, ‘Innuendo’ and Freddie Mercury’s final album during his lifetime.
The iconic singer was battling in his fight against AIDS as the band made the record together, the year before. And now Brian May has shared the “unforgettable’ time Freddie recorded ‘The Show Must Go On,’ summing up his tenacity and resilience during his final months.
“I very much like the last track on ‘Innuendo,’ which is called ‘The Show Must Go On.’ It’s one of those things which evolved, there’s bits of all of us in it. It has a little bit of retrospective stuff and it has a little bit of forward looking stuff. There was a point where I looked into it and got a vision of it, and put down a few things; I felt it meant something special, so I’m pretty fond of that one. Sometimes these tracks have a life of their own and no matter what you do they have a life of their own and a certain sound to them. A lot of people thought Freddie wrote ‘The Show Must Go On’ but mainly I wrote it.”
“We all knew there wasn’t much time left. Freddie wanted his life to be as normal as possible. He obviously was in a lot of pain and discomfort. For him, the studio was an oasis, there was a sort of blanket around us, and he could be happy and enjoy what he loved doing best. We had a lot of laughs, and a huge amount of fun because it was a safe place for him. A place where life was just the same as it always had been. He loved making music, he lived for it!”
“We didn’t discuss what the meaning of the song was, but it was of course evident in the background that it was an attempt to give a voice to the feelings that Freddie’s valiant fight against AIDS created in all of us, and even in Freddie. He was too low in energy to create it himself.
But I had one unforgettable special afternoon working together with him on solidifying the lyrics of the first verse of this embryonic song about a clown whose make-up hid his pain, before he slid out to attend another treatment. That gave me enough lyrical material to later expand into the eventual two verses.
I sat down with Freddie and got out my scribblings and said, ‘What do you think of this?’ It was a very strange and memorable moment really, because what I’d done was come up with something which I thought was the world viewed through his eyes. We didn’t talk about it as such though. We talked about it in terms of the story….
I finished mapping out the song, sang the whole thing as a demo, including the added ‘Wings of Butterflies’ section, which somehow appeared in my head very late one night, and I played it to him when he was next in the studio.
The melody called for some very demanding top notes, and I’d only been able to ‘demo’ them in falsetto.
I said to Freddie, ‘I don’t want you strain yourself – this stuff isn’t going to be easy in full voice, even for you!’ Freddie always used to say, ‘Oh Brian, you’re fucking making me tear my throat to bits again!’ I remember apologizing in advance.
Freddie pushed his voice to ridiculous heights. He still had astonishing power in his lungs. His vocals were surprisingly strong at times. He chose to push himself and go higher and higher. We looked at each other and knew there was a mountain to climb. That’s when the vodka really went down.”
He said, ‘Don’t worry – I’ll fucking nail it, Darling!’.
He then downed a couple of his favourite shots of vodka. Propped himself up against the mixing desk, and… delivered one of the most extraordinary performances of his life.
He’s finding the energy from somewhere. And his voice is incredible on this track. I’ve never heard anybody sing like that in my whole life. He rose to every challenge and seemed to reach heights that he’s never even reached before.
In the final mix of The Show Must Go On, when you get to ‘On with the Show’, you are listening to a man who conquered everything to deliver his finest work. I was very pleased with the way it came out.
He never asked for sympathy from anyone else. He was a very strong person and always liked to be in control of his own destiny. He knew that if he did announce his illness, his life would become a circus and he would be prevented from going about his business, which was making music. He wanted it to be business as usual until the end.”
There was no drama, no tears in his eyes.
He was incredibly self-contained”
It was fitting, then, that the song was chosen as the final proper single from ‘Innuendo’ and backed by Queen’s very first single, ‘Keep Yourself Alive.’ The synchronization of the situation is clearer with hindsight: the band were aware that the end of their career with Freddie was coming, and it made sense to put their first single as the flip side of their last single.”
A brilliant masterpiece by Queen. Absolutely stunning vocals from Freddie, no one would ever know he was on his home stretch of life! You couldn’t tell by listening to his powerful voice! Superhuman strength all the way to the end! Freddie is absolutely amazing in every sense.
Here’s the video clip ♥️⬇️