As lead vocalist for the iconic rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury’s unmatched skills as a songwriter and his flamboyant showmanship made him a superstar and Queen a household name. But despite his worldwide fame, few people ever really glimpsed the man behind the glittering façade.
Now, more than twenty years after his death, those closest to Mercury are finally opening up about this pivotal figure in rock ’n’ roll. Based on more than a hundred interviews with key figures in his life, Mercuryoffers the definitive account of one man’s legendary life in the spotlight and behind the scenes. Rock journalist Lesley-Ann Jones gained unprecedented access to Mercury’s tribe, and she details Queen’s slow but steady rise to fame and Mercury’s descent into dangerous, pleasure-seeking excesses— this was, after all, a man who once declared, “Darling, I’m doing everything with everyone.”
In her journey to understand Mercury, Jones traveled to London, Zanzibar, and India—talking with everyone from Mercury’s closest friends to the sound engineer at Band Aid (who was responsible for making Queen even louder than the other bands) to second cousins halfway around the world. In the process, an intimate and complicated portrait emerges. Meticulously researched, sympathetic yet not sensational, Mercury offers an unvarnished look at the extreme highs and lows of life in the fast lane. At the heart of this story is a man . . . and the music he loved.
About Lesley-Ann Jones
Lesley-Ann Jones is an award-winning music journalist and author. She toured with Queen and has unrivalled access to the band. She lives in London.
Rock journalist Jones (Naomi: The Rise and Rise of the Girl from Nowhere, 1993) spares no backstage details in her wide-eyed portrait of outrageous Queen frontman Freddie Mercury (1946–1991). Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to a family with both African and Indian roots, he fled his strict Zoroastrian upbringing for swinging London, where he was an art student whose dreams of rock glory would be realized when he met a talented band in need of an over-the-top lead singer. Fully intent on being a legend, Mercury was campy and outrageous from the beginning and soon rich enough to indulge a lifestyle that was as excessive as his vocal style. Due in part to his religious upbringing, he was sexually confused into early adulthood; his longtime female lover, Mary Austin, seems to have figured out his gay orientation well before he did. Although Mercury never officially came out during his lifetime, songwriter Tim Rice fascinatingly suggests that Queen’s signature hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” can be read as Mercury’s own coming-out song: “He’s killed the old Freddy he was trying to be: the former image.” Jones dutifully follows the shaping of Mercury’s persona and the backstage goings-on of the “most debauched party-givers in rock.” Although Mercury often comes across as shallow and irresponsible—he didn’t let the growing threat of AIDS slow down his promiscuity until he was diagnosed in 1987—he was apparently generous and kind. Jones and her many interviewees recall him in numbingly glowing terms. – Kirkus Reviews
Remembering Freddie Mercury
The Huffington Post (UK) – November 23, 2011 (Excerpt)
Autumn 1991. Although their front man’s life was rumoured to be hanging by a thread, EMI kept pumping out Queen product. Greatest Hits II, Greatest Flix II, and a brave, heart-rending single called Keep Yourself Alive. The show must go on, and long live the Queen. Then, on 24 November, Freddie died.
There had been signs. Gordon Atkinson, Freddie’s doctor, had come and gone throughout the week. Terry Giddings, his chauffeur, pitched up every day, although Freddie wasn’t going anywhere. Mary Austin, a former girlfriend-turned-personal assistant, was heavily pregnant, but came anyway. His mother and father, his sister and brother in law. Brian May and his wife-to-be. Roger Taylor and his ex-to-be. Everybody came. On the evening of his death, Queen manager Jim Beach spent several hours at Freddie’s bedside, preparing the statement to shock a world which already knew.
‘He’ll never die so we’ll never miss him’, shrugged Brian May to me, five years after we lost him.
I got what he meant. While I wouldn’t call it denial, Brian being too scientific and measured a man to submit to that unreliable state of emotional self-defence, it was obvious that he was still missing him. His metaphorical statement alluded to Freddie’s enduring spirit, his undiminished musical legacy and the simple fact that he was always larger than life. If age had failed to wither Freddie Mercury, death stood no chance. The soundtrack of his life was deafening, and he was well on his way to becoming the James Dean of rock. Maybe the Marilyn Monroe, the Judy Garland…perhaps all three. His demise had not been the end, but a beginning. A portal to that least tangible dimension of fame, where the few become legends. [Read the full article...]
Review: Lesley-Ann Jones’ new Freddie Mercury biography shows Queen star as larger-than-life
Tampa Bay Times – July 1, 2012 (Excerpt)
If Freddie Mercury wasn’t the greatest rock frontman of all time (and that’s certainly up for raging debate), the Queen singer was definitely the most complex. He was emotionally drawn to women, sexually drawn to men. He was shy with the press and the public — until he went on stage, when he became an incandescent god.
Someday there will be a better biography of the icon than Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury. Music journalist Lesley-Ann Jones writes like a fan; she’s an excitable, slangy tabloid writer whose gift isn’t insight but rather access, to Mercury and dozens of musicians, friends and admirers. She giddily opens the book at 1985′s Live Aid, Mercury’s sterling moment as a showman. But she’s so excited to “be there,” her account is scattershot, almost to the point of leaving out what Queen actually played.
And yet if Jones skips over significant chunks of Queen’s masterful 1970s songbook (Mercury’s own Bohemian Rhapsody is the only track that’s dissected, but she poses more questions about its origin than she answers), she manages to paint a portrait of the singer that ultimately will sate fans of all intensities. You won’t find out how guitarist Brian May, the astrophysicist turned axman, got that laser-beam tone for We Will Rock You; you will discover that Mercury had “girl names” for male friends, gay and straight. [Read the full article...]
The Indigo Bird
An Erotic Novel by Max Markham
James Graveney, a young Major in a respectable regiment, is outwardly conventional. In private James is bisexual, with a strong urge for his own sex. Gay sex, however, is illegal in the Army, so he is discreet about this.
James’ world is turned upside-down when he meets Lieutenant Richard Finch. Richard is intelligent, charismatic and exceptionally handsome. He doesn’t mess around. He gets what he wants, and is completely unscrupulous about how he gets it. Richard will stop at nothing to achieve this, including Machiavellian deception and a cunning and brutal murder. James starts responding to Richard, cautiously at first, then gets swept along on the great love affair of his life.
The Indigo Bird is a rollercoaster of surprises set against backdrops varying from the jungles of Belize to London, the English countryside, and Ireland, and the scene is set for more shocks and adventures. [Read more...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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